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"Chip" Unruh - Navy Patrol Bomber


Reuben “Chip “Unruh was born in 1925 in Golden Valley, North Dakota, and graduated from high school in the town of Zap. In 1943, Chip joined the Navy and went into aviation. He ended up getting his wings as a radio man and top turret gunner on a B-24. The B-24 is well known as one of the high altitude bombers that helped win the war in Europe, but the lesser-known Navy B-24s flew low altitude search and destroy missions against Japanese shipping in the Pacific. They were known as patrol bombers. Chip was assigned to a Navy Patrol Squadron on Iwo Jima. Chip and his crew flew missions against ships off the coast of Japan.

They flew a different sector every day, and one foggy, cloudy day in May, 1945, they flew around Tokyo bay at a low altitude to stay under Japanese radar. They unexpectedly flew over a large battleship or cruiser. The Japanese sailors were so surprised that no one was able to get off a shot. The B-24s were under orders not to attack such heavily armed warships, as the large, slow-moving planes were easy targets. Consequently, they were to only attack transports.

On June 29th, Chip’s plane attacked and sank a two thousand, five-hundred ton coastal trawler by skipping bombs into its side. Several of the bombs hung up in the shackles and the bombardier had to release them by hand. Chip took the bombardiers place in the bow turret to lay down defensive fire on the bomb run.

On this dated in 1945, Chip’s plane encountered 2 heavily armed Japanese gunboats. Against orders to leave these boats alone, Chip’s skipper decided to take them on. They made two separate runs on these ships, putting bombs into both of them, all the while taking antiaircraft fire that knocked out the intercommunication system and the hydraulics. Chip’s B-24 limped back to base. The gunboats were last seen on fire and sinking.

When they got back, they had to lower the landing gear by hand and had no flaps or breaks. They barely got the plane stopped before going over the end of the runway.

After the war, Chip married, had 2 daughters and settled in Zap ND. He passed away on September 15, 2013

Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson

Sources- Personal interview with Chip, VPB 102 mission reports.