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September 1944


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9FS Unit History

August 1944

The month began uneventfully enough with only one mission during the first 3 days, a patrol over a convoy in the Cape Sansapor region at the scene of the landings late last month. The morale of the entire squadron was lifted with the announcement that a plan had been arranged whereby the squadron would share with Group and the other 2 squadrons, food supplies to be purchased in Australia and for which payment would be made by assessment of the personnel. There were no dissenters to this plan which was hailed with enthusiasm. Since our stay on Biak Island the food had been monotonous, with little or no fresh eggs or meat and absolutely no fresh vegetables.

On August 4th our planes again engaged in aerial combat. The 9th escorted B-24's to Liang on Ambon Island and encountered about six Zekes - the Jap navy's mainstay zero fighter. The enemy planes were flying above our bombers dropping phosphorus bombs on the formation but making no passes at our planes. The primary purpose of our planes being to protect the bombers, our pilots restrained their natural impulse and remained with the bombers rather than be lured away and leave our bombers open to attack by other Jap planes in the area. A P-38 from another squadron was seen at the mercy of a Zeke which was on its tail, so 2 of our pilots, Lts. McElroy and Hufford finally caught it in a steep chandelle, whereupon the Zeke exploded in mid-air. This is the 2nd plane shot down by McElroy; his first being a victory over Babo on 3 June.

In the evening the pilots were addressed by Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, who is assigned to teach fuel economy for maximum range of the P-38. Col. Lindbergh's engaging personality made his talk most interesting, and though he has "non-combatant" status, he unofficially accompanied the 9th flights part of the way on some missions, demonstrating in the air his points on fuel economy.

For nearly the entire month the squadron flew routine escort to the Halmaheras and Ambon-Boeroe-Ceram areas without incident. On the 24th and 26th our planes strafed Miti strip and Wasile Bay area in the Halmaheras, and did a commendable job causing severe damage to ground installations. It was a welcome diversion for the pilots were chafing a bit because of the monotony of uneventful missions.

A couple of days later the 9th participated in what subsequently became a common place dive bombing with half ton bombs. The objective was the float plane base at Halon on Ambon Island. Out of 12 bombs dropped, eight fell in the target area, causing five fires among the slip ways and other installations. This was an excellent showing in view of the lack of previous practice. Another like mission was lined up for the next day, but weather prevented our planes from reaching Ambon. As an alternate target, the bombs were dropped on the Ransiki area, causing more damage to that much bombed spot.

Several red alerts were caused during the month by the activity of enemy planes. One evening a speedy Jap fighter made a run on Mokmer strip and dropped a few bombs, causing minor damage. The plane was caught in the search lights, but our anti-aircraft fire was far behind it. As a gesture of defiance or contempt the enemy plane turned on its running lights after completing its bombing run!

Seven enemy aircraft raided nearby Owi Island one night and the squadron was treated to an awe-inspiring anti-aircraft barrage from the other island. After the bombing which set afire some planes on the ground, one of our P-61 night fighters attacked an enemy bomber. From the beach in our camp area we saw the tracers from the night-fighter followed by a sheet of flame on the horizon when the enemy plane exploded in the sea. A thunderous cheer echoed along the entire Biak shoreline! An alarm of sorts occurred one other time in the wee hours of the morning when anti-aircraft guns of a Liberty ship anchored just off shore opened up on an unidentified aircraft. No bombs were dropped and no damage was suffered by either plane or ship, which was just as well because the plane was one of ours.

Social life took a turn for the better with the first beer sold to all personnel. The method of issuing beer is to sell 3 bottles every 3 days to each person with a monthly maximum of 24 bottles. For most of the squadron it was the first American beer to pass their lips since leaving the home country, and to say it was welcome would indeed be a masterpiece of understatement.

Radio and screen comedian Bob Hope, with Jerry Colona and Frances Langford plus others, presented a very fine show at the 7th Service Group. The performance was in the afternoon in view of the restriction forbidding assembly of Air Corps personnel at night for entertainment purposes. Despite the terrific sun the presentation was greatly enjoyed by all.

During the month 1st Lt. W. Williams returned from detached service at Melbourne and was appointed Operations Officer immediately. The entire unit was gratified by his return as he is personally very popular with the unit. He is a fine pilot and great things are expected of him.

A Medical Corps Officer, Capt. J. Ahronheim, spent most of the month in our area using the pilots as human guinea pigs in his experiments in the field of pilot combat fatigue. His experiments were based on urinalysis of the pilots morning, noon and night as well as before and after each mission. The officers cooperated very well and faithfully discharged their duty - or urine - as requested. Upon completion of the program Dr. Ahronheim donated the specimen beakers (at our pilots request) to our officers for use as glasses in the Officers Club!

On August 28th and 29th the "June List" of the rotation plan left for the States, and on this note of optimism the month ended.



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