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May 1945 - Part 1


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9FS Unit History

April 1945 - Part 2


The 16th of April was a triumph for the Engineering Department, as well as Operations. On that day, twenty planes were scheduled to fly five missions of PBM and Submarine cover to Formosa. All five flights completed their commitments without a single mechanical failure, averaging six hours per airplane and amassing a total of 119:50 combat hours for the squadron in one day. This exceptional record of excellent maintenance heretofore unequalled in a squadron noted for its high standard of engineering efficiency.

In the period 1st to 20th of April, a maintenance percentage of 86.8% was attained by the Engineering Department under the direction of Captain Davidson, squadron Engineering Officer. This was accomplished with a 30% shortage of enlisted personnel and a 50% shortage in tools and equipment, under the stress of continual daily commitments of twelve to sixteen planes, operating off of a rough, uneven, metal strip, hard on landing gear and tires and exposed to constant, fine blowing sand and salt spray, and scourge of carburetors. Incidentally, the percentages for February and March of this year were 85.2% and 80.9% respectively. The difficulty in obtaining parts and replacements was also an obstructing factor to the high record, and transferring parts from one ship to another, or plain "scrounging", played an important part.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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