Tondelayo was the name of a sultry, sexy character in a film released in 1942 called White Cargo. The crew of a B-25 of the 500th Bomb Squadron gave that name to their B-25 and painted her likeness on the nose of their aircraft.
On October 18th, 1943, Tondelayo, flown by Lt. Ralph Wallace, was on a mission over the huge Japanese base at Rabaul, New Britain. The squadron had put up nine aircraft that day, flying in three flights of three. One flight had to turn back shortly after take-off because one of the aircraft developed engine trouble. The remaining six aircraft continued on the mission. Each flight had a different target, and after successfully attacking their assigned targets, headed for their base. By that time, Tondelayo was already flying on one engine and unable to keep up with the other B-25’s in the flight. The other aircraft throttled back to provide protection. SNAFU, with Captain Rip Anacker at the controls, pulled up on Tondelayo’s left wing, and Sorry Satchul, flown by Lt. Harlan Peterson, a Montgomery County man, on her right wing. But the stricken Tondelayo drew Japanese fighter planes like a magnet, and all three aircraft in the flight were soon damaged. Sorry Satchul, hit in the left engine, was the first to go down. Lt. Peterson made a successful water landing. The entire crew survived the landing, but all were killed when the downed plane was repeatedly strafed by Japanese fighters. SNAFU was next. With a fire on board the aircraft, Captain Anacker also made a water landing. His crew also perished, except for the co-pilot, Lt. Jerome Migliacci, and the turret gunner, Sgt. John Henderson. Those two men made it to land and were eventually rescued. The fight with the Japanese fighter aircraft lasted for an hour and a half, and every man on those three aircraft was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry.
Tondelayo alone made it back to base.
THE ORDEAL OF TONDELAYO
This display is in the Military Heritage Room at Heritage Lodge. Red Oak and Montgomery County have a proud military heritage, and these pictures depict a small part of it.
According to Will family lore, when Peter Will was in high school in the early 1960’s, he committed some minor breach of conduct that resulted in punishment. The punishment was, as the story goes, to assist the art teacher, one Ms. Marjorie Belfrage, in cleaning out her supply closet. She identified some items to be thrown away, and among these items were the parts of a dissembled potter’s wheel. Apparently, young Peter was mechanically inclined, and was unwilling to see anything discarded that might be restored and put to good use.
Consequently, he salvaged those pieces and took them to his family’s home at 1210 Boundary Street in Red Oak. They languished for some time in the basement, until Peter’s father reassembled the wheel , using information he found in library books. (Remember, there was no internet at that time.) With the wheel finished, he began to teach himself how to use it. To accomplish this, he studied library books, took courses at The University of Nebraska-Omaha, and spent weeks in the hills of Tennessee studying under Charles Counts, a nationally famous potter. He learned so well, in fact, that he eventually taught classes himself at his Red Oak home/studio.
There is an area in Red Oak, south of the railroad tracks and east of 8th Street, known as Indian Gully. Mr. Will was familiar with the area from his boyhood and his days as a scoutmaster. The Gully has clay deposits that were reportedly used by native Americans centuries ago. He dug his clay there, put it in five-gallon buckets, and hauled it to 1210, where he would spend endless hours removing impurities from it and shaping it on his wheel.
The red pottery in our exhibit is made from clay taken from Indian Gully. Acorn Pottery crafted pieces that were not red, but all the red pieces they made used clay from Indian Gully. Each piece is numbered on the bottom and has an acorn with a “W” in it, the copyrighted logo of Acorn Pottery.
Acorn Pottery went out of business in 1983, and Mr. and Mrs. Will retired to Arkansas. What became of that potter’s wheel rescued from oblivion is not known.