Nolan Anderson Herndon, 0-419328, Major
Bombardier-Navigator Crew 8
Attended college for two years and entered service on July 27, 1940 at Dallas, Texas. Graduated from navigator training and commissioned as Second Lieutenant on June 24, 1941. Completed bombardier training. Was interned in Russia after Tokyo Raid for thirteen months until returned to the United States on May 29, 1943. Held various Stateside assignments until the end of World War II. Retired from active duty on November 4, 1945. Decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.
Born December 12, 1918, Greenville, Texas
Died October 7th, 2007, Edgefield, South Carolina
Inducted Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, Galveston, TX
web posted October 9, 2007
EDGEFIELD – Nolan Herndon, 88, who was a member of the famed Doolittle Raiders that bombed Japan in 1942, died Sunday of pneumonia, Edgefield Mercantile Funeral Home director David Burnett told The Associated Press on Monday.
Herndon, a Texas native, enlisted on July 27, 1940, after attending two years of college, according to the Web site http://www.doolittleraider.com Two years later he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He also graduated from navigator training and completed bombardier training.
Herndon participated in one of the most daring air raids in American history when 16 B-25 bombers took off from an aircraft carrier and bombed Tokyo on April 18, 1942.
The secret air raid, planned by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, was the subject of the book and movie "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" and the book "Four Came Home."
After the raid, Herndon was held for about a year in Russia and returned to the United States in May 1943, where he held several assignments until the end of World War II, according to the Web site.
Herndon retired from active duty Nov. 4, 1945.
Funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday at Edgefield United Methodist Church, Burnett reportedly said.
The official obituary from the Mercantile Funeral Home stated: Mr. Nolan Anderson Herndon, Sr., 88, of Edgefield, husband of Julia Crouch Herndon, died Sunday, October 7, 2007 in Columbia.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 2 p.m. at Edgefield United Methodist Church with burial in Travis Park Cemetery in Saluda. Mr. Herndon was born in Greenville, Texas and is a member of the Edgefield United Methodist Church.
He is retired from the Wholesale Grocery Business. He was Veteran of WW II Army Air Corps and he was a member of the Doolittle's Raiders. Survivors include his wife; two sons, Nolan A. (Sue) Herndon, Jr., West Columbia, James M. (Debbie) Herndon, Pawley's Island; 5 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. The family will receive friends from 1 to 2 p.m. before the service at the Church Fellowship Hall. Edgefield Mercantile Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 (SF Chronicle) Nolan Herndon - Doolittle Bombardier had rare slant on raid Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
Nolan A. "Sue" Herndon, a member of the Doolittle Raiders who was held captive in the then Soviet Union after participating in the bombing run on Japan that gave Americans a morale boost four months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, has died. He was 88. Mr. Herndon, who was a navigator-bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Forces, died Oct. 7 of pneumonia at Dorn-VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C., his family said. Historians have called the April 18, 1942, attack a key event in World War II that pushed the Japanese to make strategic errors and lifted U.S.spirits when there had been little to cheer about during the early days of the conflict. Mr. Herndon's plane was the only one of 16 B-25 bombers to stray from then-Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle's orders to fly to China after striking Tokyo and other cities. Officially, the U.S. War Department blamed a shortage of fuel for the plane landing on a Soviet airstrip outside Vladivostok. But late in life Mr. Herndon, by then the sole surviving member of his plane's crew, began sharing another theory: His plane had been on a classified mission to catalog airfields that might be used for attacks on Japan and to test the Soviet Union's resolve as an ally by seeing if the plane would be allowed to refuel and continue to China. "We needed information about Russia to see what they would do," Mr.Herndon said in a 2001 story in the State, the daily morning newspaper in Columbia, S.C. "The whole thing was kept secret." When the plane touched down, the Soviet Union - which had yet to go to war with Japan - held the five-man crew captive for more than 13 months. They escaped after paying an Afghan smuggler $250 to take them to a British Embassy in what is now Iran. "I think I was hooked into something I didn't know about. I would have gone anyway. But it's always been a burr in my side," Mr. Herndon, who served as the flight's navigator and bombardier, told the State in 2002. A number of unusual occurrences made Mr. Herndon conclude that his B-25 had a unique extra assignment. They included the last-minute addition of a 16th plane - his - to the raid; the pilot and co-pilot later taking high-level positions in military intelligence, and the plane's carburetors being altered to burn more fuel than the other planes, providing a convenient cover story for the Soviet landing, Mr. Herndon said in the 2002 story. Upon leaving the aircraft, pilots Edward York and Robert Emmens both spoke fluent Russian, a curiosity "that always bothered" Mr. Herndon, said Tom Casey, manager of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders organization. The pilots, who died years ago, never spoke about the issue, said Carroll V. Glines, the Raiders' historian who has written three books on the subject and co-wrote Doolittle's autobiography. "All I know is, Nolan was there, and I wasn't, but I could never find any clues to confirm that it happened that way," Glines said last week. Calling it "a mystery," Casey said military officials never would confirm or deny Mr. Herndon's story. None of the Raiders, who had launched their B-25s from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet, reached the airfields in China where they were supposed to land. The other 15 planes crash-landed in China or their crews bailed out. All but three of the 80 airmen survived the raid; three were captured and executed by the Japanese and one starved to death in a prison camp. Nolan Anderson Herndon was born Dec. 12, 1918, in Greenville, Texas, and had five siblings. His father was a meatpacker. He spent two years at Texas A&M University before joining the military in 1940. After the war, Mr. Herndon raised cattle in Edgefield, S.C., and became a wholesale grocer. Mr. Herndon married Julia Crouch, a cousin of fellow Doolittle Raider Horace Crouch, and kept in touch with other Raiders through annual reunions. Only 12 Raiders survive, and several are in their 90s. Still, reunions are scheduled through 2009, driven in part by an order given by their one-time commander in the Pacific. Doolittle, who died in 1993, said the group should continue to meet until only two men remain. The final two will uncork a bottle of cognac from 1896, the year of Doolittle's birth, and make one last toast before disbanding. When his comrades raise their glasses in April at the 66th reunion in Dallas, Mr. Herndon will be included in their standard salute: "Gentlemen, to our good friends who have gone."
Monday, Oct. 08, 2007
From our archive: Crew became 'guests of the Kremlin'
Published on: 04/11/2002
By JEFF WILKINSON - Staff Writer, The State, Columbia, SC http://www.thestate.com/news-extras/story/194994.html
Doolittle's Tokyo Raid has been documented in dozens of books, films and documentaries during the past 60 years.
But the controversy surrounding Plane No. 8, which landed in the Soviet Union, never has been put to rest.
The plane was the only one of 16 B-25s to stray from its orders to fly to China after bombing Japan. Low on fuel, it landed in the Soviet Union, which was closer than China.
Jimmy Doolittle specifically had told the Raiders not to fly to Russia.
The Soviets held the plane's crew for a year before the airmen finally escaped through what is now Iran. The crew members referred to themselves as "guests of the Kremlin."
Nolan Herndon of Edgefield was navigator, bombardier and gunner.
To this day, Herndon believes that unbeknownst to him at the time, the plane was on a secret mission to test the Soviet Union's resolve as an ally.
Herndon says that pilot Edward "Ski" York, a West Point graduate and the crew's executive officer, along with co-pilot Bob Emmens were under top secret orders that died with the two men after the war.
Herndon first aired his theory in a story in The State last year.
"It's plagued me all through the years," says Herndon, who retired after the war, married the cousin of fellow Raider Sally Crouch and settled in Edgefield. "I don't want people to think we took the easy way out" by not crashing in the North China Sea, as some crews did.
"I think I was hooked into something I didn't know about," Herndon says. "I would have gone anyway. But it's always been a big burr in my side."
Herndon believes that he and the other two junior crew members were kept out of the loop "because two can keep a secret; three can't."
"In thinking it over, it makes me a little heated up to think that I volunteered and risked my life for something I didn't know about," Herndon says.
Other surviving Raiders privately express doubts about the story. Most won't comment.
"I ignore the whole thing," says Maj. Gen. David Jones, one of three squadron commanders at the time and the raid survivors' unofficial leader. "That's him (Herndon). I have no comment whatsoever."
Herndon says that among the unusual occurrences that point to a secret mission are:
-- A 16th plane (his) was added to the mission at the last minute.
-- York and Emmens weren't supposed to go on the mission. Doolittle added them.
-- Herndon and the rest of the fliers assigned to Plane No. 8 had trained with other crews, on other planes.
-- The carburetors of Plane No. 8 carburetors were altered to burn more fuel than the other planes, even though Doolittle had ordered mechanics not to tinker with the planes' engines. The change caused them to run out of fuel earlier. Herndon says that's a convenient cover story.
-- At the time, the United States was trying to persuade the Soviets to allow Americans to use airfields around Vladivostok to bomb Japan.
-- York and Emmens went on to high-level positions in military intelligence.
Carroll V. Glines, the official historian for Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders, says he hasn't been able to find any evidence of a secret side mission. York and Omens, now dead, never talked about the issue.
"I never got a direct answer, and I never pushed it. They were both in intelligence," Glines says. "They were very cautious about anything they said."
Herndon says he never pressed York about it, either.
"I figured if he didn't want to tell me then, he wouldn't tell me later," Herndon says. "I didn't want to cause any hard feelings."
Herndon once asked Doolittle about the flight to the Soviet Union and received a cryptic answer.
The general said, "I'll tell you one thing, Herndon: I didn't send you there."
Glines can't prove Herndon's theory is true, but he can't reject it either.
"Nolan was there, and I wasn't," he says.
Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders formed at the old Columbia Air Base in January 1942, a little more than a month after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, thrusting America into World War II.
Herndon and the other fliers were part of the 17th Bomb Group and 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, four squadrons of B-25 Mitchell bombers stationed in Pendleton, Ore.
They were transferred unexpectedly to Columbia, where the call went out for 25 planes and crews to fly "a dangerous mission overseas."
None of the fliers had any idea their destination would be Tokyo.
"I thought we'd probably go to Europe because we were on the East Coast," Herndon says.
The fliers moved to Eglin Field in Florida to train. The air base at Columbia was too close to the city and too open to prying eyes.
In Florida, the crew underwent exhaustive training, learning to take off on a 500-foot runway at 50 mph, rather than from the typical 5,000-foot runway at 90 mph.
By April, the crews knew they were training for a carrier launch but didn't know the target.
After the men transferred to Alameda Naval Air Station near San Francisco, military officials chose 16 planes and crews for the mission. The planes were loaded onto the aircraft carrier Hornet and strapped to the deck.
The fliers learned two days out to sea that their target would be Japan.
On April 18, 1942, the Soviet Union was at war with Germany but not Japan.
With his military stretched to its limit by the Nazi onslaught, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin did not want to create a second front by declaring war on Japan.
U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt "was pushing to get information on what Russia would do," Herndon says. "We needed their help with Japan. When he saw they didn't shoot us, they knew it would be all right for crippled planes to land there in the future."
The United States had tried to persuade the Soviet Union to let it land its B-17 bombers in Siberia. But the Soviets had moved their best Siberian-based troops to the Western Front to combat the Nazis.
Besides testing Stalin's resolve, the flight to Vladivostok could study airfields U.S. planes might use if the Soviets allowed it, Herndon says.
Using York and Emmens for the secret side mission made sense, Herndon says.
Emmens flew to California on the last day before the Hornet sailed from San Francisco Bay.
Emmens wrote that he and York had asked Doolittle whether they could join the raid.
After the raid, York and Emmens joined military intelligence, two of three Raiders to do so, Glines says.
After World War II, York was an air attache stationed in Warsaw, Poland. He later was chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force Security Service.
According to written histories and the crews' debriefing papers, the difficulties of Plane No. 8 resulted from a lack of fuel caused by faulty carburetion.
In his book "The Doolittle Raid," Glines writes that carburetors on the plane were adjusted against Doolittle's orders, but that was not discovered until the Hornet was well under way from Alameda.
The new carburetors caused the plane to burn 98 gallons an hour, rather than the standard 72 to 75.
Co-pilot Emmens wrote in his book "Guests of the Kremlin" that while in flight, York calculated the amount of fuel the plane carried and decided it could not reach the Chinese mainland - it would come about 300 miles short.
Each plane had new extra tanks, along with a dozen or so five-gallon gas cans in back.
Emmens wrote that he told the pilot, "Ski, if that's right we're not going to get near the Chinese coast."
He wrote that York then shouted, "Have you got the course from Tokyo to Russia plotted, Herndon?"
Herndon says he was too busy at the time to plot a course to the unexpected destination. He was in the nose of the bomber, drawing a bead on his target and looking out for Japanese fighters.
"It seemed like the first thing Ski wanted to do was go to Russia," Herndon says.
Herndon says he replied a little too brusquely to his pilot that "I've got bombs to drop."
"I kind of apologized for saying what I did," Herndon says.
Herndon, in his first combat mission, says he also was busy praying.
"I just kept repeating the 23rd Psalm: 'Lo, though I walk through the Valley of Death, I will fear no evil.' "
Herndon also remembers a sight that lives in his nightmares - a school yard full of Japanese children running from his low-flying aircraft.
The plane dropped its bombs over an industrial area of Tokyo without resistance from enemy fighter planes or anti-aircraft fire. Then it headed north as the other 15 planes headed south and west to China.
Herndon said York flew over several airfields near Vladivostok before a Soviet fighter forced down the plane at a remote airstrip, a sod field Soviet pilots used for practice.
In his debriefings, York gave low fuel as his only reason for flying to the Soviet Union. The debriefing papers also show that York provided a wealth of information on the airfields around Vladivostok.
In the later years of the war, 250 U.S. pilots flying B-17s from Alaska's Aleutian Islands would seek refuge in the Soviet Union.
"They call their reunion group 'Home from Siberia,' " Herndon says. "I guess I'm a charter member."
After Plane No. 8 landed in Vladivostok, the Soviets held its five crewmen in several locations in the Soviet Union.
Limited to the same diet as the besieged Soviet people - mostly black bread and cabbage - the five suffered malnutrition, dysentery and other medical problems.
"I can't blame the Russian people," Herndon says. "They were starving, too. Stalin was the bad guy."
Rather than wait until the end of the war under deplorable conditions, the crew of Plane No. 8 resolved to escape.
While held in Ashkhabad, near the Persian border - thousands of miles from Vladivostok - they found a sympathetic Soviet officer. The man introduced them to an Afghani smuggler who supplied the officers with better food and other black market items.
Crewmen paid the smuggler $250 - the crew members had about $300 in pocket money among them - to lead them to a British embassy in Iran.
The scheme worked. The five, with the help of British diplomats in Mashhad, made their way to India and got a flight home.
Herndon finished the war training navigators for the Army Air Corps, now the Air Force. After the war, he raised cattle in Edgefield, then sold wholesale groceries. He retired about 15 years ago.