38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape

38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape

38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape

This picture shows a mission briefing for the 38th Bombardment Squadron, part of the 30th Bombardment Group. The target was Ponape Harbor, on the northern end of Ponape Island in the Caroline Islands, one of the Japanese occupied islands bypassed by US ground forces during the First World War. On this occasion the squadron was to approach from the east, then turn south to attack from the sea, and attack along the length of the harbor.

Many thanks to Robert Hall for sending us these pictures, which came from his father-in-law Lt. Col John Marie Robert Audette, an intelligence officer in the Pacific, serving with the 38th Bombardment Squadron, 30th Bombardment Group.


How One Daring World War II Rescue Mission Made History

Key point: Success came at a high price.

In the predawn darkness of Dobodura, New Guinea, 2nd Lt. William J. Smith of the U.S. Army Air Corps was roughly awakened by a noncom announcing that it was time to get dressed and get to the mess tent for breakfast.

Smith had not slept well, having spent most of the night fighting mosquitoes that had managed to get inside his cot’s netting. The nervous anticipation of flying another combat mission in the morning did not exactly make for peaceful slumber either. Five days earlier, eight North American B-25D Mitchell medium bombers of the 71st Bomb Squadron, 38th Bomb Group, Fifth Army Air Force had flown north over the Owen Stanley Mountains from their permanent base near Port Moresby to Dobodura, their temporary base of operations. The 38th Bomb Group, known as the “Sun Setters,” was composed of the 71st, 405th, 822nd, and 823rd Squadrons, and 16 other Mitchells from the 38th would join today’s mission. Their target on February, 15, 1944, was Kavieng Township on the northern tip of New Ireland, deep in Japanese-held territory. A long flight lay ahead of the Army aviators, even from this forward airstrip.

At the mess tent Lieutenant Smith sawed into his pancakes and hit a pocket of unmixed batter. As he watched the powder spill down into the syrup, he daydreamed of biscuits with red eye gravy, eggs, bacon, sweet cream, homemade preserves, and all the other delights of his mother’s breakfasts back in Kentucky. As he came back to harsh reality, Smith put sugar in his coffee and then with experienced precision skimmed off the floating ants. Soldiers in South Pacific territories learned that you could not keep ants out of the sugar, and it was just easier to strain them out of your coffee. It was not a great breakfast by stateside standards, but about the best the Army Air Corps personnel could expect in primitive New Guinea.

“Smitty,” as Smith was known to his buddies, made the short walk to the briefing tent with the other pilots and crew members, all of whom keenly appreciated the danger of today’s mission. The briefing officer reminded all that Kavieng would be “target rich” as an extremely important logistical staging base for Japanese installations in New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago. It served as a major supply depot and boasted an excellent harbor, an airfield, and an aircraft assembly facility. Japanese planners knew that if the empire was to maintain any offensive capability in the Southwest Pacific its outposts had to be supplied with replacement fighters and bombers. These aircraft were being assembled at Kavieng to be flown south to Rabaul.

Equally essential supplies, replacement parts, and flight personnel were transported from Kavieng by barges, freighters, and even cargo submarines. General Douglas McArthur and the commander of the Fifth Army Air Force, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, were determined to cut off armaments and supplies by executing several intense air raids on Kavieng. This day’s mission would not be the first raid on Kavieng by the Fifth. Consolidated B-24 Liberator high-altitude bomber attacks had been moderately successful in recent days, both in making the Kavieng airstrip a useless patch of bomb craters and in smashing local air power. But Kenney, a superb strategist and leader, knew the need for total neutralization of the target would demand the Fifth Air Force’s signature low-altitude bombing and strafing. The Japanese anticipated these additional low-level raids and meant to employ antiaircraft batteries directed by newly installed radar to defend all approaches to the base. Kavieng’s gunners felt confident that the murderous volume of flak they could deliver in the relatively confined areas of their base would exact a deadly toll in U.S. bombers and flyers.

The crews were informed that if missions like today’s were successful, many of the Japanese bases in New Guinea could then be bypassed without threat of attack from the rear. Rabaul’s huge garrison, over 80,000 men, would be further reduced to an ineffectual corps of castaways, and any shipping in its harbor, absent air cover, would be trapped in port. The once mighty Rabaul military complex would “wither on the vine” and be reduced to a de facto POW camp. The briefing ended with the officer reminding the pilots that fuel preservation was important as the distance to the northern tip of New Ireland would stretch the limits of the range of the bombers. Smith had to admit that the marathon mission today would probably be much more difficult than the 24 previous missions he had survived since arriving in New Guinea the previous year.

Lieutenant Smith walked around the Mitchell B-25D medium bomber to which he had been assigned, number J33F, plane 306 of the 71st Squadron, and closely checked it over before takeoff. He had never flown in this particular plane and wondered whether its nickname, Pissonit, which was emblazoned on the nose, referred to what the bomber was going to do to the enemy or the frustration it had previously given other crews.

Smith admired the firepower the bomber boasted as a result of the now standard modifications made in theater at Brisbane, Australia. The Plexiglas nose of the aircraft had been refitted with four additional forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns. With the two blister pack .50s on each side of the cockpit and the top twin turret facing forward, the B-25D could lay down withering fire on a strafing run. The aircraft could deliver two tons of ordnance and on this mission would carry four 500-pound high explosive bombs. Smith glanced around the airfield and saw it swarming with activity as the other crews made their final preparations. At 7:45 am, the pilots, 1st Lt. Eugene Benson and Smith, taxied to their place in the flight line for takeoff. The airmen heard the R2600-13 Wright radial engines roar and felt their power as the twin engine Mitchell gathered speed and lifted into the brightening Pacific sky.

At Langemak Bay, Finschafen, New Guinea, Navy Lieutenant Nathan Green Gordon of Patrol Squadron 34, Fleet Air Wing 17 was busy making flight preparations for today’s mission. Gordon, who hailed from Morrilton, Arkansas, had flown many missions with the “Black Cats,” a squadron of Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina flying boats painted flat black for stealth purposes in night action. The Dumbo, as the PBY was lovingly called, was a large aircraft: 21 feet high, 63 feet long, with a wingspan of 104 feet. The plane had an incredible range of over 2,500 miles and was employed in multiple roles—executing reconnaissance flights, flying patrol duties, and making nocturnal bombing raids.

Today, however, Gordon was assigned to carry out another facet of the wing’s mission statement. He would fly his PBY, Arkansas Traveler, and orbit off Kavieng, New Ireland, to provide search and rescue cover for a major Army Air Corps bombing mission. Gordon had been briefed that several squadrons of B-25 Mitchell and Douglas A-20 Havoc light bombers would make a strike on the heavily defended base and that planes could go down in surrounding waters.

Gordon ordered the crew to cast off the Cat’s moorings, and he taxied into the bay for takeoff. The PBY was not a particularly handsome aircraft and was slow, with a cruising speed of only 125 miles per hour. Gordon was not concerned about her speed, as he knew she was extremely tough and could reliably perform rescue work even in rough seas. From past patrol and bombing missions, he knew she could absorb a lot of punishment and still make it home. He had all the confidence in the world in the big Cat and in his experienced and close-knit crew of eight: two pilots, a navigator, a radioman, three gunners, and a flight mechanic.

Gordon’s trip to New Ireland was uneventful, but he was grateful for the four Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters covering him. Japanese fighters, although seen less frequently in recent months, could appear at the most inopportune time. After a long flight to the predetermined position, the Traveler took station well out to sea off the tip of New Ireland and idled at 2,000 feet. Gordon cast a glance down at the ocean, and the reports of 12 to 16 foot seas, trough to crest, were verified. Although the weather was clear and visibility unlimited, he sincerely hoped he would not have to force a landing in those swells.

Eight planes of the 71st Bomb Squadron, nicknamed the Wolf Pack, along with eight other B-25’s of the 405th Green Dragons Squadron and eight Mitchells from the 823rd Terrible Tigers Squadron passed over Sand Island, the rendezvous point for this mission. There they joined elements of all four B-25 squadrons of the 345th Bomb Group, called the Air Apaches, and several squadrons of A-20 Havocs from the 3rd Bomb Group. The formation, designated mission number 46D-1, circled and picked up its fighter escort of Lockheed P-38 Lightings. As Pissonit continued to climb in formation, Benson manned the controls and Smith conversed with Hollie Rushing, the navigator. Farther back in the plane, behind the bomb bay, the radioman, Claude Healan, and the tail gunner, Albert Gross, made ready their stations as the planes cruised toward the target.


38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape - History

Ever since the designation of Adm. Chester W. Nimitz as Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Area (CINCPOA) on 30 March 1942, 1 the Seventh Air Force had operated under the control of the Navy, and not without some difficulty in the adjustment of procedures and doctrines to the demands of a unified command. Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commanding the Seventh, þ served as air officer on the staff of Lt. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, commanding general of the Hawaiian Department *. See Vol. I, 194-201, 452-62.

þ. General Hale assumed command on 20 June 1942 in succession to Brig. Gen. H.C. Davidson, who had assumed command following the loss of Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker in the Battle of Midway.

and in all matters pertaining to problems of administration, supply, and services the Seventh Air Force functioned as a subordinate echelon of the Hawaiian Department. 2 Operational control, however, lay with the Navy. In the case of VII Bomber Command, this control was direct and complete, for the bombers operated under the direction of the Navy's Patrol Wing 2 (Patwing 2). 3 But VII Fighter Command in its contribution to the immediate defense of the Hawaiian Islands, which remained a responsibility of the Hawaiian Department, received its operational orders through General Emmons. 4

In preparation for the Battle of Midway the Seventh Air Force momentarily had enjoyed a high priority in its claims on available planes. At the close of June 1942, it had seventy-three heavy bombers, but this was destined to be the peak of its strength in that category until the fall of 1943. 5 In July 1942 the 11th Bombardment Group (H) had been designated as the Mobile Force, Central Pacific * and sent down to meet a new emergency in the South Pacific, where it operated until February 1943. 6 This left VII Bomber Command with only the 5th Bombardment Group (H), which for a time did well to keep as many as twelve of its thirty-five B-17's in readiness for combat. 7 And as the 5th Group gradually built up its effectiveness, the 11th paid the cost of arduous operations in th South Pacific. In September 1942 the War Department ordered an additional squadron of heavy bombers from Hawaii to the support of the 11th Group, and by the close of November all of the 5th Group had moved into the South Pacific. þ The Hawaiian Department would then have been completely stripped of all bombardment strength had not the 90th Bombardment Group (H), en route to the Fifth Air Force for relief of the war-weary 19th Group, been held for temporary assignment to the Seventh Air Force. 8

The assignment proved to be temporary indeed. By mid-October th 90th Group had received orders to proceed, with its B-24's, to Australia, the 307th Bombardment Group (H) having been designated as the replacement for Hawaii. 9 But scarcely had the last elements of the 307th come in, when the group was reassigned in December to the Thirteenth Air Force. 10 Although Admiral Nimitz held up the transfer until it could be coordinated with the return to Oahu in February 1943 *. See above, p. 28.

þ. The 72d Squadron left Oahu on 21 September, the 23d and 31st Squadrons in October, and by 21 November the 394th Squadron had completed its transfer to the Fiji Islands.

of the 11th Group for rest and reconstitution as a B-24 unit, 11 it had been made abundantly clear that the Seventh Air Force operated at a double disadvantage insofar as claims to heavy bomber strength were concerned. 12 In addition to the low priority suffered by all Pacific forces, the Seventh was forced to yield its own interests to the prior claims of neighboring theaters. At no time between the summer of 1942 and the fall of 1943 did the Seventh Air Force have more than a single group of heavy bombardment, and this one was either an inexperienced unit destined for service elsewhere or a battle-worn outfit badly in need of rest.

It was with serious difficulty, therefore, that General Hale undertook to meet an obligation to furnish a daily minimum striking force of eighteen bombers. His plan had been to follow a threefold division of this force into units of six planes each, one to be on alert and the other two employed for purposes of training and as reserve units except for the alerts maintained at dawn and dusk. 13 In the circumstances existing, he could only hope that casuals on the way through Oahu as replacements for the South and Southwest Pacific might provide the margin of strength required to meet a real emergency, and he had to be content with the thought that a training program, which he combined with the maintenance of daily reconnaissance patrols, would prove helpful to Generals Harmon and Kenney. Only occasionally could Brig. Gen. Truman H. Landon, commander of VII Bomber Command, mount an offensive mission. Not only were the forces at hand meager but enemy targets lay at extreme range, Wake Island, seized by the Japanese on 23 December 1941, was approximately 1,194 miles west of Oahu. The naval and air action off Midway in the following June had greatly reduced Wake's importance to the enemy except for defense of the outer perimeter 14 and after single-plane reconnaissance missions of 26 June and 31 July 1942, the Seventh Air Force took no other action against the island until December. 15 Then, on the night of 22/23 December, twenty-six B-24D's of the 307th Group staged through Midway for a strike with 135 x 500-pound GP bombs and 21 incendiaries. Apparently the attack took the enemy by surprise, as neither searchlights nor antiaircraft fire were encountered until after the bombing had begun. All planes returned safely, with only slight damage to two. Assessment of the damage proved difficult in the smoke from explosions and resultant fires, but the mission stands first among the air attacks on enemy bases in the Central Pacific. 16 The long overwater

flight necessary to its execution and the use of a staging base to stretch the tactical radius of the B-24 would be typical of Seventh Air Force bomber operations throughout the war.

The next offensive mission came on 25 January 1943, when six B-24's of the 371st Bombardment Squadron staged through Midway for daylight reconnaissance and incidental bombing of Wake. The bombers flushed six to eight interceptors, but their reaction was tardy and the damage to the heavies slight. 17 Again, on 15 May, seven out of eighteen planes dispatched by the 371st and 372d Squadrons struck Wake during daylight. The enemy intercepted with nineteen Zekes and three Hamps, trading four of the interceptors for a B-24, the first B-24 lost to enemy action by the Seventh Air Force. 18 Finally, on 24 and 26 July the reconstituted 11th Group, now flying B-24's, sent two missions of squadron strength against the former American outpost. Diversionary in nature, these attacks had been ordered by the Navy in the hope of confusing the enemy as to our intentions in the Pacific. Japanese defenses seemed to have been greatly improved, but the returning crews claimed a total of twenty interceptors destroyed. One B-24 had crashed into the ocean after a mid-air collision with an enemy fighter falling out of control. 19 Wake would not be hit again by the Seventh Air Force until March 1944. These early raids, though small and scattered, had been generally well executed and effective. 20

By staging down through Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, for a total distance of well over 2,000 miles via Canton, Palmyra, or Christmas Islands, it had also been possible to strike twice against enemy positions in the Gilberts during April 1943. After the Japanese had seized the Gilberts early in 1942, they had constructed a two-strip airfield and elaborate fortifications on Tarawa. In addition, they had occupied Apamama and Makin and the outlying atoll of Nauru, to the west. These atolls carried a potential threat to the Allied line of communications joining the South and Central Pacific, and as with the coming of 1943 the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave some thought to the possibility of a Central Pacific offensive, * the islands acquired a new importance. After sending two reconnaissance missions in small force over the Gilberts in January and one in February, 21 General Hale got the green light from Admiral Nimitz for a quick one-two jab at Tarawa and Nauru. Nimitz designated for the mission the 371st and 372d Bombardment Squadrons, joining them together as Task Force 12 under *. See above, pp. 133-35.

the personal command of General Hale. Reconnaissance of all the Gilberts, for the purpose of determining the airfield potentials for either Japan or the Allies, was to be combined with the bomber strikes. The task force would return from its temporary base at Funafuti upon completion of its mission. 22

Having dispatched a small boat two weeks in advance with necessary supplies and equipment, General Hale reached Funafuti with the B-24's on 18 April. Two days later at high noon twenty-two of the B-24's droned over Nauru. Since an early morning take-off, they had carried their bomb loads more than a thousand miles, which crowded the tactical radius of the B-24D to the limit. The weather over the target was excellent for the bombing with 28 x 1,000-pound and 45 x 500-pound GP bombs plus 45 frag clusters. Despite heavy interception and antiaircraft fire, direct hits on the runway, dispersal area, and a near-by phosphate plant were achieved. An oil dump at the north end of the runway went up in flames. 23 General Hale, who had gone on the mission, returned to Funafuti in high spirits over the performance of his inexperienced crews. The heavy damage sustained by five of the B-24's forced postponement of the Tarawa strike, originally scheduled for the 21st. As it happened, this delay proved fortunate, for the enemy promptly struck back in a predawn raid on the strip at Funafuti that would have caught the American bombers just as they assembled for the take-off. Even so, the B-24's parked along the narrow runway suffered serious damage when a hit on a bomb-loaded plane resulted in its destruction and in damage to five other planes. 24

On the next day, however, twelve of the B-24's struck Tarawa, achieving direct hits in the gas storage and barracks areas. 25 This attack was to have been followed by the special reconnaissance missions, but General Hale felt that he could not risk his bombers for another night on the exposed Funafuti strip. After "the longest and fastest retreat in military history," as he described his return to Arnold, Hale reached Hawaii on the day following the Tarawa strike. 26 Over the ensuing weeks occasional one- to three-plane reconnaissance missions brought back much-needed information regarding the Gilberts. Nineteen B-24's, their crews inexperienced members of the reconstituted 11th Group, went down to Funafuti on 27 June for another attack on Tarawa. But the first plane to attempt a take-off crashed, and after six were airborne, still another crashed, whereupon General Landon ordered the remaining planes to stay on the ground. Perhaps it was


By Thirteenth Air Force C-47

Air Evacuation of Casualties

By Liaison Plane in New Guinea


Nauru

Seventh Air Force: "One Damned Island After Another"

Wotje

just as well, for of the six planes which got off, only two found the target. 27

Operating thus at extreme range and through the use of an intervening staging point, Seventh Air Force bombers over the long period between the Battle of Midway and the actions preliminary to invasion of the Gilberts had been able to get in an occasional blow at Wake, Tarawa, or Nauru. Such missions served to break the tedium of routine reconnaissance, but they could have little cumulative effect on the enemy's strength and served chiefly to provide for the crews valuable experience and for headquarters no less valuable intelligence.

Meanwhile, VII Fighter Command under Brig. Gen. Robert W. Douglas, Jr., provided local defense for Central Pacific bases. Its force of some 200 fighters in August 1942 had reached a total of 319 by the following October, all of them P-40's except for one squadron of P-39's and another equipped with P-70 night fighters. * In addition to occupying several bases in the Hawaiian Islands, AAF fighters stood guard at Midway, Canton, and Christmas. The 73d Fighter Squadron had been transferred to Midway at Nimitz' request in June to take the place of the badly battered Marine unit hitherto stationed there. 28 The squadron's twenty-five P-40E's went from Oahu by the carrier Saratoga, from whose deck they flew in to the new base. The 73d provided daily air patrols for Midway until January 1943, when the 78th Fighter Squadron replaced it. In effecting the transfer, the two squadrons set a theater record for mass overwater flights of fighters by negotiating the full distance separating Oahu from Midway. 29 Down on Christmas Island, some 1,340 miles south of Honolulu, and on Canton, approximately 1,910 miles to the southwest of Oahu, the fighter command maintained a squadron each. The bulk of the command's planes, however, occupied bases in the Hawaiian Islands--on Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii. 30

The monotony of daily patrol was broken by training exercises in interception, escort, attack, gunnery, bombing, rocket-launching, and support of ground troops. 31 Joint Army-Navy exercises instituted in January 1942 sought improved coordination of all arms for the defense of Oahu. In these exercises, the Seventh's bombers usually played the role of an attacking force, their escort being provided by Navy and Marine fighters, while the VII Fighter Command concentrated its *. This unit, the 6th Night Fighter Squadron, had reached the theater in September, but would be transferred to the South Pacific in March 1943 except for one detachment.

efforts on breaking the simulated attack. 32 As was the case with VII Bomber Command, much of the training for fighters would be put to service in neighboring theaters, for the Seventh Air Force served to no inconsiderable extent as a replacement pool for the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces. During the period under consideration, the Thirteenth received two full fighter squadrons and a group headquarters from VII Fighter Command, and for a year prior to the autumn of 1943 the Seventh supplied Kenney and Twining with trained fighter pilots at the rate of approximately twenty-five a month. 33 The resulting turnover in the personnel of units stationed in Hawaii sorely tried the patience of responsible commanders.

The VII Air Force Service Command (VII Air Force Base Command prior to 15 October 1942) under Brig. Gen. Walter J. Reed had its special problems too. It quartered, rationed, and supplied all casuals passing through the theater and held the responsibility for making their planes ready for combat. 34 Indeed, it had assumed since Pearl Harbor a key position in the logistical organization of the Pacific war, providing through the services of the Hawaiian Air Depot an intransit supply, repair, and modification center for forces scattered all the way from Hawaii to Australia. With forty warehouses on Oahu and additional supply dumps, the depot by the close of 1942 stocked thousands of items in urgent demand by combat units in the South and Southwest Pacific. The critical factor of shipping, a factor aggravated by the great distances of the Pacific, forced heavy dependence on air transport for important items of Air Corps supply. Unfortunately, the Seventh Air Force had no troop carrier unit and could provide air freight to the South Pacific only by loading to the limit all bombers headed that way. 35

The bombers thus pressed into service as cargo carriers had in many cases undergone modification at the Hawaiian Air Depot. During peacetime the depot had undertaken no more than the assembly, repair, and reconditioning of the Hawaiian Department's planes. But after Pearl Harbor, large numbers of P-39's and P-40's, rushed out in crates for assembly, flight-testing, and delivery to combat units, greatly expanded the activity. These had been followed in February 1942 by crated B-26's destined for service in the Southwest Pacific. The Hawaiian depot not only assembled these medium bombers, a function which was something new in the activity of an overseas depot, but undertook modifications to meet the demands of tactical experience,

marking the beginning of its development into a major modification center. 36

The transition to B-24's for all Pacific heavy bombardment units, a transition begun late in 1942, greatly enhanced the importance of modification as a depot function. The B-24D was sadly lacking in firepower, particularly in the nose of the plane. Japanese pilots soon discovered this defensive weakness, with the result that General Landon reported that approximately half of all early enemy fighter attacks on B-24's were made front ally. 37 After Lt. Col. Marion D. Unruh, of the VII Bomber Command, had designed a nose turret to correct the weakness, * it was installed by the Hawaiian Air Depot in more than 200 B-24's during 1943. 38 B-24 firepower was further improved by the installation of twin .50-cal. machine guns in the belly and tail of the airplane. The depot also moved the navigator's position to the flight deck and developed pilot and co-pilot blister windows to provide greater visibility. It continued to perform these modifications for the Pacific theaters until the advent of the B-24J, which included most of the changes. 39 Other early modifications included the installation of catapult-launching equipment and ignition pressurization systems on P-39's and P-40's for the VII Fighter Command. Much later there would be auxiliary wing fuel tanks, catapult-launching equipment, and rocket projectors to be installed on P-47's. 40

Like its counterparts on the mainland, the Hawaiian Air Depot was staffed in large measure by civilians who worked under the direction of AAF officers. Problems of recruitment, housing, and personnel management thus became quite different from those experienced by the regular AAF organization. As the war progressed, an increasingly large number of women employees were sent out from the United States. Their presence on a Pacific island crowded with soldiers, sailors, and Marines--even one so highly Americanized as was Oahu--presented problems as interesting as they were intricate, and "Hickam Housing," domicile for female employees at HAD, became an irresistible magnet for men of all ranks in all the services. Operationally, the normal difficulties of a civilian-staffed service and supply unit working under Army command were accentuated by the extreme precautions taken *. Unruh later became commander of the 5th Bombardment Group and failed to return from a strike against Rabaul on 30 December 1943. In addition to providing the design and conducting his regular duties, Col. Unruh had devoted many long hours to supervision of the initial modifications.

by those responsible for the defense of the Hawaiian Islands after the debacle of 7 December. As the depot historian explained:

All through the early months of the war, one of the big headaches of the Depot, was the fact that most of the Generals were always yelling about dispersion. Somehow, that seemed to be all they thought about. They were willing to bring all work to a standstill in order to disperse the equipment. 41

But these and other difficulties pale into relative insignificance when measured against the accomplishments of the Hawaiian Air Depot in the supply, maintenance, and modification of the aircraft used by our fighting forces in the Pacific.

These and other services rendered by Seventh Air Force agencies to neighboring theaters would be continued, but from the summer of 1943 forward the energies of the air force would be increasingly absorbed in the support of its own expanded operations. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had decided that the Gilbert Islands should be occupied, and with the mounting of G ALVANIC , as that operation was known, the Seventh Air Force entered upon a new phase of its history.

G ALVANIC

The thirty-three atolls forming the Marshall group occupy an area approximately 600 by 670 nautical miles. Mandated to the Japanese in 1920, they had long figured prominently in Nippon's plan for gaining control of the Pacific. An air base and supply facilities had been developed in the 1930's at Kwajalein, central and most important of the atolls in the group. At the war's outbreak, the Japanese also had established air facilities on Wotje and Maloelap and had begun a similar *. See above, p. 135.

development at Mille. Jaluit provided a seaplane base and fleet anchorage. 43 In addition to being strongly defended themselves, the Marshalls were surrounded by an effective ring of relatively well-developed positions. Six hundred miles to the north was Wake, with both sea- and land-plane facilities. Southward lay the Gilberts, with an airfield and strong fortifications at Tarawa and lesser facilities at Makin and Apamama. West of the Gilberts were Nauru and Ocean, the former containing an airstrip as well as the most important phosphate works in the Pacific. These positions all could be easily reinforced by air, and so long as the Japanese fleet enjoyed the advantage of a main base at Truk, it--theoretically at least--was in a position to interfere seriously with any attack on the Marshalls.

Naval planners in Admiral Nimitz' headquarters at Pearl Harbor felt the need for thorough and continued photographic reconnaissance of enemy defenses. 44 The nearest bases from which reconnaissance planes could have operated were at Funafuti and at Canton, some 1,300 and 1,600 miles, respectively, from Kwajalein--distances extending beyond the radius of both the Seventh Air Force's B-24D's and the Navy's PBY's. Carrier planes could have been used, but they were not as well suited for photographic purposes as the land-based reconnaissance planes operated by the Seventh. 45 Consequently, before launching an attack on the Marshalls, it was considered advisable to secure bases from which the necessary photographic reconnaissance could be conducted.

The reconquest of Wake offered one possibility, but the island lacked the natural facilities on which to base the number of heavy bombers necessary for support of operations in the Marshalls. On the other hand, an approach from the south through the Gilberts promised distinct advantages: U.S. forces would be advancing from an established line of communications joining the Central and South Pacific the Gilbert atolls possessed islands on which a number of airfields already were built and on which others quickly could be built the scope of the operation probably could be kept safely within the resources allotted Nimitz' forces would have an opportunity to test their amphibious equipment and methods against peripheral positions before attacking the presumably well-fortified center operations against the Gilberts would have the effect of widening the front of the Solomons operation in such a manner that the surface forces involved could be used for either or both areas and finally, seizure of the

Gilberts would protect Samoa and Canton while shortening and improving the lines of communication with the Southwest Pacific. 46

Accordingly, the JCS directive of 20 July 1943 to CINCPOA had ordered amphibious operations against the Gilberts and Nauru with a target date of 1 December 1943, these to be followed about 1 February 1944 with an assault against the Marshalls. * After some study, Admiral Nimitz objected to the inclusion of an assault on Nauru, arguing that the cost would outweigh the advantages. As an alternative he suggested the capture and development of Makin plus vigorous action to deny the enemy use of Nauru's strip during the operation. 47 Although General Arnold raised some question as to the advisability of substituting an island with only potential air-base facilities for one already containing an air base, the Joint Chiefs consented to the change late in September. 48

Already the preliminary operations, designed primarily to strengthen the American control of the air approaches to the Gilberts, had been launched. Early in September occupation forces and engineers had been put ashore at Baker Island, 350 miles northwest of Canton and almost due east of Tarawa, for the development of air facilities. The operation was covered by the 11th Bombardment Group, which conducted daily six-plane searches out of Canton from 1 to 14 September. 49 On 11 September, nineteen P-40"s of the 45th Fighter Squadron flew from Canton to Baker to provide local protection for the engineers. 50 Simultaneously, the development of air facilities on Nukufetau and Nanomea in the upper Ellice Islands had been undertaken, and to prevent interference with the construction crews on the three islands, it had been decided to stage a carrier strike against Tarawa in coordination with AAF attacks. For that purpose the 11th Group supplied Task Force 15, under Rear Adm. Charles A. Pownall, with two squadrons of B-24's. One of these, with twelve planes, joined the Canton Air Group, commanded by General Landon, who had six PBY's in addition to his own B-24's. The Funafuti Air Group, under Brig. Gen. Harold D. Campbell, USMC, boasted twelve B-24's, an equal number of PBY's, and ten PV-1's. 51

In an effort to immobilize the airstrip for the carrier action, eighteen of the twenty-four B-24's dispatched on the night of 18 September reached the target and achieved excellent results with frag clusters and *. See above, p. 135. See above, p. 135.

GP bombs. The planes from Admiral Pownall's carriers (Belleau Woods, Princeton, Lexington), having worked over the island on the morning of the 19th with only slight interference, were followed over the target by twenty of the B-24's in a reconnaissance and final bombardment mission. In addition to obtaining complete photographic coverage of the island, the planes dropped thirty tons of GP bombs. The enemy fought back with antiaircraft fire and interception by fifteen to twenty Zekes, which shot down one Liberator and damaged ten others. 52 If the photographs promised to be very helpful in the final planning, it was also clear that Tarawa had not been knocked out, even temporarily, by the air strikes.

G ALVANIC had been scheduled on the assumption that the Pacific Fleet possessed the bulk of the air forces that would be required. Indeed, a principal argument favoring the Central Pacific offensive had been the opportunity to employ profitably the fleet's growing carrier strength. But even so, it had been agreed to augment the strength of the Seventh Air Force by one heavy and a medium bombardment group. 53 These reinforcements, the 30th Bombardment Group (H) and the 41st Bombardment Group (M), arrived from the United States in mid-October. 54

Meantime, Nimitz had created the Central Pacific Force, United States Pacific Fleet, a formidable array of sea, land, and air power assembled under the command of Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance for the accomplishment of the G ALVANIC mission. 55 This organization consisted of a fast carrier force, a joint expeditionary force for the landings, and a third force for the operational control of shore-based aircraft and of the bases from which they operated. 56 All shore-based aircraft committed to the operation were included in Task Force 57, commanded by Vice Adm. John H. Hoover. The Seventh Air Force was to provide Admiral Hoover with both bombers and fighters--the former to be organized as a striking group (Task Group 57.2) under the command of General Hale, and the latter to be part of the Ellice Defense and Utility Group (Task Group 57.4), commanded by Brig. Gen. L. G. Merritt, USMC. 57

G ALVANIC represented a new departure in the employment of Central Pacific land-based aircraft. There had been operations conducted over long distances and from advanced bases before, but only for short periods of time the prospect of sustained operations from tiny atolls situated 2,000 and more miles away from the main base

posed new problems. Many of the solutions agreed upon were necessarily experimental and highly tentative.

The seven squadrons of bombers and three of fighters to be committed by the Seventh Air Force would operate from five islands-Canton, Funafuti, Nukufetau, Nanomea, and Baker. Of these, only Canton and Funafuti had been developed prior to the fall of 1943. Canton had two compacted guano and coral runways, 7,200 and 9,400 feet long and Funafuti had one 6,660-foot strip of crushed coral. 58 On the other three it had been necessary for aviation engineers and Seabees to hew airstrips out of the dense covering of coconut palms. At Nukufetau, approximately forty-three miles northwest of Funafuti, a detachment of Seabees by 16 October had surfaced 4,000 feet of the bomber strip on Motolalo, largest of the atolls, and were progressing rapidly on a fighter strip. 59 Before D-day the two strips would be lengthened to 6,100 feet and 3,500 feet, respectively, with hardstands, revetments, and parking areas provided for forty-five fighters and thirty-four bombers. There were a control tower, radio station, and weather station, but no lighting was provided for night flying. 60 Construction of the airfield at Nanomea moved somewhat more slowly, but a 7,000-foot bomber and a 3,000-foot fighter strip were usable at the beginning of G ALVANIC , together with the necessary hardstands, revetments, and dispersal areas. When basic projects were complete in late November, Nanomea also provided a nose hangar and repair shops for first echelon maintenance, a control tower, and a radio station. Portable boundary lights were installed on one side of the bomber strip. 61 The field at Baker, built by the 804th Engineer Aviation Battalion of the Seventh Air Force, had one 5,500-foot runway covered with steel mat, together with hardstands and parking mat to accommodate twenty-five fighters and twenty-four heavy bombers. 62

In planning to base air units on these outlying islands, as much in some instances as 2,000 miles from the Hawaiian Air Depot, the Seventh Air Force faced difficult problems of service and maintenance. The individual bomber and fighter squadrons could supply first and second echelon maintenance within their organization, for the ground crews would accompany the flight echelons, but they hardly could be expected to perform third and minor fourth echelon service. In the forward area, anything approaching standard service facilities could be expected only at Canton, where the 422d Sub-Depot and a detachment of the 17th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron

were located after July 1943. 63 To meet the need on other islands, conventional types of combat service agencies leaned too much on heavy equipment and lacked the necessary mobility. Consequently, the VII Air Force Service Command devised the air service support squadron (ASSRON), a provisional unit designed "to accomplish a specific task in a given locality." 64 By eliminating all possible administrative overhead, thereby reducing the total personnel required from 1,800 to 822 officers and enlisted men, and by replacing the heavy equipment used by the standard service center with motorized shops and easily transportable machinery, the ASSRON became a unit tailored to the size of the islands to be occupied. 65

ASSRON functions, as outlined by General Reed, included "such activities as repair, supply, evacuation, sanitation, construction, transportation, traffic control, salvage, graves registration, burials, quartering, training of service units, estimation and supervision of funds, and such other activities as may be required." 66 Actually, the duties performed in the field by the ASSRONs embraced a much wider scope of activity than even the foregoing would indicate, particularly when they were assigned to bases formerly occupied by the enemy. In those instances they went ashore shortly after the assault forces, and in emergencies even acted as infantry. In both the Gilberts and the Marshalls, burial teams for the disposition of the enemy dead were formed from the ASSRONS, and they supplied the bulk of the stevedore labor for unloading on the beaches. They also supplied details for clearing away debris and undergrowth from the areas to be occupied, and these details aided in the erection of buildings and in the construction of airfields. 67

Altogether, four ASSRONS were formed. The 1st, activated on 21 September 1943, went to Baker to service the 45th Fighter Squadron and bombers staging through from Canton the 2d, activated the same day, was held for use in the captured Gilberts the 3d took over the servicing of the squadrons based at Funafuti, Nukufetau, and Nanomea and the 4th was set up for later movement into the Marshalls when those positions were captured. 68 The original concept envisioned moving these service units from island to island as the tactical organizations advanced across the Pacific, but this would never prove to be the case. The idea was abandoned altogether at Kwajalein. The 4th ASSRON, assigned there, was three times the size of any of its predecessors, and with time it assumed an increasingly more permanent

nature. Ultimately its functions were taken over by the Kwajalein Sub-Depot. The 5th ASSRON, activated in February 1944 and intended for service on Saipan, was abandoned before it got beyond the blueprint stage. 69 By July 1944, standard service groups had been assigned for the tactical squadrons in the Central Pacific. 70

Throughout their relatively brief existence the ASSRONS were subjected to an undue amount of criticism, some of it justified but much of it unwarranted. From the beginning they had operated under serious handicaps. Unconventional and hastily formed organizations, they operated without a background of precedent and regulation. Moreover, they were formed at so late a date and in such a hurry that there was no opportunity for training personnel in advance of operations. Also, inasmuch as the ASSRONS were only provisional units, all personnel were on detached service from other organizations--and by tradition in the Army, DS is a graveyard for hopes of promotion. Likewise, many commanders, in selecting men for DS with the ASSRONS, followed the hoary custom of using the occasion as an opportunity to rid their own units of undesirables. In the QM section of the 1st ASSRON, for example, fourteen men out of thirty-two had court-martial records or other evidences of poor performance, 71 and ten court-martial cases developed in the unit while it was on Baker Island. 72 Despite such instances, however, there is ample testimony to proper planning and highly creditable performance on the part of the 1st ASSRON: its radar equipment began operation on the day of landing, and the radio five days later the unit serviced 600 aircraft staged through Baker between 15 November 1943 and 10 January 1944 and one of its ordnance sergeants devised a bomb-loading jig which cut loading time materially. 73 Later ASSRONS, taking advantage of the experience gained by the 1st, correspondingly increased their efficiency.

Equal in severity to the problem of servicing tactical units engaged in island warfare was the problem of supply, and once more many of the procedures were experimental in nature. In joint operations, such as those proposed for the Central Pacific, supply was apt to pose an especially delicate problem. The needs of all services had to be adjusted against available stocks and particularly against available shipping space. In matters of supply, too, a complicated command structure had its serious implications. Thus, supplies for the Seventh's tactical units were furnished by the Army Service Forces through USAFICPA

(US. Army Forces in the Central Pacific Area), but were moved in bottoms allocated by the Navy. With all activities operating against shortened deadlines, the opportunities for difficulty inherent in such an arrangement are obvious. The only redeeming feature of the situation was the willingness of almost all persons and agencies concerned to cooperate to the fullest in order that the job at hand might be accomplished. For example, advance information from ASF indicated that certain air force supplies would not be available in time to meet the deadline for G ALVANIC , but USAFICPA depots dug into their stocks to cover the shortages on the understanding that items thus advanced would be replaced on receipt of the air force's shipment from the States. Again, there was free exchange of equipment with the Navy and Marines in order to meet the needs of all three forces. Likewise, there was full cooperation with the Navy and Marines in utilizing types of bombs and ammunition common to all services, and at each base the service with the greatest concentration of tactical and service units was designated to supply bombs and ammunition for all three. 74

All shipping from Hawaii down to the advanced bases came under the control of the Commander, Fifth Amphibious Force, with priorities for cargo space determined by the Joint Shipping Control established by CINCPOA and including in its membership representatives of all services. 75 Items of Air Corps supply were furnished through the Hawaiian Air Depot, which during the course of G ALVANIC operations moved 5,319,818 pounds of Air Corps supply forward. The handling of these supplies was greatly complicated by the fact that virtually all of the items received from the mainland arrived in one huge shipment at Honolulu docks and by the necessity for dispersion throughout the island of Oahu during the period of processing for the movement forward. Aviation gasoline, an item of supply peculiar to the needs of air operations, was moved to the forward bases in tankers and stored in bulk fuel systems assembled under the direction of the Seventh's A-4. Where both AAF and Navy systems were used, as at Makin, they were interconnected and filled from a single submarine pipe line tied to a tanker anchorage offshore. 76

The personnel shortages which had plagued the Seventh Air Force since Pearl Harbor added to the problem of preparing for island warfare. Special difficulty arose from the fact that the Seventh Air Force never had been furnished a complement of labor troops. With none available from outside the theater--the early Pacific advance, it must be

remembered, was to be conducted with resources already in the theater--the problem was solved by disbanding the air base security battalions, considered nonessential units, and forming aviation squadrons from the personnel made available, thus relieving the critical labor shortage and, in particular, making it possible for VII AFSC to meet the G ALVANIC loading deadline. 77 Further demands arose from the necessity of establishing advanced headquarters for AAF organizations situated 2,000 miles and more from Hickam Field. General Hale established ADVON Seventh Air Force on 6 November at Funafuti, where it would remain until he moved it to Tarawa on 30 December. 78 In addition to ADVON Seventh Air Force, ADVON VII AFSC and ADVON VII Bomber Command functioned at Funafuti under Generals Reed and Landon.

The original target date established for G ALVANIC had been 1 December but this had been pushed forward to mid-November, and the first days of that month saw the planes of the Seventh moving into position for the pre-invasion air attack on the Gilberts. Deployment on the eve of battle was as follows:

Headquarters 11th Bomb. Group Funafuti
42d Bomb. Squadron Funafuti
431st Bomb. Squadron Funafuti
26th Bomb. Squadron Nukufetau
98th Bomb. Squadron Nukufetau
Headquarters 30th Bmb. Group Nanomea
27th Bomb. Squadron Nanomea
38th Bomb. Squadron. Nanomea
392d Bomb. Squadron Canton
531st Fighter-Bomber Squadron Canton
46th Fighter Squadron Canton
45th Fighter Squadron Baker
1st ASSRON Baker
3d ASSRON Funafuti
Detachment 3d ASSRON Nanomea
Detachment 3d ASSRON Nukufetau
Detachment 17th AB Squadron Canton
422d Sub-Depot Canton

It will be noted that fighter squadrons stood guard over Canton and Baker Islands and that the bomber units had been sent to the Ellice Islands to serve as a striking force. Admiral Hoover's headquarters was aboard the aircraft tender Curtiss, now anchored in the harbor at Funafuti. Direct communications between the Curtiss and ADVON Seventh Air Force were maintained by telephone, teletype, and FM radio. A radio net linked all bases. 79

Plans called for the seizure of Tarawa, Makin, and Apamama by the amphibious forces. By far the most important and best defended of these was Tarawa, a triangular-shaped atoll composed of a series of islands on a reef about twenty-two miles long and inclosing a lagoon some seventeen miles long by nine wide at the south end and by less than a mile at the north. The largest and most important island on the atoll is Betio, a narrow strip of land approximately two and one-fourth miles long and less than half a mile wide. The Japanese had first landed at Tarawa on 10 December 1941, but had delayed its development until September 1942, when the atoll was placed under the same administration as the Marshall Islands group. Subsequent to that date, Tarawa had become the principal Japanese air base in the Gilberts. Its two rolled-coral runways could serve defensively as a reconnaissance base to screen larger Japanese concentrations in the Marshalls, or offensively as an advanced base for operations against Allied positions in the South Pacific. 80 Naval air reconnaissance revealed that the enemy had repaired the damage caused by the September strikes and constructed additional defenses. 81

Makin and Apamama promised less trouble. No serious resistance was expected at Apamama. 82 Evidence indicated, however, that since an August 1942 raid on Makin by the Marines, the Japanese had prepared new defensive installations and were conducting patrol operations from the seaplane base located there. 83 D-day at Makin for the 27th Infantry Division was 20 November for the Marines at Apamama, 26 November and for the Marines at Tarawa, 20 November. The air attack began on 13 November 1943 (D minus 7) when eighteen B-24's of the 11th Group took off from Funafuti to bomb Tarawa. They dropped 126 x 20-pound frag clusters and 55 x 500 pound GP bombs from 8,500 and 15,000 feet, respectively. Returning to Funafuti, the crews for sixty miles could observe fires burning. One airplane did not return, cause unknown. 84 All through the following week the Liberators carried out their assigned missions, going back in comparable force to Tarawa on D minus 6, D minus 3, and D minus 1, this last time in coordination with the carriers. But Tarawa and Makin (hit by B-24's on D minus 1) got a worse pounding from carrier strikes on D minus 4 to D minus 1. For Seventh Air Force planes, the important enemy bases were not so much those scheduled for occupation as those from which enemy aircraft might interfere. The enemy's bases in the Marshalls and at Nauru could be reinforced

by air from the Carolines, from Wake, and even from the Japanese homeland. Chief of his bases was Kwajalein Atoll, defensive and administrative center of the Marshalls and already marked for subsequent occupation by U.S. forces. There was a major air base on Roi Island, and one under construction on Kwajalein Island. A well-equipped seaplane base was located on Ebeye Island, and there were large concentrations of military stores of all categories on Kwajalein, Namur, and Bigej Islands. 85 Other islands in the Marshalls which constituted a threat to G ALVANIC were Jaluit, Mille, and Maloelap. Jaluit was the site of a large seaplane base, the center for Japanese air and surface patrols in the southwestern Marshalls, the submarine base for the area, and an important supply base. 86 Mille, supporting a two-runway airfield, was the southern anchor of the eastern Marshalls defense zone. 87 Maloelap, formed by more than sixty low-lying islands along a reef thirty-two by thirteen miles, boasted a particularly well-developed air base, located on Taroa and equipped to handle all type of Japanese land-based aircraft. Centrally situated on the rim of the Marshalls, it was the most important enemy base in the entire area except for Roi Island in Kwajalein Atoll. 88 Finally, there was Nauru, originally slated for occupation by G ALVANIC forces. Strategically linked with the Gilberts and easily reinforced from the Carolines, its newly constructed airfield, in addition to constituting a serious threat to G ALVANIC , provided a base from which Japanese patrol planes could cover completely the area between the Gilberts and the Solomons. 89 Though it later became a target for planes of the Seventh, during the assault phase of G ALVANIC it was assigned to the Relief Carrier Group. 90

The B-24's struck Mille as well as Tarawa on D minus 6, hit Jaluit and Mille on the next day, and devoted D minus 4 to Kwajalein and Maloelap. Tarawa and Mille were substituted for Jaluit and Maloelap on the 17th (D minus 3) and on the 18th unfavorable weather forced the bombers headed for Wotje to drop their loads on Mille and Tarawa. 91

Although the enemy proved unable to put up effective resistance to these attacks, the Liberators met opposition of sorts every time they went out. There was antiaircraft fire, varying in intensity and accuracy, over every target over Kwajalein, Jaluit, and Maloelap, fighters were up to meet the bombers. 92 Enemy aircraft contributed to the difficulties of both air and ground crews by raiding Nanomea on the night of 11 November and Funafuti on 13 and 17 November. 93 As was

true of much of the air war in the Pacific, however, operational diffculties proved more serious than enemy opposition. Chief among these was the remoteness of enemy targets from the widely dispersed operating bases. Missions were flown at ranges rarely attempted before the advent of the B-29, with a maximum round trip from base to target and return of 2,408 nautical miles. 94 These distances were over water with few if any intermediate landmarks, and both bases and targets were mere pinpoints virtually lost in a vast expanse of water. Hence, the greatest premium was placed on accurate navigation. The weather also caused trouble. It was difficult in the extreme to forecast conditions at a precise time over a small target a thousand miles or more away, and all too frequently the heavy bombers found their assigned targets completely obscured from view. The VII Bomber Command attributed the generally unsatisfactory nature of the weather reports to the lack of wide and efficient dissemination of information and the brevity of Navy forecasts, on which the Seventh generally depended. 95 Another difficulty, and one which had a direct bearing on the quality of the weather reports, was the unsatisfactory manner in which communications facilities functioned, particularly at Funafuti. The tower there used unpublished transmission frequencies, and the erratic and unstable operation of the range and homing stations made them unreliable as aids to navigation. 96

Despite these handicaps, the Seventh's heavy bombers had completed thirteen strike missions for a total of 141 sorties when the Marines went ashore at Tarawa on 20 November, The Liberators had dropped 375 x 500-pound GP bombs, 455 x 100-pound GP bombs, and 5,634 x 20 pound frag bombs, destroying five enemy aircraft, probably destroying five others, and damaging two. Two B-24's had been lost in combat, two had been lost operationally, two had been destroyed on the ground, and one had been lost at sea, cause unknown. Personnel losses included six dead, nineteen wounded, and eleven missing. 97

Any attempt to assess the effectiveness of the Seventh Air Force in G ALVANIC , as in its other operations, is complicated by the fact that in joint operations success is achieved by the sort of teamwork and cooperation which makes it difficult to assign credit to any one specific element of the team for any single phase of the operation. In G ALVANIC the aerial strength of Navy carriers operated against many of the targets hit by the planes of the Seventh Air Force and at Tarawa the island was subjected to heavy bombardment from surface

vessels as well. The U.S. Marines, in seventy-two hours of bitter fighting before the enemy garrison was overcome, found reason to feel that the pre-invasion bombardment of Tarawa had been woefully inadequate.

Subsequent analysis tended to support the view that too much reliance had been placed on surface bombardment and too little use made of bombardment from the air. Over 80 per cent of the fire directed at Tarawa's defenses had been delivered by surface vessels, and approximately 10 per cent each by the B-24's of the Seventh and carrier aircraft. 98 The Japanese positions, well dug in on the flat surface of the atoll, offered a difficult target to naval gunfire of high velocity and flat trajectory and were probably more vulnerable to bombardment from the air. It has been argued that had more time been allowed for the preassault air attack, Japanese resistance might have been considerably weakened. The importance of surprise, dictating a time schedule which was calculated to minimize the chance of enemy reinforcement or interference from the Japanese fleet, and the assignment of available bombers to attempted neutralization of widely scattered enemy airfields precluded this possibility. That the best use of the B-24's had been made is certainly open to question. They were too few in number to carry out over such distances any really effective neutralization of the enemy's bases. 99 Perhaps it would have been more realistic to concentrate their effort against Tarawa, relying upon a preponderance of carrier strength to protect the assault forces.

Whatever faults of assignment there may have been, G ALVANIC had been executed with expeditious success. The cost to the Second Marine Division had been unusually heavy, but the survivors, having won their fight, could be evacuated for rest during the last week in November. Makin had been won in one day. The landing at Apamama on 26 November met no opposition. And all operations had proceeded with negligible air opposition from the enemy. Before November had reached its end, preparations for a forward movement by U.S. air forces into bases on the Gilbert Islands had been begun.

F LINTLOCK -C ATCHPOLE

1 February 1944. C ATCHPOLE , as operations for the occupation of Eniwetok Atoll had been coded, would take place three months later. 100 The ease with which Kwajalein and Majuro were occupied, however, prompted a speed-up in timing which resulted in a decision to mount C ATCHPOLE immediately, and by 19 February, Eniwetok, northwesternmost of the Marshalls, also had been captured against light enemy resistance.

So far as air operations were concerned, the campaigns in the Gilberts and Marshalls were continuous. On 21 November 1943 (D plus 1 on Tarawa), B-24's of the 38th Bombardment Squadron escorted Navy PB4Y photo planes over Nauru, while Liberators of the 431st and 42d Bombardment Squadrons conducted daylight bombing raids on the same target. 101 During the remainder of November and most of December, Seventh Air Force Liberators, staging through Baker and Nanomea from their bases at Canton and in the Ellices, continued to pound Nauru, Mille, Jaluit, and Maloelap, in tactical support of the base-development phase of G ALVANIC and in preparation for C ATCHPOLE . Beginning on 16 December, Wotje, site of a strongly fortified and well-defended airfield and extensive seaplane facilities, came under the sights of the B-24's. 102

Meanwhile, Seabees and Seventh Air Force aviation engineers prepared the newly won positions in the Gilberts for use. Tarawa had been scheduled for development as the most important of the new bases. The task of preparing two airfields, one on Betio Island in the southwest corner of the atoll and the other on Buota Island at the southeast corner, became the responsibility of the Seabees who landed shortly after the fighting ceased. Construction proceeded slowly, and though two squadrons of the 41st Group's B-25's, on Oahu since October, reached Tarawa on 15 December, per schedule, it was not until 23 December that either of the two fields could be considered operational. 103 When completed, Hawkins Field on Betio consisted of a single coral runway, 6,450 feet by 300 feet parking space for 72 heavy bombers and hardstands for 100 fighters, plus service facilities. Mullinix Field, on Buota, had two runways--7,050 x 200 feet and 4,000 x 150 feet--both of compacted coral, plus dispersal areas for 76 heavy bombers and the usual service facilities. Boundary lights and flood lights were installed for night flying. 104 The Seabees had also undertaken the construction of O'Hare Field at Apamama, but progress was even slower than at Tarawa. The two

squadrons of mediums scheduled for arrival on 15 December had to be delayed a month, until the field became ready even for limited operations. 105 O'Hare Field, on its completion, consisted of an 8,000-foot runway of compacted coral, a dispersal area for seventy-two heavy bombers, field lights for night flying, and limited maintenance and repair facilities. At Makin, Seventh Air Force aviation engineers brought to prompt completion facilities at Starmann Field which included a 7,000-foot runway partially covered with steel mat, dispersal areas for seventy-eight fighters and twenty-four heavy bombers, and third echelon maintenance facilities. 106

The Seventh Air Force deployed its units forward into the Gilberts as rapidly as the bases became available. The 46th Fighter Squadron, whose P-39's had been kept at Canton for defensive purposes during G ALVANIC , was reinforced with new airplanes from Oahu and moved to Makin during the period 14-27 December. Another P-39 organization, the 72d Fighter Squadron, came down to Makin from Oahu, the pilots and planes arriving aboard a carrier on 14 December. The P-40's of the 45th Fighter Squadron, having been assigned to the air defense of Baker during the initial phase of G ALVANIC , moved to Nanomea on 28 November, and in January divided into a rear echelon stationed at Apamama and a forward echelon at Makin. The 531st Fighter-Bomber Squadron, equipped with A-24's, assembled on Makin from Oahu and Canton on 22 December 1943.

Liberators of the 27th Bombardment Squadron, staging through Tarawa on 23 December to escort Navy photo planes over Kwajalein, marked the first use by the heavies of the new facilities there. Tarawa continued to serve as no more than a staging base until early in January, when headquarters of the 11th Group and the 26th, 98th, and 431st Squadrons moved into Hawkins and Mullinix. Also in early January, headquarters of the 30th Group and the 392d Squadron moved to Apamama from Nanomea and Canton, respectively. The 27th and 38th Squadrons were retained at Nanomea, and the 42d returned from Funafuti to Hawaii. 107 To round out the movement into the Gilberts, ADVON Seventh Air Force and the forward echelons of VII Bomber Command and VII AFSC moved from Funafuti to Tarawa during the last week of December and the first week of January. 108

Thus, by mid-January the Seventh Air Force--still a part of Admiral Hoover's Task Force 57, which, in turn, remained a part of Admiral Spruance's Central Pacific Force--was in position to carry out its mission in the occupation of the Marshalls. General Hale remained strike

commander, and only in the inclusion of fighters as a part of Hale's striking force did the task organization differ from that used in G ALVANIC . 109 In general, the Seventh's mission remained the same: search and reconnaissance, the performance of strike missions to deny the enemy use of his bases, and attempts to destroy his shipping. Specific targets included enemy air facilities at Mille, Jaluit, Roi, Wotje, Taroa, Kwajalein, and Kusaie. The defense of the Ellice and Gilbert Islands and support of the Kwajalein invaders on D-day rounded out the Seventh's assigned duties. 110 During the C ATCHPOLE phase of the operation, the Seventh would continue its neutralization of bases in the Marshalls and, in addition, undertake, to knock out enemy air facilities at Ponape and Wake in coordination with strikes from Midway, as directed by CINCPAC. 111

The targets--except for Wake, which actually would not be hit by Seventh Air Force planes, for Tarawa, which had become a U.S. base, and for Ponape and Kusaie in the eastern Carolines, where airfields assumed importance as a threat to the occupation of Eniwetok--remained thus unchanged from those hit during G ALVANIC . The primary difference in the new operations lay in the increased air strength which now could be brought to bear from the more forward bases. No longer did the heavies have to assume responsibility for all of the targets those at closer range could be turned over in part to B-25's, A-24's, and fighters. Moreover, the shortened distances between the forward bases and B-24 targets (the average B-24 sortie was reduced from 13.7 hours in December to 9.6 hours in February) 112 permitted the Liberators to carry heavier loads and to operate more frequently, with less fatigue for their crews. 113

As the assault forces assembled for the attack on Kwajalein (Majuro was expected to be occupied without resistance), the diminutive Seventh--"Hale's Handful," it came to be called--threw everything it had against that atoll and against Mille, Jaluit, Maloelap, Wotje, and Nauru, with heavies, mediums, and fighters keeping up an almost round-the-clock pounding of the already battered bases, supplementing heavy and decisive strikes by Rear Adm. Marc A. Mitscher's carriers. * 114 The six squadrons of Liberators carried the heaviest burden. *. Task Force Mitscher, including twelve carriers, eight battleships, six cruisers, and thirty-six destroyers, was charged with the primary mission of obtaining and maintaining control of the air in the Marshalls and providing air support for the assault and capture of Kwajalein. It began its attacks on 29 January, striking airfields at Roi, Kwajalein, Taroa, and Wotje, continuing through the 30th.

Having flown a total of 365 sorties in December from their bases at Canton and in the Ellices, with concentration on Mille and Maloelap, in January the Liberators began softening up Kwajalein for the invasion. They dropped a total of 200.3 tons on the atoll in addition to conducting heavy strikes against Wotje and Maloelap. 115 Mille and Jaluit now had been turned over to the light planes, and were hit by the heavies only as alternate or last-resort targets. From D minus 3 to D-day, the B-24's were used in nightly harassment of Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap. In performing this mission they were over their targets from dusk to dawn in small elements, dropping 500-pound, delayed fuze GP bombs. On D-day (1 February) six B-24's of the 392d Squadron furnished part of the ground support for the assault troops of the US. 7th Division at Kwajalein. Coming in at from 4,000 to 4,600 feet, they dropped 1,000- and 2,000-pound GP's and strafed the island with .50-cal. machine guns. As they left the target, the entire northwest part of the island appeared to be on fire. 116

With the Liberators concentrating on Kwajalein, the 41st Group's B-25's struck principally against nearer Maloelap and Wotje, with Mille and Jaluit as secondary targets, for a total of 215 sorties in January. 117 Carrying a 75-mm. cannon in the nose, in addition to a complement of .50-cal. machine guns, the B-25's specialized during the Marshalls campaign in low-level bombing, cannonading, and strafing attacks against both shipping and shore installations. This gave them certain tactical advantages over aircraft using medium- and high-level techniques: avoidance of radar detection, added precision in bombing, and ability to strafe their targets effectively with both machine guns and cannon. 118 But the operations proved costly. The 41st Group lost a total of seventeen B-25's between 28 December and 12 February, in addition to suffering damage on 114 sorties. 119 When, beginning 19 February, the B-25's switched to medium-altitude attacks, the number of aircraft destroyed and damaged was greatly reduced.

During most of F LINTLOCK -C ATCHPOLE , neutralization of Mille and Jaluit, nearest of the Marshalls, was accomplished by A-24's, P-39's, and P-40's. A-24's of the 531st Fighter-Bomber Squadron had started hitting installations on Mille and Jaluit from Makin on 18 December. Usually armed with 2 x 500-pound GP bombs, the Dauntless dive bombers flew 367 sorties against those two targets between that date and the invasion of Kwajalein. 120 Except for forty-one unescorted sorties over Mille, the A-24's were accompanied on all missions by

P-39's of the 46th and 72d Fighter Squadrons, P-40's of the 45th Fighter Squadron, or F6F's of the Navy. Occasionally Navy SBD's (Army A-24) flew with them. The Seventh's P-39's, in addition to furnishing escort for the A-24's, undertook a variety of strike and patrol missions. They made regular fighter sweeps over Mille, 220 miles from their base at Makin, and on 6 February, twelve P-39's made a successful fighter sweep over Jaluit, a distance of approximately 303 miles from Makin. During their period of operation from Makin (18 December-12 February) the P-39's flew a total of 635 sorties, plus 114 abortives. In similar fashion, the P-40's were used on a variety of missions: escort, bombing, strafing, attacks on shipping, and combat patrol. Altogether, from 16 January to 11 March, they flew a total of 501 sorties, plus 80 abortives, dropping 163.9 tons of bombs on Mille and Jaluit. 121 In support of the landings on Kwajalein, the 45th, 46th, and 72d Fighter Squadrons conducted continuous daylight combat patrols over Mille from 29 January through 1 February. 122

With the occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro completed by 6 February and the decision having been made to use the Reserve Assault Force for the immediate occupation of Eniwetok, the principal emphasis of the Seventh's heavies shifted to attacks on Ponape and Kusaie in the eastern Carolines. Ponape, the largest island in the mandated group, had one medium-sized airfield, a second airfield under construction, and a well-established seaplane base. Its anchorage was suitable for six medium-sized and a number of small vessels but not for a fleet base. 123 Although only some 400 miles from Eniwetok, and thus a serious potential threat to landing operations there, Ponape was approximately 1,085 miles from the Seventh's forward base at Tarawa, and missions against it averaged around 2,200 miles of nonstop, overwater flying. 124 Ponape was first hit on 14 February, and during the remainder of the month 121 B-24 sorties were flown over it. Kusaie, the easternmost of the Carolines, lies approximately 300 miles east of Ponape. Since the island supported little military activity, it usually served as an alternate target for missions against Ponape. 125 The commanding general of the Seventh Air Force later described the reduction of Ponape as "the most interesting phase, and certainly the most important" of the C ATCHPOLE operation. In four raids against Ponape, during which approximately 140 tons of GP and incendiary bombs were dropped, the town was practically destroyed and the seaplane base pounded into uselessness.


38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape - History



MONDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s from Makin Island, Gilbert Islands hit the beach defenses on Kwajalein Island, Marshall Islands P-40s on armed reconnaissance over Mille Atoll, Marshall Islands strafe a beached schooner. Operation CATCHPOLE (operations against Eniwetok and Ujelang Atolls in the Marshall Islands) is begun to occupy and defend Eniwetok Atoll, which is to furnish a striking base for operations against the Marianas Islands. During the operation, Seventh Air Force aircraft operating from newly acquired bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands neutralize airfields in the Marianas and continue to pound by-passed airfields in the Marshalls.
FRIDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 1944 P-40s from Makin Island bomb and strafe Jaluit and Mille Atolls. US forces land on Engebi Island in Enewetak Atoll.
SATURDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s from Tarawa Atoll and Makin Island pound Ponape and Kusaie Islands B-25s from Tarawa hit Wotje Atoll while Makin-based P-40s bomb and strafe Mille Atoll. US forces land on Enewetak Island in Eniwetok Atoll.
MONDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s from Tarawa Atoll and Abemama Island hit Ponape and Kusaie Islands and Jaluit Atoll. B-25s from Abemama bomb Maloelap Atoll. P-40s from Makin Island hit Mille Atoll. US forces gain complete control of Enewetak Island in Eniwetok Atoll. 9th Troop Carrier Squadron, Seventh Air Force, arrives at Hickam Field, Territory of Hawaii from the US with C-47s.

FRIDAY, 10 MARCH 1944 A-24s and P-40s from Makin Island and B-25s from Tarawa Atoll attack airfields, AA positions and radio installations at Mille and Wotje Atolls. B-25s, operating out of Engebi Island in Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands (secured by invading forces on 22 Feb) for the first time, bomb Kusaie Island.
MONDAY, 13 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Engebi Island, Enewetak Atoll, bomb Kusaie Island. B-25s from Abemama Island and Tarawa Atoll pound Mille Atoll. 38th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Nanumea Island, Ellice Islands to Kwajalein Atoll the squadron continues operating from Makin Island with B-24s until 22 Mar.
TUESDAY, 14 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Engebi Island, Enewetak Atoll bomb Kusaie Island. B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Wotje Atoll.
WEDNESDAY, 15 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll fly the first Seventh Air Force mission against Truk Atoll, Caroline Islands, hitting Dublon and Eten Islands before dawn alternate targets of Oroluk Anchorage and Ponape Town are also hit. B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap Atoll. By this date the A-24s, P-39s, and P-40s used against Mille and Jaluit Atolls during Operations FLINTLOCK (operations against Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls) and CATCHPOLE (operations against Enewetak and Ujelang Atolls) have returned to Oahu, Territory of Hawaii for rest and re-equipment. 27th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Nanumea Island to Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s they have been operating from Abemama Island since 26 Feb.
SATURDAY, 18 MARCH 1944 2 B-25s from Engebi Island, Enewetak Atoll bomb and strafe Ponape Island. 13 B-25s from Abemama Island bomb Jaluit Atoll while 5 from Tarawa Atoll hit the Atoll with bombs and cannon fire. 1 B-24 from Tarawa Atoll bombs Mille Atoll and photographs Mille and Majuro Atoll.
THURSDAY, 23 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Wake Island B-25s flying out of Enewetak Atoll hit Ponape Island and Tarawa Atoll-based B-25s strike Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls, commencing a series of B-25 shuttle-missions between Tarawa or Makin Island and the USN's new base at Majuro Atoll which is used as the rearming base for the return strike.
FRIDAY, 24 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll bomb Jaluit while others, flying out of Enewetak Atoll, hit Ponape Island and Ant Island, Caroline Islands.
SATURDAY, 25 MARCH 1944 Advanced HQ Seventh Air Force in Tarawa Atoll is disbanded and the Seventh's operations in the C Pacific forward area are placed under the VII Bomber Command at Kwajalein Atoll. B-25s from Enewetak Atoll pound Ponape Island and claim 4 fighters shot down. B-25s from Abemama Island bomb Maloelap Atoll. HQ VII Bomber Command moves from Tarawa Atoll to Kwajalein Atoll.
SUNDAY, 26 MARCH 1944 Enewetak Atoll-based B-25s strike Ponape Island B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Jaluit Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and hit Jaluit again on the return flight to Tarawa.
MONDAY, 27 MARCH 1944 B-25s and B-24s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap, Mille and Wotje Atolls B-25s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Jaluit Atoll and strafe and cannonade Ponape Island and a single B-24 from Tarawa Atoll bombs Jabor in Jaluit Atoll.
TUESDAY, 28 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Abemama Island and Tarawa Atoll pound Jaluit, Mille and Maloelap Atolls a single B-24 from Kwajalein Atoll, en route to Enewetak Atoll, bombs Rongelap Atoll, Marshall Islands and B-24s, flying a night mission from Kwajalein, bomb targets at Truk Atoll.
WEDNESDAY, 29 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Kwajalein Atoll hit Jaluit and Rongelap Atolls B-25s from Enewetak Atoll strike Ponape Island while others from Tarawa Atoll bomb Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls.
THURSDAY, 30 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein and Enewetak Atolls hit Truk Atoll before dawn. B-25s from Kwajalein and Tarawa Atolls strike Wotje, Mille, Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
FRIDAY, 31 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Truk Atoll in a predawn mission. B-25s from Eniwetok hit Ponape Island while others, flying out of Tarawa Atoll, pound Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls. 431st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Tarawa Atoll to Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s.

SUNDAY, 2 APRIL 1944 B-24s from Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands hit Truk Atoll during the night of 1/2 Apr. During the day B-25s bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
MONDAY, 3 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll during the night of 2/3 Apr, bomb Truk Atoll. B-25s from Abemama and Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls. 98th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Tarawa Atoll to Eniwetok Atoll with B-24s.
THURSDAY, 6 APRIL 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Wake Island. B-25s from Enewetak Atoll hit Ponape Island twice. B-25s from Abemama Island bomb Jaluit Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and hit Maloelap Atoll during the return flight.
MONDAY, 10 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll (1 hits Ponape Island) while B-25s, based on Abemama Island, strike Ponape. B-25s, flying a shuttle mission between Tarawa and Majuro Atolls, pound Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls.
THURSDAY, 13 APRIL 1944 B-24s out of Enewetak Atoll strike Truk Atoll B-25s from Tarawa Atoll bomb Jaluit Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll and hit Maloelap Atoll.
FRIDAY, 14 APRIL 1944 PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (POA, Seventh Air Force): A single B-24, enroute from Kwajalein Atoll to Tarawa Atoll, bombs Jaluit Atoll B-25s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Ponape Island while B-25s from Abemama Island strike Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as an arming station between strikes Japanese bombers carry out an ineffective raid on Eniwetok Atoll. 26th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Tarawa Atoll to Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s.
SUNDAY, 16 APRIL 1944 B-25s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, strike Truk Atoll B-25s from Abemama Island hit Maloelap and Mille Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a rearming base between the strikes.
TUESDAY, 18 APRIL 1944 First Seventh Air Force attack on the Marianas Islands takes place as B-24s escorting USN aircraft on a photographic reconnaissance mission from Enewetak Atoll bomb Saipan Island. Other B-24s staging through Eniwetok Atoll hit Truk Atoll. B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Wake Island after failing to find shipping reported in the area and B-25s from Abemama Island bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base between strikes.
WEDNESDAY, 19 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll.
FRIDAY, 21 APRIL 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll hit Wotje Atoll. B-24s from Enewetak Atoll, staging through Kwajalein, bomb Truk Atoll. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, bomb Ponape Island. Abemama Island-based B-25s, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base, bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
MONDAY, 24 APRIL 1944 B-25s from Engebi Island, Enewetak Atoll, bomb Ponape Island while others, based on Makin Island, hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
TUESDAY, 25 APRIL 1944 Kwajalein Atoll-based B-24s, during the night of 24/25 Apr, staging through Enewetak Atoll, strike Guam Island, Marianas Islands and Truk Atoll, and during the day hit Wotje and Maloelap Atolls. This is the first AAF mission against Guam. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll bomb Ponape Island, and Makin Island-based B-25s hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
THURSDAY, 27 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll during the night of 26/27 Apr. B-25s from Eniwetok follow up during the day with 3 raids on Ponape Island Makin Island-based B-25s hit Jaluit, Wotje and Mille Atolls. 1 B-24 from Kwajalein Atoll, using Makin Island as a rearming base, bombs Jabor and Emidj and Enybor Islands, Jaluit Atoll.
SATURDAY, 29 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Truk and Jaluit Atolls. B-25s from Makin Island also hit Jaluit Atoll .
SUNDAY, 30 APRIL 1944 41 Kwajalein Atoll-based B-24s bomb various targets at Wake Island. 11 Makin Island-based B-25s bomb Jaluit Atoll while 8 from Engebi Island, Enewetak Atoll bomb Ponape Island.

TUESDAY, 2 MAY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Truk Atoll, Caroline Islands, during the night. During the day B-25s based on Makin Island hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, Marshall Islands, using Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands as a shuttle base to rearm between strikes. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll pound Ponape Island, Caroline Islands.
THURSDAY, 4 MAY 1944 12 B-25s, based at Makin Island, pound Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base for rearming between the strikes. 39 B-24s from Kwajalein and Enewetak Atolls hit Ponape Island.
FRIDAY, 5 MAY 1944 During the night of 4/5 MAY B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll stage through Enewetak Atoll and bomb Truk Atoll. During the day B-25s from Eniwetok Atoll strike Ponape Island, and 10 from Makin Island hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, Marshall Islands, using Majuro Atoll as a rearming base between the attacks.
SATURDAY, 6 MAY 1944 B-25s from Makin Island and Kwajalein Atoll hit Wotje and Jaluit Atolls. B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, escort USN aircraft on a photo reconnaissance of Guam Island, Marianas Islands. The B-24s bomb Guam from 20,000 ft (6,096 m), scoring hits on 2 airfields and a town area and proceed to Los Negros Island, Admiralty Islands to prepare for the return flight the B-24s claim 4 enemy aircraft shot down.
SUNDAY, 7 MAY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll during the night of 6/7 May. B-25s from Engebi Island hit Ponape Island during the following day. Makin Island-based B-25s bomb Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
THURSDAY, 11 MAY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll during the night of 10/11 May. During the day B-25s from Engebi Island hit Ponape Island while others, based on Makin Island, pound Jaluit Atoll.
SATURDAY, 13 MAY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll from Kwajalein Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll during the early morning hours. Other B-24s from Kwajalein bomb Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls, Marshall Islands. B-25s from Engebi Island hit Ponape Island.
SUNDAY, 21 MAY 1944 53 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll bomb various targets in Wotje Atoll 41 B-25s, based on Makin Island, follow up with bombing, cannonading and strafing attack on the atoll. 8 B-24s stage through Enewetak Atoll, strike Rota Island, Marianas Islands, and rearm at Los Negros Island.
SUNDAY, 28 MAY 1944 29 B-25s stage from Enewetak Atoll, bomb Jaluit Atoll, and land at Makin Island. B-24s from Eniwetok Atoll bomb Saipan and Guam Islands, Marianas Islands those bombing Guam turn south to Los Negros Island to rearm while the others return to Eniwetok. B-25s flying from Engebi Island bomb Mille Atoll. B-24s escort USN photo planes over the Marianas Islands. s

THURSDAY, 1 JUNE 1944 B-25s from Enewetak Atoll hit Ponape Island, Caroline Islands.
SATURDAY, 3 JUNE 1944 B-24s staging through Enewetak Atoll, strike Truk Atoll in a pre-dawn raid B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, bomb Nauru Island.
SUNDAY, 4 JUNE 1944 During the night B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, hit Truk Atoll B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, follow with a daylight raid on Ponape Island.
MONDAY, 5 JUNE 1944 B-25s from Makin Island, hit Nauru Island B-24s from Enewetak Atoll escort photo aircraft over Guam Island, Marianas Islands, bomb the island, and proceed to Los Negros Island for rearming. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll strike Ponape Island.
TUESDAY, 6 JUNE 1944 B-24s returning to Enewetak Atoll from Los Negros Island (where they rearmed after bombing Guam Island the previous day) hit Ponape Island.
THURSDAY, 8 JUNE 1944 During the night of 7/8 Jun, B-24s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Truk Atoll and Ponape Island. B-25s from Makin Island follow up during the day with a strike against Nauru Island.
FRIDAY, 9 JUNE 1944 During the night of 8/9 Jun B-24s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Truk Atoll.
SATURDAY, 10 JUNE 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll and Ponape Island during the night of 9/10 Jun. B-25s from Makin Island hit Nauru Island during the day.
SUNDAY, 11 JUNE 1944 B-24s from Enewetak Atoll hit Truk Atoll during the night of 11/12 Jun. B-25s follow with a raid against Ponape Island during the morning.
MONDAY, 12 JUNE 1944 Enewetak Atoll-based B-24s hit Truk Atoll during the night of 11/12 Jun and again during the day.
TUESDAY, 13 JUNE 1944 An attack during the night of 12/13 Jun by B-24s from Enewetak Atoll against Truk Atoll and Ponape Island is followed by a daylight attack by Makin Island-based B-25s against Nauru and Ponape Islands.
SUNDAY, 18 JUNE 1944 B-24s stage through Enewetak Atoll to bomb Truk Atoll.
MONDAY, 19 JUNE 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, strike Truk Atoll. B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll pound Ponape Island.
THURSDAY, 22 JUNE 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll from Kwajalein Atoll, hit Truk Atoll 1 bombs Ponape Island.
FRIDAY, 23 JUNE 1944 Enewetak Atoll-based B-24s strike Truk Atoll. B-25s from Engebi Island pound Ponape Island. During the evening, B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll also attack Ponape Island.
TUESDAY, 27 JUNE 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, pound Truk Atoll.
THURSDAY, 29 JUNE 1944 B-24s, staging, through Enewetak Atoll, pound Truk Atoll .

SATURDAY, 1 JULY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll hit Truk Atoll, Caroline Islands, during the night of 1/2 Jul and follow up with another raid during the day. .
MONDAY, 3 JULY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll.
TUESDAY, 4 JULY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, pound Truk Atoll.
SATURDAY, 8 JULY 1944 During the night of 7/8 Jul B-24s stage through Enewetak Atoll and bomb Truk Atoll more B-24s follow with another raid during the day.
MONDAY, 10 JULY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, pound Truk Atoll during the night of 9/10 Jul and again during the day.
WEDNESDAY, 12 JULY 1944 During the night of 11/12 Jul B-24s stage through Enewetak Atoll to bomb Truk Atoll during the day B-24s hit Truk Atoll again. P
SATURDAY, 15 JULY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, hit Truk Atoll.
MONDAY, 17 JULY 1944 48 B-25s from Makin Island stage through Engebi Island, Enewetak Atoll to bomb Ponape Island 47 of the B-25s (1 aborts) attack airfield facilities, AA positions, and other targets throughout the island.
TUESDAY, 18 JULY 1944 In the Marshall Islands, 5 B-24s, flying out of Kwajalein Atoll, hit Wotje Atoll. 25 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, attack Truk Atoll.
FRIDAY, 21 JULY 1944 P-47s attack enemy forces on Tinian Island. 28 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, pound Truk Atoll.
SUNDAY, 23 JULY 1944 B-24s staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll while others, flying out of Kwajalein Atoll, hit Wotje Atoll.
MONDAY, 24 JULY 1944 B-25s from Engebi Island bomb Ponape Island.
WEDNESDAY, 26 JULY 1944 B-25s from Engebi Island attack Ponape Island.

SUNDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 1944 Enewetak Atoll-based B-24s bomb Truk Island.
THURSDAY, 14 SEPTEMBER 1944 B-24s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Truk Island .
MONDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 1944 28 Enewetak Atoll-based B-24s bomb Truk Island.
MONDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER 1944 During the night of 25/26 Sep Kwajalein Atoll-based B-24s stage through Enewetak Atoll on a strike at shipping at Truk Island failing to locate the primary targets the B-24s bomb Tol, Eten, Param, and Moen Islands while others hit Wake Island during the night of 25/26 Sep.
FRIDAY, 29 SEPTEMBER 1944 B-24s from Enewetak Atoll pound Truk Island. Sources: AIR FORCE COMBAT UNITS OF WORLD WAR II, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1961,
COMBAT SQUADRONS OF THE AIR FORCE, WORLD WAR II, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF 1982
THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by the Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1973.


38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape - History

By Steven D. Smith

In the predawn darkness of Dobodura, New Guinea, 2nd Lt. William J. Smith of the U.S. Army Air Corps was roughly awakened by a noncom announcing that it was time to get dressed and get to the mess tent for breakfast.

Smith had not slept well, having spent most of the night fighting mosquitoes that had managed to get inside his cot’s netting. The nervous anticipation of flying another combat mission in the morning did not exactly make for peaceful slumber either. Five days earlier, eight North American B-25D Mitchell medium bombers of the 71st Bomb Squadron, 38th Bomb Group, Fifth Army Air Force had flown north over the Owen Stanley Mountains from their permanent base near Port Moresby to Dobodura, their temporary base of operations. The 38th Bomb Group, known as the “Sun Setters,” was composed of the 71st, 405th, 822nd, and 823rd Squadrons, and 16 other Mitchells from the 38th would join today’s mission. Their target on February, 15, 1944, was Kavieng Township on the northern tip of New Ireland, deep in Japanese-held territory. A long flight lay ahead of the Army aviators, even from this forward airstrip.

At the mess tent Lieutenant Smith sawed into his pancakes and hit a pocket of unmixed batter. As he watched the powder spill down into the syrup, he daydreamed of biscuits with red eye gravy, eggs, bacon, sweet cream, homemade preserves, and all the other delights of his mother’s breakfasts back in Kentucky. As he came back to harsh reality, Smith put sugar in his coffee and then with experienced precision skimmed off the floating ants. Soldiers in South Pacific territories learned that you could not keep ants out of the sugar, and it was just easier to strain them out of your coffee. It was not a great breakfast by stateside standards, but about the best the Army Air Corps personnel could expect in primitive New Guinea.

“Smitty,” as Smith was known to his buddies, made the short walk to the briefing tent with the other pilots and crew members, all of whom keenly appreciated the danger of today’s mission. The briefing officer reminded all that Kavieng would be “target rich” as an extremely important logistical staging base for Japanese installations in New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago. It served as a major supply depot and boasted an excellent harbor, an airfield, and an aircraft assembly facility. Japanese planners knew that if the empire was to maintain any offensive capability in the Southwest Pacific its outposts had to be supplied with replacement fighters and bombers. These aircraft were being assembled at Kavieng to be flown south to Rabaul.

Equally essential supplies, replacement parts, and flight personnel were transported from Kavieng by barges, freighters, and even cargo submarines. General Douglas McArthur and the commander of the Fifth Army Air Force, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, were determined to cut off armaments and supplies by executing several intense air raids on Kavieng. This day’s mission would not be the first raid on Kavieng by the Fifth. Consolidated B-24 Liberator high-altitude bomber attacks had been moderately successful in recent days, both in making the Kavieng airstrip a useless patch of bomb craters and in smashing local air power. But Kenney, a superb strategist and leader, knew the need for total neutralization of the target would demand the Fifth Air Force’s signature low-altitude bombing and strafing. The Japanese anticipated these additional low-level raids and meant to employ antiaircraft batteries directed by newly installed radar to defend all approaches to the base. Kavieng’s gunners felt confident that the murderous volume of flak they could deliver in the relatively confined areas of their base would exact a deadly toll in U.S. bombers and flyers.

The crews were informed that if missions like today’s were successful, many of the Japanese bases in New Guinea could then be bypassed without threat of attack from the rear. Rabaul’s huge garrison, over 80,000 men, would be further reduced to an ineffectual corps of castaways, and any shipping in its harbor, absent air cover, would be trapped in port. The once mighty Rabaul military complex would “wither on the vine” and be reduced to a de facto POW camp. The briefing ended with the officer reminding the pilots that fuel preservation was important as the distance to the northern tip of New Ireland would stretch the limits of the range of the bombers. Smith had to admit that the marathon mission today would probably be much more difficult than the 24 previous missions he had survived since arriving in New Guinea the previous year.

Lieutenant Smith walked around the Mitchell B-25D medium bomber to which he had been assigned, number J33F, plane 306 of the 71st Squadron, and closely checked it over before takeoff. He had never flown in this particular plane and wondered whether its nickname, Pissonit, which was emblazoned on the nose, referred to what the bomber was going to do to the enemy or the frustration it had previously given other crews.

Smith admired the firepower the bomber boasted as a result of the now standard modifications made in theater at Brisbane, Australia. The Plexiglas nose of the aircraft had been refitted with four additional forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns. With the two blister pack .50s on each side of the cockpit and the top twin turret facing forward, the B-25D could lay down withering fire on a strafing run. The aircraft could deliver two tons of ordnance and on this mission would carry four 500-pound high explosive bombs. Smith glanced around the airfield and saw it swarming with activity as the other crews made their final preparations. At 7:45 am, the pilots, 1st Lt. Eugene Benson and Smith, taxied to their place in the flight line for takeoff. The airmen heard the R2600-13 Wright radial engines roar and felt their power as the twin engine Mitchell gathered speed and lifted into the brightening Pacific sky.

At Langemak Bay, Finschafen, New Guinea, Navy Lieutenant Nathan Green Gordon of Patrol Squadron 34, Fleet Air Wing 17 was busy making flight preparations for today’s mission. Gordon, who hailed from Morrilton, Arkansas, had flown many missions with the “Black Cats,” a squadron of Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina flying boats painted flat black for stealth purposes in night action. The Dumbo, as the PBY was lovingly called, was a large aircraft: 21 feet high, 63 feet long, with a wingspan of 104 feet. The plane had an incredible range of over 2,500 miles and was employed in multiple roles—executing reconnaissance flights, flying patrol duties, and making nocturnal bombing raids.

Today, however, Gordon was assigned to carry out another facet of the wing’s mission statement. He would fly his PBY, Arkansas Traveler, and orbit off Kavieng, New Ireland, to provide search and rescue cover for a major Army Air Corps bombing mission. Gordon had been briefed that several squadrons of B-25 Mitchell and Douglas A-20 Havoc light bombers would make a strike on the heavily defended base and that planes could go down in surrounding waters.

Gordon ordered the crew to cast off the Cat’s moorings, and he taxied into the bay for takeoff. The PBY was not a particularly handsome aircraft and was slow, with a cruising speed of only 125 miles per hour. Gordon was not concerned about her speed, as he knew she was extremely tough and could reliably perform rescue work even in rough seas. From past patrol and bombing missions, he knew she could absorb a lot of punishment and still make it home. He had all the confidence in the world in the big Cat and in his experienced and close-knit crew of eight: two pilots, a navigator, a radioman, three gunners, and a flight mechanic.

Gordon’s trip to New Ireland was uneventful, but he was grateful for the four Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters covering him. Japanese fighters, although seen less frequently in recent months, could appear at the most inopportune time. After a long flight to the predetermined position, the Traveler took station well out to sea off the tip of New Ireland and idled at 2,000 feet. Gordon cast a glance down at the ocean, and the reports of 12 to 16 foot seas, trough to crest, were verified. Although the weather was clear and visibility unlimited, he sincerely hoped he would not have to force a landing in those swells.

Eight planes of the 71st Bomb Squadron, nicknamed the Wolf Pack, along with eight other B-25’s of the 405th Green Dragons Squadron and eight Mitchells from the 823rd Terrible Tigers Squadron passed over Sand Island, the rendezvous point for this mission. There they joined elements of all four B-25 squadrons of the 345th Bomb Group, called the Air Apaches, and several squadrons of A-20 Havocs from the 3rd Bomb Group. The formation, designated mission number 46D-1, circled and picked up its fighter escort of Lockheed P-38 Lightings. As Pissonit continued to climb in formation, Benson manned the controls and Smith conversed with Hollie Rushing, the navigator. Farther back in the plane, behind the bomb bay, the radioman, Claude Healan, and the tail gunner, Albert Gross, made ready their stations as the planes cruised toward the target.

As they flew northeast toward Kavieng, Smith mentally reviewed the order of battle for this particular low-altitude raid. The planes of the 71st would come across first, wingtip to wingtip, four at a time, strafing with their machine guns and releasing their explosives. The 500-pound bombs had eight- to 12-second fuses so that the explosions of their own bombs would not damage the B-25s.

The other 38th Bomb Group squadrons would follow the two groups of planes from the Wolf Pack, and the 498th, 499th, 500th, and 501st Squadrons from the Air Apaches would then roar in to continue the pounding. The plane groups would come across in 30-second intervals, and Pissonit was to be in the second foursome of the raid. The formation would approach from the south, and the planes would fly up the New Ireland chain, making a northwesterly run at the base.

The bombers initiated their descent to 100 feet, flying over the township’s coconut palm grove at 270 miles per hour. Benson opened the bomb bay doors, and Smith, adrenaline pumping, checked the readiness of the .50-caliber guns. The pilots of the B-25 would not only fire its guns but also served as the bombardiers, a must on a bombing run at treetop altitude.

At 11:15 am, Smith’s four-plane group started its bombing and strafing attack, and the big .50s let loose a blistering barrage in unison. With four planes abreast a wide bombing swath was assured, and the selection of individual targets was not a necessity. Smith released Pissonit’s payload. The first flight of Mitchells had struck the mark, and dense black smoke already rose from the warehouses at the main wharf. The Japanese return fire was heavy with everything from small arms to 5-inch artillery shells being thrown skyward.

As Benson passed over the target, Smith heard a sharp clap to his left and a simultaneous jolt. Immediately, the left engine burst into flames. Rushing quickly pulled the Lux fire extinguisher, and the fire was chemically suffocated. But then another louder explosion shook the plane as flak hit the fuselage, just forward of where the radioman would be located. The 200-gallon auxiliary gas tank, called a Tokyo tank, which had been installed for extra range, had been ignited and now was a blowtorch with a six-foot plume of flame.

This second explosion had also ruptured the hydraulic lines, causing the landing gear to drop and creating a sudden drop in airspeed. The left landing wheels caught on fire and in turn reignited the left engine. Captain Fred Corning of Seattle, Washington, flying the B-25 immediately to Pissonit’s left, saw the mortally wounded plane streaming flames and thick smoke and gravely mumbled to nobody in particular, “I’ll never see those guys again.”

It was obvious to Smith that the only option now was to ditch the plane in the ocean. But Benson, much to Smith’s amazement, pulled the yoke back and tersely shouted, “We have to gain altitude!” Apparently it was the senior pilot’s desire to put as much distance between them and potential Japanese captors as possible. It was well known to Allied aviators that capture certainly meant brutal interrogation and the horrors of a POW camp, while immediate execution was an equally likely probability. Gaining altitude would perhaps provide a longer glide path for the plane, but Smith realized that the engine fire would soon burn the left wing in two, making Pissonit a spiraling death trap. He barked at Benson that they had to put the aircraft down right away. When Benson ignored him, a struggle ensued as the two pilots briefly wrestled at their respective dual controls for command of the plane. No words were exchanged, and Benson soon relinquished the flying to the junior officer.

Smith’s immediate worry was to ditch safely in the ocean and hopefully get far enough away from the coastline to escape Japanese fire or immediate capture. He gave full power to his right engine and banked to the left, going past Nusa Island just beyond Kavieng harbor. Smith told the crew to brace for a ditched landing and silently wondered if the two men in the rear of the plane were even alive to hear him. Only seconds to touchdown, Smith felt a presence behind him and glanced back quickly toward the bomb bay. He saw tail gunner Gross crawling toward the cockpit over the flaming gas tank. He had been hideously burned.

Smith forced himself to focus on the approaching waves as he cut the right engine and struggled to hold up the nose of the plane. With no hydraulics Smith had no control of the flaps, but providence smiled upon them as the plane slid into a trough instead of slamming into a wall of pitching ocean. The jolt was still tremendous, but the plane stopped upright and for the moment was floating. Burning aviation fuel quickly spread across the water around the wreck.

The most direct avenue of escape from the cockpit was a hatch located over the copilot’s seat, and Benson quickly removed his seat harnesses and leapt up to push open the hatch. He and Rushing hurriedly began to scramble for the exit, literally stepping on Smith as they climbed up and out. Smith looked back again to where he had last seen Gross, but he was nowhere in sight. The Mitchell was quickly flooding, and Smith spun out of his seat to search for Gross. He saw that the entry hatch located on the bottom of the fuselage, just behind the cockpit, had been forced open by the crash. Gross had apparently been thrown forward and down and then was swept or suctioned out into the ocean. Smith could see no sign of him, or Healan, but knew he had but seconds until the plane sank. Only later would he discover that radioman Healan had tried to parachute from the B-25—a fatal attempt at an altitude of 75 feet.

Smith grabbed his parachute and forced it through the escape hatch. He followed it out and stood up on the nose of the plane ready to jump away from it, but burning aviation fuel surrounded the plane. He knew he could dive underwater, but could he stay under until he reached open water? He instinctively looked back at the cockpit as the air forced from the its interior made an eerie moaning sound. Suddenly, an explosion within the plane blew out the Plexiglas nose and lifted him up and fortuitously out over the fiery surface.

Dazed, the 21-year-old aviator came to the surface and winced as his face began stinging in the salty water. Smith angrily noted that his mustache and eyebrows were no longer on his face, singed off by the explosion. Benson and Rushing swam toward him. The three survivors then kicked and paddled away from the plane, fearing further explosions were imminent. Pissonit sank with a bubbly hiss and steamy sizzle as burning metal met the water.

Smith’s parachute provided the group some extra buoyancy and served as something to which the bedraggled aviators could cling to stay together. They all had on their Mae West life jackets, so drowning was not an immediate concern. Taking personal inventory, Smith realized that the front of his left leg from ankle to knee had been raked open by the crash impact. Smith found a tube of lip balm in a pocket and, forcing its entire contents into his hands, made a salve of sorts to spread on his face. Benson was unhurt, and Rushing had minor burns, but like Smith they were understandably shaken. Smith began to assess their situation. They were approximately one mile out from Kavieng without a raft, food, or water and were aimlessly drifting in the shark-infested waters of the Bismarck Sea, and his leg was bleeding. If the tide or currents took them to shore they would be captured, and if they were taken out to sea their prospects of survival were equally bleak.

They could already see that their raid was a major success. Fires raged, and five columns of smoke rose from Kavieng as explosions continued to rock the harbor. Japanese naval and merchant vessels dotted the waters of the harbor, all partially submerged from this and previous raids. The crew could see more U.S. bombers raining additional destruction on the target, but that was little solace as they cast nervous glances toward the beach and made squinting searches skyward for some form of rescue. In a matter of minutes B-25’s flew over the downed U.S. fliers, leading them to wave and shout wildly at possible salvation. Instead of delivering hope, the planes brought them horror when anxious gunners fired on them, apparently thinking they were Japanese sailors who had abandoned one of the ships in the harbor. Efforts to dive below the waves to escape the friendly fire were thwarted by their life jackets, but the gunners’ aim was off, and the .50-caliber rounds fortunately missed. Smith tried hard not to let his rising fear show on his already blistered face.

Unknown to the downed flyers of the Wolf Pack, other U.S. bombers were experiencing life and death struggles of their own. The B-25s of the 345th were in the process of bombing the area of Kavieng called Chinatown, which included the main warehouse facilities and fuel storage areas. The 38th had left these supply dumps a blazing inferno that created billowing clouds of blinding smoke, as Pissonit’s surviving crew could testify. Scores of tires, 55-gallon drums of gasoline, and other Japanese military goods exploded upward among the planes of the 500th Squadron as they roared overhead. These missiles, or perhaps bursting flak, hit the right engine of Jack Rabbit Express flown by Lieutenant Thane Hecox. The plane suddenly veered to the right and downward, crashing in a fireball at the edge of Chinatown. All aboard were killed, including Captain Sylvester A. Hoffman, who was on his last mission before returning to the States.

The operations officer for the 500th, Captain William J. Cavoli, led a group of three B-25s just to the right of Hecox’s flight. He and co-pilot 2nd Lt. George H. Braun flew a B-25 that bore no nickname, identified only by the serial number 41-30531. As they flew into the maelstrom, Cavoli was forced to rely on his instruments because of the dense smoke. As his plane was enveloped by the blackness, it was rocked by a direct hit to the right engine. The engine exploded in flames, and aviation fuel spread the fire over the wing and down the length of the right side of the fuselage.

As the B-25 returned to daylight the crew was slammed by suffocating heat as pieces of the engine nacelle and wing melted and fell away. As the ground rushed up toward them, Cavoli and Braun struggled at the controls to keep the dying plane airborne until they could reach the ocean. They managed to dodge palms, cleared the beach, and only 600 yards from the shoreline they ditched, nose up. The Mitchell initially skipped lightly off the water, but on the next contact the aircraft gouged to a grinding halt in a huge column of spray. The B-25’s nose was partially torn away, and the incoming sea rushed in with such force that the material was torn from the navigator’s pants legs. Braun jettisoned the life raft, and the two pilots gathered and rescued the other crew from the wreckage. Incredibly, all six men aboard had survived, although some suffered deep cuts and one a severely broken arm. After the emergency kits were retrieved, they paddled furiously to escape the sinking plane.

At Chinatown the fires burned ever higher, but the punishment by the Fifth Air Force continued. Major Chester Coltharp, squadron commander, led the 498th over the target in Princess Pat, a B-25 sporting the falcon head nose art adopted by the squadron. The planes dropped 59 additional 500-pound bombs. More than a dozen Japanese floatplanes anchored at the shore were shredded, a large wharf was destroyed, and a 2,000-ton freighter was sunk. Debris continued to be launched by the surface explosions, and some U.S. planes, in an effort to avoid this danger, pulled up, slowing their B-25’s and presenting easy targets to the angry Japanese gunners below.

Gremlin’s Holiday, flown by 1st Lt. Edgar R. Cavin, was one such plane. Inside the top turret of the plane sat Staff Sergeant David B. McCready, who fired away with his twin .50s at Japanese sailors on the deck of a submarine below. Japanese incendiary shells suddenly opened up the bottom of the fuselage and ignited the auxiliary gas tank. The resulting explosion shot the turret dome up and away, and McCready instantly lost his helmet, headset, and goggles in the slipstream. The force of the wind scoured the sergeant’s head and face while simultaneously the fire below threatened to burn his lower body. The gunner desperately backed down out of his compromised position and painfully scrambled forward toward the radio compartment.

Captain Robert G. Huff, the squadron adjutant and tent mate of Major Coltharp, was an unauthorized passenger on Gremlin’s Holiday. As a ground officer he had always wanted to witness combat and had convinced Cavin to let him come along. After feeling the concussion of the explosion, he instantly wished he had stayed at Dobodura. Cavin realized the fire that McCready had sought to escape was spreading and intensifying. Huff and Staff Sergeant Lawrence Herbst tried in vain to extinguish the blaze. After observing the advancing fire himself, 2nd Lt. Elmer “Jeb” Kirkland, the co-pilot, warned Cavin they had to immediately ditch Gremlin’s Holiday.

In the radio compartment Technical Sergeant Fred Arnett gently held the burned McCready in his arms and braced for the impact of the imminent crash. The plane stalled and went in nose first, going under the waves and then surging back to the surface like a porpoise. The pilots and Herbst escaped via the cockpit hatch, while Huff had to swim underwater to use the same exit. McCready and Arnett had been knocked briefly unconscious by the crash but regained their senses quickly with the horrible realization they were underwater. After some desperate struggles with straps, belts, and underwater wreckage they exited the hole ripped out of the bottom of the aircraft and with lungs bursting popped to the surface.

The crew had all survived the crash, but not without serious injuries. Huff was wounded with three broken lumbar bones and a deep gash to his leg, while Arnett had suffered a broken shoulder and a slash down his face that exposed teeth and bare cheekbone. McCready was in terrible pain with a compound fracture of the right ankle, a deep gash to his hipbone, and severely burned arms and hands. Soon other planes of the squadron circled and dropped survival kits and bright yellow rafts to their brethren swimming below.

At 11 am, 24-year-old Nathan Gordon received the first confirmation that his day was indeed going to be very busy. Even from his distant vantage point the rising columns of smoke over Kavieng were easily seen. The radio traffic provided the news of crashed planes, ditched aircraft, and crews in the water. The first call for Gardenia Six, his call sign, came from an Army-based radio at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, that relayed a message from a returning B-25 that multiple aircraft were down. But by that time Lieutenant Gordon was already approaching the township looking for rafts, wreckage, or any sign of survivors in the water.

Gordon suddenly noticed the telltale yellow-orange dye that downed aviators used to mark their positions. As he took the big Catalina down for a closer look he spotted oil on the water and decided to pick up anybody he might locate. He realized that the ocean landing he was about to make would be more difficult than any he had ever attempted. If anything, the wind had picked up and the height of the waves had grown.

It was essential that Gordon set Arkansas Traveler down with the bow high and the stern touching the surface first. This method of landing employed water resistance to slow the speed of the Cat and improve the accuracy and safety of the touchdown. But successfully pulling off this maneuver would be much more difficult because of the necessity of landing on the down slope of the big swells to avoid plowing into a wall of seawater. Regardless of Gordon’s training and actual experience, the first landing was rough. Upon the hard impact the 16-year-old Catalina popped several rivets in the hull. The plane started taking on water through the rivet holes. Fortunately, the damage was not serious, and Arkansas Traveler taxied quickly toward the dye. As they slowly moved through the debris field of a crash they saw an object and believed it was an aviator, but as they drew near they saw it was a partially deflated Army Air Corps raft. There were no survivors to be found. Gordon sadly shook his head and opened the throttle, running through the dye still in the water. It was frustrating to know that this was one crew he could not rescue.

As the Traveler gained altitude it was spotted by Captain Tony Chiappe, the operations officer of the 498th, flying above in his Mitchell, Old Baldy. Chiappe had left Major Coltharp to circle Cavin’s crew and discourage Japanese attempts at capture while he searched for the PBY. Although radio problems kept Chiappe and Gordon from directly talking, hand signals and relays through the P-47s got the message across that the Catalina should follow his B-25. Gordon quickly flew the short distance and dropped two smoke flares to mark the location of Gremlin Holiday’s survivors: five crew members and one stowaway.

Gordon made a much better landing this time and taxied toward two rafts that had been tied together. Standard rescue procedure called for the plane to be stationary and let the lighter object, in this case the rafts, come to the plane. However, this was certainly not a standard rescue as the shells falling from the Japanese shore batteries reminded everyone. The crew threw a heaving line to the water-soaked aviators, which they caught on the first attempt. But the forward motion of the plane with its props still turning was too great. It might actually drown the men clinging to the rope. Gordon ordered the line cut and realized that he would have to kill the engines. He did not want to drown the people he was seeking to save nor did he want the heavy seas to lift weakened men into the still turning props. As Japanese fire bracketed the big Cat, Gordon’s mind raced ahead, imagining their horrible condition if the engines did not start.

Gordon taxied back to the wide-eyed men in the water. Ensign Jack Kelley was sent to the port blister, where the waterlogged survivors would be taken aboard. Paul Germeau, the strongest man on board, was waiting there to pull them into the Catalina. Cavin’s men caught another line, and Gordon’s props slowed and then stopped altogether. Japanese machine-gun fire sprayed the water nearby. Only the lifting and pitching of the plane in the high seas confounded the aim of the Japanese gunners. The crew of Gremlin’s Holiday was hard to wrestle aboard. The men were helpless dead weight and were difficult to grip as they were coated in the oil from their downed aircraft. Huff and McCready were especially tough to handle with their severe injuries. One by one, they wriggled, rolled, and were manhandled aboard. Cavin, the last of his group, fell through the blister window, and the rafts were cast off.

The shells fell closer now, and Gordon knew that the Japanese artillery would soon zero in if they did not quickly get back in the air. The pilot pushed the starter buttons, and with a belch of black smoke the engines came to life. Slapping the waves as she gathered speed, the plane rose off into the smoke-filled skies of Kavieng.

It had now been over two hours since Smith, Benson, and Rushing had gone into the water. The yellow-orange dye from the stain canisters rigged to their Mae West’s had long since dissipated. The dye was designed not only to give visibility to rescuers, but also was thought to serve as a shark repellent. The high swells provided a good vantage point when the survivors were carried to the crest, but upon sliding down into a trough there was no visibility at all. From time to time they had cast anxious glances down in the clear water, mistaking shadows for sharks.

Suddenly, the three heard planes approaching. Were they friend or foe, and if they were friends would they fire on them again? Straining their eyes as they looked into the mid-day tropical sun, Smith realized that they were indeed good guys, huge P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. Quickly they took the chrome mirrors attached to their life vests and flashed them toward the fighter planes overhead. Their hearts leaped as the P-47s dove toward them and began to run a tight circle around their position, this time with no ill intent. It was obvious they were now found, but their rescue still seemed highly improbable.

The Traveler followed the P-47s’ directions to the three bobbing figures on the water. Gordon was too close to Kavieng, and the enemy had duly noted his presence. As he moved toward the water and a third landing, he did so through a hail of tracers. The crew had taken pencils and inserted them into the sprung rivet holes, intentionally breaking them off in an effort to plug the leaks. The old Cat certainly did not need any new holes caused by enemy munitions. Traveler’s buoyant bow eased down a mound of seawater, and the plane settled on a surface whipped into froth by wind, waves, and Japanese shells.

Once again the props were killed, and the crew watched as Germeau coaxed the heaving line under the wing toward the men in the water. The rocking ocean banged the three against the side of the hull, but they came in quickly, sliding roughly over the blister window’s coating. Smith joined the increasingly cramped group inside. Again, the PBY’s engines reliably sprang to life.

Traveler lurched forward, and in her wake geysers rose from Japanese gunfire. Gordon knew that a few more seconds on the rescue scene would have spelled disaster for the plane and its occupants. The tough old bird groaned with all the extra weight but proudly left the sea again. As he lay back against the plane’s bulkhead, Smith allowed the desperate hope of survival to transform into a sweet reality.

The P-47s had to depart, as their remaining fuel would barely get them home. Gordon followed their path and had already put 10 miles between burning Kavieng and Traveler. Once again the now familiar voice of Major Coltharp crackled over the PBY’s radio and announced that the major had spotted another ditched B-25 only 600 yards off the beach. Gordon did not want to accept what he was hearing, and he began to calculate the mounting odds against surviving another rescue attempt. Nathan Gordon’s character did not, however, allow the option to cut and run become viable. He realized he could not leave any Americans to the mercy of the Japanese.

In the rear of the PBY, Smith immediately noticed Traveler was executing a gradual wide turn back toward Kavieng. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and grimaced because he knew they must be headed back for another rescue attempt. The anguished thought that Gordon was absolutely crazy to put them all in such great peril was immediately erased with his guilty realization that Gordon had taken the same risk to pick up Pissonit’s survivors.

With Princess Pat flying cover, Arkansas Traveler circled Captain Cavoli’s crew in Kavieng harbor. Nate Gordon flew right over amazed Japanese gunners temporarily stunned into inaction. He made his best landing of the day, a good thing considering the plane’s compromised bow plates, coming to a stop within a few yards of the rafts. Immediately, the Catalina became a duck in a shooting gallery as the shoreline lit up with muzzle flashes. The fire was so intense that Gordon was sorely tempted to push the throttles forward and simply take off again. Shells landed all about the plane, and he could attribute their current safety only to the Almighty’s protection. In record time six more passengers were hauled aboard as the fear of getting killed by enemy fire overcame pain and fatigue.

The starboard engine immediately restarted, but the portside engine refused to turn over. The plane was now running in a circle with Japanese shells getting ever closer. Gordon knocked the hands of Ensign Walter L. Patrick, his co-pilot, away from the starter button. It was evident to Gordon that one of the engines was flooded. They waited for a couple of minutes, which to every occupant on board seemed more like several hours. Patrick finally engaged the starter again, and the prop blades started moving, slowly at first, then picked up speed until finally the blade tips were a blur. Again, with a payload grossly beyond the norm, Gordon, his other seven crewmembers, and 15 Army aviators left the heaving ocean in the faithful Arkansas Traveler.

Coltharp, coming alongside, waggled his B-25’s wings in acknowledgment of Gordon’s skill and bravery. Coltharp was magnificent on this day as well. He had remained over the target searching for survivors and flying cover until it was doubtful his plane had the fuel left to get home. Indeed, the Princess Pat would have to make an emergency landing at Cape Gloucester with only 10 gallons of gas in her tanks. Major Chester Coltharp later received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Four times Gordon had put his plane down on the rough waters of the Bismarck Sea under heavy Japanese fire and had survived. He was relieved to be heading back to the safety of Allied-controlled skies and to Finschafen. Now out of harm’s way, the crew of Traveler began to realize the enormity of what they had done. They had executed perhaps the finest air/sea rescue of the Pacific War and had in all likelihood saved the lives of 15 men. Strangely, as Traveler reached cruising altitude, those rescued and many of the crew, including Gordon, felt lightheaded and jittery, and some could not even light cigarettes because their hands were trembling. Gordon would soon have the satisfaction of delivering his cargo of aviators back to the naval hospital and safety.

With a total of 23 men on board, Traveler was fully packed. Lieutenant Smith felt a mixture of pain, relief, grief, exhaustion, wonderment, and deep gratitude. Looking around at his fellow rescued flyers, Smith broadly smiled as he recognized a face he had not seen in some time. Lieutenant Jed Kirkland, co-pilot of Gremlin’s Holiday, met Smith’s gaze at the same time, and they both laughed. Maneuvering toward each other, they embraced and talked excitedly. Lieutenants Smith and Kirkland had become fast friends at flight school in Columbia, South Carolina, but were not even aware that they were in the same theater of action. But in war, even the joy of a miraculous rescue often is fleeting. Kirkland was killed in action six weeks later.

Mission 46D-1 was a complete success. Reconnaissance photos revealed total devastation the supply dumps and warehouse area at Kavieng burned for several days, and smoke was visible for 70 miles. The success came at a high price: two B-25s from the 38th, three from the 345th, and three Grim Reaper A-20s. Kavieng and its facilities were completely destroyed, and the base would remain meaningless for the remainder of the war. The capabilities of the Japanese at Rabaul were further nullified, and the invasion of the Admiralty Islands could be carried out.

Navy medical corpsmen at Finschafen quickly but carefully evacuated the badly wounded. Smith, against his protests, was made to stay overnight in the Navy hospital for treatment of his burns and his leg wound. A Navy Seabee introduced Smith to the delights of the cafeteria the following morning. There he enjoyed the best food he had tasted since his training days in Australia, and the first ice cream he had eaten in many months. Before noon, the 71st Squadron commander flew over in a fat cat, a Mitchell stripped of armament and used for transport only, and ferried Pissonit’s crew back to the Seventeen Mile airbase. As they returned Smith had a profound regret that he had not had the opportunity to personally thank that brave pilot of the PBY for rescuing him. He had attempted to do so but had been told that Gordon had already left for another mission.

Square-jawed, blond-haired Nathan Gordon, whose courage, strength, skill, and iron will were well demonstrated by the multiple rescues made that day, was presented America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. He was indeed the only PBY pilot given this award in World War II and the first Navy man in the Southwest Pacific to receive the award.

Admiral William F. Bull Halsey stated, “Please express my admiration to that saga writing Cat crew. This rescue was truly one of the most remarkable feats of the war.” Gordon would survive the war and return to his native Arkansas, ultimately serving as lieutenant governor of his beloved state for 20 consecutive years. He practiced law until he died at the age of 92 in September 2008.

William J. Smith flew 46 more combat missions over New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies, Biak, Morotai, and the Philippines. He survived both “the best landing I ever made” while a 100-pound parafrag bomb was hung up in his bomb bay, and having a piece of shrapnel go through his plane’s windshield just over his head. He was promoted to captain before his 23rd birthday and became the 71st Squadron Operations Officer.

General Kenney personally awarded Smith the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal. After the war Smith graduated from Marshall University and from Southern Theological Seminary and became a Baptist minister in 1950. He served for more than 50 years in pastorates in Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia.

At long last, in 1999, Reverend Smith was able to express his gratitude to Nathan Gordon by phone. This “thank you” call developed into a long and satisfying discussion of wartime experiences and crossed paths in the South Pacific more than half a century earlier. After retirement, and for more than 20 years, Smith served as a volunteer chaplain to hundreds of U.S. Army basic trainees at Fort Benning, Georgia. In March 2002, Smith was able to fly in a B-25J nicknamed Panchito at the invitation of its owner, Mr. Larry Kelley, for the first time in 57 years, and in fact on his 80th birthday!

Bill Smith was hesitant to talk about wartime experiences but did often say that he learned one very important lesson from Navy pilot Nathan Gordon that day: never give up on rescuing anyone. Captain William J. Smith, a veteran of 72 wartime missions, died on December 23, 2010, three months before his 89th birthday. On his bedside table were his well-worn Bible and a mahogany model of his beloved B-25.

Comments

Hi Guys…
My name is Daniel McCready, That was my Dad on Gremlins holiday. Dad is gone now and he didn’t talk much about what he went through. I hope there is someone that can give me more details or direct me to other sources of info.
It would be greatly appreciated.

Daniel, i’m mac rushing. my dad was with smith and benson on the second wave of 4 abreast b25’s that had to crash when one of their engines was hit. i know a few things, mainly because of benson. he used to visit dad and they got to talking when they drank. my dad never talked either. i would be happy to tell you what i know.


Contents

Lineage [ edit | edit source ]

  • Constituted as 38th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 20 November 1940
  • Activated in France on 1 January 1953
  • Redesignated 38th Tactical Missile Group on 31 July 1985 (remained inactive)

Assignments [ edit | edit source ]

    , 15 January 1941 – 18 January 1942
    (Combined unit), 1 August 1942 22 November 1945 18 August 1948 – 1 April 1949 1 January 1953 – 8 December 1957

Components [ edit | edit source ]

    : 15 January 1941 – 26 February 1943 : 15 January 1941 – 26 February 1943 : 15 January 1941 – 1 April 1949 1 January 1953 – 8 December 1957 : 6 May 1946 – 1 April 1949 : 25 February 1942 – 1 April 1949 1 January 1953 – 8 December 1957 : 20 April 1943 – 12 April 1946 1 January 1953 – 8 December 1957 : 20 April 1943 – 12 April 1946

Stations [ edit | edit source ]

    , Virginia, 15 January 1941* , Mississippi, c. 5 June 1941 – 18 January 1942
    , Australia, 25 February 1942* , Australia, 8 March 1942* , Australia, 30 April 1942* , Australia, c. 10 June 1942* , Australia, 7 August 1942 , Australia, 30 September 1942

*Group ground echelons only, no aircraft or crews

    , Port Moresby, New Guinea, 26 November 1942 , New Guinea, 4 March 1944 , Biak, Netherlands East Indies, 1 October 1944 , Morotai, Netherlands East Indies, 15 October 1944 , Luzon, Philippines Commonwealth, 30 January 1945 , Okinawa, 25 July 1945 , Japan, 27 November 1945 , Japan, 26 October 1946 – 1 April 1949 , France 1 January 1953 – 8 December 1957

Aircraft [ edit | edit source ]


38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape - History



SATURDAY, 19 JUNE 1943 During the night of 18/19 Jun, 2 B-24's fly photo reconnaissance of Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands from Funafuti Atoll in the Ellice Islands.
SUNDAY, 20 JUNE 1943 During the night of 19/20 Jun, 3 B-24's from Funafuti Atoll in the Ellice Islands fly photo reconnaissance of Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
SATURDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 1943 Advanced HQ, Seventh Air Force, is set up on Funafuti Atoll in the Ellice Islands to provide a HQ closer to targets in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. VII Air Force Service Command and VII Bomber Command also establish forward echelons at Funafuti. Landing fields are being built on Baker Island and Nukufetau and Nanumea Islands in the Ellice Islands, to be used, along with existing fields at Canton Island in the Phoenix Islands and Funafuti Atoll in the Ellice Islands as operational bases for attacks on Tarawa Atoll and Makin Island in the Gilbert Islands Mille Atoll , Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls in the Marshall Islands and Nauru Island. These operations will mark the assumption of the offensive by the Seventh Air Force and will play a conspicuous role in the invasion and occupation of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.
MONDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 1943 20+ B-24's from Canton Island in the Phoenix Islands and Nanumea Island in the Ellice Islands bomb Jaluit Atoll and Mille Atoll as well as Makin Island in the Gilbert Islands.
TUESDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 1943 B-24's from Nanumea and Nukufetau Islands in the Ellice Islands bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls in the Marshall Islands. Single aircraft hit Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and Little Makin Island and Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.
TUESDAY, 23 NOVEMBER 1943 6 B-24's from Nukufetau Island in the Ellice Islands bomb Emidj and Jabor Islands, Jaluit Atoll,.

WEDNESDAY, 8 DECEMBER 1943 22 B-24's from Nanumea Island in the Ellice Islands, bomb Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and 11 from Canton Island in the Phoenix Islands bomb Mille Atoll .
THURSDAY, 30 DECEMBER 1943 17 B-24's, flying from Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands, bomb Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and 9 B-25's from Tarawa hit the town of Jabor on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands. A-24's from Makin Island in the Gilbert Islands, escorted by 24 P-39's, dive-bomb gun positions on Mille Atoll .



SUNDAY, 2 JANUARY 1944 In the Marshall Islands, B-24's, staging through Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, bomb Maloelap Atoll 9 B-25's hit targets on Jaluit Atoll and P-39's strafe shipping at Mille Atoll.
SATURDAY, 8 JANUARY 1944 15 B-24's, staging through Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, bomb shipping and shore installations at several locations on Wotje, Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls, Marshall Islands and 2 B-25's from Tarawa hit shipping and gun positions on Jaluit.
TUESDAY, 18 JANUARY 1944 In the Marshall Islands, 12 B-25's from Abemama Island, Gilbert Islands, attack barracks area, runway and gun position on the N part of Mille Atoll 25 A-24's and 8 P-40's from Makin Island, Gilbert Islands pound the oil storage area on the S side of Jabor Island in Jaluit Atoll the P-40's also strafe a radio station in the target area.
THURSDAY, 20 JANUARY 1944 In the Marshall Islands, 13 B-24's, staging through Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, hit Wotje Atoll during the night of 19/20 Jan 8 B-25's from Abemama Island, Gilbert Islands, bomb Rakaaru Island other B-25's sent from Tarawa Atoll against shipping at Ailinglapalap Atoll, abort because of bad weather 9 P-40's from the Gilbert Islands strafe a corvette and a schooner at Jaluit Atoll, mortally damaging both vessels 4 other P-40's bomb Mille Atoll.
FRIDAY, 21 JANUARY 1944 In the Marshall Islands, 16 B-24's staging through Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands during the night of 20/21 Jan, bomb targets on Kwajalein Atoll 6 Tarawa-based B-25's hit Arno Atoll, and 12 bomb Aur Atoll 9 B-25's from Abemama Island, Gilbert Islands, hit gun positions, barracks, and runways on Mille Atoll 23 A-24's and 11 P-40's from Makin Island, Gilbert Islands, attack gun positions, ammunition and oil storage, barracks, and 2 small vessels at Jaluit Atoll.
SATURDAY, 22 JANUARY 1944 In the Marshall Islands, 18 B-24's, flying from Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, hit targets on Kwajalein, Jaluit and Mille Atoll 10 B-25's from Abemama Island, Gilbert Islands hit Maloelap Atoll 9 others, flying out of Tarawa, bomb shipping and shore installations at Wotje Atoll 3 B-25's are lost during the day's missions 10 Japanese aircraft are claimed shot down.
WEDNESDAY, 26 JANUARY 1944 In the Marshall Islands, 9 B-25's from Makin Island, Gilbert Islands, hit several targets in Maloelap Atoll about 20 fighters attack the formation 12 P-40's, meeting the returning B-25's over Aur Atoll, join the battle against the fighters, claiming 10+ destroyed the B-25's claim 5 shot down several more are destroyed on the ground or while taking off during the bombing raid. 9 B-25's from Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands hit Aineman Island in Jaluit Atoll, and nearby shipping.
FRIDAY, 28 JANUARY 1944 AAF aircraft from the Gilbert Islands bomb the Marshall Islands, i.e., 9 B-25's, staging through Makin Island bomb Taroa Island in Maloelap Atoll B-24's, staging through Tarawa Atoll and Makin Island and taking off at varying intervals, carry out several hours of strikes against Wotje, Kwajalein, Maloelap, and Jaluit Atolls.
SATURDAY, 29 JANUARY 1944 As a US invasion force approaches the Marshall Islands, B-24's, attacking from bases in the Gilbert Islands, maintain day and night attacks (both multiple-plane missions and single-plane attacks at intervals) against Maloelap, Jaluit, Aur, Wotje, and Mille Atolls, Marshall Islands. 9 B-25's from Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, also carry out a strike against shipping and shore installations at Wotje. 18 A-24's, supported by 12 P-40's, hit Jaluit. 12 P-39's, operating in flights of 4 aircraft, patrol and strafe Mille all day to deny the use of the airfield to the enemy.
MONDAY, 31 JANUARY 1944 In the Marshall Islands as US Army and USMC troops land on Kwajalein Atoll, under overall command of Admiral Raymond A Spruance, the USAAF hits other atolls. 19 A-24's bomb Mille Atoll airfield, over which P-39's and P-40's maintain all-day cover and harassment 9 P-40's carry out a strafing mission against Jaluit Atoll during the night of 31 Jan/1 Feb, 8 B-24's, attacking at intervals, bomb Wotje Atoll.

SATURDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 1944 P-40s from Makin Island dive- bomb and strafe oil storage area, radio facilities, and small craft at Jaluit Atoll, Marshall Islands P-39s strafe runways on Mille Atoll.
SUNDAY, 6 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap and Wotje Atolls A-24s and P-40s from Makin Island attack Mille Atoll Tarawa-based P-39s strafe Jaluit Atoll.
MONDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll and Abemama Island hit Wotje and Maloelap Atolls and P-40s from Makin Island hit a storage area at Jaluit Atoll.
WEDNESDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 1944 A-24s from Makin Island along with supporting P-40s, bomb and strafe oil storage and gun positions on Jaluit Atoll during a dusk-to-dawn operation on 9/10 Feb B-24s operating at intervals from Tarawa Atoll maintain strikes against Wotje Atoll and Taroa Island in Maloelap Atoll.
THURSDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Wotje and Maloelap Atolls 9 B-24s from Abemama Island, sent to bomb a weather and radio station on Rongelap Island, abort due to a fuel leak in the lead B-24 an attempt to bomb Jaluit Atoll during the return flight is unsuccessful.
WEDNESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s from Tarawa Atoll bomb Wotje Atoll and Taroa Island in Maloelap Atoll P-40s from Makin Island fly 2 bombing-strafing strikes against Jaluit Atoll A-24s bomb Mille Atoll.
THURSDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s from Tarawa Atoll and Abemama Island hit Ponape and Kusaie Islands, and Jaluit Atoll. P-40s strafe floatplanes off Emidj Island, as a USN Task Force begins a heavy attack on Truk Atoll.
FRIDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 1944 P-40s from Makin Island bomb and strafe Jaluit and Mille Atolls. US forces land on Engebi Island in Enewetak Atoll.
MONDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s from Tarawa Atoll and Abemama Island hit Ponape and Kusaie Islands and Jaluit Atoll. B-25s from Abemama bomb Maloelap Atoll. P-40s from Makin Island hit Mille Atoll. US forces gain complete control of Enewetak Island in Eniwetok Atoll. 9th Troop Carrier Squadron, Seventh Air Force, arrives at Hickam Field, Territory of Hawaii from the US with C-47s.
WEDNESDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 1944 P-40s from Makin Island bomb Mille Atoll 2 small boats are destroyed by strafing B-25s from Abemama Island hit Taroa Island in Maloelap Atoll. B-24s from Makin Island and Tarawa Atoll bomb Kusaie and Ponape Islands and Jaluit Atoll.
FRIDAY, 25 FEBRUARY 1944 P-40s out of Makin Island bomb and strafe targets at Jaluit Atoll B-25's from Tarawa Atoll and Abemama Island hit Mille and Wotje Atolls B-24s from Abemama and Tarawa pound Ponape Island.
SATURDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll and Abemama Island attack Wotje and Jaluit Atolls P-40s from Makin Island bomb and strafe targets on Mille Atoll. 27th and 38th Bombardment Squadrons (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based on Nanumea Island, Ellice Islands begin operating from Abemama and Makin Islands, respectively, with B-24s.
SUNDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 1944 A-24s and P-40s from Makin Island pound Jaluit and Mille Atolls, while B-25s from Abemama Island hit Wotje and Mille Atolls B-24s from Makin Island and Tarawa Atoll bomb Ponape Island.
TUESDAY, 29 FEBRUARY 1944 B-24s bomb Maloelap, Mille and Wotje Atolls B-25s hit Jaluit and Mille Atolls P-40s attack Mille Atoll.

TUESDAY, 7 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Abemama Island Jaluit Atoll. P-40s bomb and strafe the airfield at Mille Atoll. B-25s pound runways, AA positions, storage areas, and barracks on Taroa Island, Maloelap Atoll.
SUNDAY, 12 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Tarawa Atoll bomb Mille, Wotje and Maloelap Atolls and Nauru Island, Gilbert Islands. B-25s hit Jaluit Atoll.
WEDNESDAY, 15 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll fly the first Seventh Air Force mission against Truk Atoll, Caroline Islands, hitting Dublon and Eten Islands before dawn alternate targets of Oroluk Anchorage and Ponape Town are also hit. B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap Atoll. By this date the A-24s, P-39s, and P-40s used against Mille and Jaluit Atolls during Operations FLINTLOCK (operations against Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls) and CATCHPOLE (operations against Enewetak and Ujelang Atolls) have returned to Oahu, Territory of Hawaii for rest and re-equipment. 27th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Nanumea Island to Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s they have been operating from Abemama Island since 26 Feb.
FRIDAY, 17 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll bomb Jaluit Atoll Atoll. 392d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Abemama Island to Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s.
SATURDAY, 18 MARCH 1944 2 B-25s from Engebi Island, Enewetak Atoll bomb and strafe Ponape Island. 13 B-25s from Abemama Island bomb Jaluit Atoll while 5 from Tarawa Atoll hit the Atoll with bombs and cannon fire. 1 B-24 from Tarawa Atoll bombs Mille Atoll and photographs Mille and Majuro Atoll.
SUNDAY, 19 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Abemama Island and Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap, Jaluit, and Mille Atolls. 1 B-24 from Tarawa bombs Mille and photographs Mille and Majuro Atolls.
WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Abemama Island and Tarawa Atoll bomb Mille and Jaluit Atolls. 38th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), ceases operating from Makin Island and returns to base on Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s.
THURSDAY, 23 MARCH 1944 Tarawa Atoll-based B-25s strike Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls, commencing a series of B-25 shuttle-missions between Tarawa or Makin Island and the USN's new base at Majuro Atoll which is used as the rearming base for the return strike.
FRIDAY, 24 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll bomb Jaluit while others, flying out of Enewetak Atoll, hit Ponape Island and Ant Island, Caroline Islands.
SUNDAY, 26 MARCH 1944 Enewetak Atoll-based B-25s strike Ponape Island B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Jaluit Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and hit Jaluit again on the return flight to Tarawa.
MONDAY, 27 MARCH 1944 B-25s and B-24s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap, Mille and Wotje Atolls B-25s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Jaluit Atoll and strafe and cannonade Ponape Island and a single B-24 from Tarawa Atoll bombs Jabor in Jaluit Atoll.
TUESDAY, 28 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Abemama Island and Tarawa Atoll pound Jaluit, Mille and Maloelap Atolls a single B-24 from Kwajalein Atoll, en route to Enewetak Atoll, bombs Rongelap Atoll, Marshall Islands and B-24s, flying a night mission from Kwajalein, bomb targets at Truk Atoll.
WEDNESDAY, 29 MARCH 1944 B-25s from Kwajalein Atoll hit Jaluit and Rongelap Atolls B-25s from Enewetak Atoll strike Ponape Island while others from Tarawa Atoll bomb Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls.
THURSDAY, 30 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein and Enewetak Atolls hit Truk Atoll before dawn. B-25s from Kwajalein and Tarawa Atolls strike Wotje, Mille, Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
FRIDAY, 31 MARCH 1944 B-24s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Truk Atoll in a predawn mission. B-25s from Eniwetok hit Ponape Island while others, flying out of Tarawa Atoll, pound Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls. 431st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Tarawa Atoll to Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s.

SUNDAY, 2 APRIL 1944 B-24s from Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands hit Truk Atoll during the night of 1/2 Apr. During the day B-25s bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
MONDAY, 3 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll during the night of 2/3 Apr, bomb Truk Atoll. B-25s from Abemama and Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls. 98th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Tarawa Atoll to Eniwetok Atoll with B-24s.
WEDNESDAY, 5 APRIL 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap Atoll, bomb up again at Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, and hit Jaluit Atoll during the return trip. HQ 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy) moves from Tarawa Atoll to Kwajalein Atoll.
THURSDAY, 6 APRIL 1944 B-25s from Abemama Island bomb Jaluit Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and hit Maloelap Atoll during the return flight.
FRIDAY, 7 APRIL 1944 B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and bomb Jaluit Atoll on the return flight.
SATURDAY, 8 APRIL 1944 B-24s flying out of Kwajalein Atoll, strike Truk Atoll B-25s from Tarawa Atoll hit Maloelap Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll and bomb Jaluit Atoll during the return flight.
SUNDAY, 9 APRIL 1944 B-24s on a photo reconnaissance mission over Maloelap, Wotje, and Mille Atolls, Marshall Islands, and a single Tarawa Atoll-based B-25 bombs Taroa Island, Maloelap Atoll B-25s, in a shuttle mission from Abemama Island, bomb Jaluit Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and then hit Maloelap Atoll.
MONDAY, 10 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll (1 hits Ponape Island) while B-25s, based on Abemama Island, strike Ponape. B-25s, flying a shuttle mission between Tarawa and Majuro Atolls, pound Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls.
TUESDAY, 11 APRIL 1944 B-25s from the Gilbert Islands hit Ponape Island, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and carry out a shuttle mission against Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
WEDNESDAY, 12 APRIL 1944 B-25s, flying out of Abemama Island, bomb Maloelap Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll, and hit Jaluit Atoll on the return trip.
THURSDAY, 13 APRIL 1944 B-24s out of Enewetak Atoll strike Truk Atoll B-25s from Tarawa Atoll bomb Jaluit Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll and hit Maloelap Atoll.
FRIDAY, 14 APRIL 1944 PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (POA, Seventh Air Force): A single B-24, enroute from Kwajalein Atoll to Tarawa Atoll, bombs Jaluit Atoll B-25s from Enewetak Atoll bomb Ponape Island while B-25s from Abemama Island strike Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as an arming station between strikes Japanese bombers carry out an ineffective raid on Eniwetok Atoll. 26th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy), moves from Tarawa Atoll to Kwajalein Atoll with B-24s.
SATURDAY, 15 APRIL 1944 B-25s, based on Tarawa Atoll, bomb Maloelap Atoll, rearm at Majuro Atoll and hit Jaluit and Mille Atolls on the return trip.
TUESDAY, 18 APRIL 1944 First Seventh Air Force attack on the Marianas Islands takes place as B-24s escorting USN aircraft on a photographic reconnaissance mission from Enewetak Atoll bomb Saipan Island. Other B-24s staging through Eniwetok Atoll hit Truk Atoll. B-25s from Abemama Island bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base between strikes.
THURSDAY, 20 APRIL 1944 Tarawa Atoll based B-25s, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base between strikes, bomb Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls.
FRIDAY, 21 APRIL 1944 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll hit Wotje Atoll. B-24s from Enewetak Atoll, staging through Kwajalein, bomb Truk Atoll. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, bomb Ponape Island. Abemama Island-based B-25s, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base, bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
SATURDAY, 22 APRIL 1944 During the night of 21/22 Apr, B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Wotje Atoll other B-24s from Kwajalein follow with another raid on Wotje during the day. B-25s from Tarawa Atoll, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base for rearming, bomb Jaluit, Maloelap and Mille Atolls.
SUNDAY, 23 APRIL 1944 B-24s based at Kwajalein Atoll hit Truk and Wotje Atolls. Makin Island-based B-25s hit Ponape Island and Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.
MONDAY, 24 APRIL 1944 B-25s based on Makin Island hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
TUESDAY, 25 APRIL 1944 Kwajalein Atoll-based B-24s, during the night of 24/25 Apr, staging through Enewetak Atoll, strike Guam Island, Marianas Islands and Truk Atoll, and during the day hit Wotje and Maloelap Atolls. This is the first AAF mission against Guam. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll bomb Ponape Island, and Makin Island-based B-25s hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
WEDNESDAY, 26 APRIL 1944 B-24s, having landed at Los Negros Island after bombing Guam Island on 25 Apr, hit Ponape Island and return to Kwajalein Atoll. B-25s based on Makin Island hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
THURSDAY, 27 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll during the night of 26/27 Apr. B-25s from Eniwetok follow up during the day with 3 raids on Ponape Island Makin Island-based B-25s hit Jaluit, Wotje and Mille Atolls. 1 B-24 from Kwajalein Atoll, using Makin Island as a rearming base, bombs Jabor and Emidj and Enybor Islands, Jaluit Atoll.
FRIDAY, 28 APRIL 1944 B-25s, based on Makin Island, strike Jaluit and Mille Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base between strikes. A single B-24 from Kwajalein Atoll bombs islands in Jaluit Atoll, hitting Emidj first, then rearming at Makin Island, and attacking Jabor and Enybor during the return flight.
SATURDAY, 29 APRIL 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Truk and Jaluit Atolls. B-25s from Makin Island also hit Jaluit Atoll .

MONDAY, 1 MAY 1944 B-25s from Makin Island, Gilbert Islands bomb Jaluit Atoll.
TUESDAY, 2 MAY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Truk Atoll, Caroline Islands, during the night. During the day B-25s based on Makin Island hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, Marshall Islands, using Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands as a shuttle base to rearm between strikes. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll pound Ponape Island, Caroline Islands.
WEDNESDAY, 3 MAY 1944 B-25s from Kwajalein Atoll bomb Wotje Atoll while others, based at Makin Island, strike both Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a rearming base between raids.
THURSDAY, 4 MAY 1944 12 B-25s, based at Makin Island, pound Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base for rearming between the strikes. 39 B-24s from Kwajalein and Enewetak Atolls hit Ponape Island.
FRIDAY, 5 MAY 1944 10 B-25s from Makin Island hit Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, Marshall Islands, using Majuro Atoll as a rearming base between the attacks.
SATURDAY, 6 MAY 1944 B-25s from Makin Island and Kwajalein Atoll hit Wotje and Jaluit Atolls.
SUNDAY, 7 MAY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll during the night of 6/7 May. B-25s from Engebi Island hit Ponape Island during the following day. Makin Island-based B-25s bomb Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
MONDAY, 8 MAY 1944 B-25s from Engebi Island strike Ponape Island while Makin Island-based B-25s pound Jaluit and Wotje Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base between strikes. B-24s that landed at Los Negros Island after the strike on Guam Island on 6 MAY return to the Marshall Islands, bombing Ponape Island en route.
TUESDAY, 9 MAY 1944 Makin Island-based B-25s hit Wotje and Jaluit Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a rearming point between attacks.
WEDNESDAY, 10 MAY 1944 Makin Island-based B-25s raid Jaluit and Wotje Atolls.
THURSDAY, 11 MAY 1944 B-25s from Makin Island pound Jaluit Atoll.
FRIDAY, 12 MAY 1944 A single B-24 from Kwajalein Atoll bombs Jaluit Atoll.
SATURDAY, 13 MAY 1944 B-24s, staging through Enewetak Atoll from Kwajalein Atoll, bomb Truk Atoll during the early morning hours. Other B-24s from Kwajalein bomb Maloelap and Jaluit Atolls, Marshall Islands. B-25s from Engebi Island hit Ponape Island.
SUNDAY, 14 MAY 1944 53 B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll and 43 B-25s from Makin Island join USN aircraft in pounding Jaluit Atoll.
MONDAY, 15 MAY 1944 Operations are limited to photo reconnaissance of Jaluit Atoll from Kwajalein Atoll.
TUESDAY, 23 MAY 1944 Makin Island-based B-25s strike Jaluit Atoll.
WEDNESDAY, 24 MAY 1944 B-25s from Makin Island pound Wotje and Jaluit Atolls, using Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base for rearming between the strikes. B-25s based at Engebi Island hit Ponape Island.
FRIDAY, 26 MAY 1944 45 B-25s, flying out of Makin Island, attack Emidj Island, Jaluit Atoll.
SUNDAY, 28 MAY 1944 29 B-25s stage from Enewetak Atoll, bomb Jaluit Atoll, and land at Makin Island. B-25s flying from Engebi Island bomb Mille Atoll.
MONDAY, 29 MAY 1944 Operations are restricted to photo missions over Wotje, Mille, and Jaluit Atolls.

SUNDAY, 9 JULY 1944 Makin Island-based B-25s bomb Jaluit Atoll.
THURSDAY, 27 JULY 1944 B-24s from the Marshall Islands bomb Truk Atoll. B-25s based at Makin Island, hit Jaluit Atoll.
SUNDAY, 30 JULY 1944 BB-25s from Makin Island bomb Jaluit Atoll.
SATURDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 1944 B-24s in the Marshall Islands bomb Emidj Island, Jaluit Atoll.
WEDNESDAY, 20 SEPTEMBER 1944 B-24s in the Marshall Islands hit Jaluit Atoll . Sources: AIR FORCE COMBAT UNITS OF WORLD WAR II, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1961,
COMBAT SQUADRONS OF THE AIR FORCE, WORLD WAR II, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF 1982
THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by the Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1973.


This World War II Rescue in the Pacific Was One of America's Finest Hours

In the predawn darkness of Dobodura, New Guinea, 2nd Lt. William J. Smith of the U.S. Army Air Corps was roughly awakened by a noncom announcing that it was time to get dressed and get to the mess tent for breakfast.

Smith had not slept well, having spent most of the night fighting mosquitoes that had managed to get inside his cot’s netting. The nervous anticipation of flying another combat mission in the morning did not exactly make for peaceful slumber either. Five days earlier, eight North American B-25D Mitchell medium bombers of the 71st Bomb Squadron, 38th Bomb Group, Fifth Army Air Force had flown north over the Owen Stanley Mountains from their permanent base near Port Moresby to Dobodura, their temporary base of operations. The 38th Bomb Group, known as the “Sun Setters,” was composed of the 71st, 405th, 822nd, and 823rd Squadrons, and 16 other Mitchells from the 38th would join today’s mission. Their target on February, 15, 1944, was Kavieng Township on the northern tip of New Ireland, deep in Japanese-held territory. A long flight lay ahead of the Army aviators, even from this forward airstrip.

At the mess tent Lieutenant Smith sawed into his pancakes and hit a pocket of unmixed batter. As he watched the powder spill down into the syrup, he daydreamed of biscuits with red eye gravy, eggs, bacon, sweet cream, homemade preserves, and all the other delights of his mother’s breakfasts back in Kentucky. As he came back to harsh reality, Smith put sugar in his coffee and then with experienced precision skimmed off the floating ants. Soldiers in South Pacific territories learned that you could not keep ants out of the sugar, and it was just easier to strain them out of your coffee. It was not a great breakfast by stateside standards, but about the best the Army Air Corps personnel could expect in primitive New Guinea.

“Smitty,” as Smith was known to his buddies, made the short walk to the briefing tent with the other pilots and crew members, all of whom keenly appreciated the danger of today’s mission. The briefing officer reminded all that Kavieng would be “target rich” as an extremely important logistical staging base for Japanese installations in New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago. It served as a major supply depot and boasted an excellent harbor, an airfield, and an aircraft assembly facility. Japanese planners knew that if the empire was to maintain any offensive capability in the Southwest Pacific its outposts had to be supplied with replacement fighters and bombers. These aircraft were being assembled at Kavieng to be flown south to Rabaul.

Equally essential supplies, replacement parts, and flight personnel were transported from Kavieng by barges, freighters, and even cargo submarines. General Douglas McArthur and the commander of the Fifth Army Air Force, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, were determined to cut off armaments and supplies by executing several intense air raids on Kavieng. This day’s mission would not be the first raid on Kavieng by the Fifth. Consolidated B-24 Liberator high-altitude bomber attacks had been moderately successful in recent days, both in making the Kavieng airstrip a useless patch of bomb craters and in smashing local air power. But Kenney, a superb strategist and leader, knew the need for total neutralization of the target would demand the Fifth Air Force’s signature low-altitude bombing and strafing. The Japanese anticipated these additional low-level raids and meant to employ antiaircraft batteries directed by newly installed radar to defend all approaches to the base. Kavieng’s gunners felt confident that the murderous volume of flak they could deliver in the relatively confined areas of their base would exact a deadly toll in U.S. bombers and flyers.

The crews were informed that if missions like today’s were successful, many of the Japanese bases in New Guinea could then be bypassed without threat of attack from the rear. Rabaul’s huge garrison, over 80,000 men, would be further reduced to an ineffectual corps of castaways, and any shipping in its harbor, absent air cover, would be trapped in port. The once mighty Rabaul military complex would “wither on the vine” and be reduced to a de facto POW camp. The briefing ended with the officer reminding the pilots that fuel preservation was important as the distance to the northern tip of New Ireland would stretch the limits of the range of the bombers. Smith had to admit that the marathon mission today would probably be much more difficult than the 24 previous missions he had survived since arriving in New Guinea the previous year.

Lieutenant Smith walked around the Mitchell B-25D medium bomber to which he had been assigned, number J33F, plane 306 of the 71st Squadron, and closely checked it over before takeoff. He had never flown in this particular plane and wondered whether its nickname, Pissonit, which was emblazoned on the nose, referred to what the bomber was going to do to the enemy or the frustration it had previously given other crews.

Smith admired the firepower the bomber boasted as a result of the now standard modifications made in theater at Brisbane, Australia. The Plexiglas nose of the aircraft had been refitted with four additional forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns. With the two blister pack .50s on each side of the cockpit and the top twin turret facing forward, the B-25D could lay down withering fire on a strafing run. The aircraft could deliver two tons of ordnance and on this mission would carry four 500-pound high explosive bombs. Smith glanced around the airfield and saw it swarming with activity as the other crews made their final preparations. At 7:45 am, the pilots, 1st Lt. Eugene Benson and Smith, taxied to their place in the flight line for takeoff. The airmen heard the R2600-13 Wright radial engines roar and felt their power as the twin engine Mitchell gathered speed and lifted into the brightening Pacific sky.

At Langemak Bay, Finschafen, New Guinea, Navy Lieutenant Nathan Green Gordon of Patrol Squadron 34, Fleet Air Wing 17 was busy making flight preparations for today’s mission. Gordon, who hailed from Morrilton, Arkansas, had flown many missions with the “Black Cats,” a squadron of Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina flying boats painted flat black for stealth purposes in night action. The Dumbo, as the PBY was lovingly called, was a large aircraft: 21 feet high, 63 feet long, with a wingspan of 104 feet. The plane had an incredible range of over 2,500 miles and was employed in multiple roles—executing reconnaissance flights, flying patrol duties, and making nocturnal bombing raids.

Today, however, Gordon was assigned to carry out another facet of the wing’s mission statement. He would fly his PBY, Arkansas Traveler, and orbit off Kavieng, New Ireland, to provide search and rescue cover for a major Army Air Corps bombing mission. Gordon had been briefed that several squadrons of B-25 Mitchell and Douglas A-20 Havoc light bombers would make a strike on the heavily defended base and that planes could go down in surrounding waters.

Gordon ordered the crew to cast off the Cat’s moorings, and he taxied into the bay for takeoff. The PBY was not a particularly handsome aircraft and was slow, with a cruising speed of only 125 miles per hour. Gordon was not concerned about her speed, as he knew she was extremely tough and could reliably perform rescue work even in rough seas. From past patrol and bombing missions, he knew she could absorb a lot of punishment and still make it home. He had all the confidence in the world in the big Cat and in his experienced and close-knit crew of eight: two pilots, a navigator, a radioman, three gunners, and a flight mechanic.

Gordon’s trip to New Ireland was uneventful, but he was grateful for the four Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters covering him. Japanese fighters, although seen less frequently in recent months, could appear at the most inopportune time. After a long flight to the predetermined position, the Traveler took station well out to sea off the tip of New Ireland and idled at 2,000 feet. Gordon cast a glance down at the ocean, and the reports of 12 to 16 foot seas, trough to crest, were verified. Although the weather was clear and visibility unlimited, he sincerely hoped he would not have to force a landing in those swells.

Eight planes of the 71st Bomb Squadron, nicknamed the Wolf Pack, along with eight other B-25’s of the 405th Green Dragons Squadron and eight Mitchells from the 823rd Terrible Tigers Squadron passed over Sand Island, the rendezvous point for this mission. There they joined elements of all four B-25 squadrons of the 345th Bomb Group, called the Air Apaches, and several squadrons of A-20 Havocs from the 3rd Bomb Group. The formation, designated mission number 46D-1, circled and picked up its fighter escort of Lockheed P-38 Lightings. As Pissonit continued to climb in formation, Benson manned the controls and Smith conversed with Hollie Rushing, the navigator. Farther back in the plane, behind the bomb bay, the radioman, Claude Healan, and the tail gunner, Albert Gross, made ready their stations as the planes cruised toward the target.


38th Bombardment Squadron briefing for raid on Ponape - History

FRIDAY, 1 OCTOBER 1943

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): During Oct, HQ 80th Fighter Group and it's 88th Fighter Squadron transfer from Karachi to Nagaghuli and Mokelbari respectively with P-40's.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): 21 B-24's, supported by 21 fighters, bomb a power plant, the warehouse and dock area at Haiphong. 40-65 fighters intercept, shooting down 2 US aircraft 30 fighters are claimed destroyed in the air battle.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 24 B-24's bomb a supply and bivouac area north of Vila airfield. B-25's and P-38's join US Navy (USN) dive bombers in a strike on a barge depot at Kakasa on Choiseul. Lost is B-24D 42-72794 (2 MIA)

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): A-20's and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft bomb and strafe the Finschhafen area as the Australian 9 Division pours more troops into the assault on the town. B-25's strafe a power boat near Gasmata. Force landed is P-47D "Sweetwater Swatter" 42-8066 (survived).


SATURDAY, 2 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Five P-40's dive-bomb and strafe Yangtze River shipping in the Chiuchiang area. Strafing damages several small craft. HQ 51st Fighter Group transfers from Dinjan to Kunming and is reassigned from the Tenth to Fourteenth Air Force.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 6 B-25's join USN dive bombers in attacking Hamberi Cove barge hideout near Vila.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-25's strafe villages in the Talasea area and barges off Gasmata B-26's bomb Hoskins Airfield and a B-24 bombs Cape Gloucester Airfield. Thirteen B-24s from the 380th Bomb Group bomb Ambon, Japanese claim one bomber, but none are lost. Lost on a weather reconnaissance mission is B-24D 42-41066 (MIA). Australian forces take the town and harbor of Finschhafen and prepare to take nearby commanding positions still held by the Japanese. The 6th Troop Carrier Squadron transfers from Port Moresby to Garbutt Field with C-47's.


SUNDAY, 3 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Seven P-40's damage a 250' vessel on the Yangtze River near Chiuchiang Four P-38's bomb Chiuchiang docks Six B-24's damage a 100' coastal freighter off Tonkon Point on Hainan. A detachment of the 76th Fighter Squadron, 23d Fighter Group, based at Hengyang begins operating from Suichwan with P-40's.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): P-39's strafe several barges west of Choiseul.

USN - USS Henley DD-391 is sunk by Japanese submarine RO-108 off Cape Cretin.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-25's continue to hit barges along the west coast of New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago. The 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, ceases operating from Port Moresby and returns to their base at Dobodura No. 12 with P-38's.


MONDAY, 4 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): 17 Japanese bombers and 25 Zekes attack Kweilin Airfield. The bombs, dropped from 20,000 feet, fail to hit the target. AAF fighters fail to make effective contact with the force.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 23 B-24's, covered by 16 P-38's and several USN F4U's, bomb Kahili Airfield 20-30 fighters intercept, and a running battle occurs between Bougainville and Vella Lavella US fighters and bombers claim 9 fighters downed no American losses are suffered. Four P-39's and four F4U's sink 18 barges in a strike along the west coast of Choiseul. The P-39's are especially effective because of their nose cannon.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-25's bomb and strafe barges, small craft, and villages on Vitu in the Bismarck Archipelago. The 22nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 374th Troop Carrier Group, transfers from Port Moresby to Garbutt Field with C-47's.

TUESDAY, 5 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): In China, a few B-25's and P-40's attack a foundry at Shihhweiyao damaging hits are scored on a barrack, on AA positions, blast furnaces, hoppers, and a steam plant. 10 USAAF fighters intercept a force of about 50 Zekes W of Kweilin, shoot down 1 enemy fighter the enemy force turns back.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): Lost is B-25D "Flying Ginny / Bette" 41-30017 (MIA).

WEDNESDAY, 6 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Seven P-40's from Suichwan intercept an attacking force of 27 bombers and 21 Zekes 1 bomber and 1 fighter are shot down, and the attackers retire in the direction of Canton without dropping their bombs.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): Eight P-39's and eight USN F4U's strafe barges off the west coast of Choiseul. 24 B-25's of the 42nd BG and 14 P-38's carry out a low-level strike against Kahili Airfield at dusk dropping parafrag bombs, damaging or destroying several parked aircraft. Lost is B-25D 41-30567 (MIA) and B-25C 42-64563 (survived).

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-25's sweep along coastal areas of New Britain and through to the north and west, bombing and strafing targets of opportunity.

THURSDAY, 7 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Four B-25's attack a 2,500-ton freighter 100 miles south of Amoy, scoring 3 direct hits the vessel is left burning and listing. 9 B-24's and 22 fighters hit a cement plant at Haiphong, causing heavy damage to the kiln building. The 26th Fighter Squadron, 51st Fighter Group, transfers from Dinjan to Kunming with P-40's.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): The 72nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based on Espiritu Santo with B-24's, begins operating from Guadalcanal. P-38H "Jan II" 42-66893 (survived).

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): In the Bismarck Archipelago, a B-24 on patrol bombs Umboi scoring damaging hits on several buildings. HQ 374th Troop Carrier Group transfers from Port Moresby to Garbutt Field.

NEIAF: Missing is B-25C N5-136 (MIA).

FRIDAY, 8 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): NIne B-24's, supported by 20 P-40's, bomb Gia Lam Airfield. While on ferry mission over the Hump, three B-24's bomb Tengchung scoring hits on warehouses, barracks, and a HQ area.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): B-25's and P-40's sink a barge off the west coast of Choiseul.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): A single B-24 on armed reconnaissance bombs Cape Gloucester Airfield. Lost is P-38H 42-66904 (MIA) and P-38G 43-2208 (pilot survived). Crashed is P-38 Number 74 during a test hop flight, pilot unhurt.

ALASKA (Eleventh Air Force): Twelve Japanese bombers from the Kuriles attack Attu.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Four B-25's on a shipping sweep off the SE China coast in the Amoy-Quemoy area sink a 150' tanker and damage a patrol vessel, and a freighter. 1 B-25 crashes into a hill and explodes. 10 P-40's bomb fuel storage and barracks at Mangshih, China 1 P-40 is downed by ground fire.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): B-25's and P-40's hit barges and concentrations on W Choiseul. P-39's and USN F4U's strafe buildings, a radar station, and gun positions at Poporang.

Reference
President Map Room Briefing Intelligence Report October 1943, page 3
"Pacific Theater Harmon - The Jap radar installation on Poporang Island was set on fire and adjacent AA positions silenced as a result of a machine-gun attack by 24 Army and Navy fighter aircraft on 9 October."

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): A-20's and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) bomb and strafe defensive positions in the Sattelberg and Finschhafen areas. B-24's bomb Makassar. The 2d Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 22d Bombardment Group (Medium), transfers from Reid River, Australia to Dobodura with B-26's. They re-entered combat on 5 Oct after R&R in Australia since Jan 43. The 65th Troop Carrier Squadron, 54th Troop Carrier Wing, transfers from Port Moresby to Nadzab. The squadron is operating from Tsili Tsili with C-47's.

RAAF - Written off after suffering bomb damage at Vivigani is Beaufort A9-226.

SUNDAY, 10 OCTOBER 1943

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): 7 B-24's pound the Meza railroad bridge in Burma, destroying the 3 spans on the E end and dropping the end of a central span into the river.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): 20 B-24's and 18 P-40's pound docks at Haiphong. In China, eight P-40's bomb a match factory and ammunition dump at Tengchung 8 others hit a supply dump and targets of opportunity in the Lungling area.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 24 B-24's, 50+ P-38's (separated from the formation near Kolombangara) soon after rendevous. P-40's, and P-39's, and 50+ USN fighters and dive bombers participated, including eight F4Us from VMF-214 'The Black Sheep', but two aborted due to mechanical failures. The remaining aircraft hit Kahili Airfield and surrounding areas, hitting runways, a fuel dump, supply area, buildings, the Navy dive bombers hit Malabita Hill gun positions. The bombing was not accurate with about half the load falling into the water off Bougainville 'killing many small fish'. Jumped by 10-15 Zeros, and fired on by accurate anti-aircraft guns at Kahili and Ballale. Two B-24s are damaged. Lost is B-24D 42-40210 (MIA). US planes claim 15 interceptors shot down, but Japanese records only show the loss of two Zeros from the 201 Kokutai.

President Map Room Briefing Intelligence Report October 1943, page 3 "Pacific Theater Harmon - The next day [October 10, 1943] Allied bombers and fighters

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): A-20's, along with RAAF aircraft pound the Sattelberg area. During the night of 10/11 Oct, B-25's hit Saumlakki on Tanimbar HQ 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group arrives at Sydney from the US. The ground echelon of the 20th Combat Mapping Squadron, 4th Photographic Group (Reconnaissance), arrives at Sydney from the US. The squadron is attached to the 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group and will be reassigned to the 6th on 5 Dec 43. The air echelon, with B-24's and F-7's, will remain in the US until 26 Jan 44. The 70th Troop Carrier Squadron, 433d Troop Carrier Group transfers from Port Moresby to Nadzab with C-47's. Ditched is P-47D "Hi Topper" 42-8081 (rescued).

Australian Army: Z Force Operation Rimau: October 10-16, 1943 another group of Australian Army "Z Force" (Z Special Unit) commandos under the command of Major Ivan Lyon attempted a similar raid against Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbor one-man motorized submersible canoes code named "Sleeping Beauties" (SB). Detected by a Malaysian Police patrol boat Hei Ho, the mission was compromised. The commandos divided into three groups with one group of seven under the command of Lyon attempted to attack shipping. They claimed to have sunk three ships with limpet mines but the sinking are unconfirmed. Afterwards, all the commandos were either killed or captured. Those captured all died in custody or were executed.

MONDAY, 11 OCTOBER 1943

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): HQ 311th Fighter-Bomber Group transfers from Nawadih to Dinjan.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Eight B-24's bomb the town area of Tengchung, Sadon and Myitkyina Airfield. The 75th Fighter Squadron, 23d Fighter Group, transfers from Kunming to Kweilin with P-40's.

USN - USS Wahoo SS-238 is sunk in La Perouse Strait between Hokkaido and Sakhalin.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force) 22 B-24's join 30+ USN dive bombers in pounding Kahili Airfield and the nearby area. Hits are scored on the airstrip, fuel dumps, supply areas, gun positions, bridges between Rangu and Jakohina, barges at the mouth of the Uguima River, and several other targets. The B-24's and the USN and AAF fighters covering the attack claim 12 Japanese airplanes downed.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-24's attack the towns of Manokwari, Bira, and Fak Fak and score hits on a small vessel off Fak Fak. During the night of 11/12 Oct, B-25's bomb Cape Chater Airfield and Lautem. Lost is P-39 piloted by Burley.

RAAF: Crashed is A-20C Boston A28-26 (KIA, survived)

TUESDAY, 12 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Five B-24's bomb the warehouse area and railroad yards at Myitkyina.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): Two B-25's skip-bomb two small vessels in Matchin Bay. Lost is B-25C 42-64571.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): Allied aircraft begin a major air offensive against Rabaul, with the aim of isolating and neutralizing it. Almost 350 B-24's, B-25's, P-38's, and RAAF airplanes pound the town, harbor, and airfields in the area, including the first parafag bomb attack on Vunakanau Airfield. The Allies calim 50+ Japanese aircraft destroyed and three ships are sunk and several damaged plus several small harbor craft are sunk. Lost are B-25D 41-30239 (MIA, BR), B-24D 42-40675 (crew rescued) and Beufighter A19-97 (MIA / BR). Also, B-25's fly small strikes against targets on Timor and other areas of the Netherlands East Indies.

Afterwards, USN codebreakers intercept a radio message about the air raid “Southeastern Force Action Summary. (October 12th Rabaul Air Action). ----. Attacked from 1004 to 1022 by: 54 (Heavy bombers in 9 waves of three to ten planes covered by about 16 P-38s attacked vessels and Rabaul airdrome vicinity. ------. Losses. (a) Vessels Tsukushi and Naruto hit: slight damage and holes in hull. Mochizuki, damaged by near misses and holes. Gun #3 inoperative. Miyatzuki [sic Minazuki], #2 ---- slight damage from near miss. Guns #1 and #2 out of commission. Tachikaze, ----- damage. I-180, as a result of a 60 kilo bomb hit unable to dive. I-177 and RO-105, holes from near misses.”

IJN: Lost at Rabaul is Keisho Maru, seatrucks Wakamatsu Maru No. 1, Kurogane Maru and gunboat Mishima Maru. Damaged are destroyers Mochizuki, Minazuki and Tachikaze, I-177, I-180, RO-105, shecial service ship Tsukushi, Tenryu Maru, Koan Maru and Naruto. During the American air raid on Rabaul, I-36, I-38, I-176 and RO-108 suberge and avoid damage.

WEDNESDAY, 13 OCTOBER 1943

ALASKA (Eleventh Air Force): Eleven P-40's unsuccessfully intercept eight Japanese medium bombers attacking Massacre Bay and Attu Airfield.

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): Japanese fighters appear in strength over Sumprabum, Burma to attack over-the-Hump flights. The enemy evades US patrols and shoots down 3 transports. A fighter-bomber offensive against airfields in Burma from which fighters might operate against Hump transports opens with an attack by P-40's on Myitkyina.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Three B-25's on a sea sweep off SE China hit shipping in Amoy Harbor, claiming one freighter sunk and another damaged.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): A detachment of the 17th Photographic Squadron, 4th Photographic Reconnaissance and Mapping Group, based on Guadalcanal with F-5's, begins operating from Munda Airfield. The air echelons of "C" and "D" Flights are still in the US.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): 100+ B-24's and B-25's bomb Rabaul bad weather forces the bombers to turn back, but 40+ B-24's hit targets including Hoskins, Lindenhafen, Cape Gloucester and Gasmata. Lost are B-24D 42-40934 (MIA), P-38G 42-12856 (MIA) and P-38G 42-12698 (MIA) and P-38H "Charlcie Jeann" 42-66516 (MIA).

THURSDAY, 14 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Four B-25's attack shipping in the Amoy area, damaging 2 freighters, and also bomb Amoy Airfield.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): A single B-24 on armed reconnaissance bombs four barges west of Taiof, leaving one sinking. The 371st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 307th Bombardment Group (Heavy), ceases operating from Guadalcanal and returns to base on Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides with B-24's.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): 60+ medium bombers pound Cape Gloucester and Alexishafen. Three others fly harassing strikes against Dili and Lautem.

USN: USS Grayback (SS-208) fires torpedoes that damage and sink Kozui Maru.

FRIDAY, 15 OCTOBER 1943

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): The 89th Fighter Squadron, 80th Fighter Group, transfers from Karachi to Gushkara with P-40's. A detachment will operate from Sadiya during Oct.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 21 B-24's, 12 P-38's, and 17 USN F4U's pound Kahili Airfield supply and personnel areas. 6 Zekes are claimed shot down. During the late evening B-25's bomb Buka Airfield.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): 50+ P-38's and P-40's intercept around 100 Japanese aircraft attacking Allied shipping at Oro Bay the US fighters claim 40+ shot down. Lost is P-38H 42-66522 (survived) Four other P-40's, encountering 20+ Japanese airplanes east of Finschhafen, claim five destroyed and 70+ medium bombers hit positions and villages from Sio to Saidor. 6 B-24's bomb Boela. HQ 22d Bombardment Group and it's 33rd Bombardment Squadron (Medium) and 408th Bombardment Squadrons (Medium) transfer from Australia to Dobodura with B-25's the 22d and 33d transfer from Woodstock and the 408th from Reid River.

IJN: 54 Japanese aircraft including 39 A6M Zeros from 201 Kokutai, 204 Ku and 253 Ku escort D3A Val dive bombers on a mission to attack U.S. shipping off the New Guinea coast.

USN: Lost is PBY Catalina 08253.

SATURDAY, 16 OCTOBER 1943

CENTRAL PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Seventh Air Force): HQ 41st Bombardment Group (Medium) arrives at Hickam Field from the US.

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): Fighter patrols are increased from 4 to 8 aircraft with little effect on enemy marauders over the Hump. 3 A-36's fail to return from a mission over Sumprabum, Burma. Lost is A-36A 42-84030 (POW, survived).

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): B-24's bomb Kara Airfield. 6 B-25's hit the airfield on Ballale.

(USMC) Five Black Sheep divisions (20 planes) took off in the morning, three to escort some SBD's on a strike against Kara Airfield, the other two on a fighter sweep. Bolt flew with the fighter sweep, which Boyington was leading. As they flew over Tonolei Harbor, they saw that it was filled with Japanese barges. "Nobody shoot" ordered the normally aggressive Boyington, who led the eight Corsairs on a long, erratic route. While Boyington proceeded back to Munda, Bolt and the rest could only make Vella Lavella Airfield. At Vella, Bolt decided to fly back to Tonolei Harbor himself, to shoot up those barges. "The skipper will be pissed," a pilot warned. Bolt went anyway, and at Tonolei, he blasted one barge full of troops, an empty barge, a tug, and another small cargo vessel. Most of the vessels, he left burning and sinking. Back at Munda, Boyington was indeed "pissed", and the incident became know as 'Bolts War'. But Admiral Halsey was more supportive writing a cable: "That one man war. conducted by Lieut. Bolt against Jap stuff in Tonolei Harbor, Warm Heart (Stop) Halsey"

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): In New Guinea, 60+ B-25's attack the Alexishafen area, hit coastal targets between Reiss Point and Sio, and bomb Wewak Airfield. A-20's bomb and strafe Gasmata. A lone B-24 destroys a patrol craft between Hoskins and Rabaul. Lost on a search and rescue mission is OA-10 Catalina 43-3262 (KIA). Also lost is P-39N 42-18410 (MIA).

B-25s from all four squadrons of the 345th BG participate in a morning strike on Boram Airfield, anti-aircraft defenses and Wewak Airfield, protected by three squadrons of P-38 escort fighters. About 20 Japanese Ki-43 and Ki-61 fighters took off to intercept with only a few minutes warning. They dropped 100 lbs 'daisy cutter' bombs and straffed the area. Many parked aricraft were destroyed or damaged. Lost is B-25D 41-30561 (POW / MIA).

Thirty-eight B-25 Mitchell strafers from the 38th Bomb Group, 405th Bomb Squadron. The bombers were escorted by twenty-five P-47 Thunderbolts from the 348th Fighter Group (348th FG). The formation arrived over Alexishafen at roughly 10:30am. Ki-43 Oscars from the 13th Sentai took off from Alexishafen No. 1 Airfield (Danip) to intercept the formation at 10:48. During the combat, three were shot down. Leaving the target, B-25D "Lucky Star" 41-30183 is damaged by fighters and crashed. Also lost P-38 Lightning piloted by Lidstrom.

JAAF: Japanese aircraft including 45th Sentai Ki-48 Lilys escorted by 13th Sentai Ki-43 Oscars attack the Song River area at 8:35am. Over the target, a Ki-48 was slightly damaged and a Ki-43 was damaged on landing from the mission. Allied reports state that six "Sally" and twenty "Oscars were involved. Referencs: ATIS document on JAAF losses. Later in the day, a B-24 was intercepted by fighters 80 miles east of Madang per Allied reports.

SUNDAY, 17 OCTOBER 1943

MONDAY, 18 OCTOBER 1943

ALASKA (Eleventh Air Force): The 406th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), Fourth Air Force, departs Elmendorf Field for the US. The squadron will transition from B-25's to B-24's and deploy to England on Nov 2, 1943.

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): The 530th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 311th Fighter-Bomber Group, transfers from Nawadih to Dinjan with A-36's.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 28 B-24's and 40+ USN dive bombers, with cover of 50+ fighters including hit Ballale Airfield. F4U Corsairs of VMF-214 and VMF-221 conduct a fighter sweep against Kahili Airfield and are intercepted by 40-50 Zeros. Lost is F4U Corsair 17557 (MIA). Fourteen P-39's join 20+ US Navy aircraft in a strike on Kakasa village and a tent area on Choiseul. The 70th Fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group, transfers from Guadalcanal to New Georgia with P-39's.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): Nearly 80 B-24's from the 90th BG, 43rd BG and 380th BG escorted by fighters are sent on a mission against Rabaul, but abort due to bad weather. Thirteen of the B-24's bomb Cape Hoskins 7 others bomb Cape Gloucester and hit Sio. Due to bad weather, the mission cost four Liberators: B-24D "Sky Lady" 41-24043 (crew survived), B-24D 42-40670 (ditched, 5 MIA), B-24D 42-40885 (crew survived), B-24D 41-41088 (crew survived). However, 50+ B-25's slip beneath low clouds and pound Rabaul town, airfields, and shipping from treetop and mast-height level the B-25's sink 2 vessels and claim 70+ planes destroyed on the ground and in the air. Lost are B-25D "SNAFU / MFUTU" 41-30054, B-25D "Sorry Satchul" 41-30056, B-25C "Daisy May" 42-32262. The 500th Bomb Squadron received a Distinguished Unit Citation for this mission. Other B-25's bomb and strafe a road at Bogadjim.

TUESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 1943

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): The 1st Troop Carrier Squadron, Tenth Air Force, transfers from New Delhi to Sookerating with C-47's. The 529th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 311th Fighter-Bomber Group, transfers from Nawadih to Dinjan with A-36's.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): Kara Airfield and Kahili Airfield are hit by B-24's, Venturas, P-38's, P-40's, and USN fighters and dive bombers. Lost in an aerial collison are P-38H 42-66626 (MIA) and P-38H 42-66888 (MIA).

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): A-20's and RAAF aircraft hit Sattelberg and surrounding areas and bomb Gasmata enemy air raid against Finschhafen causes no effective damage. B-25's and RAAF Hudsons bomb Fuiloro.

WEDNESDAY, 20 OCTOBER 1943

CENTRAL PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Seventh Air Force): HQ 30th Bombardment Group and it's 27th, 38th and 392d Bombardment Squadrons arrive at Hickam Field, Moluleia and Kahuku respectively from the US with B-24's. The 396th and 820th Bombardment Squadrons (Medium), 41st Bombardment Group (Medium) arrive at Hickam Field from the US with B-25's.

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): The bridge at Meza, Burma, being repaired after being damaged severely on 10 Oct, is attacked and damaged by B-25's.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): Kakasa on Choiseul is attacked three times by Venturas, P-40's, and USN fighters and dive bombers. 24 P-40's and nearly 50 USN F4U's sweep Kahili one force of F4U's encounters fighters, claiming 3 destroyed. The 69th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 42nd Bombardment Group (Medium), ceases operating form Guadalcanal with B-25's and returns to Plaine Des Gaiacs Airfield.

IJN: The so-called "Tokyo Night Express" completes the evacuation of the Japenese garrison from Kolombangara

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-25's bomb and strafe the Bogadjim area B-24's hit 2 freighters near Manokwari and bomb the Manokwari area and an attack on Finschhafen by 30 Japanese aircraft causes minor damage. A-20's hit Gasmata. Lost in an aerial collision is B-25D 41-30573.

RAAF: Lost on a ferry flight is CA-12 Boomerang A46-87.

THURSDAY, 21 OCTOBER 1943

CENTRAL PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Seventh Air Force): The 72d Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group, transfers from Hilo Field to Wheeler Field with P-39's.

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): The 530th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 311th Fighter-Bomber Group, based at Dinjan with A-36's sends a detachment to operate from Kurmitola.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Six B-24's bomb Nawlang, Burma the barracks area is blasted by at least 3 direct hits. 6 P-40's pound the barracks area at Kunlong, China.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 12 B-25's, with an escort of 36 fighters, attack Kara Airfield. The runway and several buildings suffer direct hits. The 23d Bombardment Squadron, 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy) based on Bomber 1 with B-24s begins operating from Guadalcanal. The 75th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 42d Bombardment Group (Medium) transfers from Henderson Field to Renard Field with B-25's.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): 50+ B-24's bomb positions at Sattelberg 19 B-25's follow with a low-level strike: other B-25's carry out a sweep along the Bogadjim road. In the Bismarck Archipelago, P-40's bomb Gasmata and attack 2 light cruisers off New Ireland, damaging 1 of them.

RAAF: nine aircraft from 8 Squadron were detailed to carry out a torpedo attack on enemy naval units off the east coast of New Ireland. Lost is Beaufort A9-244 (crew POW).

NEIAF: Lost is B-25D Mitchell N5-156 (pilot KIA) in the Northern Territory.

FRIDAY, 22 OCTOBER 1943

CENTRAL PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Seventh Air Force): The 819th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), arrives at Barking Sands with B-24's. The squadron, the ex-3d Antisubmarine Squadron (Heavy), will fly sea searches and supply the 30th Group with replacement crews and planes until May 44.

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): In Burma, a B-25 strike against a railroad bridge on the Ye-u branch line over the Mu River between Ywataung and Monywa fails to damage the structure. This raid marks the final assault of the year on this bridge.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): Kahili Airfield and the surrounding areas are pounded by 22 B-24's, 30+ P-39's and P-40's and about 160 USN fighters and dive bombers. Eighteen B-24's and USN airplanes hit targets in the Choiseul area. Other USN aircraft hit Kara Airfield. A single B-24 claims hits on a carrier northwest of Buka. HQ 42d Bombardment Group (Medium) and it's 390th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) transfer from Henderson Field to the Renard Field with B-25's.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): In New Guinea, 20+ B-25's carry out a low-level attack on the Wewak area sinking two small freighters, and strafing barges and airplanes Lost are P-47D 42-22497 (rescued), P-47D 42-8117 (MIA), P-47D "Sunshine" 42-8121 (rescued), P-47D "Fiery Ginger" 42-8145 (MIA). Madang is strafed by 4 P-39's and 2 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boomerangs. 50+ P-40's hit Gasmata. 11 B-24's bomb Pombelaa nickel mines on Celebes.

SATURDAY, 23 OCTOBER 1943

CENTRAL PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Seventh Air Force): P-40s shoot down a Japanese flying boat 70 miles south of Baker.

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): B-25's bomb the Meza, Burma railroad bridge, which is still being repaired following the damaging raid of 10 Oct damage is done to the approaches.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 11 B-24's and 16 P-38's hit Kahili Airfield and 36 P-40's and P-39's join 60+ US Navy dive bombers and fighters in a strike on Kara Airfield both Kahili and Kara are attacked again later in the day, the former by six B-24's and 16 USN fighters and the latter by 35 AAF fighters and 42 USN dive bombers. Lost is SBD-3 03359. Six B-24's bomb Kakasa on Choiseul.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): 40+ B-24's escorted by P-38's, bomb Rapopo Airstrip, destroying about 20 airplanes on the ground 20 enemy interceptors are claimed shot down. Lost is P-38H 42-66849 (pilot later rescued). 9 B-25's hit the Bogadjim area.

SUNDAY, 24 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): 14 B-24's and 13 P-40's pound a barracks area at Co Bi. 8 B-24's bomb Htawgaw, Burma while on a ferry flight over the Hump.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 36 B-25's, along with 24 Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-40's and 4 USN F4U's, in 1 force, and 20 AAF fighter and 70+ USN fighters and dive bombers in another force, pound Kahili Airfield.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): At least 45 bombers are destroyed on the ground at Vunakanau Airfield, Rapopo Airfield and Tobera Airfield during attacks by 50+ B-25's the B-25's and 50+ escorting P-38's claim 40+ Japanese airplanes shot down over Rabaul. Lost are B-25C 41-30376 (MIA) B-25D "Lil De Icer" 41-30075 (survived), P-38 piloted by Woodward (MIA), P-38 piloted by McGuire (survived). A-20's hit enemy positions in the Lae area and B-24's carry out a light attack on Manokwari. Also lost is P-40N piloted by David (survived).

IJN: Japanese intercept the American air raid against Rabaul scramble 13 Zeros from 253 Kokutai and 26 Zero from 204 Kokutai. Losses: 253 Ku lost 1 missing, 2 damaged, 4 minor damage. 204 lost 7 lost, 6 missing including WO Ishi-i Shizu-o & PO1c Tanaka. Claims: 253: 3 x B-25, 12 x P-38, 1 x P-38 probable. 204: 11 victories including 6 x P-38.

MONDAY, 25 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): Six P-40's strafe shipping at Haiphong, claiming 3 small boats sunk and damaging 6 larger boats 2 B-25's and 4 P-40's attack shipping in the Gulf of Tonkin, claiming a 150' tanker sunk and 200' freighter damaged.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): The 372d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 307th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based on Espirtu Santo begins operating from Carney Field (Bomber 2) with B-24's. Lost is B-24D 42-40864 (ten MIA, one rescued).

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): 60+ B-24's bomb the Rabaul area destroying 20+ airplanes on the round. Of the 60-70 fighters which intercept, the B-24's claim 30+ shot down. Lost is B-24D "Shewansta" 42-72800 (2 MIA, 2 rescued). A-20's hit positions near Lae and B-24's carry out a light strike against Manokwari.

MONDAY, 26 OCTOBER 1943

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): The 71st Liaison Squadron, US Army Forces, CBI, transfers from Ramgarh to Ledo with L-4's and L-5's.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): 13 B-24's and 15 P-40's pound railroad yards at Haiphong. Two B-25's attack several vessels at Kiungshan, claiming 4 sunk or badly damaged later 6 more B-25's hit shipping nearby, claiming 1 freighter sunk Kiungshan Airfield is strafed by one of the B-25's. The 21st Photographic Squadron, Fourteenth Air Force, based at Kunming with F-4's and F-5's, sends a fight to operate from Suichwan.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): Kahili Airfield is hit twice during the day by B-24's, B-25's, P-38's, P-40's, P-39's, and USN fighters and dive bombers. Buka Airfield is strafed by P-38's and then bombed and strafed by B-25's and P-38's. P-39's and P-40's join USN fighters and dive bombers in a strike on Kara Airfield.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-24's fly a small raid against Pombelaa on Celebes fighters shoot down 2 B-24's US gunners claim 11 aircraft downed. Lost is B-24D "Fyrtle Myrtle" 42-40485. B-25's hit targets in Tanimbar.

USN: Crashed is PBY Catalina 2447 (crew KIA).

WEDNESDAY, 27 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): 6 B-24's bomb the city of Tungling, China and claim 8 intercepting Zekes shot down.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): B-24's pound Kahili Airfield and Kara Airfield P-40's over Kahili claim three Zekes shot down. P-38's, P-40's, and P-39's, plus some RNZAF P-40's and P-39's, cover the landing by New Zealand troops on Stirling and Mono. The fighters claim destruction of twelve enemy dive bombers attacking the landing force and afterwards claim three fighters shot down. Force landed is B-17E "Fiji Foo" 41-9217.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): P-40's and P-39's intercept an escorted Japanese bomber force dropping supplies over the Sattelberg area the US fighters claim 12 airplanes downed. A-20's hit harbor and supply dump area at Gasmata. Lost is B-24D "Shack Rat" 42-40918 near Nadzab.

THURSDAY, 28 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): In China, 7 B-24's bomb Mangshih 6 P-40's strafe a warehouse and revetments at Yoyang Airfield 3 B-25's and 7 P-38's hit a barracks at Ft Bayard and two B-25's on a shipping sweep over the South China Sea damage two freighters near Saint John and sink a junk west of Kwangchow Wan.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): P-40's and P-39's join USN fighters and dive bombers in attacks on Kara Airfield and Ballale Airfield. Almost 200 aircraft are involved in the two strikes. Also, Kara Airfield is also pounded by 19 B-24's. The 67th Fighter Squadron, 347th Fighter Group, based on Woodlark with P-39's begins operating from Munda.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): P-40's hit Gasmata. P-47's attack barges at Talasea and strafe surrounding area. P-47's also strafe from Sio to Fortification Point.

Lost due to weather are P-39Q 42-19987, P-39Q 42-20031, P-39Q 41-19959. Also lost is B-24D 42-41217.

FRIDAY, 29 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): 14 B-24's and 16 P-40's pound the smelter area at Quang Yen, French Indochina. In China, 2 B-25's bomb the administration building and runway at Ft Bayard Airfield Nine P-40's on offensive reconnaissance in the Chiuchiang area strafe a 200' steamer and attack a train, destroying the locomotive.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): B-25's and B-24's, along with 40+ USN aircraft, bomb Buka Airfield and Bonis Airfield.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): 37 B-24's, escorted by 53 P-38's, pound the Rabaul area claiming 45 airplanes destroyed on the ground and in the air. Lost is P-38H 42-66523 (POW, executed). Crashed on take off is B-25D 41-30320 (KIA). Seventeen B-25's hit the Madang area. P-47's attack shipping in Hansa Bay area and strafe the Cape Gloucester area. B-25's sink a vessel off Tanimbar while B-24's bomb Selaroe Airfield on Tanimbar and attack the Waroe Bay area. The 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group transfers from Tsili Tsili to Gusap with P-47's. The 63d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 43d Bombardment Group transfers from 7-Mile Drome to Dobodura with B-24's.

SATURDAY, 30 OCTOBER 1943

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force): In China, 7 B-25's and 12 P-40's pound the motor pool and barracks at Shayang Nine P-38's hit the Chiuchiang dock area two interceptors are claimed shot down. Lost is P-38G 42-13415 (pilot rescued).

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): Kara Airfield is bombed by 16 B-24's and shortly afterwards is hit by 90+ USN dive bombers escorted by USN and AAF fighters Six B-25s attack Kieta Airfield and other targets at Kieta are hit by twelve P-39's and USN aircraft and the Tonolai Harbor area is hit by eight P-40's and seventeen USN planes.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): B-25s strafe barges in Rein Bay. Lost is B-25D 41-30318 (MIA) and P-70 Havoc 39-785 (MIA).

SUNDAY, 31 OCTOBER 1943

BURMA-INDIA (Tenth Air Force): In an attempt to knock out the Japanese base from which fighters are attacking ferrying operations, P-40's carrying 1000-pound bombs fly four strikes against Myitkyina Airfield following the bomb runs, the fighters strafe AA positions the attacks cause considerable damage to the base B-25's attack the Meza railroad bridge, scoring hits on the approaches but missing the structure the bridge remains unusable due to damage caused by the 10 Oct strike.

USN - Lieutenant H. D. O'Neil of VF(N)-75, operating from Munda, New Georgia, flying a radar equipped F4U-2 destroyed a Betty during a night attack off Vella Lavella, the first kill by a radar-equipped night fighter of the Pacific Fleet. Major T. E. Hicks and Tech Sergeant Gleason from VMF(N)-531 provided ground-based fighter direction.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force): 20+ B-25's, with fighter support bomb Kara Airfield.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force): P-40's sink a barge off the New Britain coast. The 65th Troop Carrier Squadron, 54th Troop Carrier Wing, ceases operating from Tsili Tsili and returns to it's base at Nadzab, New Guinea with C-47's.


Victor Tatelman’s B-25 ‘Dirty Dora’ Wreaked Havoc on the Japanese

As he skimmed over the trees and lined up the sights of his North American B-25C Mitchell’s eight .50-caliber nose guns on the Japanese airstrip at Wewak, New Guinea, Lieutenant Vic Tatelman was astounded to see rows of Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’ bombers, Yokosuka D4Y ‘Judy’ dive bombers and Mitsubishi A6M ‘Zekes’ lined up wingtip to wingtip all along the tarmac. What a rare opportunity! All he would have to do was line up on the targets and squeeze off burst after burst. No time to check results or worry about AAA — just keep shooting! Co-pilot Lieutenant Willie Graham deployed parafrag bombs at intervals as the bomber, dubbed Dirty Dora, passed over the sitting ducks, completing a sort of double whammy that left chaos behind them on the ground.

The Japanese at Wewak were caught flatfooted on October 16, 1943, paying dearly for not having dispersed their newly arrived aircraft. The final tally was 82 enemy aircraft destroyed — a loss that enabled the Americans to make a successful raid on Rabaul two days later. All members of the 499th ‘Bats Outa Hell’ Bomb Squadron of the 345th ‘Air Apaches’ Group made it back to base that day, at Port Moresby, New Guinea, where their ground crews found lots of AAA holes to patch.

Not many people have heard of Victor Tatelman, who earned numerous Air Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart in nearly 120 combat missions piloting Mitchell bombers. Tatelman got his Army Air Forces pilot wings in June 1942 as a member of class 42F at West Coast Training Command, in Stockton, Calif. As a new second lieutenant, he and several others of his class were sent to Williams Field, at Chandler, Ariz., to fly bombardier cadets in Beechcraft AT-11s. On each flight he carried five bombardier cadets, who each got to drop a practice bomb on a target. Within six months he had become bored with that duty and asked for a combat assignment — unconcerned that reassignment might cost him his seniority.


Lieutenant Victor Tatelman, shown in 1944, flew close to 120 combat missions in B-25 Mitchells and earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart. (Richard R. Bender)

In November 1942 Tatelman was sent to Columbia Army Air Field at Columbia, S.C., where a new bomb group was being organized. There, the pilots were assigned to the 498th, 499th, 500th and 501st squadrons, which were to make up the 345th Bomb Group. At the 345th Group, assigning pilots to squadrons was a simple matter: The pilots were gathered in a room with four large tables and told to divide themselves equally among the four tables. Then each table was assigned a squadron number. The table Tatelman chose became the 499th Squadron.

During the first two months at Columbia, the pilots concentrated on familiarizing themselves with the Mitchell bomber, as well as practicing with bombardiers and navigators. Then the group moved to Walterboro, S.C., where the emphasis was on formation flying and bombing operations at altitudes of 8,000 to 10,000 feet. After that, they moved to Hunter Air Base, at Savannah, Ga., where they received their new planes and were outfitted for overseas. Years later, Tatelman recalled that when he left Savannah, in the excitement of heading for the West Coast on his way to combat, he forgot to set the mandatory 10 degrees takeoff flaps that all B-25s require. But when he began running out of runway, he quickly remembered. A quick pull on the flap handle and they were off the ground and on their way to Mather Field, at Sacramento, Calif. There, the latest combat modifications were made to the B-25s. All winter adaptations were removed, the flight crews turned in their winter flying suits and the ships were thoroughly tropicalized.

After its bomb-bay fuel tanks were installed at San Francisco’s Hamilton Field, the 499th left for Hickam Field, on Oahu. Tatelman remembered that he left Hamilton with 12 hours and 45 minutes of fuel aboard and had used 12 hours and 15 minutes’ worth when he arrived at Hickam. Of the 16 crews from the 499th that had set out from Hamilton, 14 reached Hickam. The squadron had already lost one-eighth of its strength, yet the 499th’s survivors were still half an ocean away from combat.

Only 15 years had passed since Lindbergh had flown the Atlantic, and shortly thereafter the Dole ‘Pineapple Derby’ had resulted in several deaths when a handful of daring aviators attempted to fly from California to the Hawaiian Islands. In 1942, it was still a chancy undertaking. Those who lived to tell about it usually recalled that it seemed as soon as they were out of sight of land their engines went into ‘auto-rough,’ and the navigators had the impression that their island destinations were shrinking in size. The 499th was only the second B-25 group to cross the Pacific, and the Army Air Forces was still learning.

After Oahu, their next stop was Christmas Island, followed by Samoa Fiji New Caledonia Brisbane, Australia and finally an airstrip at Reed River, near Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Altogether, the 345th Bomb Group’s Pacific trip took two weeks. At Reed River they waited for their ground crews — who had traveled by ship — to get to Port Moresby, New Guinea. Then they flew on to Port Moresby, set up camp and got ready for combat.

Allied troops had landed at Buna, on the north coast of New Guinea, in the fall of 1942. The 345th, now part of General George C. Kenney’s Fifth Air Force, was to support this effort. Their base at Port Moresby was ideally situated, only about 100 miles from Buna, across the mountainous backbone of New Guinea. The troops at Buna, mostly Australian infantry, were tasked with driving the Japanese out of Salamaua and taking Lae. Because they lacked a beach to set up a supply point by sea, they had to be supplied by airdrop, and the 345th got the job. It was not long before the 345th became known to the entire 5th Bomber Command as the ‘Biscuit Bombers.’ Once the ground troops had established themselves ashore and were advancing, however, the B-25s began dropping bombs instead of biscuits, with Salamaua, Lae and Finchhaven as their first targets.


Tatelman initially flew a B-25C dubbed "Dirty Dora" on “biscuit-bombing” airdrops over New Guinea, but his plane and others gained a new lease on life after Paul “Pappy” Gunn came up with modi­fications to give them more firepower. (International Research Publishing Inc., via Jack Fellows, ASAA)

At that juncture an inventive character named Paul I. Gunn effectively changed the way Tatelman and the other B-25 pilots would approach operations in the Pacific. Gunn—known to most as ‘Pappy’—had run an airline in the Philippines and was put out of business when the Japanese occupied the islands. He then offered his services to General Douglas MacArthur, and General Kenney made him head of maintenance for the entire Fifth Air Force. Gunn contributed many useful ideas, among which was a method of reconfiguring the B-25s for low-level bombing. He believed they would be more effective in ground support if they operated at treetop level, and he convinced Kenney and MacArthur to try it. After six weeks of medium-level bombing, the B-25s were modified as Gunn suggested. The bombardier nose was removed and replaced with one containing eight .50-caliber fixed machine guns, fired by the pilot. A pilot bomb release was also installed.

The 499th Squadron, now known as the ‘Bats Outa Hell,’ took up its new mission of strafing and low-level bombing with enthusiasm, and Tatelman — along with the other pilots and crews — learned how to put the new weapons to good use. Tatelman’s aircraft, B-25C Serial No. 41-12971, was already dubbed Dirty Dora when he began flying missions in her. The plane had been transferred from the 38th Bomb Group and was received by the 499th Squadron in mid-1943.

Through a stroke of luck, Tatelman learned how Dora got her name. It was the policy of the Fifth Air Force that each of its combat flight crews received a week’s leave in Sidney, Australia, about every six weeks. At the time Sidney was largely devoid of young men, many of whom had been sent to North Africa to join British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s campaign against German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps. That meant visiting airmen were usually popular with the ladies in Australia. On one leave in Sydney, Tatelman met the 38th Bomb Group pilot who had originally flown Dirty Dora and had named her. He explained that the Mitchell was named after a young woman who had moved in with him for the week he was visiting Sydney. It seemed that the original Dora had a sensual temperament and would, at certain moments, scream out the most profane obscenities. Hence, the name ‘Dirty Dora.’

By October 1943, Dobodura, on the north side of New Guinea, had been secured by MacArthur’s forces, and staging airfields had been built. Now Rabaul, on the north end of New Britain, was within range of the Fifth Air Force B-25s. Rabaul was the most important Japanese strongpoint in the Southwest Pacific, because its air and naval forces threatened American forces in the Solomon Islands, on New Guinea and at sea. During the previous year, Rabaul had been hit more or less regularly by Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 19th Bomb Group and Martin B-26 Marauders of the 22nd Bomb Group. But the missions never consisted of more than a dozen airplanes, and the damage done to the enemy was seldom extensive. Aerial reconnaissance invariably reported more than 100 combat-ready Japanese aircraft in the Rabaul area.

The mission of October 18, 1943, was designed to destroy the enemy air forces at Rabaul. The plan was for two Consolidated B-24 Liberator groups with fighter escort to simulate an attack on Rabaul township that would draw up Japanese fighters to intercept them. The B-24s would turn and bomb all but two of the airstrips in the area. Then, when the Japanese fighters were refueling on the two undamaged strips, two groups of B-25s would arrive at treetop level and strafe and bomb them, as well as any Japanese bombers on the ground.

On October 17 the 345th Air Apaches flew to Dobodura, where their planes were prepared for an early morning departure the following day. The 36 planes of the 345th, joined by 18 of the 38th Bomb Group and three squadrons of Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters over Buna, then set course for Kabanga Bay, the initial point of attack.

As the mission progressed, the weather worsened. The front ahead appeared solid up to 12,000 feet. Lieutenant Colonel Clinton U. True, the mission leader, headed into the muck. Everyone in the formation pulled in tight so as not to lose sight of formation mates. True moved down to go through on the deck, and when a recall command from headquarters came through, he either did not hear the order or ignored it. When the bombers emerged from the clouds, no one seemed to have gotten lost, but the B-25 pilots then discovered that their fighter cover had been turned back due to the weather. Colonel True continued on. As they crossed the coast, the 38th Group planes headed for their targets and the four squadrons of the 345th arranged themselves in attack array, with the 499th and 500th falling back while the 498th and 501st went in first.

Tatelman took the west side of Ropopo airstrip, firing on targets as they appeared. Anti-aircraft fire from the base proved to be heavy but inaccurate. Smoke from targets hit by the 498th and 501st on their pass obscured some targets, but also gave Tatelman protection from the gunners on the ground. As the pilots in Tatelman’s group left the strip behind and crossed the beach, they saw what looked like a ferry boat in the bay, and all strafed it. Then the 345th B-25s were met by swarms of Zeke carrier fighters. Luckily for the 499th pilots and crews, the squadrons ahead of it attracted the most fighters. But the 499th was still not out of the woods. The Mitchells were jumped by 15 Zekes, three of which the B-25 gunners downed. Amazingly, all nine planes of the 499th returned safely to Dobodura.

The Allied forces on New Guinea alternately drove the Japanese back or leapfrogged them and cut them off from their supplies. By early March 1944, Allied troops were ready to make a leapfrog landing at Yalau Plantation, just south of Madang, on the north coast. As it happened, Yalau had the only beach in the area suitable for use by landing barges, but it was overlooked by Dumun village, a Japanese strongpoint. It was vital that a smokescreen be laid down between the village and the beach just before the landing began.

Tatelman, now a captain flying his 51st mission, led the flight assigned to drop white phosphorus bombs on Dumun to provide the smokescreen. Taking off before dawn, he led his flight through instrument weather for an hour, finally reaching better weather just opposite Yalau beach. Since he was five minutes early, he decided to dive under the low overcast to the southwest and strafe the village. He figured that he could do so safely by turning north, away from the mountains, as he turned off the target. He distracted the Japanese troops at Dumun with his strafing passes until 0725, when (according to the citation in his Distinguished Flying Cross award): ‘He very accurately placed his bombs on the village to totally obliterate any view by the enemy of the landing party at Yalau Plantation, two miles away. His bombs set fire to the village which was totally destroyed and ground forces later reported that enemy casualties from this bombing and strafing were high the remainder of the enemy force had fled the area.’

That mission nominally completed Tatelman’s tour of duty. Because of his college engineering background, however, he was selected for a special mission. He was given a .45-caliber pistol, a briefcase was chained to his wrist, and he became a courier. He was told to report to a certain room number at the Pentagon in a week’s time. When he did so, he found himself involved in an intensive three-month training session on radar and radar countermeasures at such places as Wright Field, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, IBM and installations at Boca Raton and Orlando, Fla. A major U.S. concern was whether the Wurtzburg radar, developed in Germany for ranging anti-aircraft artillery, had been shared with the Japanese. An increase in the accuracy of Japanese anti-aircraft fire would clearly have been an unwelcome development in the Pacific theater at that juncture, and American authorities hoped to take steps to counteract it. Tatelman learned about chaff, rope, window and electronic countermeasures jamming that would be available in the Pacific if needed. He also learned how to tell what countermeasures would likely be required in a given situation.

Returning to the Pacific, Tatelman became a member of MacArthur’s Section 22 (Intelligence), now stationed in the Philippines. His job was to attend heavy bomber briefings and to brief airmen on countermeasures against radar-operated anti-aircraft emplacements. The captain soon learned that the bomber crews were not too concerned about the accuracy of AAA. What really did bother them was that the Japanese always seemed to know they were coming. The enemy could no longer be taken by surprise, it seemed. The Japanese appeared to have developed an early warning radar capability.


This combat photo, taken by a rear-facing camera ­installed on one of the 345th Bomb Group’s bombers, captures Mitchells in the midst of a low-level attack on the Dagua airfield. (National Archives)

Remembering that Bell Labs had shown him equipment for homing on radar, Captain Tatelman proposed to his bosses that he obtain that equipment, then go after the early warning radar and destroy it. His proposal was approved, and Tatelman had it installed in a B-25D, which was configured in such a way that the homer could be conveniently placed in the now single-pilot cockpit. Within two weeks the aircraft was given a complete overhaul at Biak and outfitted with two new engines, an eight-gun nose, rocket launchers on the wings and a new name—Dirty Dora II.

The civilian expert who had installed the homing equipment in Dirty Dora II flew with Tatelman a few times to adjust the equipment and check out how well it was operating. The expert became so interested in the project that he volunteered to fly as the equipment operator in actual search operations during combat. That arrangement worked out so well that he continued to fly with Tatelman on subsequent missions.

As a practical matter, Tatelman got himself, his crew and Dirty Dora II assigned temporary duty with the 499th Bats Outa Hell for rations, quarters and aircraft maintenance, to which he did not have access as a member of MacArthur’s Section 22. His target areas were assigned through Bomber Command, generally in areas where B-24 crews had reported their suspicions that the Japanese were waiting for them, a giveaway that they had had an early warning. Tatelman would fly out to the area indicated and search for radar signals. If he discovered any, he followed them to their source, where he bombed, strafed and fired rockets at the transmitter. During 20 missions operating out of Clark Field, he and his crew destroyed eight radars, and after the first few they even brought back photographs of their attacks.

Tatelman earned a second DFC for proposing and carrying out the radar destruction missions, as well as a Purple Heart for a leg wound he suffered while overflying an enemy-held island north of Luzon. After that mission he recalled hearing a ‘pop’ and seeing a hole open up in the right wall of the cockpit. Later, when he reached into the knee pocket of his flying suit for a cigarette, he found the pocket full of blood. Whatever had made the hole in the cockpit wall had also grazed his knee — fortunately, without doing any severe damage. On one of those early radar-busting missions, a ground control unit in northern Luzon asked for help in taking out a tank that was holding up the infantry advance. They located the tank behind a barn, and Tatelman circled the tank while a waist gunner raked it with his .50-caliber machine gun, setting it on fire and putting it out of the fight. Using the waist gun saved nose gun ammunition for later use on a radar station. Tatelman got a commendation from the ground commander for that action.

By early 1945, the Allies had achieved complete air superiority in the Pacific, and the 499th was bombing Japan itself. Tatelman got himself transferred back to the 499th and served for the rest of the war as a flight leader. By the cease-fire on August 15, 1945, he had racked up 119 combat missions. Clearly, he was not only an aggressive pilot, but also a lucky one.

After the cease-fire, the Japanese were required to send envoys from the emperor to General MacArthur’s headquarters in Manila to make arrangements for the final surrender, which was to take place on Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. They flew to Manila in two unarmed Betty bombers painted white with green crosses on wings and tails. Over Cape Sata Misaki (the southernmost point of Kyushu), they were met by two B-25 bombers, which escorted them to Ie Shima, where they landed at an American base and transferred to two Douglas C-54s, which flew them on to Manila. There, they met with MacArthur’s staff and worked out the surrender arrangements. The B-25s were provided by the 345th Bomb Group and flown by Major Jack McClure of the 498th Squadron and by Major Wendell D. Decker of the 499th Squadron — a singular honor for the B-25 pilots. Meeting the Bettys on August 19 and escorting them to Ie Shima went off without a hitch, as did transporting the envoys to Manila. At one point the negotiations were delayed when the Americans insisted the Japanese leave their swords outside the conference room. It was eventually agreed that all conferees would leave their swords and caps outside, and the conference got down to business.

The next day, when the envoys were flown back to Ie Shima, it was discovered that one of the Bettys was not airworthy. The other Japanese bomber, carrying half the envoys, was escorted back to Japan, while the remaining envoys had to wait for the second Betty to be repaired. The second planeload of Japanese was escorted home the next day by Victor Tatelman. As it happened, the first Betty ran short of fuel while returning and had to ditch in shallow water off the Home Islands, just short of Tokyo. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The second Betty arrived safely in Japan without incident.

Tatelman transferred to the Air Force Reserve in 1947, so he could pursue an aeronautical engineering degree. He received his degree just in time to be recalled to active duty in 1951. In the Korean War he flew Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars and North American F-86 Sabres as part of a ground support unit. At the end of that conflict, he decided to make the Air Force his career. After an outstanding career, Tatelman retired as a lieutenant colonel, having served at the Pentagon in addition to many other assignments.

This feature originally appeared in the May 2002 issue of Aviation History. For additional reading, try: Into The Dragon’s Jaws: The Fifth Air Force Over Rabaul, 1943, by Lex McAulay and Warpath Across the Pacific: The Illustrated History of the 345th Bombardment Group During World War II, by Lawrence J. Hickey.