The 9th FS Unit History... Nov 1944 - Sept 1945....

Discussion in 'Stories' started by lesofprimus, Dec 26, 2004.

  1. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    The month began with the arrival of the remaining men of the air echelon from Biak Island. Their trip was made without incident and all arrived safe and sound. In the meantime, the roads had grown steadily worse, and it was no mean feat just to go to the airstrip in the morning and return at night. The services of the Duck obtained from a kindly engineering outfit was a lifesaver indeed.
    The night of October 31 was one of constant alerts and several raids. One string of bombs was the closest yet, and converted many of the "unbelievers". During the early morning patrol, 3 enemy planes were destroyed and one probably destroyed by the 9th. The enemy was engaged about 10 miles from our camp. Lt. C. Gupton accounted for two Vals, Lt. H. Oglesby an Oscar, and Lt. J. Forgey a probably Tojo.

    2 November 1944 was the most hectic day within the memory of the present personnel of the unit. The Japs kept fighters constantly in the air over Ormoc (western Leyte) to protect one of their convoys attempting to reinforce the city. Our planes met them in combat, and before the day ended the 9th added eleven enemy planes to its total victories. Lts. W. Huisman, J. Poston and T.E. Hamilton destroyed two enemy planes each and the following officers one apiece: Lts. Oglesby, P. Nahnibida and E. Ambort. Ten of the planes were shot down during the first mission of the day and the other one on the second mission. Upon return of this second mission a tragic landing accident occurred under the shadow of the Operations alert tent. Lt. Huisman was about to land after his 2nd combat of the morning (in which he is believed to have destroyed an enemy plane) when another P-38 from one of the other squadrons came from the rear. The propellers of this plane chewed the tail off Lt. Huisman's plane, causing it to slide down the runway engulfed in flames. The other '38 barely missed the tent, going just over the top before crashing and exploding a short distance away. Several men in that area were injured; one was rescued by the heroic action of our medical enlisted men. None of the injured belonged to our unit. The pilot of this plane never had a chance, and was trapped in his seat. Meanwhile, Lt. Huisman's plane finally came to a stop, a mass of flames. Into this holocaust two of the 9th Fighter enlisted men plunged, and disregarding their own safety, succeeded in freeing Lt. Huisman who was trapped by his safety belt. They then carried him to the First Aid Station by means of a nearby jeep. Both men were recommended for the Soldiers Medal for their heroism. An enlisted man of another unit was knocked unconscious when the other plane crashed, and was taken out of the flaming wreckage by medics under similar circumstances. These men also were recommended for the Soldiers Medal. Lt. Huisman was burned badly and was evacuated. The squadron received news that he subsequently died of his injuries a few days later aboard a hospital ship. He was buried at sea with full military honors. It is regrettable that a pilot returning from a successful combat action should lose his life in an operational accident, and Lt. Huisman will be sorely missed by his comrades. On this same mission the plane flown by Lt. J. Hanisch was seen going down in the Ormoc area, and his fate is unknown at this time.

    All during the day swarms of photographers and correspondents were around snapping pictures of celebrities such as Majors Richard Bong and Tom McGuire, the 2 leading fighter aces, and our squadron C.O. Major Wally Jordan. A combat photographer took many pictures of the unit at work to be used in future histories of the Air Force in the Philippines. The day ended when a second plane nearly ran into the alert tent, and all personnel concerned agreed it was a never-to-be-forgotten day!

    The night of 2-3 November was one of constant alerts, with enemy planes dropping bombs every ten or fifteen minutes. Many men had their first look at a phosphorus bomb which exploded a short distance away. The long tentacles made an eerie effect and caused uneasy quivers in many a heart even though there was little danger from that bomb. In the hour preceding dawn, many of the line personnel were caught in a strafing and bombing attack, but fortunately everyone "hit the dirt" in time and no one was injured.

    On November 3, 1944, the 9th ran a bombing and strafing attack on enemy shipping in Ormoc Bay. While returning from the mission the squadron sighted a large enemy convoy on Highway #2 between Ormoc and Valencia. The convoy consisted of trucks, artillery, small tanks and infantry and the 9th pilots immediately attacked. It was estimated that 25-30 trucks were destroyed and many others left smoking. An Ammo truck exploded causing additional damage; 30 to 40 horses were killed, and casualties among the troops were impossible to judge. An unconfirmed report received from Filipino guerillas and relayed to the squadron by the Army Liaison Officer gave the number of Japs killed or wounded as 2,400. An entire division sorely needed to reinforce their crumbling lines had been badly mauled and rendered temporarily impotent. This havoc was not accomplished without cost to our unit. Lt. R. Bates was last observed at 6,000 feet over Ormoc Bay, his plane apparently out of control. He was not seen to crash, and at the time it was thought he may have bailed out. If so, he would most certainly be a prisoner of war. First Lt. R. Hamburger was able to parachute successfully when his plane caught fire after the strafing. He was barely able to miss the flaming wreckage of his plane when he landed, and was picked up by friendly Filipinos and taken to the guerillas. Lt. Hamburger returned to the unit later, after evaluating his report it was felt that Lt. Bates was not killed when his plane crashed, but had been injured and in enemy hands. This information was received from guerilla sources.

    After strafing the motor convoy the squadron headed for base, but was jumped by approximately 15 enemy fighters. The enemy had the advantage, and our planes were unable to add to the squadron score. Lt. B. Krankowitz had one engine shot out and was vainly trying to evade three enemy planes which were on his tail. Just as his plane was about to be riddled by Japanese bullets, he was saved by the gallant action of one of his brother officers. Lt. F. Helterline had made several passes at enemy planes and exhausted his ammunition, already largely expended during the strafing. He observed Krankowitz's predicament and despite the fact he was without ammunition, he made a daring head-on pass at the 3 enemy planes, going between the leader and his wingman and breaking up their attack. The planes immediately took after Lt. Helterline, who because of the superior performance of his plane, was able to get safely away. This brave act most assuredly saved the life of Lt. Krankowitz, and Lt. Helterline has been recommended for the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

    The next night (Nov. 3rd) was the worst night to date. There was a continuous red alert form 2300 to 0630, and more than 50 separate raids were made, occurring at 10 to 15 minute intervals. Another phosphorus bomb exploded almost in the identical spot as the previous night. Shortly after dawn about 25 Jap fighters bombed the strip, flying directly over camp en route. The anti-aircraft fire was awesome in intensity, but its accuracy left much to be desired. It did, however, harass the enemy sufficiently to make the raid a failure, in that only one small crater was on the runway and one plane damaged.

    The night of November 4th was almost as bad as the previous one. Constant bombing and lack of sleep was beginning to tell on the men as nerves became frayed and tempers shorter than usual. Many dug big foxholes, placed their cots therein, and slept in comparative safety, but the majority were kept hopping in and out of bed 3 or 4 times every hour. November 5th, six of our pilots received orders sending them home. They had been flying constantly and relief came at a very opportune time. The officers were 1st Lts. J. Poston, H. Oglesby, Hufford, W. Maddox, Richard Kirkland and B. Krankowitz. That night was comparatively peaceful with only two raids. The best night's sleep for a week did much to refresh both body and spirit. On Nov. 6th Lt. Hanisch surprised everyone by landing on the strip in a Cub. He was shot down near Ormoc on Nov. 2nd, and crash landed his plane in a field south of Ormoc. The enemy planes strafed him when he landed, but missed him while riddling the plane. He suffered a deep laceration of the forehead. Within 15 minutes he was picked up the guerillas and feted like a conquering hero by the Filipinos, as he was the first American they had seen in three years!

    On the morning of 7 November four of our P-38's encountered enemy fighters in two separate engagements: one 20 miles west of Buri and the other over Ormoc Bay. Two Oscars were destroyed, one each by 1st Lt. E. Cooper and 2nd Lt. J. Hovik. Lt. Cooper also probably destroyed a second. The next few days were uneventful except for a comparatively minor typhoon November 8th.

    Possibly one of the most dangerous missions flown by the squadron was on November 9, 1944. An enemy convoy of 12 ships including six destroyers and 2 destroyer escorts was sighted in Ormoc Bay attempting to reinforce the town. Each plane on the mission was armed with two 1,000 pound bombs. Seven planes made skip-bombing runs at masthead level through the heaviest barrage of anti-aircraft fire the pilots had ever seen. Several direct hits were made, but damage assessment was impossible due to lack of observation. Lt. D. Kanoff's plane was downed by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the Bay. He was one of our newer pilots, but his performance of duty even at the cost of his life reflected the spirit of the 9th Fighter Squadron.

    The first aerial combat in days occurred at Ormoc November 10th. Major Bong destroyed an Oscar as Lt. I. Corley also got his first kill. Major Wally Jordan accounted for 2 Oscars destroyed.
    Hundreds of small anti-personnel bombs were dropped during the night of Nov. 11th, but no casualties were suffered by our unit. Raids were made Nov. 12 by the enemy during the day on shipping in the harbor, with hits on two Liberty ships. Two enemy planes fell to our anti-aircraft fire. November 14 commenced with a surprise bombing and strafing raid on our strip. Major Jordan and Capt. R. Swift, about to man their planes, were forced to drop to the ground. A bomb exploded about 30 feet away and a strafing pass went right through the area. Neither pilot was injured, although Capt. Swift extracted a sizable piece of shrapnel from the parachute he was about to don! Personnel in camp were treated to an aerial show overhead when a Dinah, hit by ack ack, burst into flames and crashed. Two 38's got on the tail of a lone Oscar and the wingman shot it down after the lead plane overshot. It is seldom that ground personnel witness such action, and the sight was most welcome.

    The weather, very treacherous in this area, closed in suddenly on November 15th while 7 of our planes were airborne. Three were able to land safely at Buri, but four others flown by Lts. C. McElroy, A. Datzenko, J. Hanisch and J. Hovik, after flying all around the island of Leyte trying vainly to find an opening, finally were forced to crash-land. Lt. Hovik landed in a rice paddy near Carigara Bay, killing a water buffalo in the process, but suffered no injury to himself. The remaining three bellied in near Bugho, southeast Leyte. All planes were total losses although several trips were made later to salvage parts.

    Our late patrol over Buri intercepted ten enemy fighters which were attempting to bomb and strafe the strip. The bombing was frustrated and seven enemy planes were shot down without loss to us. Lt. W. Curton got one and Lts. C. Gupton, Warren Fowler and Jack Lewis destroyed 2 each. All of the enemy planes were Oscars except one Zeke destroyed by Jack Lewis. Lts. Fowler and Lewis scored their first victories in this engagement.

    An enemy dive bomber, a Val, flew over camp just at dusk on the 17th and attempted to bomb the airstrip. It was shot down in flames by our ack ack - a spectacular sight.

    The 18th started off with an exciting series of raids. One enemy plane was seen going down smoking after a P-38 attack. A second was lost from sight with a '38 in a most favorable position on its tail. Some enemy planes made suicide dives on shipping in the harbor. One crashed into a Liberty ship, setting it on fire; another missed and fell into the water while a third was blown up by ack ack before reaching its objective. One plane dropped anti-personnel bombs on our strip, damaging 3 planes and slightly wounding T/Sgt. O. Wallace, S/Sgt. Colborn and PFC B. Peterson.

    November 19th 2 more Japs made suicide dives at shipping, but both completely missed their targets and crashed into the water. Ack ack fire was practically non-existant, and their inability to hit their targets is difficult to understand. Two separate combats with enemy planes were fought over Ormoc, and Lt. T. Hamilton destroyed a Zeke 52. Another was badly shot up, and when last seen appeared to have a very slim chance of getting back to base. Lt. Les Nelson was credited with this probable. Then came several uneventful days, and Thanksgiving came and went without disturbing the even tenor of our ways.

    On the morn of the 24th an enemy twin engine bomber, probably a Frances, was hit by ack ack fairly close to camp. It caught fire, and after proceeding a short distance, crashed. A sleek looking Dinah flew over camp heading for home. One of our '38's gave chase, and even though the enemy plane had a great advantage in altitude, F/O H. Hammett was able to get behind it and shoot it down. Early November 26th an enemy plane heading in the direction of camp was hit by ack ack. It started burning, but crashed before reaching our vicinity. There were a few anxious moments when it looked as if our camp was about to become the plane's last resting place! That afternoon our planes twice met the enemy. The first time, the enemy pilots were very good at evading combat and none were shot down. Four of our planes intercepted 3 Oscars ten miles to the northwest a bit later, and Lt. Gupton succeeded in shooting one down. Lt. N. Williams fired several bursts at another and scored hits in the engine, causing it to smoke badly. As this one was not seen to crash, it can be claimed only as a probable. The 3rd plane succeeded in escaping into the clouds.

    Patrols without incident were flown until 29 November when two of our flights engaged 15 enemy fighters over Ormoc. Lt. Curton received credit for shooting down a Zeke and a probable Tony. Lt. W. Lewis scored his first victory, a Zeke. No losses were suffered by our men. This was the final combat of the month, a month which had proven to be most interesting and successful. To off-set the thrills and excitement, there were rough living conditions and hardships. The 30 enemy planes shot down and the 7 probably destroyed did much for the unit's morale.

    The month started unexcitedly with routine patrols the first few days. We were still encamped at the "temporary" area upon which descended October 24, and awaited orders to move to the "permanent" campsite a few miles nearer the airstrip.
    December 5th, while on a mission to protect a convoy southeast of Leyte, 3 of our P-38's ran into 8 Vals and 2 Oscars while the enemy was attempting to dive-bomb the convoy about ten miles southeast of the tip of Leyte. F/O H. Hammett shot down a Val and an Oscar, as did 2nd Lt. E. Ambort. Lt. C. McElroy destroyed a Val, making a total of five enemy planes downed without loss to our side. Later in the day at 5 PM, four of our '38's encountered a number of Oscars which were going in and out of clouds making dive-bombing passes on the convoy which was then below Dulag. In the ensuing combat, Lt. W. Curton destroyed an Oscar, making his fifth victory and creating a new ace for the squadron.

    The next day some of the personnel moved into the new camp area. There were a few air raids and several red alerts at night, and at 7 PM a blinding flash was observed in the direction of the strip. In the morning a Jap Sally bomber was found scattered over the east side of the strip. Several Jap bodies were around the area, a satisfactory, if slightly gruesome sight. It was learned later that this was an "honor mission" in which the purpose was to fly into the traffic pattern, crash land on the strip, and disperse the occupants of the plane in the vicinity of the landing. The Japs were equipped with mines which adhered to the plane until detonated. Obviously a great deal of damage could have been wrought with such a surprise attack. Unfortunately for the Japs, our anti-aircraft defenses penetrated the deception and when the Sally came over the south end of the strip it was greeted by everything that could be thrown up, and it 'augered' in as only the Japs seem to be able to do. Our technical intelligence lads were on the job early, much to the disgruntlement of souvenir hunters who were also on the scene as early and faithful as ever! At least 2 Samurai swords were in the wreckage, and subsequent checking showed all of the enemy were officers and all had civilian clothes beneath their uniforms except one who wore an American army uniform under his Jap one.

    On December 7th, Lt. McElroy's flight, while patrolling Carigara Bay, spotted a Jap convoy off the northwest tip of Leyte and called it in. Before returning to base the flight tangled with an equal number of Oscars over Ormoc, and probably destroyed one before the Japs dived into clouds. The flight of Capt. W. Treadway was jumped out of the sun at Ormoc by an unknown number of Oscars, one of which was damaged by Lt. C. Gupton. Just east of Ponson Island Lt. McElroy's flight, on a second mission, encountered 8 to 10 Oscars and a Zeke. Lt. McElroy destroyed an Oscar and Lt. Ambort a Zeke, with no damage in the process. On his 3rd mission Lt. McElroy's entire flight shot at a Lily over the convoy at Ponson Island, and Lt. Williams got credit for its destruction. Meanwhile, Capt. Treadway's flight dive bombed Route #2 in the Valencia section, cratering the road. After completing this, the flight ran into a number of Zekes, and Treadway and Lt. T. Smith each destroyed one. Despite the action of this day, the squadron moved to the new campsite without mishap.

    The next week was comparatively uneventful. Early on the 10th, a blinding flash and one of the loudest explosions heard to date, awakened the camp. It was not a bombing but the destruction of approximately one hundred tons of TNT near Palo. Its cause was not determined although the electrical storm going on at the time might well have accounted for it. On 10th December First Lt. Hamburger returned to the squadron after having been missing since 5 November, when he bailed out near Ormoc.

    12 December 1944, was a very proud day for the 9th Fighter Squadron, when General MacArthur personally decorated Major Bong with the highest honor a grateful nation can give, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The ceremony was simple but impressive and made a lasting impression of the minds of on-lookers. At the time, Major Bong had 38 enemy planes to his credit and before leaving for the United States later in the month he found time to run his score to 40.

    An unfortunate tragedy occurred on the following day (13 December). While taking off on a routine mission, the plane piloted by 2nd Lt. J. Collins crashed into some B-24's parked near the runway as a result of a tire blowing out. The resultant fire was terrific. Lt. Collins was thrown clear but was burned seriously. He died before the day was over. He also was one of the newer pilots in the unit and it is regrettable that a pilot should lose his life under such circumstances.

    The squadron covered the amphibious assault on Mindoro Island on the 15th but met no opposition. It wasn't until the 18th that any combat resulted for our squadron. On this day a lone Dinah was sighted about ten miles south of the beach-head and promptly disposed of by Captain W. Williams, our operations officer. Six of our P-38's strafed Fabrica Airdrome destroying a truck and starting two fires.

    On the next day (21 December), the squadron was stunned to receive orders to move within a few days. It was thought originally that our stay at the "permanent" camp site would be a protracted one and nearly every tent had fine wooden flooring. Morale was nil for awhile.

    Sixteen P-38's escorted B-24's to Grace Park (Manila) on the 23rd of December. Major Jordan and Captain Howes each shot at enemy fighters which attempted to attack the bombers, but were unable to engage in a dogfight due to bomber escort commitment.

    The squadron celebrated Christmas Day by escorting B-24s to Mabalacat Airdrome near Manila. Approximately a dozen enemy fighters, mostly Tojos, attempted to intercept the bombers but failed due to our squadron's prompt action. 1st Lt. A.B. Lewelling destroyed two Tojos and 2nd Lt. D. Holladay got one. 2nd Lt. T. Smith started a Tojo smoking violently but the combat was broken off before confirmation could be made, so Lt. Smith was credited with only a probable.

    The ensuing day (26 December) our ground echelon left on an LST bound for Mindoro. On the same day the news was flashed that Mindoro was under attack by a Jap Naval Task Force. As far as tactical operations were concerned there was nothing of interest for the remainder of the month with only routine missions performed. The air echelon remained patiently at Leyte, occupying the area located near the ground echelon of Group Headquarters.

    The ground echelon had a very hectic voyage, not soon to be forgotten. Below Leyte the convoy of which our unit was a part, was subjected to constant attack by dive bombers. The LST on which the outfit had embarked had a prominent place in the lead in the convoy. A Liberty ship nearby vanished in a terrific explosion after a Jap plane made a suicide dive on it. Another Jap plane crash-dived the LST containing our squadron, damaging but not sinking it. Several of our officers and men were volunteers on the ship's gun crews and casualties were suffered by them in the crash. A .30 calibre machine gun, manned by Sgt. J. Riley and Sgt. E. Poplansky did yeoman service and wings from the enemy airplane showed a large number of calibre .30 holes. 1st Lt. Les Nelson acting as plane spotter (as were 1st Lt. D. Fisher and 1st Lt. W. Lewis, Jr. at other turrets) was badly wounded by the crash. Private 1st Class D. Smith, who was performing the duties of an aid man on the deck, was also wounded in the action. The ground echelon landed at Mindoro on the morning of the 30th without further loss. The vessel was speedily unloaded and camp was set up. That night and the following had many bombings and many more alerts but no bombs fell close to our area. Thus ended another eventful month.

    New Year - 1945
    MINDORO
    The first of the New Year found the squadron again split in two camps. The Ground Echelon celebrated New Year's eve by watching the enemy become the focal point of our ack ack on Mindoro, and the Air Echelon, crowded into the Group Area, on Leyte.
    New Year's Day found our heavies over Manila again, with the 7th and 8th Fighter Squadrons affording top cover, while the 9th escorted a C-47 to a guerilla strip on Panay, which turned out to be a dull mission.

    The next five days, the squadron flew routine missions of convoy, C-47, or PBY cover uneventfully, though increasingly bad weather affording the pilots a few bad moments getting back to Tacloban strip. On the 5th, five of our planes landed on Mindoro because of weather and set up operations in a jeep on Hammer Strip (Elmore). On the 6th, the remaining ships flew up and started work in their new house.

    Mindoro lies nearly due South of the central part of Luzon Island. It is 1855 mi. northwest of Darwin, the starting point in the exploits of the squadron, and camp was set up on Mindoro on the 30th of December, 1944, two years and ten months after our first tactical camp at R.A.A.F. strip, Darwin. The island itself is oval is shape about 95 by 50 miles with an area of about 3,794 square miles, the seventh largest island in the Philippines. It is very mountainous in nature, the cultivated and populated areas being along the East and West shore lines and extending ten to fifteen miles inland. The mountain range along the middle of the island from North to South produces two different types of climate in the two lowland areas.

    The unit landed at the San Jose area via Mangarin Bay on the southwest corner of the island directly exposed to the southwest seasonal monsoons from May to October but at this time of the year, a very favorable climate.

    The town of San Jose itself was the sugar refining center of the southwest plains and contains large factory buildings with bright roofs visible from the air for many miles. It boasts a network of small gauge railroads, and the area was devoted to sugar production before the war. The 9th set up camp on a deserted sugar plantation about two miles from town. Our campsite was a field overgrown with weeds which were 5 to six feet tall in places. These were quickly mowed down by hand with every available cutting implement and tents were set up in fairly even rows. A small road paralleled by a small clear creek on the South ran just to the North of the area, forming a natural boundary. The motor pool was set up across the road, thus insuring a rut-free entrance to the camp itself. Our mess hall, 90 feet long, made from sections of portable buildings, was divided into 2 sections separated by the kitchen. The smaller of the two divisions became the Officer's mess and club.

    Water tanks and a pump were set up alongside the creek and showers were built - the first since Gusap, and most welcome! A volley ball court was set up and Supply Officer J. Pienezza arranged with an engineering unit to have a ball diamond leveled off in the field south of the tents. Both sport arenas are now doing yeoman service.

    Two airstrips were in operation when the 9th arrived. Elmore strip (Hammer Tower) was located about a mile from San Jose, adjacent and parallel to the Bugsanga River. Hill strip (Freeboot Tower) was about five miles South near a branch of the railroad. Operations was set up on the latter strip. It is a 6,000 foot dirt strip running North-South with a parallel taxi strip and revetment area on each side; a "C" shaped taxiway and revetment was to the West. On the Southern curve of the "C" the 9th set up the Pilots' Alert tent. An excellent all weather gravel road runs from the strip to within a half mile of camp, and an equally serviceable secondary road was quickly improved to reach the remainder of the way. It is dusty, but much better than the mud holes of Leyte!

    This is the dry time of the year with a few rainstorms (usually the cloudburst variety) lasting for less than an hour. The temperature during the day is fairly hot, but a constant breeze makes it bearable, and at night it falls to a comfortable "one blanket" degree. Average rainfall for the area during the Winter is from 5-10 inches, but in Summer reaches 200 inches! For operational reasons it is fortunate that this is the dry season, as a heavy rain usually puts at least one of the strips out of commission. A third strip is under construction along the coast north of Mangarin Bay. Operations were chaotic for several days when our strip (Freeboot) was out of commission after a rainstorm and we flew off Hammer, sandwiched in between A-20's, C-47's and various other aircraft.

    Things began to shape up on Luzon. We flew one recco mission to the Clark Field area while based on Leyte, and now we received dive-bombing missions and flew cover for A-20's thru the central plains between Manila and Lingayen Gulf. We found the valley surprisingly devoid of obvious targets as the enemy was camouflaging, dispersing and otherwise making himself invisible to us. Heavy bombers continued to pound the larger Jap held strips. Our 7th Fleet, assisted by the 3rd Fleet Air arm, was softening up the Lingayen Gulf area, and the 9th flew cover over large convoys streaming Northward. Rumor had it nearly every day that we had landed on Luzon, and on the 6th of the month the Navy occupied Lingayen Gulf followed by Army landing forces January 9th. The invasion was now an actuality.

    A meeting of all pilots in the Group was held in the 9th Mess hall to stress the importance of our mission at this time. Lt. Col. Gerald R. Johnson, Group Deputy Commander, pointed out that the success of the Luzon campaign depended on close coordination of air and ground forces. The schedule kept us busy; only 23 pilots were available in the 9th, and 12 to 16 flew each day. This meant three days flying and one off as an average. No enemy air activity, bombings or mosquitoes combined with good food and pleasant weather kept the morale of everyone at a high peak in spite of the hard work.

    Freeboot strip had opened again after several rainless days, and we had a roomy efficient set up for squadron operations. On the 11th of the month after several false starts, the entire squadron was scheduled on a fighter sweep thru the Lingayen Valley. Heretofore our flights had been divided between A-20 cover and convoy cover; now we could do a little shooting up ourselves! Eleven of our planes arrived over the target area on the west coast of Luzon, strafing several strips there and then swinging inland near the Tarlac-San Miguel area. Eight planes spent a happy hour destroying those areas, setting many fires in camps along the road. The other three planes, led by 1st Lt. Lewelling, swept the southern part of the valley at minimum altitude where they proceeded to attack a convoy of trucks and staff cars on a road east of Mt. Arayat. Lt. Lewelling hit his wing tip on the 2nd pass and had to circle overhead while the others set fire to 4 trucks and a car, destroying or damaging the rest.

    Weather grounded everyone on the 12th, and the welcome news that 10 of the pilots were going home led to a large celebration that night. The pilots were: Captain W. Williams, 1st Lts. E. Cooper, Davies, R. Hamburger, C. Estes, Les Nelson, W. Lewis, F. Helterline, D. Fisher and W. Curton.

    From the 14th-17th the squadron flew very routine patrols over convoys between Lingayen and the southern tip of Panay. The landing on Luzon was moving forward with very little opposition, as the enemy refused to commit himself at any point. The beach-head was consolidated and large amounts of supplies were put ashore and moved inland. Agno river, a natural barrier which we supposed would be heavily defended, was crossed without incident on the 14th, and our forces reached as far north as Camiling. On the 18th we flew another squadron fighter sweep to Luzon. Our target was Aparri, but weather restricted us to the central plains and we found few things to shoot at.

    The 19th we were scheduled on a Group Fighter sweep to Formosa. This mission had been scheduled before and then canceled. This time the Group formation actually got as far as Lingayen Gulf before the controller called it back. After landing and getting refueled, Red and White Flights led by Capt. R. Wood and 1st Lt. McElroy, took off on another sweep to Luzon.

    They saw nothing of interest along the west coast of Luzon. Upon rounding the northwest tip of the island they noted bad weather ahead, with low overcast and rain extending in a long front from land Northwest over the sea. Captain Wood swung around at Pasaling Bay to return when he spotted a ghostly shadow of an airplane flitting along under the overcast to his right. The eight planes flew over to investigate, and identified a twin engine enemy bomber. The enemy plane headed for the storm front with our P-38s in rapid pursuit. He disappeared momentarily in the rain, but apparently lost faith in his instrument flying and made a right turn which brought him out in the open again. Three of our planes closed on him at once, and a few seconds later a ball of fire on the sea was all that remained of the bomber. The kill was credited to 2nd Lt. J. Forgey, and was the first since 18 December when Capt. Williams destroyed an enemy Dinah over Mindoro.

    While returning to base the flights were flying low over strips to the east of Manila looking for possible targets. They were fired upon by medium ack ack and 2nd Lt. H. Strom was hit in the outer wing section; a large hole was torn making aileron control difficult, but he managed to land safely back at base.

    On the 20th Lts. Fisher and Davies left for home and Lt. Estes arrived from leave in Sydney, resulting in a large bull session about the famous place and making those next in line to leave impatient to be off. Lt. Estes' going home orders were waiting for him and he left for the States 2 days later.

    A gift of sports equipment sent to the 9th by Capt. Ralph Wandrey from home was put to good use, although the 9th lost its first softball league game to the 7th by a score of 3-0. Volleyball also again became popular.

    The long pending mission to Formosa was finally completed the 21st. Flight leaders were Capt. R. Wood, Lt. C. McElroy and Capt. W. Treadway; Capt. J. Petrovich and Lts. J. Forgey, Warren Fowler, N. Williams, T. Smith, Jack Lewis, Ken Clark, I. Corley, Moeller, W. 'Bud' Tiffany and D. Holladay made up the rest of the formation. The Group rendezvous was at Donagon Point at 8,000 feet. At 0845 they arrived at the southern tip of Formosa, and at 1130 were flying around heavy ack ack at 18,000 feet in the Clark Field area which was being bombed by B-24's. The day was bright and the weather excellent at 9,000 feet, though the usual overcast lay over the Cagayan Valley extending unbroken to Formosa. The target was Cavu, and even from 20,000 feet objects could be discerned on the ground. The flights began looking for trouble which never occurred. Fires in the Takao, Heito and Kagi areas set by Navy bombers were seen; otherwise the valley looked peaceful and beautiful in the noontime sun. Nice roads, excellent airstrips and extensive cultivation of the land was noted, but nothing marred the day for the 49th, making the first flight over Formosa by Army Air Force fighters.

    Lt. A. Datzenko returned to the 9th from the hospital after his recovery from a broken arm, the result of falling off an ambulance at Tacloban strip nearly a month ago.

    On the 22nd of January, while most of the squadron flew an uneventful mission to Formosa, Lt. McElroy led a flight to dive and skip bomb small boats and docks in the mouth of a river near Pagbas Bay with the new napalm bomb. It was the first mission of this type for the 9th. The flight was to be coordinated with two B-25's and two PT boats directing the aircraft to targets not readily seen from the air. The bombs used were 100 pound combined with phosphorus and gelled naphtha, type M47-A-2, an outgrowth of the "belly-tank" gasoline bomb used to effectively against ground troops on Saipan. Unfortunately for the success of the mission, two Navy F4U's mistook the identity of the PT boats and strafed them, causing them to retire from the operation and our planes proceeded without ground direction. Lt. McElroy reported the bombs seemed ballistically unsound since they had an erratic trajectory and were difficult to aim accurately. Small fires were started from the few hits in the target area.

    The next day Capt. W. Williams, C.O. of the squadron and one of the outfit's best liked officers, left for a well deserved tour of duty in the States. Captain Williams has been with the squadron since July 13, 1943, when the 9th was flying out of Dobodura, New Guinea. He has amassed nearly 600 flying hours and has 4 enemy planes to his credit, the last victory being over Mindoro on December 18. Captain Petrovich became his successor. Lts. Curton, Cooper, W. Lewis and Estes left with Capt. Williams. The night before they left camp, we had the first red alert in many days caused by a lone bogie entering our area. The audience at the Group movie had several extra intermissions that evening.

    On 29 January the Group had another mission to Formosa, this time the target being Toyhara Airdrome - quite a distance up the west coast. One lone enemy plane was seen when it made a pass on Lt. A. Lewelling's flight. They fired at the enemy without scoring visible results, and did not pursue it due to the necessity of remaining to protect the bombers. Lt. P. Nahnibida crashed on take-off due to engine failure, but was fortunate in being able to extricate himself quickly, suffering only a few minor burns. That night an escape and evasion lecture covering Formosa and southeast China was received enthusiastically by the pilots.

    Amphibious landings were made above and below Manila on the west coast of Luzon January 29th and 31st. Both landings were practically unopposed; on the 31st our squadron was on the scene ready for ground support missions which proved unnecessary. Several new pilots were assigned to the squadron during the month.

    The 9th got off to a bad start this month when 2nd Lt. J. Forgey, returning from a routine convoy escort mission, crashed when making his approach to Hill strip. He informed his wingman by radio that he was in trouble, and a few seconds later his plane crashed and exploded; he was unable to get out prior to the crash and perished in the accident.
    The first several days of February were uneventful; only local patrol missions were flown. A reconnaissance flight to Alabat Island thoroughly strafed Perez strip on the northwest tip Feb. 6th. The following day four of our planes made a fighter sweep of Cagayan Valley. When passing an enemy strip at Tuguegarao the flight spotted a Sally bomber and 2 single engine fighters on the airdrome. After about 15 strafing passes all 3 planes were left burning.

    February 8th the squadron sent 13 planes on a dive bombing mission to Luzon. Targets on lower Bataan Peninsula were hit and Corregidor Island bombed with good results. On the 12th, 14 of our planes dropped 1000 lb. bombs on the same targets with excellent results.

    The following day the 9th had two fighter sweeps of the Cagayan Valley. One flight strafed Tuguegarao Airdrome again, destroying 3 enemy fighters on the ground. The other flight attacked Aparri Airdrome, also destoying 3 fighters on the strip.

    February 14th a rumor arose that our Group was to exchange camps with the 18th Fighter Group, 13th Air Force, located at Lingayen on Luzon. For almost a week this rumor bounced around and was denied consistently.

    On 16 February cover was maintained over the beach-head at Nasugbu, Luzon, but the enemy made no appearance. On this day the news came that our Navy planes were attacking Tokyo in great strength. Needless to say, this news occasioned great elation. The squadron made a fighter sweep to Formosa on Feb. 17, but again no sign of enemy air activity was observed.

    Jesselton Airdrome on Borneo was the target for the 9th the next day, a mission escorting A-20's. The bombers turned back when about half way to the target due to poor weather at their altitude. Our planes continued on and thoroughly strafed Kudet and Jesselton Airdromes, destroying several planes and trucks; they also damaged two luggers off-shore.

    The 19th of February turned out to be a bad day for the squadron, which was covering the Visayan C-47 routes with two plane flights all day long. Lt. Bud Tiffany and his wingman, Lt. H. Thorson, flew over Silay runway on Negros at a low altitude, peeled up and came back over the strip. Lt. Tiffany called Lt. Thorson on the radio after the peel-up, but on the second pass he looked back and saw a P-38 burning beside the runway. Lt. Thorson was not seen after the radio conversation, and cause of the crash will probably remain unknown. Lt. N. Williams and his wingman Lt. J. Kinsman, were in the vicinity of Talisay Airdrome near Silay when Lt. Kinsman's plane developed coolant trouble while at 4,000 feet. Lt. Williams advised his wingman to bail out, and Kinsman replied he intended to do so. Unfortunately, he was unable to leave the plane until it had fallen to 100 feet from the ground. His parachute failed to open in that short distance and Lt. Kinsman landed about 100 yards behind his plane with his parachute strung out before him. He was killed instantly and his body recovered by Filipinos. No sign of enemy action was noted in either instance. Both men were new to the squadron.

    The 49th Group had a mission to run a fighter sweep to Kagi on Formosa; Lt. Col. Johnson leading. The 9th did not reach the target as they covered a PBM engaged in rescuing a B-25 crew which was forced down in the water by North Island in Luzon Strait. The survivors were picked up without incident and the squadron returned to base as they were low on fuel.

    The squadron was off for maintenance and training on the 21st, a most welcome breather for the engineering department which had been working long and well to keep the planes in the air. Local patrols were flown the following two days and on the 24th of February the unit was once more off to do the necessary chores preliminary to the forthcoming move to Luzon.

    ON THE BEACH - LINGAYEN GULF
    Early on the morning of the 25th the squadron loaded on C-46's and C-47's; before the day ended we were firmly settled in the campsite just evacuated by the 44th Fighter Squadron, 18th Group. The exchange was most profitable for the 9th, as the new camp is on the shore of Lingayen Bay, and the majority of personnel were proud possessors of bamboo constructed huts which were built off the ground - a far cry from the meadows of Mindoro. The 27th we flew routine local patrols which wrapped up the flying for February.

    During the month Captain E. Howes left for the States on temporary duty, being given a temporary assignment in the States, after which it is expected he will return in a few months. Captain J. Harvey, squadron Executive Officer also left, bound for home on temporary duty in the States. After a 30-day leave it is expected he will return to the unit. First Lts. Helterline and Hamburger left for the States during the month, both having completed their tours of duty very creditably. While the unit was sorry to lose two good pilots, it was agreed that they had earned the right to go home.

    Three of the pilots, Captain McElroy, 1st Lt. Norton, and 2nd Lt. Holladay, left for Hawaii on 8 February, accompanied by crew chief, T/Sgt. Harclerode, for the purpose of ferrying back new P-38's to the Southwest Pacific Area, a new idea being tried out for the first time.

    Several new pilots were added to the roster during the period under review and they appear to be of the same calibre as their predecessors who have made such an enviable record for the squadron. During the month, also, several of our "old-timers" left for home on the rotation plan. On the whole, the month was one of exceptional quiet with no serial combat ensuing. The highlight of the period was the move to the most forward area in the Philippines on the 25th, where it was hoped that coming weeks would see a return to fruitful missions of former times.

    The early part of March found the squadron in the process of getting settled in their new camp area at Lingayen, Luzon. For the first time in the Philippine battle of camps, the Ninth got a decent break insofar as they moved into an area already partially built up by the 44th Fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group of the 13th Air Force. The whole move was an unusual one in that we left all our heavy equipment, vehicles, tents, cots, etc., at Mindoro and effected a trade with the squadron into whose area we moved, this being the first time in our history that such a complete exchange of campsites had occurred.
    The camp area we moved into is situated about one-quarter of a mile from the west end of Lingayen Strip and extends from the beach to about 600 yards inland, bordered by a road leading to the town of Lingayen. The beach itself is a wide, clean, sandy area, a veritable Bondi on Coney Island, and extends into the Gulf in a gradual slope which makes it a wonderful bathing resort and is being utilized for that purpose. The 9th Officers' Quarters, two rows of Nipa shacks, is built about fifty feet from the water's edge and the cool sea-breeze constantly keeps the quarters comfortable. The gray-white sand of the beach, interspersed with sparse grass, extends throughout the entire camp area and the Filipino-built Nipa huts on that background of sand and an occasional palm tree gives the camp a definite South Pacific "Paradise Island" atmosphere.

    Operationally the squadron got right down to work, under the control of 308th Bomb Wing through Group, and for the first five days we flew cover for convoys, C-47's on dropping missions, minesweepers, and started on a phase of close ground support missions under the direction of various ground controllers. Using instantaneous bombs, our planes dive-bombed Kato and Koshun Airdromes and the Hosan Rail Yards all on Formosa. Also Jap held areas at Cabuyo, Dupax and San Fernando on Luzon. The ground fighting in the Luzon area has been slow, painful work for the infantry, digging the Japs out cave by cave in the Yamshita Line east of Manila and constantly patrolling the Baguio area, still a Japanese strong point. Consequently the work of our planes against inaccessible Japanese positions had been highly appreciated and the use of instantaneous demolition bombs, and the new napalm bombs under the close direction from ground controllers has proved to be very successful.

    On 9 March, a group of pilots from the 9th accompanied Captain J. Spence, Squadron Intelligence Officer, to Clark Field where a Tactical Air Intelligence Unit was assembling the Japanese planes that had been captured in that area and the pilots spent the day climbing in and out of various types of planes, learning the enemy pilot's workshop.

    Second Lt. H. Hammett, returning from a mission on 11 March, was forced to crash land on Mangalden crash strip when his belly tank ripped loose and crashed into the nose wheel door rendering it inoperative. Lt. Hammett came through with no injuries suffered.

    On the 12th of March, the fighters based on Mindoro were unable to take off due to a muddy strip and the planes of the 9th flew down in the morning to operate out of McGuire all-weather strip for the day, returning to Lingayen that evening with the exception of one plane that had developed mechanical trouble.

    The middle of the month brought a lot of covering missions for rescue submarines and air-sea rescue Navy Flying boats in the vicinity of Formosa. The squadron flew its first mission in the vicinity of the China Coast, covering a rescue flying boat 40 miles east of Swatow, China. On 15th March, Lt. Hanisch led a flight to the Swatow-Amoy area as cover for B-25's but the pilots were disappointted when no interception materialized.

    On 17 March, 1st Lt. Hook, while returning from a mission crashed in the water one-fourth mile northeast of Lingayen strip when his engines cut out on him. He hit about 400 yards off-shore, outside the huge breakers. Lt. Hook inflated his rubber boat but was thrown clear of it by a large wave and was left floundering in the water. Two enlisted men of this organization, T/Sgt. Lynch and Cpl. Ralph witnessed the accident and immediately plunged into the rough sea, with other personnel in the area, in an attempt to save the pilot. The other rescuers were turned back by the heavy seas but these two men struggled through the breakers, recovered the rubber boat and swam out to the pilot, pulling the boat along. They reached the pilot and after putting him in the boat, towed him ashore. The two enlisted men and the pilot were all exhausted to a point of collapse. The herioc efforts by Sgt. Lynch and Cpl. Ralph, resulting in the saving of Lt. Hook's life, have gained them each a recommendation for the Soldiers Medal.

    From the 18th until the 22nd of March, the squadron divided its missions between ground support and escort and cover for PBMs, rescue submarines, and heavy and medium bombers. On March 21st, Captains A. Lewelling and R. Wood and H. Norton led the second China Coast mission, covering B-25's to Amoy, with no interception. These missions were from six to seven hours long over an endless expanse of water and would be hazardous were it not for the excellent work of the Air-Sea Rescue organization. The knowledge that there are four or five patrol planes or submarines in the vicinity of each strike constantly on the watch for aircraft in distress, does much to relieve the tension of long over-water hops. In the period between the latter part of February and the fourth of March, Air-Sea Rescue recovered 34 flying personnel from the sea between Northern Luzon and Formosa.

    On 18th March, Operations and Intelligence moved into their newly constructed Nipa building between the Officer's and Enlisted Men's area. This is the first time in the story of the 9th that it has been possible to locate the nerve center of operational work so conveniently close to the living quarters of the men involved. Heretofore it has been the policy to locate Operations and Intelligence as well as Armament and Ordinance offices on the strip close to the airplanes, necessitating the transportation of all personnel concerned to and from the strip each day. In addition to crew chiefs, line personnel and pilots, food had to be transported to the strip for nearly 100 men each noon. Under the present arrangement, with the camp located only a few minutes drive from the squadron's planes, it is possible to minimize the number of personnel working on the line and the transportation facilities of the squadron are released for other squadron duties. Thus, we have many more men on the "Camp-Jockey" status than previously. The monthly quota of enlisted men left the organization through rotation plan on 18 March to return to the States.

    Social activities in the squadron more or less began with a dance given by the Filipino members of the school faculty of Lingayen to which the 9th was cordially invited. The function took place in the school building, formerly our temporary mess hall but since turned back to the Philippine authorities preceding school's reopening. The governor of the province of Pangasinan, Luzon, in which we live, was the guest of honor and a Filipino orchestra assisted the dancing. The party broke up fairly early but was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Following this, many invitations to fiestas, dances and parties were extended to members of the 9th and the squadron in turn was planning on returning this hospitality. The enlisted men decided on the location and construction of their club, which was to be in the permanent building at the southern end of the area which already housed the orderly room, supply, medics, mailroom, dayroom, ordinance and armament. S/Sgt. R. Gast and M/Sgt. A. Odgaard were elected president and secretary-treasurer respectively, and the club is under the sponsorship of 2nd Lt. G. Wallace. A very fine meeting place which is nearly completed and an official opening is planned for early April.

    Captain J. Spence, Squadron Intelligence Officer, was forced to turn into the 107th Station Hospital after a period of illness, later determined as the result of kidney trouble. Major G. Rand, formerly Group Intelligence Officer, took over the duties of the squadron Intelligence Officer while awaiting orders to return to the States.

    The missions for the latter part of March included dive- bombing and strafing of enemy troop concentrations in the Baguio area under the direction of "Bootblack" ground controller with results reported as excellent. The bombing and strafing missions on Balete Pass were also accomplished with favorable results. Seven new pilots were assigned to the squadron during the month of March.

    Captain Lewelling, squadron Operations Officer, left the 9th to go to the 5279th Air Borne Fighter Control Center on detached service, presumably to assume command of a unit. Captain H. Norton succeeded him as Operations Officer.

    The month ended very pleasantly by the opening of the Group Officers' Club. The club having been completed the day of the opening. It is located on the beach, centrally situated with reference to all squadrons. As the fruit of the combined efforts of all Group officer personnel, it is one of the finest clubs the 49th has ever built. It is easily large enough to accommodate all the organization's officers and their guests, with a smooth surfaced dance floor bordered by a large barroom, a spacious veranda overlooking the water, and a raised bandstand. Guests of honor at the opening included Brigadier General Smith, Commanding General, Fifth Fighter Command, Colonel Gutherie and Colonel Walker, formerly 49th Group Commander, of 308th Bomb Wing. Nurses were invited from the 197th and 360th Station hospitals. Drinks were served in the bar and dancing was assisted by the 38th Bomb Group orchestra. All combined to make the occasion a great success and the suitable ushering out of another month of overseas life.

    April will no doubt go down on record as one of the most productive months in the history of the 9th Fighter Squadron insofar as sorties flown, bomb tonnage dropped, and damage to the enemy ground forces is concerned. The Navy occupied the Japanese Air Force in the Ryukyus and left Formosa and the China coast relatively free of interception against strategic bombing of these areas by heavies and mediums. Consequently, the Flying Knights devoted nearly all their efforts to tactical ground support work on Luzon, dropping, in one month, a tonnage of bombs greater than the total previous commitments since activation. The actual figures, 293 tons of demolition bombs and 68 165-gallon bombs of napalm.
    Nearly all targets were relatively undefended, except for small arms ground fire, and no planes were hit by A/A. Consequently, a training school gunnery pattern could be set up over the targets and accuracy was evolved, each pilot using his own system more or less, but certain elements were applied. In dive bombing, steepness of dive, follow through and extreme attention to coordination was observed by all pilots, the usual approach being initiated at 150 to 180 miles per hour in a turn, both with and without dive flaps extended, five to eight thousand feet above the target. Releasing the bomb below 2,500 feet was found to be dangerous with instantaneous fuses, since running into bomb fragments was likely. With dive flaps and low air speed, pull-outs from 30 degree dives were safe if initiated at about 2,500 feet, air speed in the pull-out not exceeding 300 miles per hour. In dropping napalm belly tanks, the best results were achieved at minimum altitude in a skip bombing approach, releasing the tanks just ahead of, or right over the target, since they had a tendency to drop straight down with little forward speed.

    April 1st brought a routine mission covering bombers to Giran, Formosa, but the second day of the month proved to be quite eventful. Captain P. Petrovich and 1st Lt. Ken Clark flew as observers on a PBM of Navy Squadron VH 4, an air-sea rescue "Playmate" covering a bomber strike to Hong Kong, in order to learn the Navy's problems of operation and bring about better coordination between the big flying boats and the squadron fighters that cover them so often. That same day, the 9th was scheduled to cover the heavies hitting Hong Kong. Lt. Col. Gerald Johnson, Group Commander, was leading the flight with Captain James Watkins, former 9th squadron ace returned overseas on his second tour of duty, flying as "wing man". At 1340, just as the bombers were leaving the target, three bandits were sighted two to four thousand feet below the fighters. An attack was immediately initiated, the enemy turning tail and running in separate directions. The lead flight of P-38s pursued the enemy and shot down three definites, the credits going to Lt. Col. Johnson - 1 Tojo, Captain Watkins - 1 Tojo, and 2nd Lt. W. Koby - 1 Oscar. On return to base Lt. C. Peterson lost fuel pressure on both engines and was unable to draw gasoline. He glided his plane, from an altitude of 10,000 feet, fifteen miles to the coast of Luzon and bailed out at 3,000 feet, over land, north of Luna. He was uninjured and returned to the squadron in two days by L-5 from Luna strip.

    Captain McElroy and 1st Lt. Holladay returned from ferrying P-38's (J-20s) from Hawaii on the third, having been gone nearly two months. The following day, Captain Wood and 1st Lts. Baxter and Datzenko left for the States. Farewell was exchanged in the sand and sun of Lingayen and the squadron felt it had lost some mighty fine pilots and friends. Captain Wood joined the squadron in July 1943, at Dobodura, and was one of the few "Old Guards" remaining prior to his departure.

    Flights were preparing to take off on a dive bombing mission to Balete Pass on the morning of the 6th and were delayed until the afternoon when a P-47 dropped a bomb during take off which exploded on the strip. Ten of the 9th pilots, riding in a command car on the taxiway, were only 100 yards from the explosion and luckily none were hit by the flying debris. S/Sgt. Valenta, standing on the wing of an airplane, was hit in the head with a piece of steel matting of the strip. 1st Lt. Wallace pulled the injured man from the wing and administered first-aid until the ambulance arrived. The extent of Sgt. Valenta's wounds were, fortunately, not serious.

    1st Lt. Bryant and F/O Copeland traveled to a forward SAP control point, on the morning of the 6th, to observe a worm's eye view of ground support work. The 9th had the mission in their area that day (Balete Pass) so they were able to gain first hand information on the squadron's work, which was favorable.

    Captain Lewelling returned to the squadron on the 7th to pick up his "going home" orders and the following day he and Captain McElroy left for the States, accompanied by Captain Treadway and 1st Lt. C. Gupton. Lt. Gupton is remembered for shooting down five enemy planes in three non-consecutive missions during the heavy fighting at Tacloban in the month of November, 1944. Capts. McElroy and Lewelling had joined the squadron in September, 1943, completed 18 months overseas, and each had four enemy aircraft to their credit and over 500 combat hours. Since the departure of these pilots represented the last of the "old guard", with the exception of Capts. H. Norton and J. Haislip, it is pertinent to note what experience remained in the squadron. Although the average time overseas for the flight and element leaders, composing half the total strength of pilots, was eight months, the average combat time for these men was over 270 hours. Ten pilots had over 300 combat hours and nine of the "eight month" boys had accounted for a total of 18 enemy aircraft. The average time for wingmen at the time was ninety hours. The operational efficiency of the squadron was at its peak and the squadron fulfilled its commitments in an exemplary manner in spite of the comparative inexperience of the nucleus personnel.

    Weather hindered many missions from the 8th through the middle of the month. Ground support work in the Baguio-Balete Pass area was completed in spite of low hanging clouds obscuring the target, but many afternoons the secondary targets in the Solvec Bay areas received the bombs intended for Baguio when the build up of weather in the mountains prohibited any serial activity in that region. Missions to Formosa and the China coast were turned back several times due to fronts building up between Luzon and those areas. The weather opened up sufficiently to permit a bomber escort mission to Hainan Strait on the 9th, but turned back a one bomb, one belly tank mission to Formosa on the 11th and the bombs were dropped on the town of Santa Fe, Luzon instead.

    The second large group Officer's party was held in the club on the evening of the 11th with a larger attendance of nurses than previously. Music was furnished by the 86th Fighter Wing Orchestra and Manila-side whiskey was sold at the bar for the sum of sixty centavos per drink. Guests at the party included seven members of the VH Squadron 4, the "Playmate" boys of the Naval Air Force. The following night, the Enlisted Men of the 9th held another party of their own in the spacious EM Club next to the Squadron Orderly Room. A successful bridge busting mission at Santiago was flown on the 12th. Two direct hits were scored and completely destroyed the bridge.

    Friday, the 13th. The world was shocked by the news of our Commander-in-Chief's sudden and unexpected death. With the U.S. forces only 57 miles from Berlin and American landing ever closer to the Japanese homeland, it was evident that the President had died on the eve of victory for the country he was "First Man" of for over twelve years. The news was received in t he squadron about 0800 on the morning of the 13th and an immediate confirmation was requested from the 308th Bomb Wing before any such serious "Rumor" could travel far. Unfortunately, the "rumor" was fact and all personnel in the organization were stunned by the news. If the Japs hoped the demise of the "Chief" would effect the efficiency, they were doomed to bitter disappointment; all scheduled missions were completed in good order.

    The old custom of retaining the squadron call sign for an indefinite period of time was discontinued. The famous "Captive" call sign which indicated the 9th squadron Moresby to Biak, and the "Beware" that carried it through the Leyte campaign, were made property of any outfit designated to use them. The call sign changed every Sunday and at first it was like speaking a strange language to the pilots, as familiar with their old call sign as they were with the red spinners on their ships. The call signs for the month of April were as follows: April 1-7, "Bison"; April 8-14, "Beaver"; April 15-21, "Anthem"; April 22-28, "Curfew"; and April 29-6 May, "Shotgun". The tempo of ground support commitments picked up noticeably toward the middle of the month and continued to increase to the end. Traffic on Lingayen strip became quite a problem during the middle of the month and on the 15th, it reached critical proportions comparable to Leyte operations in December, 1944. The morning bombing mission to Baguio was held up nearly an hour while a bomb disposal crew cleared the runway of two bombs, unexploded, jettisoned by a P-51 on take-off. Returning to base, the flights were forced to circle another hour waiting their turn in the heavy traffic landing and taking off. The afternoon mission was likewise delayed when a P-51 blew a tire on take-off and the afternoon landing was as difficult as the morning mission. At this time, there were P-51's, P-47's and B-25's, in addition to our P-38's, all operating out of one strip which, although 8,000 feet long, left something to be desired in the way of taxiways and runway accessibility.

    The 13th and 14th of the month brought bomber, submarine and PBM cover missions, relieved by a bombing-strafing mission to the Baguio area on the 15th, as well as another bridge-busting job in the afternoon which sadly failed to dispose of the bridge. Six planes dropped twelve bombs at the target but when the smoke had cleared from the final blast, the impertinent structure remained, dusted over a bit with dirt and debris, but still usable.

    The 16th of April was a triumph for the Engineering Department, as well as Operations. On that day, twenty planes were scheduled to fly five missions of PBM and Submarine cover to Formosa. All five flights completed their commitments without a single mechanical failure, averaging six hours per airplane and amassing a total of 119:50 combat hours for the squadron in one day. This exceptional record of excellent maintenance heretofore unequalled in a squadron noted for its high standard of engineering efficiency.
    In the period 1st to 20th of April, a maintenance percentage of 86.8% was attained by the Engineering Department under the direction of Captain Davidson, squadron Engineering Officer. This was accomplished with a 30% shortage of enlisted personnel and a 50% shortage in tools and equipment, under the stress of continual daily commitments of twelve to sixteen planes, operating off of a rough, uneven, metal strip, hard on landing gear and tires and exposed to constant, fine blowing sand and salt spray, and scourge of carburetors. Incidentally, the percentages for February and March of this year were 85.2% and 80.9% respectively. The difficulty in obtaining parts and replacements was also an obstructing factor to the high record, and transferring parts from one ship to another, or plain "scrounging", played an important part.

    Dive bombing missions in the Cabuyo,
     
  2. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Dive bombing missions in the Cabuyo, Irtsan, and Solvec Bay areas, were completed successfully, destroying buildings, setting fires in nipa shacks, and catching one green staff car on the road northwest of Irtsan. The squadron's bombing was improving with practice and the missions were considered "choice" by the pilots. The pilots welcomed the opportunity to "hit a lick" during the absence of any aerial opposition. Ten of the planes in the squadron were L-5 models of the P-38, with dive flaps and electric primers. Eight were L-1's and a few J-20's remained.

    The morning dive bombing mission, on the 19th, was for Bootblack SAP controller northeast of Asin. Four ships carried napalm and four carried two 1,000 pound inst. demo bombs each. A TWX from the ground forces, remarking on the bombing, read: "Anthem, Belay and Faintheart. Lt. Barry stated, best close support strike he has yet controlled. Bombing was perfect and strafing very effective." Captain Petrovich, Squadron Commander, was leading the strike and it seems that every time the controller marked the target with a white phosphorous mortar shell, one of the 9th's planes would put it out with a bomb.

    Lt. Bryant had a "Playmate" cover mission to Formosa in the afternoon. The flight was held up an hour when an unexploded bomb dropped on the strip. Finally two ships took to the air piloted by Lts. Bryant and Easterbrook. The "Playmate" had started back to base by the time the flight reached the rendezvous, so Lt. Bryant led a two ship strafing attack along the east coast of Formosa, near Taito, setting one factory and two barracks buildings on fire and knocking out one ack ack machinegun position. Lt. Easterbrook's plane was hit by ground fire, damaging the coolant system and he returned to base on a single engine. This was the first time anyone in the 9th had strafed the enemy stronghold.

    A two and one-half hour course in Observation and Reconnaissance was given all pilots, in the evenings, in compliance with a directive from V Fighter Command. Lt. Ken Clark, Assistant Intelligence Officer, acted as school teacher. The 20th of April through 22nd was devoted almost entirely to ground support. In the three days, the squadron flew sixty-three sorties, dropped 56 tons of bombs and 1,185 gallons of napalm on the Japs in Baguio and Solvec Bay areas. The traffic over bombing targets was becoming a problem at this time. Weather limited the number of targets available and nearly always there were long delays circling an area waiting for other flights to get off the target. In the twelve day period, 11 April to and including the 22nd, the squadron dropped forty-four tons of high explosives, 5,115 gallons of napalm and fired 79,785 rounds of .50 cal. and 7,775 rounds of 20 mm ammunition at the enemy on Northern Luzon.

    The monthly quota of rotation personnel left for the States. The squadrons were understaffed in all departments, and operational commitments were greater than usual, which meant plenty of work for everybody. On the 23rd, the weather opened up to China and a sixteen ship B-24 cover mission was scheduled to Yulin Harbor, Hainan. Ten planes finally completed the uneventful mission. Five new pilots were assigned to the squadron on the 24th, arriving from seven weeks training at CRTC, Nadzab. Most of these replacements graduated in the class of 44-S. Combat films were shown in the mess hall in the evening. They were pretty old, the 18th March being the latest reel. The fact that one or two reels out of four were unserviceable due to dampness made the coverage pretty incomplete for the five month period from November, 1944; a regrettable situation considering the history making activities of the organization at that time.

    April 25th. The afternoon mission, twelve ships to bomb bridges near Illigan, got off to a tragic start when 2nd Lt. W. Cunningham, flying number two position in Blue Flight, crashed into the water near the east end of the strip immediately after take-off and was killed. Lt. Gribble, leading the element of Blue Flight, saw Lt. Cunningham's left engine catch fire during his take-off run. The plane turned to the left at minimum altitude, heading out over water, when the low left wing apparently ticked the water forcefully enough to cartwheel the airplane which hit the water, inverted and sank immediately. A helicopter arrived almost immediately and hovered over the scene of the crash but no trace of the pilot was observed. His body was later recovered and buried. Lt. Cunningham joined the squadron in February, 1945, a comparative newcomer, and had amassed over 200 combat hours in the short period of his assignment which terminated with his demise. He was a definite asset to the squadron and his death was both shocking and regrettable to his comrades.

    All day long, the 26th personnel could be seen carting all varieties of chairs to the reserved area for members of the 49th at the new theatre stage just completed at the west-end of the ball park. The event: "This is the Army", the famous Irving Berlin, all G.I., show opened at 2000 hours and for one and one half hours, thousands of people crowded the grandstand and vigorously, sincerely, applauded one of the finest pieces of entertainment the 9th has yet seen. Just winding up an 18 month tour around the world, "This is the Army" was the largest show to play in the vicinity of the 9th since Bob Hope's show on Biak and can well sustain its fame and well deserved reputation on a top-notch performance. Some of those "girls" were really beautiful! Five minutes after the final act, with the crowd well dispersed, a Red Alert was sounded which lasted for about twenty minutes. This was the first alert in many weeks and couldn't have been timed better to cause the least trouble.

    Captain Petrovich, returning to the squadron from a two day trip to the submarine base at Subic Bay, was "glad handed" with the news of his promotion to Major.

    April 27th. Major Petrovich led a twelve ship dive bombing mission to Santiago, North Luzon, well within Japanese lines. During the attack, Lt. Koby, leading the element in White Flight, had an engine catch fire and bailed out about eight miles northwest of the town. Lt. Holladay circled the downed pilot for an hour and saw him picked up by Filipinos. At the close of the period the latest reports had Lt. Koby safe in the hands of the guerillas.

    Dive bombing missions occupied the rest of the month and were all completed successfully. A soft-ball league was established the previous month and the various teams were battling it out on the diamond. In the typical game between the "Rams" (9th Officers) and the Sparks (9th E.M.), the game was a close, hard, match bringing a rally by the Rams in the last inning but not enough to bring them on top. Final score: Rams- 6, Sparks- 7. The "Red Noses", enlisted men of the ninth, were leading the league.

    Lieutenant Strom, Squadron PX Officer, acquired the necessary materials to construct a classy looking number which he called a "coke machine". Looking like something from a Rube Goldberg cartoon, low pressure oxygen tanks were used for water containers and were cooled in the Officer's Club cooler. Ice cold coke was dispensed regularly by shooting a squirt from the coke syrup barrel, with a P-40 primer, into a glass and filling it with the cold water, carbonated by a CO2 cylinder hooked up to the oxygen tank. Needless to say, Operations and Intelligence was a popular place of gathering.

    The following is a brief summary of the general allied situation at the close of April. The Russian and American Armies made their long awaited and historic junction at 1640 hours, Wednesday, 24th April, and by the 29th the two great military powers faced each other across 200 miles of the Elbe River. Three fourths of Berlin was in Russian hands and reports of impending momentary collapse of the German forces were in the news. In San Francisco, the UNCIO was in session with representatives of the "Big Four" and other allied nations in attendance.

    In the Pacific, nearly all of Okinawa Jima was occupied by U.S. forces of the 4th Army and the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force. The Japanese serial defense of the Ryukus cost them dearly in planes and the loss of their famous battleship, the Yamato. P-51's, based on Iwo Jima, were the first fighter planes to appear over Tokyo on the 7th April, escorting B-29's. But the Japanese resistance was still fanatical and however rapidly the allies seemed to be closing in on the Japanese "Homeland", every foot of the way was bitterly contested. That was where the Flying Knights fit into the picture with their bombing and strafing of inaccessible enemy ground positions in Northern Luzon. As a result of all air support in the Baguio area, for instance the 33rd and the 37th Division troops walked into the former Japanese Headquarters in the Philippines on the 28th April and found the situation well in hand, as a result of napalm and demo strikes of several days previous.

    May was a month of historical importance the world over, an outstanding month in the history of the "Flying Knights", and one which will not soon be forgotten. The daily news from Europe was watched intently, for various signs of the crumbling German War Machine were evident in each new dispatch. The Americans and Russian Armies were closing in on the last bastions of Nazi resistance, Hitler was reported, by German radio, to have died in Berlin and Admiral Karl Doenitz declared himself official head of the German Government. The Australians landed on Borneo, and Yanks steadily pushed the Nips back on Okinawa, the ground fighting Yanks on Luzon continued their slow laborious advance, and the 9th Squadron's work-horse P-38's continued their steady pounding of enemy installations on the island. Mussolini was killed by Italian patriots in Milan, Italy; Berlin fell to the Russian Army after a twelve day seige; President Truman confirmed the death of Hitler; and on 2nd May, all German Forces in northern Italy, southern and western Austria, surrendered unconditionally to the allies. In this background of world shaking events, the "Flying Knights", operating from the shores of Lingayen Gulf, joined other units of the V Fighter Command in a relentless attack on the entrenched Japanese Army in the Balete Pass, Baguio, and Ipo Dam areas.
    Missions of closer and closer ground support were successfully carried out, sometimes bombing and strafing within 250 yards of friendly troops, a tribute to the confidence, displayed by the Infantry, in the accuracy of fighter bombers. On 2 May, sixteen of the squadron's planes accounted for three bridges, in the Bontoc area, as noted from a mission report. Controller, Nephew #5, complimented our flights on bombing. Strike was very excellent close support, with best results.

    The summer squall season was setting in, with the first really bad rainfall and accompanying wind storm occurring 4 May and lasting only a few minutes. These infrequent cloudbursts were to continue through the entire month, accompanied by hot, sultry days and nights relieved only by the proximity of the bathing beach.

    Jerry Thorp, correspondent for Daily News Foreign Service, was a guest of the 9th Enlisted Men's Club early in the month and wrote a brief story about the men in the 9th.

    On 5 May, another close support mission was flown in the Cervantes area for Nephew Controller and the following results are taken from a report of the air strike by 121st Infantry Command Post, addressed to C.O., USAFIP: sixteen bombs dropped on enemy pill boxes, tunnels, foxholes, camouflaged tents and gun emplacements on Langiatan Ridge, Kiskis Hill Top, and the vicinity of Bessang with six direct hits on those installations destroying same as well as enemy observation nests on Kiskis Hill. Believe large casualties inflicted and general evacuation of area followed.




    V-E
    The surrender of German forces in Holland and Denmark was announced on the 5th, as well as the fact that Hitler's once famed hide-out at Berchteagaden was in Allied hands. Captain E. Stumpf, Squadron Communications Officer and 1st Lt. Bellan flew down to Biak island to observe a demonstration of Ground Controlled Approach, a radar set-up used in the European Theatre to guide aircraft through weather to a landing at their home base. They returned the following day. Then it happened. The news the world had been waiting for, the surrender of the last German Forces. The news of the cessation of hostilities in Europe was received joyfully but with very little celebration. All men in the organization realized that a very big job still lay ahead of them and there was no relaxing in the destruction of the enemy in the Pacific. The same day, 2nd Lt. W. Koby, returned to the squadron from an eight day sojourn with guerilla Forces after he bailed out near Santiago, North Luzon, on 27th April. He was none the worse for wear and the boys were "Damned" glad to see him.
    On May 9, 1st Lt. H. Strom left for home. Originally assigned to the 8th Squadron, Lt. Strom transferred to the 9th at Mindoro in January '45, and was doing a fine job as Squadron Post Exchange Officer and Element Leader, acquiring over 200 combat hours, when he received the news in April that he was a proud father. Less than a week later, an urgent telegram informed him that his wife was seriously ill and his presence was imperative for her recovery. After much waiting and red tape, he left the for the States, with a high transportation priority.

    On the morning of the 8th, Major Petrovich, Captain Spence, 1st Lt. Hanisch, and 1st Lt. Tiffany drove a jeep to the SAP Controller "Nephew" at Luna, North Luzon. Lunch with the controller personnel was by invitation via radio on 2 May when the 9th's planes took out the three bridges in that area. From Luna the officers proceeded north along an excellent concrete highway to Narvacan, near Solve Bay, where they were guests of Major O'Day, an American officer serving with the Guerrillas. Major O'Day proved to be an interesting and unusual man, a soldier of fortune and veteran of fourteen years in the Philippines as civil engineer and Jap nemisis. He escorted the 9th boys to forward position where they observed first hand what the infantry is up against, the way the enemy has dug into solid rock formations as much as thirty feet as protection against artillery fire and bombing. Major O'Day estimated that air support has accounted for 40% of the enemy's resistance; the other 60% must be eliminated by slow, pains-taking infantry advances against heavily dug-in fortifications. The party was loaded down with souvenirs of all descriptions by the Guerrilla troops - helmets, battle flags, etc., fed an excellent meal, were guests at a fiesta in their honor, and spent the night at Camp Spencer, south of Luna. They returned the following day with a lot of information on the Jap's methods of warfare and an appreciation of the job the infantry must do. This was Major Petrovich's third expedition to other units in the local theatre, having previously visited the Navy PBM Base at Port Sual and the Submarine Base at Subic Bay.

    1st Lt. R. Gorham, Squadron Executive Officer, and 1st Lt. W. Williams received their promotions to Captain early in the month. Also, 2nd Lts. Hammett, and Easterbrook received their promotions to 1st Lt. On the 12th, Captain Williams and 1st Lts. T. Smith, Jack Lewis, and Torrey were surprised to receive the news that there were to report to Clark Air Center in connection with a transfer to Service Squadron as Flying Engineering Officers. They had expected only an interview at Group Headquarters on the matter and were not entirely pleased with this rather abrupt result of their signing up for said interview a few days previously. Fortunately, they returned to the squadron two days later, for they would have been sorely missed as Flight Leaders.

    Around 1500, 11 May, the boys were treated to a little excitement in camp when a battery charging set-up in the Motor Pool ignited a can of gasoline nearby and the resulting conflagration burned the roof off the "garage". It was quickly extinguished, however, with no further damage. Major Petrovich and Captain Davidson, journeyed to Manila for a day or so of rest. The Enlisted Men of the outfit have been enjoying three day passes to the Manila area, about five or six going at a time. Apparently Manila is a very satisfactory rest area for all reports indicated the men have a thoroughly enjoyable time.

    Another successful mission on the morning of the 13th in the Baguio area resulted, according to the L-4 observer, in the wiping out of an enemy bivouac area, the destruction of several trucks, supply dumps, and an unestimated number of Japs killed. Afternoon mission ceased to be scheduled as a rule, due to the built-up weather over the target areas.

    Captain J. Haislip left for the States on the morning of the 14th. Captain Haislip joined the 9th in December 1943, at Gusap, New Guinea, flying P-47's and P-38's with the "Knights", knocking down one Nip plane over Ceram and acquiring 412 combat hours in 153 missions. He also piloted the Group "Fat-Cat", C-47, at Leyte. "Slip" was a typical, lanky, taciturn westerner. Older than most fighter pilots (29), he had a wry sense of humor and was a steady, dependable officer, well liked by the officers and men alike. After sixteen months of combat, he certainly deserved a rest, and the good wishes of the squadron went with him. The same day, three old timers among the enlisted men went home on rotation: F/Sgt. Malone, T/Sgt. G. Smith and S/Sgt. Serafin.

    Major Wally Jordan, former 9th Squadron C.O. who left for the States in January 1945 on Temporary duty to Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, arrived back in the Group in the early part of the month and was made Group Operations Officer.

    The 16th, 17th and 18th of May, the largest concentration of fighter bombers yet to be assembled on one target in the Philippines made a coordinated attack against Jap installations in the Ipo Dam area, east of Manila. On the night of the 14th, Colonel Gerald Johnson, Group Commander, held a briefing of all flight leaders in the Group Operations- Intelligence Office and explained the strategy. Five groups of V Fighter Command Fighters were to participate: 49th, 8th, 475th, 35th and 58th. A total of 208 planes. The load was to be napalm bombs. It was felt that the extreme concentration of napalm in a small area in a short space of time would suffocate those it did not kill by using up the oxygen. The enemy had been entrenched in this area for weeks and could not be rooted out without heavy loss of life. Originally scheduled to start the three day session on the 15th, it was postponed on account of weather until the 16th. For the following three days the group flew together and distinguished itself by its formation flying, air discipline and excellent bombing. TWXs from 308th Bomb Wing quoted: "The following radiogram was received from the Commanding General, Sixth Army, quote: My heartfelt thanks to you and your airmen for their splendid support of our attack on Ipo which made possible the early capture of the vital Ipo Dam. Krueger."

    Major Jordan led the squadron on the first mission, Lt. Hanisch, Holladay, and Corley leading the other three flights. Colonel Johnson led the Group.

    Incidentally, this same period brought the heaviest bombing raids of the Pacific War to the Japanese homeland as the strategic bombing of the manufacturing centers got into full swing. Five hundred B-29's of the 20th Air Force in the Marianas attacked Nogoya, dropping over 3,500 tons of new-type incendiary bombs on the third largest city in a daring daylight raid on the 14th, starting a series of such strikes that would eventually reduce the land of the rising sun to ashes.

    The softball league broke into prominence when members of the 9th's Red Noses, leading the group league, joined with players from the other two squadrons to make up an all-star team, challenging any comers. The first challengers were from the 35th Fighter Control Squadron and all hands gathered at the ball diamond to watch the show. M/Sgt. Blackwell, Assistant Flight Chief, and first baseman for the All-Stars, hit a home run with the bases loaded in the first inning to start the game off royally. The opponents scored four runs in the following inning by a fluke play at second base, but the All-Stars forged ahead in the remaining innings while the King-Newmann combinations of pitcher and catcher held the Fighter Control boys down to four runs. Final score - 8 to 4.
    On 17 May Marshall Tito announced the end of all organized resistance in Yugoslavia, where a band of fanatical Nazi bandits continued to fight even after the surrender of the German Government. This brought to a final conclusion all hostilities in Europe.

    19 May brought a dive bombing mission to Formosa, the first bombing mission outside the Luzon area in some time for the squadron. The target was Giran Airdrome and ten 1,000 pounders were carted to the target and dumped unceremoniously on the air strip. One plane, piloted by 2nd Lt. J. Zeller, was holed by flack, and 1st Lt. E. Ambort augered his plane in on the strip early in the day when returning snafu from the mission due to hydraulic failure. He landed with his right landing gear still up. The plane was completely demolished but "Ernie" was unhurt.

    The 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th of the month brought more group missions to the Ipo area, this time further to the south, since our troops had occupied the former target areas. The success of these missions prompted a similar coordinated effort in the Balete Pass area on the 25th and 26th of the month with four groups participating. This mountainous terrain was not so favorable to large operations as were the flat areas around Ipo, but the following teletype confirms similar effectiveness: Following received from Commanding General I Corps. "From personal observations and opinion expressed to me by unit commanders who witnessed the strike, the coordination and execution was perfection. The sight of mass air power with its devastating effect on the enemy made a lasting impression on the minds of all ground troops who witnesses the air effort. Signed - Swift."

    Although the 9th Squadron, as part of the 49th Group received many commendations during the month of May, including letters of commendation for operations on Leyte, particularly activities over Ormoc Bay, one commendation was directed at the 9th alone. In recognition of bagging 274 Nips, top score in the Army Air Forces in the Pacific, a civilian organization presented an unusual gift for military achievement, a $500.00 rod and reel. Brigadier General Smith, Commanding General, V Fighter Command, made the presentation to Major J. Petrovich at Fighter Command Headquarters, Clark Field. As a representative of General Kenney, Commanding General, FEAF, General Smith passed on the following letter from General Kenney: "It is with a great deal of personal pride and pleasure that I present your squadron with this prize rod and reel. The Fishing Tackle Committee of the San Francisco League for Servicement donated this rare outfit, to be awarded to the highest squadron of the FEAF. Your unit has been outstanding in that you have achieved more victories in aerial combat than any other squadron under my command. Best wishes for continued success and good fishing." The bulletin boards were covered with commendations from this and that General until they looked like a belated correspondent was making up for previously unwritten notams. They were well appreciated, however, and pride in the organization rose to new heights. Captain H. Norton, Operations Officer, was put in the throes of creative endeavor in writing a thank-you note to the San Francisco League for Servicemen's Fishing Tackle Committee. The result was worthy of the gift in the mind of this narrator, even if it was a "fish story".

    The point system for discharge published immediately after V-E Day, with the film "Two Down, One To Go" was being shown to all personnel two days after the surrender. Naturally the system became the main topic of conversation throughout the organization and the orderly room was busy preparing the required cards on each individual and getting them to initial same. Captain Gorham, Squadron Executive Officer, had a busy couple of days explaining why this person didn't get that campaign star and why not. When the smoke and dust had cleared the squadron had thirty enlisted men and eight officers above 85 points.

    The one bad factor in the system was, as General Arnold pointed out to the boys in his moving speech, the Air Corps was number one priority for staying in, points or no points. Also there was the conjecture that rotation would cease when the system went into effect, but at this writing, higher headquarters had not committed itself as yet.

    On the morn of the 29th, the 309th Bomb Wing took over immediate tactical command of the organization, relieving the 308th. The most apparent chance as a result of the new command was the scheduling of fighter sweeps to Formosa on the 30th and 31st, after a day off for maintenance on the 29th.

    The fighter sweep to Formosa, first in a long time for the squadron even though group officers had been leading missions up there since the middle of the month, was quite a change from the ground support missions in Luzon, which had become tame thru repetition. The boys looked forward to hitting a lick on the enemy stronghold. Other Air Force units were to join in the fun, keeping up an all day attack of heavy and medium bombing and strafing. Major Jordan led the eight ship mission on the 30th with Lt. Holladay leading White Flight.

    The weather was clear as a bell and the flights got off at 0615 hours just after the first light and hit the target inland at the river mouth just north of Tokyo. Winging along at 5,000 feet, the flights had to dodge heavy calibre anti-aircraft fire as they crossed the coast and swept inland to the foothills east of Heito Drome. The roads and railroads (primary targets) were empty of traffic to all appearances. Flying north to Kizan, the boys spotted two camouflaged trucks in a small town and attacked them, with no visible results. Swinging south again, the planes got a little too close to Heito Drome and received much attention from that area, resulting in holing the plane piloted by Lt. Cobb.

    On the way home the lads pestered light ack ack positions on the southern tip of the island, knocking at least one out of commission, then buzzed off homeward arriving in time for lunch.

    The next day's mission to Formosa was not so gay. Captain James Watkins, former 9th Squadron ace, now assigned to Group on his second tour of combat duty, lead the outfit with Captain W. Arthur, another 9th Squadron old timer recently reassigned, leading White Flight. The mission got off as scheduled at 0610 hours and the daily business of operating a squadron went on as usual. Then at 1030 hours, Lt. Bryant landed early as escort for his snafu wingman, and brought the unhappy news that Captain Arthur was down on Formosa. It was Captain Arthur's first mission with the Ninth since his return to combat. Lt. Bryant didn't know the full particulars. Captain Arthur was hit by a burst of ack ack and was forced to bail out.

    It is always disheartening when an old pilot goes in. After a man has been in an organization a long time and flown a couple hundred combat hours, you sort of like to figure that the experience he has acquired insures his chances of completing his tour and going home. This is borne out by the fact that nearly all casualties are among the newer men, an unexplainable fact but true. Captain Arthur first joined the Flying Knights in November 1942 at Thirty-mile Strip, Port Morseby when Major J. Peaslee was commanding and the outfit was still flying P-40's. He was Operations Officer for the squadron from December 1943 until he left for the States in March 1944 after sixteen months overseas. He returned overseas in April 1945 and even though the only person in the squadron he knew personally was Captain Norton, he rapidly became well liked. He bounced around group for awhile and was assigned to the Ninth again on the 24th of May with the intention of taking over operations. It was a tragedy that he should have such poor luck on his first mission with his old outfit, and his absence is keenly felt by all the pilots. The possibility of his escape or evasion in Formosa is practically nil but we can hope a little and pray to God if he's captured he'll be treated as a Prisoner of War.

    About 2145 hours the night of the 30th, the camp was surprised by the first and only "red alert" for the month. It lasted about fifteen minutes and later investigation unearthed the reason - wrong IFF code on friendly aircraft.

    As the month closed, troops from the ETO were already on their way to this theatre, including some units of the 8th Air Force. The battle on Okinawa was sixty days old with American troops occupying the capital city of Naha, reduced to ashes as a result of our assault. Almost daily pounding of the Japanese homeland by carrier borne aircraft, P-51's from Okinawa, and 20th Air Force B-29's. Three hundred and seventy-eight thousand Japs had been killed in the Philippines and the remaining Nips on all fronts were devising, scheming, improvising and inventing strange, tricky, and sometimes fatal (to us) means of halting our inevitable advance. We ruled the air, the sea, and had bases in easy striking distance of Japan. We subjected them to daily, devastating air attacks and foot by foot we bombed, burned, blasted and dug the Japs from their positions. It was a slow and tedious process and we could only hate them more for each allied life given to destroy an already beaten enemy who lingered on to kill, destroy and despoil.

    Compared to the world shaking events occurring in May, June was a quiet month. It was a month of changes for the squadron with additions, cozy missions, rest and re-equipping; a month which found the Ninth out of a combat zone for the first time in many months, furnishing air support for the 6th Army's break through Balete Pass into the Cagayan Valley, winding up the Philippine Campaign. Captain Howes arrived back to the squadron after four months in the States on temporary duty during which he attended Air Corps Gunnery School at Matagorda, Texas. One afternoon, a few days later, Captain Norton was informed, via telephone from Group, that his orders returning him to the States were awaiting to be picked up, whereupon he joyfully hustled over to Squadron Operations, erased his name as Operations Officer and put Lt. Hanisch in his place. He was obviously pretty happy about it, as he said, "I've been packing and unpacking for a month, practicing up for this."
    Captain Norton, known to the squadron as "Fat Boy", was a product of Texas. One of those cowboys who never rode a horse, he had an acute sense of humor and was an inveterate poker player. As a matter of fact, he left the squadron with several hundred pesos of the pilots' money, the proceeds of a recent game of chance. He completed over five hundred combat hours in his eighteen months with the squadron. He assumed the duties of operations officer in February 1945. The squadron lost an excellent pilot, a good friend and a good leader when he left. He certainly deserved a rest.

    On the 7th, one of those strange, inexplicable tragedies occurred in the squadron. On that afternoon, fourteen planes took off on a dive bombing mission to the Cagayan Valley, Major Petrovich leading. The weather was bad between the field and the target and considerable time was spent locating it, but finally the mission was completed and the flights returned to base just ahead of a rain squall approaching from the north. Upon landing, it was learned that Lt. Simon had some trouble starting his engines and had taken off some twenty minutes late. His desire to get off in spite of the delay was occasioned by the fact that he was carrying napalm tanks and they are practically impossible to remove safely on the ground. Usually, they must be expended in the air once attached to the plane. When Lt. Simon failed to return after a short time, the controller "Ashlum" was called to be on the lookout for him. The evening wore on, darkness set in, and the last word heard from him was by Captain Cobb who was flying the Group's C-47 on a courier mission, returning from Laoag, on Northern Luzon. He landed around 1730 hours and stated that he had been in radio contact with Lt. Simon, who was also in contact with the GCI Stations at both Lingayen and Laoag, and at last reports he was forty miles due north of Lingayen strip, on instruments, and heading south. He never showed up. Lt. Simon joined the 9th on Mindoro in January 1945, a veteran flier with over two thousand hours in training and tactical type aircraft. What occurred to him during the last few minutes of flight before he would have broken out in the clear at Lingayen will probably never be known. The weather at this time, incidentally, was often poor in the afternoon, with towering cumulus build-ups over the mountains to the east and a low overcast with scattered showers in the Lingayen Valley. The strip would be closed upwards of half an hour while one of these showers meandered across the area, but few violent storms occurred and weather was seldom actually dangerous to pilots.

    During the early part of the month nearly all of the missions were ground support in Northern Luzon with one-thousand pound instant demolition and 165 gallon belly-tank napalm bombs. A general re-equipping of the organization was in progress and five of the 9th's pilots journeyed to Biak Island to ferry back five brand spanking new P-38 L-5's. Lt. Bryant led the flight, flying war wearies down, and by nursing, cajoling, and even performing minor repair jobs of their own, the pilots managed to complete the trip without undue incident.

    Another ferry trip, this time to Leyte Island, ended in near tragedy, however. Lieuts. Moeller, Easterbrook, Koby, flew in a C-47 to Leyte on the morning of the 9th, picked up three new planes, and started back about 1700 hours. The flight was split up when it hit bad weather southeast of Luzon and Lt. Moeller landed at Clark Field without knowledge of the whereabouts of the other two planes. The first the squadron was aware of something wrong was the following day when Lt. Moeller arrived back in Lingayen sans Koby and Easterbrook. Tracers were immediately sent out when they failed to put in an appearance, and information was received that two P-38's had landed at a field in Southern Luzon. It wasn't until the eve of the 10th that word was received over the teletype that Easterbrook had crash landed in the waters near Daet, in Camerines North Province, and was with elements of the 158th Regt. Combat Team. Lt. Koby's whereabouts were still unknown. Six days later a sunburned, unshaven, unkept individual in Navy denims put in his appearance at the squadron, and Lt. Poston had to return Koby's air mattress; the prodigal had returned.

    A break through the Balete Pass area on or about the 6th by elements of the 37th and 25th Divisions, started one of the most amazing routes of the Imperial Japanese Army in the history of the war. An estimated force of 14,000 Nips stood between the 6th U.S. Army and the upper reaches of the Cagayan Valley around Santiago and Echaque, yet the American forces advanced miles up the National Highway #5 meeting little resistance. On the 9th, they were within four miles of Bagabag and Philippine based planes had dropped three hundred tons of bombs in support of this advance. Ground support was an ever changing picture, today's target becoming tomorrow's rear lines. After being held up over four months in the Balete Pass area, the Yanks cleaned up the Cagayan Valley in twenty days after the break through, when elements of the 511th Parachute Infantry, coming south from Aparri, 3,000 yards east of Alcala at 1235 hours, 26 June. During this period of rapid advance, the 9th played an unusual and important part. They maintained a continuous air alert over Tuguegarao from 0830 hours to 1600 hours, 20th June, while Philippine Army troops made a crossing of the Cagayan River in an endeavor to take the enemy stronghold. The day's flying involved twenty-one pilots and planes, flying thirty-eight sorties to amass a total of seventy-three combat hours for the squadron. Twenty-five tons of demolition bombs and 5,280 rods of ammunition were fired. Lt. Vance scored top honors for the day with a bit of pin point bombing by dropping a thousand pounder right in the middle of a machine gun nest, destroying same.

    Lt. Col. C. Tice returned to the Group as Deputy Commander after an extensive tour of duty in the ETO. Tice was formerly a member of the 9th at Darwin, and joined the outfit in July 1942 as a 1st Lt. He fought with the 9th through the early days of the New Guinea campaign and returned to the States in May 1943 from Dobodura.
    On the 17th Tice led the Group on an experimental bridge busting mission to Formosa, where the three squadrons tried dive, skip, and glide bombing techniques against Soton railroad bridge, using four to five second delay fuses on 1,000 pound demolition bombs. The 9th's role in this coordinated attack was to knock out any possible anti-aircraft positions on the bridge approaches with fragmentation clusters. The 9th went in on the target first with Lt. Holladay leading the first section of two flights and Lt. Ken Clark leading the remaining section. The approaches were well covered by the two sections, but ack ack failed to materialize and the other squadrons completed the destruction of the bridge unmolested. Dive bombing proved the most effective type of attack since it was dive bombing that destroyed one span after other attacks failed.

    The remainder of the month was devoted to continued ground support missions in Northern Luzon. On the 21st, the end of organized resistance on Okinawa was announced, completing one of the most costly and important campaigns in the Pacific. Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner, CG of the U.S. 10th Army, was killed during an engagement and General Joe Stillwell took over command. While attempting to attack surface craft and ground installations, 4,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed, or damaged, in the Okinawa area.

    Lts. Poston and Oglesby returned to the squadron in the middle of the month for their second tour of combat with the 9th. They first joined the outfit in November 1943, just after the Rabaul missions from Dobodura. They gave a good account of themselves up to the middle of November 1944, taking a leading part in the early fighting over Leyte before they returned to the U.S. for a much deserved rest. Speaking of Rabaul, the 9th received a Distinguished Unit Citation, its third, for that action on General Orders dated 5 June, covering the period 23 October to 7 November, 1943, when the 9th participated in what were long considered the roughest missions in its history. The squadron got twenty-four definites and seven probables during the period and lost seven pilots, three in weather returning from the target, and four due to enemy action. One of the latter, Lt. Planck, later returned to the squadron very unexpectedly.


    Read the Citation
    Captain J. Spence, the S-2 officer, returned from the hospital around the 21st, after nearly three months absence and your narrator was able to retire somewhat from the active intelligence field and devote his time to narratives. Captain Spence's absence was due to kidney trouble and was not the result of enemy action; unfortunate, in that he could have used the extra five points for the Purple Heart.
    The point system, of course, was the subject of many and most conversations during the period and morale fluctuated with each new rumor. Between points and the possible move to Okinawa, the subject of women was almost, but not quite, forgotten. Three-day passes for enlisted men, enabling them to visit Manila, were available, and nearly all enlisted personnel made at least one trip down there. They were guests, during their stay, of a family of very gracious Filipino residents who turned their home into an open house for the visiting servicemen of the 9th.

    Eight long-service enlisted men went home in June. Four on rotation (Harclerode, Monte, Vratil and Toller) and four on points (Byrnes, Wilson, Mills and Biblowitz). M/Sgt. A. Odgaard became First Sergeant.

    One other mission flown is worth special comment. On 23 June, the 9th joined other squadrons of the Group to napalm the town of Mato, Formosa, the first napalm mission to the enemy stronghold. The mission was entirely successful and a large portion of the town was destroyed, once more proving the effectiveness of the excellent coverage that can be obtained and full advantage taken of the weapon's characteristic of de-oxygenizing the adjacent area and suffocating those that it does not actually burn to death.

    The Engineering Section, as usual, performed excellent maintenance of aircraft during the month. For two days the status board showed 100% aircraft in commission. The total percentage of aircraft in commission for the month was 83.1%, total percentage of aircraft grounded for maintenance was 12.4%, and the total percentage of aircraft grounded for parts was 4.5%. The average number of aircraft assigned during the month was twenty-six, the lowest twenty-one, and the highest thirty.

    As the month drew to a close, joyful news that seven of the 9th's pilots were going home was received. Lieuts. J. Hanisch, H. Hammett, Warren Fowler, Jack Lewis, Bryant, Sandy Willford and Fletcher. These boys had been with the 9th from ten to twelve months and had an average of 350 combat hours each. Jack Lewis had the DFC for downing two enemy planes over Ormoc, "Bunky" Hammett had three Nips to his credit. All of them were veterans of the Leyte Campaign and those like Willford and Lewis, who went home in ten months, had served their entire tour without a leave of any kind.

    So ended the month of June, on a happy note, while those left behind settled down for a period of intensive training in preparation for whatever may befall the Flying Knights in the future.

    It was thought that July would see the 9th once more in an active theatre, possibly flying over the Japanese homeland, but such was not the case. The mid-summer month was devoted to welding a tighter, smoother, fighting organization with emphasis on formation flying, dive bombing and aerial gunnery. Combat was flown on only seventeen days, a total of 273 sorties of all types as compared to the 514 average for the three preceding months and the lowest number per month since October 1944.
    Unfavorable weather during the early part of the month cut down operations considerably and sometimes grounded planes for three days at a time. By the time the weather did break, the ground situation on Luzon was fairly well under control of our ground forces with one sizable pocket of resistance in the Cervantes, Bontoc, Kiangan Triangle that was the target for most of the 9th's bombs and bullets.

    All was not inactivity and leisure, however. Pilots worked along side their crew chiefs cleaning and polishing their airplanes until they shined like new cars. Paint brushes were plied with diligence and numerous photographs taken of personnel beside planes, beside bombed buildings, and for lucky ones, beside Manila ruins. Eleven new pilots were assigned during the month and had to be integrated into the team, initiated into South Pacific Tactics.

    On 7 July, Lt. G. Conradi crashed in the Lingayen area during a napalm mission and was killed. He was flying number four position in Green Flight and was making his second run on the target at low altitude when he was seen to strike a tree on the hill top and cartwheel into the valley beyond, where the plane immediately exploded and burned.

    Lt. Conradi was new in the "Flying Knights", having joined in May 1945 but had proved to be an excellent pilot and was well liked. He played left field on the squadron baseball team and was active in other squadron doings. The cause of the crash is unknown but it was a shock to his fellow pilots and one of the useless tragedies of the war.

    July 14th was a red-letter day for the "Knights". In a group ceremony on the "parade ground" in the ball park, awards and decorations were presented to deserving men of the 9th by Brig. Gen. Federick Smith, CG, VFC. It was a hot summer day and the sun beat down on the little group of men standing at parade rest. The sweat ran down their backs and soaked through their shirts, but it was a proud gathering and a little military pomp and ceremony was reminiscent of stateside army life. Throughout the remainder of the day intense activity took place on the group stage in the ball park and the park itself began to fill up with chairs, benches and boxes; for that evening, USO Camp Shows Incorporated was to present the famous musical "Oklahoma".

    There must have been over 5,000 people jammed together that night to enjoy the gaily costumed, lively show. They completely filled the grandstand, and overflowed the ball park, but discomfort was forgotten as the cast, including sixteen really lovely girls, progressed thru the gay dances, sang the familiar hit tunes to the music of the 6th Infantry Orchestra, and with sincerity and enthusiasm presented one of the finest pieces of entertainment to be witnessed by the 9th.

    Following the show, members of the cast were guests at Bahay Kube and although tired from the evening's work, the girls waltzed, rumba'd, and jitterbugged good naturedly with their delighted hosts. Their departure around midnight ended one of the busiest days on the 9th's social calendar.

    On the 18th, Lts. T. Smith, Weigel, Trimble and F/O Copeland returned from a ferrying trip to Kumming, China. They had left on a transport the night of the 13th, picked up new P-38's and flew back non-stop. They had many souvenirs and stories to tell of the orient which gained an interested audience.

    A new technique in dive-bombing was introduced to the squadron and tried out on the practice missions. Captain E. Howes first mentioned it upon returning from gunnery school in the States, and later the entire group adopted the method. The important features of the improved system were standardization of dive angle, aiming point, and release point. For this purpose wing lines were painted on the aircraft on both sides from gondola to the engine nacelle numbering 110, 70, 50, 35, and 20, the highest number being the closest to the gondola. The numbers converted to hundreds of feet represented approximate altitudes the wing lines could be used at, for example- 70 at 7,000 feet. This set-up a constant dive angle for a given altitude. Sixty degrees using wing line 110 at 11,000 feet, 50 degrees using wing line 70 at 7,000 feet, etc. By sighting the target approximately half way between the ring sight pipper and the nose of the plane, consistent accuracy has increased noticeably.

    Another new development in ground attack was the introduction of rocket firing. One plane was equipped with rocket racks under both wings outboard of the engine nacelles, each rack carrying five rockets. Only a few of the older flight leaders got around to firing the rockets during the month, however. The rocket firing ship required special wiring including a selector switch for selection of pairs to be fired and special safety precautions had to be taken in loading and connecting the rockets.

    The changing war picture had its effect on the "Flying Knight" style of flying. Gone were the days of the two to four plane patrols over enemy territory; the days when the group represented the entire Army Air Force in a particular sector. Seventy-five percent of the pilots now in the squadron have never seen an enemy plane in the air. European Theatre of Operations Techniques and Tactics began to be adopted. Group formations and group napalm and bombing missions took the place of squadron operations. As more and more air groups consolidated for the final strike on the Japanese homeland, identity submerged in the larger picture.

    July wound up the "Flying Knights" fifth month at Lingayen, and probably its last one. At the close of the month, preparations were being initiated to move the ground echelon out and once more the Knights would be on the move, with the possibility of some more "firsts" to add to its colorful history.

    August started out calmly enough, but in the thirty-one days of the summer month the 9th Squadron was caught in the vortex of a cyclone of events that ended with its reaching a goal of three and a half years of combating the Japanese: that of landing at the enemy's capital city, Tokyo.
    As the month opened, the war was going full swing and the "Flying Knights" were looking forward to again being in the thick of it by first moving to Okinawa and then possibly taking part in the initial landings on Kyushu. On the 3rd, the ground echelon loaded on LST's at Lingayen, leaving a large air echelon behind, better equipped than on previous moves with electric lights, showers and mess hall facilities available. Twenty-seven C-46's were to be put at the unit's disposal in a few days. Another move was under way. On the 8th the news of the destruction of Hiroshima by a new atomic bomb came over the radio and electrified the camp. All sorts of possibilities were apparent and enthusiastically discussed as more information was received. An ultimatum was to be communicated to Japan giving them forty-eight hours to surrender. That same day Russia was reported to have entered the war.




    SING - SING
    V-J
    Around 200 hours, 10 August - a previously quiet camp came to life as news started filtering out that the war was over. This was quickly qualified to mean that the Japanese had agreed to the terms of the Potsdam Conference provided they could keep their emperor. At first only those who had been listening to the radio were sure of the event, false V-E Day in Europe making most of the men cautious. But the shots, laughter and singing began to grow in volume as more and more troops were infected with the thought that the war might indeed be finished. Even subsequent realization that the Japanese proposal had yet to be accepted by the allied governments failed to dampen spirits and a few over- exuberant celebrators started firing carbines and .45's much to everyone's discomfort.
    The morning of the 11th, C-46's of the 2nd Troop Carrier Wing were to take off with 9th Cargo and personnel aboard, following the day earlier section of the air echelon to Okinawa. Mid-morning brought orders to unload these planes and it became a matter of conjecture whether the 9th would complete the move in the light of recent develop- ments. It was a point of agreement that Lingayen was the better place to be during the hectic days to follow and an idea was put forth that the group might be sent to Japan directly as part of the occupation forces. Six plane loads of equipment and men were already on Okinawa and the water echelon was on its way. Meanwhile, post-war plans for out-of-work fighter pilots were discussed as news of allied acceptance of the surrender terms was awaited. From such news as did come over the air it was apparent that the United States was unprepared for the Nip's sudden decision to quit and it was rumored that a poll of civilian reaction to the idea found the majority opposed to our acceptance, which didn't sit too well among the fighting organizations. At 1830 hours, the assembled pilots of the group were informed that the morrow would see them bound for Okinawa.

    They were briefed on procedure and told to pack, squeezing bed-rolls, rations, water and change of clothing in their P-38's with the prospect of sleeping under their planes at their destination until the rest of the air echelon, now stranded without transports, could get up there. The order was countermanded later in the evening and a ration of beer served to blend out the confusion into quiet acceptance.

    There followed four days of quiet waiting in the perfect weather on the shores of Lingayen while the powers-that-be bickered for a peace. The men of the 9th, who for a long time had occupied the center of the stage, were only spectators to this portion of the drama. Now they sat in the wings and watched, waiting, and went swimming. Camp life was like an inexpensive statewide vacation at the beach. On the 16th, convincing rumors continued to circulate but one thing was certain: 27 P-38's of the 9th squadron joined those of the 7th and 8th on the flight to Motobu Airstrip, Okinawa. The planes were equipped with two 300 gallon belly-tanks apiece but fueling difficulties cut down the supply to 200 per tank in addition to internal fuel. The last plane was airborne from Lingayen at 0730 hours and Lt. Wally Jordan, leading the 9th, greased his plane onto the smooth, coral surfaced 7,000 foot runway at Okinawa's northwest tip at 1200 hours. The flight was completed without incident. Two of the 9th's planes had remained at Lingayen due to mechanical trouble.

    The Flying Knights' new campsite, set up under the direction of Lieutenant Wallace by the first section of the air echelon with S/Sgt. D. Tarquinio, Squadron Intelligence NCO, acting as First Sergeant, was about a mile from the airstrip in a former Okinawa terraced garden of sticky clay topsoil and coral ledges. This forward element of the 9th had been on the island five days and its mess hall fed the personnel of the entire group for a number of meals until the water echelon completed unloading by morning of the 17th. Work on the new campsite moved forward at a steady, even pace, the generator being set up to furnish lights and the portable building for a mess hall. A shortage of tentage hindered location of Operations and Intelligence sections as well as living accommodations for the officers. Eight pyramidals and one ward tent housed the nearly sixty officers present with similar accommodations for the enlisted men. Lack of missions reduced operational activity and the pilots preflighted their own planes in the absence of the crew chiefs, still at Lingayen. The whole camp was set up on the promise that the organization would be stationed there for some time and consequently showers, movies, and other conveniences were quickly established. Ie Shima's one tall mountain was clearly visible to the west and the "Divine Wind" from Japan to the Northeast was a welcome, cooling breeze throughout the otherwise hot days. Twelve planes of the squadron flew a practice mission on the 19th, marking the beginning of operations from the new strip.

    Shortly after noon of the 19th, two Betty bombers carrying the Japanese peace envoys landed on Ie Shima. The planes, with their P-38 escort, could easily be seen from camp. The following day the news that the surrender was definitely arranged for by MacArthur's headquarters in Manila came through. On the 21st, Major Petrovich, Captain Howes, Lts. Poston, Oglesby and Smith took off at 0730 hours to escort the Japanese representatives back to Japan in their green-crossed, white Betty bombers. They left the Nips ten miles south of the southern island of Kyushu, landing before noon. A Far East Air Force Relations representative, S/Sgt. Seraphin, arrived in the squadron to organize the compilation of press material in preparation for release heralding the 9th as the first tactical outfit to land on Japan, probably Tokyo.

    The following days were somewhat hectic for the Intelligence section as it took over the gigantic task of writing nearly 300 individual press releases covering each man in the outfit. Ninety-five individual photographs were taken to accompany the stories. Cpl. S. Ehrman, group photographer, snapped the pictures during the better part of two mornings. Captain J. Spence, Captain Ken Clark and Serapin wrote the copy and set up the machinery to turn out the articles, begging, borrowing or stealing typewriters and indoctrinating shifts of clerks into newspaper writing style. The mess hall was turned into a city room at night with five typewriters banging away at once. For the greater percentage of the stories, a stock form of paragraphing and phraseology was set up and filled out by each man. This required a certain amount of creative skill and left considerable leeway to the individual writing the story, which helped to obtain variety. Three evenings and two days of constant effort saw 75 percent of the job completed when, on the 26th, several things occurred that upset the smooth running grind. In the first place a typhoon had struck the Tokyo area and as a result all occupation plans were delayed forty-eight hours. Secondly, Lt. Col. Tice, Group C.O., landed on Kyushu with his wing man when the latter ran out of gas while on a patrol of the area and gained the notoriety of being the first American to land wheels down on Japanese soil and fly away again since the war. In the evening, while the enlisted men were having one of their infrequent parties in the mess hall, a telephone message from Group stated that all enlisted men with 85 points or over were to be packed and ready to load on trucks preparatory to taking off for Manila and the States in half an hour. Here were men who had spent thirty months overseas and the Army was trying to send them homeward bound in thirty minutes! There was naturally considerable activity from then until 2300 hours when the trucks finally left the camp area.




    HONOR GUARD
    On Wednesday, 29 August, twenty-five airplanes received preliminary loading of C-rations, cots, blankets, and pilots' clothes. At first sixteen planes were to make the trip as the honor squadron then the number was upped to twenty-five, and finally down to eight. The eight oldest pilots in the squadron, all veterans of the Leyte Campaign and two second tour boys form Gusap, took off with a four plane additional escort at 1200 hours, 30 August 1945. Major Petrovich, squadron C.O., led the flight with Lt. Corley flying his wing. S/Sgt. Serapin was riding piggy-back in Corley's ship. Lt. Oglesby, veteran of 150 missions and 400 combat hours with four Nips to his credit and then on his second tour of duty flew Red Flight Element. Lt. Gribble, veteran of the Leyte scrap, flew number four. Captain Howes, with over 598 combat hours and four Nips destroyed in aerial combat under his belt led White Flight with Captain Clark flying his wing. Lt. Poston, who returned to combat with Oglesby when stateside flying proved too dull, led White Flight Element with Lt. Smith, back just south of Kyushu and the eight original planes winged on thru a clear sky, though thunderheads and towering cumulus hovered over the mountains to the west. Three and one-half hours out, towering Fujiyama became visible through the haze ahead, its top hidden in clouds, as the flat, green plains of the Atsumu-Hanto peninsula passed under the left wing. The flights landed at Atsugi Airstrip, southeast of Tokyo, at 1615 hours and were parked by Colonel Gerald Johnson, former group commander, then operations officer of the first American airstrip in Japan, in a grassy field just north of the strip.
    Two news photographers briefly took pictures of the group, then disappeared along with the Colonel, leaving the eight fliers feeling very much alone in the middle of Japan and the object of restrained curiosity on the part of the few Nips that strolled by. As the fliers unloaded their planes, a group of black-uniformed Japanese police, complete with sword and side-arms, looked on interestedly and counted the Jap flags painted on the side of the "Lockheedos". The conquering heroes had not thundered over the enemy capital, impressing the populace with their skill and numbers. Instead, they slipped away quietly in a short time before dusk and were almost immediately lost in the shuffle. Four A-26's of the Third Attack landed and parked in the same area, with four Ninth squadron crew chiefs aboard, and later two B-24's completed the advance echelon of the Fifth Air Force in Japan.

    A Jap truck, drive by an American GI, drove up and the baggage and personnel loaded aboard. The truck drove past a number of "Jacks" in apparently good condition, past the partially damaged hangars housing 11th Airborne personnel, and in a few minutes, pulled up in front of an unpainted, two-story, wooden barracks building that served as headquarters for the 63rd Service Squadron. A few minutes later the pilots were stowing their gear in two-men rooms of a similar wooden structure not far away, one of a row of GI barracks very like the American version. A few differences could be noted upon inspection, mainly in toilet and bathing facilities. The oriental version of a latrine provided no support to the user and the shower bath was replaced by the community pool, complete with round wooden buckets and stools on which the bather sat while dipping water from the cement hot water tanks on the side. All furniture, desks, mirror heights, etc., were scaled to the shorter oriental stature.

    The Japanese had provided a mess hall which was to operate until V-J Day, equipped with white linen table cloths, chinaware and floral centerpieces. Polite, if non-committal Japanese waiters served the dinner, consisting of soup, cold plate meat and fish, potatoes, peas and one quart of Japanese beer per man. The beer, very much like Australian brew, was excellent.

    The water in the barracks, ice cold, ran intermittently in the taps and bathing was a matter of being on the spot at the right time. The weather was cold and conducive to a good night's rest.

    The following morning three of the 9th's officers were assigned temporary duties with the 63rd and worked in the main headquarters building peopled by Japanese and Americans alike. The attitude on the part of most of the Japanese seemed to be one of friendly cooperation with language difficulties conveniently confusing any embarrassing or undesired queries to the orientals. They smiled and bowed politely, like the Japanese you see in the movies. In spite of a low overcast and drizzle which lasted throughout the 31st, nineteen more of the squadron's P-38's led by Captain Bellan landed at Atsugi and were parked with the others. Gasoline was borrowed from some of the fighters to use in the C-46's which, along with C-54's, maintained a constant procession in and out of the over-crowded strip. At times the number of C-54's parked along the ramp made the place look busier than La Guardia Field.

    Thus it was; the senior pilots of the "Flying Knights" moved in one month from the peaceful shores of Lingayen to the midst of the turmoil of occupying the heart of Japan, 1,800 miles to the north. So far as was known at the time, the outfit had flown its last combat mission of the war, suitable enough arriving in the van at the enemy capital.

    The advance echelon of the squadron, twenty-seven pilots and six crew chiefs, ate their last meal as guests of the Japanese government on the night of the second and for the next week or so food was a major problem. The "C" rations brought up in the P-38's (14 cases) wouldn't quite stretch so, while no one actually went hungry, it was necessary to scrounge around for food, borrowing a case here and there from other outfits. Captains D. Bux and Davidson arrived on the 14th with another section of the air echelon (one C-46 load) along with Major Basmania and Lt. Mueller of the Group Medics, and joined the little band of pioneers.
    No efforts had been made to locate the advance party in any sort of permanent area. Instead they were just useless and unwanted guests of the 63rd Service Group, which, it must be said, did their best to help by housing and feeding twelve of the officers while the rest of the party bedded down in an old school building on the post in a catch-as-catch can existence. No one seemed to know anything one way or the other about the eventual disposition of the 49th Fighter Group until Thursday, 6 September, 8th day of occupation, when, on word from Colonel Johnson, Maj. ' Pete' drove to Tachikawa Drome where it was believed that the unit might be moved. The Major discovered at Tachikawa advance elements of 5th Air Force and was told to move immediately to Chofu Drome, eight miles west of Tokyo and a good hour and a half drive over rough, secondary roads from Atsugi. Since the squadron's transportation consisted of two jeeps and trailer and one cranky, undependable Jap truck put into operation by the enlisted men, the term "immediate" was a little overstated. Captain Howes contacted Major Huckabe, C.O., of the "Flying Circus", and made arrangements to borrow a C-47 to facilitate the move. Major Basmania contacted a Chemical company at Atsugi and traveled with their DDT unit to Chofu to de-flea the group's new
     
  3. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    Good read, les. Thanks. :thumbleft:
     
  4. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Major Basmania contacted a Chemical company at Atsugi and traveled with their DDT unit to Chofu to de-flea the group's new barracks on the 7th. Meanwhile, Major Pete traveled by jeep to Chofu and contacted General Wolfe, who further instructed him in the move and represented the first definite authority yet received on anything having to do with the 9th in Japan. The move was held up on the 8th when the borrowed C-47 broke down, and the remainder of the Group's fighters arrived in Atsugi.

    Day dawned clear and bright on the 9th and the move to Chofu was finally completed. By this time the advanced party had grown in size to thirty-two enlisted men and twenty-nine officers of the 9th with approximately sixty additional officers of the two other squadrons and headquarters. Chofu was back to the country compared to Atsugi. The barracks were one-story, dark brown wooden structures, dank, dark, and filled with cobwebs and dust. The DDT effectively evicted or slaughtered the former tenants but it couldn't remove the musty odors or the collected dirt of months. The enlisted men erected squad tents which they seemed to prefer until rain and wind drove them indoors, and the officers set to work to make their places livable. Japanese laborers, brought on the field by the 3rd Attack Group, the only other sizable outfit on the base, were put to work cleaning up the area.

    Once again indecision reigned, since no one seemed to know where to go or what to do. The quarters assigned to the 49th wouldn't possibly accommodate the entire group, or did the 3rd Attack have excess room. There were no other quarters on the field or nearby and some work was done on one of the hangars on the line fortunate in retaining its roof, with an eye to moving the enlisted men into it when the water echelon arrived. Meanwhile, each individual worked around his own area or went sightseeing or souvenir collecting. Some dug up and put into operation automobiles or trucks while others had bicycles on loan from the neighbors. When rations threatened to run out, Captain Davidson drove to Yokohama and drew "B" rations from the quartermaster at the docks since no local quartermaster was set up yet. No one in authority seemed to be available so once again an orphan had to shift for itself.

    Finally on 13 September, definite instructions were again forthcoming from higher headquarters, this time from General Whitehead. The 49th was to move back to Atsugi. The following day the squadron commanding officers and Colonel C. Tice returned to that field in search of a campsite. They selected an area about two miles southwest of the strip, a former Navy Officers' area with one huge two-story wooden building capable of housing five hundred men and all the administrative sections as well as one large mess hall for the entire group. In addition to this there were more than thirty to thirty-five individual houses large enough for up to six men each. Once again work was started on living quarters as an advance detail of officers directed Formosan laborers in a broom and shovel brigade on the 15th. On the night of the 15th the water echelon arrived at the LST docks in Yokohama, unloaded and began setting up at Atsugi. Three days later the advanced echelon moved down from Chofu, leaving the planes and a skeleton crew at Chofu until the 20th. A rear echelon was still on Okinawa and it wasn't until the 5th of October that the squadron was completely rejoined.

    While the advance echelon was still at Atsugi the first time they received the welcome news via a correspondent that Captain W. Arthur, who bailed out over Formosa last July, was still alive and aboard a hospital ship in Tokyo Bay. Four of the officers went down to see him then, and later at Chofu, he paid the squadron a visit just before climbing aboard a C-54 en route to the States. He walked on crutches because of his useless ankles, broken when he landed in his chute and for which he received no medical attention from his captors. He was pale but his cheeks were fat with the unnatural rotundity of a man who has suddenly started eating well after a period of near starvation. He had received the same treatment that was by this time an old story to the world after the repatriation of thousands of prisoners of war of the Japanese, but his being of the outfit and a personal acquaintance served to further authenticate these stories.

    The move back to Atsugi marked the end of a long phase in the history of the "Flying Knights". They ceased to function as a self-sustaining combat unit and became an administrative section of the 49th Group as a whole. Their activities were no longer individual but merely one-third of the activities of the group, consequently their history under a separate cover became unnecessary and merged with the history of the "Forty-Niners". In preparation for the relieving of all ground officers in the group, the newer pilots were assigned as assistants in all departments with an eye to their eventual taking over of all ground officers' duties. Several of the 9th's pilots transferred to group headquarters for this purpose, while pilots with over seventy-five points were more or less shelved for eventual return to the States, unless they had ideas of making the Army a career.

    It would be impossible for the observer in the lower echelons to present properly the picture of confusion, stagnation, inconsistency and indecision that characterizes the outfit during the difficult period of conversion. The gap between cause and effect was too great to be seen from the lowly perspective, but it was apparent that the morale of officers and men alike reached an all time low for a few weeks until things got straightened out somewhat. Although the squadrons, veterans of many moves which usually resulted in starting from scratch again, had more to start with than ever before, there were few improvements apparent. The food was poor, the weather foul and progress nil. It seemed the whole outfit was stuck in the mud like its vehicles and the gray overcast that covered the sky for days at a time, reflected the spirit of the men.

    This depressing atmosphere broke when the first men left under the point system around the 10th of October, transferring to the 11th Replacement Depot at Irumagawa. The Peace had finally caught up to it, writing finis to a wartime record of which the troops, past and present, could be justly proud.


    **FINIS**
     
  5. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    Thanks for part 2.
     
  6. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    That was quite alot of reading......
     
  7. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    Worth it, though. It was interesting.
     
  8. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    I thought so..... If i found it interesting enough to read through, I figured a couple of ya would too......
     
  9. djatk

    djatk New Member

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    Hello,

    I believe the short paragraph cited below in your wonderful historical post refers to the event that killed my uncle, Thomas C. Wanta. My father, John W. Atkinson, a 2nd Lt. in the Army Aircorp (who trained B-24 and B-25 pilots in Valdosta, GA), asked me on his deathbed to find out what I could about my mother's brother, Thomas C. Wanta. He wanted to be sure that the family remembered Tom and honored him. Not too hard for my generation, but passing information on to my father's grandchildren has been harder with no surviving relatives who knew Tom personally and few photos.



    Tom Wanta was assigned to the 7th Flight Squadron, 49th Flight Group under Captain Stroud no later later than February 1944 according to notes left by my father. He may have joined the Squadron c. Oct. 1943. We have a photo of him and a note indicating he was stationed at Magnetic Island, Townsville Australia Oct. 1943. There is another picture of him pictured by his ambulance with an aircraft in the back. The insignia on the aircraft is a skull with crossed bombs. Another photo shows him with Charles Lindbergh, dated Aug. 1944. The location of these two photos is unknown, but I'm sure the Lindbergh visit is a good clue.

    Tom Wanta died Dec. 13, 1944 "5:30am" at the Leyte Airdrome, Phillipine Islands. He was buried at the U.S. Army Cemetry, Tuclobau, Leyte, Phillipine Islands. The exact circumstances of his death are not clear, but the family story has been that he was driving an ambulance towards the runway as a shot-up plane was coming in for a landing. A wheel dropped off the plane and hit the ambulance, which then crashed, killing Tom. Since it was early morning I suppose the plane could have been taking off for a mission.


    I'm seeking any information regarding his service. People who knew him, pictures that include him, information about the medical group attached to the 49th ...

    Thanks again for your post, and in advance for any information that you or readers of this forum might have to help me in my research.

    Regards,

    Dave Atkinson
     
  10. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Good info Les and great post.

    I salute your Uncle djatk.
     
  11. djatk

    djatk New Member

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    Hi, its been a long time but I have discovered a great deal of information about my uncle, Thomas C. Wanta, who died at Tacloban airdrome 13 December 1943. Thank you to everyone on these forums as well as the others I've identified in the web site I created to honor my uncle. I hope I have cited my sources well; if you find missing citations or errors, please let me know! If you are interested in Tom's war history and the story of his service with the 49th, here is the URL for the website:

    http://homepage.mac.com/gnaritas/TomWanta/index.html

    Regards,
    Dave Atkinson
     
  12. sam helterline friedman

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    My grandfather is mentioned in this article. His name was Fred Helterline. If anyone on here knows anything about his experiences in WWII, I would really love to hear about them. Also, if anyone has any pictures of him or the plane(s) he flew, I would be especially interested in seeing these.

    Thank you,
    Samuel Helterline Friedman
     
  13. Stngray

    Stngray New Member

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    My grandfather is also mentioned in this history. His name is Melvin Hanisch. For some reason he is listed as J. Hanisch which is incorrect. He still has the scar from the gunsight laceration mentioned in the history. My father is currently in posession of the control yoke from the P38 that Melvin went down in. It amazes me that he took the time to remove it after a crash landing. If anyone wishes to contact my grandfather they may contact me for that info. doug.hanisch(#AT#)gmail.com
     
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