458th Bombardment Group (H)

The Honey Bear and “The Snake”

South American Kinkajou, also known as a Honey Bear

This story was submitted by T/Sgt Joseph R. Brown, flight engineer on 1Lt Curt Vogel’s crew (74).

Now I’ll try to be as discreet (if that’s the word) as possible in describing why Walczak was called “Snake” and in retelling the story of the Honey Bear (not monkey) and “Snake”.  Here goes:  Walczak was well built and strong as an ox, also hung exceptionally well.  If ever the crew were out with females and there was action, “Snake” always went last, because if he went first they wouldn’t want any part of anyone who followed (understand)?  [The animal Joe is referring to is a South American mammal known as a Kinkajou.  The crew picked it up while en route to England.]  Now, about the Honey Bear and “Snake” – Murphy was our third engineer, a young kid who always slept in the nude.  He never liked the Honey Bear – why I don’t really know or remember.  This night takes place in Africa out by the desert.  We were in tents, and because of some problems with the Arabs, we slept with our .45 pistol under our pillow with a flashlight.  We had netting on every cot because of insects.  This night, knowing we weren’t flying the next day, we had all been out doing a lot of drinking.  It was very late by the time we hit the sack. Everyone was in bed when I got ready [for bed], so I took the Honey Bear and slipped him in “Snake’s” cot and tucked the netting around so he couldn’t get out, then I went to bed.

Hours went by when “Snake”, who must have been having dream with sex in it, must have gotten “excited”.  The Honey Bear spotted this thing which must have looked like a totem pole, got frightened and started yakking like mad.  He was running around the cot, but couldn’t get out.  The yakking got louder and louder, waking everyone up.  Still drunk and confused, we all grabbed our .45’s and our flashlights.  Murphy was cursing like mad saying, “I’m gonna shoot that bastard!” over and over again.  Walczak was saying, “No, no, no!”  I told Murphy if he shot he might hit Walczak and I would shoot him [Murphy] if he fired.  Murphy got out of bed naked, with his .45 in his hand.  I leaped over to ‘Snake’s” cot and released the Honey Bear who was going crazy by this time.

Once he got out he went after Murphy.  Maybe he sensed Murphy wanted to shoot him because he attacked Murphy who took off out of the tent buck naked with his .45 and flashlight still in hand.  I took off after the Honey Bear (he liked me and I wasn’t afraid of him).  He didn’t catch Murphy, but after quite a run I finally got the leash.  Murphy kept running and I went back with the bear.  We heard laughing a little later.  It turned out to be the Arabs seeing this airman walking around nude with a .45 in his hand.  Murphy waved the .45 and they scattered.  We all sobered up pretty fast, believe me!

That’s it, end of story.  Shortly thereafter we lost the Honey Bear, I mean he died a week or so later.  The guys in the rear near the waist said that while flying the bear jumped out the waist window.  I don’t have proof, but I believe Murphy threw him out the window.  I never did get any other story.  When we landed in Wales we realized we never would have been able to bring the Honey Bear in England anyway.   One good thing that came out of it all was when in a pub or restaurant and we wanted to know if any of our crew was there, we would call out, “Ack, ack, ack!” and if they heard that they would answer.  So the bear lived on.  I know I’ll never forget him!

Crew 74 enlisted

Don Murphy, Al “Snake” Walczak, Joe Brown

Photo: Joe Brown

Al Walczak’s left waist gun position on Rough Riders

Color artwork courtesy: Mike Bailey