Off Beat: Vancouver men both played role in WWII bombing mission

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Edwin Dallman’s photo is on page A3 of The Columbian this morning, showing the Navy veteran getting a haircut at the Vancouver Barracks barber shop.

On May 31, this space told about a World War II military milestone that featured Vancouver aviator Wayne Bissell, who was part of the Doolittle Raid that bombed Japan in 1942.

Turns out that Dallman’s 25-year Navy career included the seagoing portion of that mission. He watched Bissell’s B-25 bomber take off from the carrier Hornet and head for its target, the Tokyo Gas and Electric complex.

Dallman was a sailor on the Vincennes, a heavy cruiser that helped escort the task force across the Pacific Ocean.

The task force unexpectedly came across a couple of Japanese fishing trawlers. “We were afraid they were going to radio back to Japan” before a U.S. warship could sink them.

The 16 B-25s took off ahead of schedule on April 18, 1942.

“I was on a machine-gun crew on the fantail and I saw them all take off,” Dallman said. “Everybody was on pins and needles.”

As the task force approached Japan, nobody told the sailors where they were headed. But it really wasn’t much of a secret.

“All you had to do,” Dallman said, “was read a compass.”

Captive audience

If you go

■ What: Jere Van Dyk discusses his book, “Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban.”

■ When: 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, July 15.

■ Where: Fort Vancouver National Site at Hamilton Hall (old Red Cross Building), 605 Barnes Road, in the West Barracks.

Vancouver native and author Jere Van Dyk appeared on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” Thursday to discuss his book.

In “Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban,” Van Dyk tells of the 45 days he and three Afghans spent locked up in a village in Pakistan in 2008.

When the stops on his book tour were released in June, Van Dyk wondered how his survival story would play on the irreverent Comedy Central show.

“I don’t how I am going to deal with this on a comedy show,” he said. “How I can talk about something like this with Jon Stewart is beyond me.”

Van Dyk did add that, “My nephews think this is cool.”

After his appearance, Van Dyk said that Stewart is a very bright guy who can take an off-kilter look at a serious topic.

“We talked briefly before the program started and it was clear he had read the book,” Van Dyk said in a weekend e-mail. “He said they had on three other hostages: a human rights worker taken in North Korea and someone taken in Iran, and maybe, I think, the other was someone taken in Iraq. He is interested in this subject.”

Stewart called the book “an unbelievably engrossing story.”

Van Dyk held up his end of the discussion when he told Stewart: “I would lie in bed at night and wonder, would I rather be beheaded or would I rather be shot?”

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.