On May 24, the 39th flew its first of the devastating fire raids on Tokyo. By 1:00am, dozens of fires lit up the skies and huge billows of smoke shrouded the city. The pathfinders had gone over the city to light the way. The main bombing force had just started dropping and smoke columns were rising to over 10,000 feet already. Twelve of the 34 planes bombed visually, the rest, by radar. Flak, searchlights, and several "fire-balls" plus the thermal currents made it a living hell. Frantic "May Day" calls from crippled B-29s filled the air waves. Many would be forced to ditch or abandon their planes.
The toll in B-29 losses was the heaviest to date. Twenty-six Superforts went down and at least eighty others received some degree of damage. Captain Paquette and his crew were one of those twenty-six lost that night.