of the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron
article is reprinted with permission of the Hickam AFB Public
Affairs Office, first published in December, 1997. It
is an excellent account of what happened to the Army Air Squadron
en route to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Clinic to be Dedicated
note: Excerpts from an article by Capt. Donald McSherry,
U.S. Air Force Reserve, were used in this article, as well
as memoirs of Capt. Richard Lane, commander of the Hickam
hospital in December 1941.
Hickam Clinic will be dedicated in the name of 1st Lt. William
R. Schick, the first Army Air Corps doctor killed in World
War II, Sunday. He was the flight surgeon assigned to
the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron on its way to Clark Field
in the Philippines.
journey that put Schick on a collision course with history
began in Chicago. The oldest of three children, he was
born in 1910 in "Back of the Yards," then a tough tenement
neighborhood surrounding Chicago's sprawling stockyards district.
and good-natured, Schick was a bright youth who devoured books
with a passion. But he drifted during high school, dropping
out after his sophomore year to take a job in a factory.
However, he returned to school three years later and graduated
third in his class. It was 1931, and he was nearly 21
set a goal for himself," says his brother, Al, a retired painter
who lives in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn. "He wanted
to be a doctor, and he was determined to make it." Not
even the Great Depression could deter Schick. He completed
a rigorous pre-med program at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign in 1935, then headed back to Chicago where
he earned a M.D. degree from the University of Illinois College
of Medicine in 1940. By April 1941, he was a highly
regarded resident surgeon at a Battle Creek, Mich., hospital
when he joined the Army.
were heading toward war, and Bill felt that most young doctors
were going to be needed in the service," says Al. "So
he volunteered for the Army Medical Corps." In June,
just two weeks after his wedding to Lois Richmann, a nurse
from rural Cedar County, Iowa, Schick was sworn in as an Army
medical officer with the rank of first lieutenant and immediately
assigned to the Air Corps. With Lois accompanying him,
he reported to the 19th Bombardment Group, a B-17 Flying Fortress
unit based at Albuquerque, N.M.
newlyweds fell in love with the Southwest's beauty and its
people, spending most of their free time doing volunteer medical
work among the Jemez Indians, a Pueblo tribe whose reservation
was just north of Albuquerque. But as Bill and Lois
enjoyed the best months of their lives, the specter of war
was drawing closer. They knew it was only a matter of
time before would be separated.
happened in November. The couple were living in San
Antonio, Texas where Schick was in flight surgeon training.
Suddenly Washington ordered his class's graduation moved-up
from Dec. 20 to late November. Negotiations between
American and Japan were at a stalemate, and hostilities appeared
imminent, Select U.S.S air crews, including flight surgeons,
were being mobilized.
back to Albuquerque on Nov. 30, the Schicks were barely out
of their car when he was handed his new orders. He was
now the flight surgeon for the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron,
and he was to leave with the unit for Clark Field, the Philippines,
on Thursday, Dec 4. Late on the afternoon of the fourth,
Bill and Lois said their final good-bye on the Albuquerque
order of Amy headquarters in Washington, Schick's B-17 squadron
was racing across the Pacific on a secret mission to the Philippines.
With tension between the United States and Japan near the
breaking point, the massive four-engine planes were bound
for Clark Field, near Manila to reinforce Gen Douglas MacArthur's
Far East Air Force.
8 o'clock the next morning—Sunday, Dec. 7—the huge B-17s would
come roaring in over the rooftops of Honolulu on their approach
to Hickam Field, the big Army air base nestled between Pearl
and Honolulu's John Rodgers Airport. As they landed,
Schick and his friends would have a breathtaking, panoramic
view of the mighty U.S. Pacific Fleet.
as Schick and the B-17s hurtled toward Hawaii from the east,
another force was secretly approaching America's island paradise
from the west. Shrouded in radio silence and gray ocean
mists, a Japanese task force of 31 ships and 30,000 men were
closing in on Pearl Harbor. Poised on the decks an in
the hangars of six aircraft carriers were 353 warplanes.
At 8:00 a.m. on Dec. 7, the Imperial Japanese Navy would unleash
the fury of those planes on a slumbering U.S. fleet.
and his crewmates were excited. The first rest and refueling
stop on their long flight would be on Oahu In a strange twist
of fate, the fearsome B-17s, normally bristling with heavy
machine guns, could not fire back. Schick's unit had picked
up new Fortresses at Hamilton Field near San Francisco but,
because of a bureaucratic blunder, the planes were unarmed.
For nearly two days, Maj Truman Landon, commander of the 38th,
had battled the bureaucrats, finally wrenching the weapons
free just before takeoff. But it was too late to clean
and mount them; Landon and his men would have to do it in
Hawaii. Now, as Japanese planes battered them with devastating
ferocity, the Forts were helpless, their guns still packed
in manufacturer's Cosmoline.
low on fuel, and with several crewmen wounded, the defenseless
B-17s scattered over Oahu with the deadly Zeros in hot pursuit.
Some of the Forts hobbled into Hickam while others crash-landed
at tiny airstrips around the island. One came careening
down on the fairway of a golf course.
all of the B-17s landed intact, except for Schick's.
His Fortress was the second to arrive over Pearl, and it virtually
collided with the first wave of the Japanese onslaught.
Capt. Swenson circled above the fire and chaos, trying to
get landing instructions, a Japanese bullet pierced his radio
compartment, igniting a bundle of magnesium flares and wounding
Lt Schick in the leg. Seconds later, the B-17
was a blazing torch from mid-fuselage to tail section.
To escape the flames, the crew moved to the front of the plane.
in danger of a mid-air explosion, Swenson radioed the Hickam
tower that he was coming in for a crash landing. Miraculously,
a runway was still free of bomb craters and burning wreckage.
through a storm of Japanese tracer bullets and American anti-aircraft
fire, Swenson and his co-pilot, Lt. Ernest Reid, kept the
crippled Fortress under control, making a near-perfect landing.
But the plane's fuselage, weakened by the fire's intense heat,
cracked upon impact and broke away just behind the cockpit.
The forward half of the plane, carrying Schick and the crew,
skidded to a stop.
the crew jumped from the wrecked plane, they found themselves
in the middle of the airfield, hundreds of yards from shelter,
a fierce battle raging. The men split up. One
group ran for the hangar line where planes and buildings were
exploding and burning. The other group, which included
Schick, sprinted for the grass on the Honolulu side of the
field where Lt. Bruce Allen and his men, the first B-17 crew
to land, were hugging the ground as Japanese bullets thudded
as Schick's group dashed across the runway, they were spotted
by a Zero pilot who was strafing the airfield. Sweeping
down from the sky, the pilot aimed his guns at the men and
fired, missing all of them except the surgeon. Lt. Schick
was hit in the face by a ricocheting bullet.
the Hickam Hospital Capt. Lane the Hospital commander, came
across Dr. Schick in the middle of the death and confusion
of the attack. "He was a young medical officer who had
arrived with the B-17 bombers from the States during the raid.
When I first noticed him he was sitting on the stairs to the
second story of the hospital. I suppose the reason that
my attention was called to him was that he was dressed in
a winter uniform which we never wore in the Islands, and had
the insignia of a medical officer on his lapels. He
had a wound in the face and when I went to take care of him
he said he was all right and pointed to the casualties on
litters on the floor and said., "take care of them".
I told him I would get him on the next ambulance going to
Tripler General Hospital, which I did. The next day
I heard that he had died after arriving at Tripler."
greatest tribute to Schick occurred on Aug. 17, 1942, on what
would have been his 32nd birthday. On that day, Lois
gave birth to Bill's son, William Richmann Schick.