Sugar Creek Township native's account of war featured in book
'Rocky Boyer's War' tells story of WW II in Pacific
|Lt. Boyer (left) works with his clerk, PFC Spragg, in the communications section tent at Nadzab, New Guinea. In the spring of 1944, Nadzab boasted of being the largest air base in the world.|
|Boyer Family photos|
At the end of the war, the 110th Squadron hung up this signboard as a scorecard for its record against the Japanese.
|Want TO GO?|
|What: Holiday Author Fair|
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: Indiana Historical Society, 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis
Who: Allen Boyer, lawyer, writer, and historian
SHERIDAN - The war against Japan, as an air force officer from the Hills Community in Sugar Creek Township saw it - in an unauthorized wartime diary - will be featured at the upcoming Holiday Author Fair held by the Indiana Historical Society.
In Rocky Boyer's War, his son Allen Boyer offers a wry, keen-eyed, disgruntled history of the air war in the Pacific - drawing on Rocky's unauthorized diary.
Roscoe "Rocky" Boyer was born in March 1919, in Sugar Creek Township, north of Pickard. In high school, he played basketball, raised show calves, and picked prize corn ears for seed-company contests.
Rocky went to Franklin College, and played football for the Grizzlies. He wanted to teach high school math. That dream took a long while to come true. In June 1941, the day after he graduated from Franklin, Rocky was drafted into the United States Army - the first Franklin graduate caught by the new peacetime draft.
Over the next four years, the military sent Rocky on a zigzag course - from the Midwest to Texas and Colorado and California and Mississippi, until he took a troopship for the Southwest Pacific.
Rocky reached New Guinea in November 1943, in time for Douglas MacArthur's island-hopping campaign of 1944. With the Fifth Air Force spearheading the drive, MacArthur leapfrogged his army northward toward Japan, bypassing Japanese armies and leaving them sitting on empty islands. By October 1944 the Allied forces would reach the Philippines - two thousand miles from where they had started.
Diaries were forbidden, but Rocky kept one - full of casualties, accidents, off-duty shenanigans, and rear-area snafus. He had friends killed when they shot it out with Japanese anti-aircraft gunners, or when their bombers vanished in bad weather. He wrote about camp life at Nadzab, New Guinea, the largest air base in the world, part Scout camp and part frontier boomtown, where airmen shot the breeze about Australian girls, or were cheated when buying a pint of ice cream.
Rocky Boyer's War is a history of the Fifth Air Force's "air blitz" offensive against the Japanese - as airmen lived it, in the cockpit and on the ground. It tells the story of hard-drinking pilots, and hard-working mechanics, and the churchgoing math majors who kept the radios working, and the black construction crews who picked up their rifles and stopped a banzai charge.
Throughout the war, Rocky maintained a dry Hoosier sense of humor. He wrote of one failed bombing mission:
"Here's the dope on yesterday's raid. Col. Rogers took out 54 bombers fully loaded out on (a) mission. . . . They must have encountered foul weather as they turned around and dropped all their bombs (cost, around $2,000,000) into the ocean, because the planes could not land loaded with 1000 pound bombs. Come to think about it, this raid which never got there cost more than Clinton County contributed in the second War Loan drive. The cost of bombs is approximately four dollars per pound. The colonel made one statement about the raid, "We did make a nice pattern in the sea."
Rocky Boyer's War is a history of the air war in the Southwest Pacific, which has often been overshadowed by the grinding bomber war in Europe. The book features two battles, which pitted American bombers against Japanese destroyers. Rocky's diary also highlights the psychological toll of the war - measured in flyers' combat fatigue and officers' obsessions with promotions, rigmarole, and latrines.
Reviewers have likened Rocky Boyer's War to Catch-22. One reviewer wrote, "For me, a pilot (Navy) a generation later in the Vietnam War years, the book evoked many forgotten memories and emotions of the intense fear, boredom, homesickness, camaraderie, and frat-house tomfoolery typical of a squadron of pilots in war."
Allen Boyer is a lawyer, writer, and historian. He has reviewed books for the New York Times and run investigations for the New York Stock Exchange. Rocky Boyer's War is his fifth book.
In researching Rocky Boyer's War, he visited the Sheridan Historical Society and read the Sheridan News for 1944 to look up life on the Indiana home front. (It was a cold winter, with house fires and a ladies' church guild hunting foxes in the snow.)
Rocky Boyer's War was profiled on a recent broadcast of "Hoosier History Live."
The Indiana Magazine of History wrote that the book is "a compelling read spanning two years of war in the Pacific. . . . Both father and son have a talent for writing, and readers will find this volume, once begun, hard to put down."
Scenes from the homefront: Life in Sheridan
"In Indiana, it had been a hard winter. The newspapers carried stories about disastrous fires and men who died drinking methyl alcohol. Hunters waited in long lines at Vonnegut's Hardware for shotgun shells - strictly rationed, one box to each customer. Along Sugar Creek, gray foxes were seen, beast long vanished from Indiana; the Mechanicsburg Christian Church ladies' guild organized a fox hunt, killing enough to earn sixty-five dollars in state bounties.
"In Sheridan, the hitching posts were taken down on Main Street. An itinerant speaker who called himself a Christian Jew told a congregation about his escape from France. Bill Terhune, a farmer's son whom Rocky would have known, went missing when his B-26 bomber was shot down by the Germans over St. Omer in northern France.
"At the Boyer farmhouse, they had bought a Philco radio, the family's first. They listened to it during the dinner hour, in hopes of hearing something about the Pacific. Rocky's sister Anndora recalled that dinner was silent; nobody talked, except the announcer on the radio."
- 'Rocky Boyer's War'
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