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Magnuson, Harry D.

Document Type

Oral History

Date of Interview



Harry Magnuson was born 17 October 1923 in Minneapolis, one of five children. He grew up there, and graduated in January 1943 from West High School. Immediately after graduation, Harry enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. In the Air Corps, Harry was trained as a waist gunner on B-29 Superfortress four-engine heavy bombers. Upon completion of training, he was assigned to the 39th Bomb Squadron, 6th Bomb Group, 313th Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force, and sent to the island of Tinian, in the Pacific. Missions were flown from here to Japan. On the night of 25-26 May 1945, during an incendiary bombing raid over Tokyo, Harry's plane, the B-29 Tokyo Trolley, was shot down. Harry parachuted out; he was the only crew member to survive. Harry was captured soon after he landed, blindfolded and beaten, then taken to a nearby detention facility of the Japanese police, the Kempeitai. Over the next three months, until the end of the war in August 1945, Harry and scores of other captured B-29 crew members were imprisoned at this facility in small cells, where they endured interrogations, physical and mental torture, sickness, and starvation diets. They were kept separate from other POWs, for the Japanese did not consider them normal military prisoners but rather, because of the nature of their missions against civilian targets, war criminals and thus not deserving of human treatment. Only in mid-August 1945 were Harry and the other surviving internees from this prison taken to a regular POW camp, Camp Omori, which soon thereafter was liberated by American forces. Harry spent many months in hospitals recovering from his ordeal, finally being discharged in January 1946. Again a civilian, Harry was reunited with his wife Elizabeth (married June 1944) and helped to raise three children. He spent his working career in retail clothing sales, in Minneapolis, and also real estate, retiring in 1985.


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Harry Magnuson - Transcript.pdf (896 kB)
PDF Transcript of Interview with Harry Magnuson