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September 1945


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9FS Unit History

August 1945


August started out calmly enough, but in the thirty-one days of the summer month the 9th Squadron was caught in the vortex of a cyclone of events that ended with its reaching a goal of three and a half years of combating the Japanese: that of landing at the enemy's capital city, Tokyo.

As the month opened, the war was going full swing and the "Flying Knights" were looking forward to again being in the thick of it by first moving to Okinawa and then possibly taking part in the initial landings on Kyushu. On the 3rd, the ground echelon loaded on LST's at Lingayen, leaving a large air echelon behind, better equipped than on previous moves with electric lights, showers and mess hall facilities available. Twenty-seven C-46's were to be put at the unit's disposal in a few days. Another move was under way. On the 8th the news of the destruction of Hiroshima by a new atomic bomb came over the radio and electrified the camp. All sorts of possibilities were apparent and enthusiastically discussed as more information was received. An ultimatum was to be communicated to Japan giving them forty-eight hours to surrender. That same day Russia was reported to have entered the war.




Around 200 hours, 10 August - a previously quiet camp came to life as news started filtering out that the war was over. This was quickly qualified to mean that the Japanese had agreed to the terms of the Potsdam Conference provided they could keep their emperor. At first only those who had been listening to the radio were sure of the event, false V-E Day in Europe making most of the men cautious. But the shots, laughter and singing began to grow in volume as more and more troops were infected with the thought that the war might indeed be finished. Even subsequent realization that the Japanese proposal had yet to be accepted by the allied governments failed to dampen spirits and a few over- exuberant celebrators started firing carbines and .45's much to everyone's discomfort.

The morning of the 11th, C-46's of the 2nd Troop Carrier Wing were to take off with 9th Cargo and personnel aboard, following the day earlier section of the air echelon to Okinawa. Mid-morning brought orders to unload these planes and it became a matter of conjecture whether the 9th would complete the move in the light of recent develop- ments. It was a point of agreement that Lingayen was the better place to be during the hectic days to follow and an idea was put forth that the group might be sent to Japan directly as part of the occupation forces. Six plane loads of equipment and men were already on Okinawa and the water echelon was on its way. Meanwhile, post-war plans for out-of-work fighter pilots were discussed as news of allied acceptance of the surrender terms was awaited. From such news as did come over the air it was apparent that the United States was unprepared for the Nip's sudden decision to quit and it was rumored that a poll of civilian reaction to the idea found the majority opposed to our acceptance, which didn't sit too well among the fighting organizations. At 1830 hours, the assembled pilots of the group were informed that the morrow would see them bound for Okinawa.

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

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

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

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

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



On Wednesday, 29 August, twenty-five airplanes received preliminary loading of C-rations, cots, blankets, and pilots' clothes. At first sixteen planes were to make the trip as the honor squadron then the number was upped to twenty-five, and finally down to eight. The eight oldest pilots in the squadron, all veterans of the Leyte Campaign and two second tour boys form Gusap, took off with a four plane additional escort at 1200 hours, 30 August 1945. Major Petrovich, squadron C.O., led the flight with Lt. Corley flying his wing. S/Sgt. Serapin was riding piggy-back in Corley's ship. Lt. Oglesby, veteran of 150 missions and 400 combat hours with four Nips to his credit and then on his second tour of duty flew Red Flight Element. Lt. Gribble, veteran of the Leyte scrap, flew number four. Captain Howes, with over 598 combat hours and four Nips destroyed in aerial combat under his belt led White Flight with Captain Clark flying his wing. Lt. Poston, who returned to combat with Oglesby when stateside flying proved too dull, led White Flight Element with Lt. Smith, back just south of Kyushu and the eight original planes winged on thru a clear sky, though thunderheads and towering cumulus hovered over the mountains to the west. Three and one-half hours out, towering Fujiyama became visible through the haze ahead, its top hidden in clouds, as the flat, green plains of the Atsumu-Hanto peninsula passed under the left wing. The flights landed at Atsugi Airstrip, southeast of Tokyo, at 1615 hours and were parked by Colonel Gerald Johnson, former group commander, then operations officer of the first American airstrip in Japan, in a grassy field just north of the strip.

Two news photographers briefly took pictures of the group, then disappeared along with the Colonel, leaving the eight fliers feeling very much alone in the middle of Japan and the object of restrained curiosity on the part of the few Nips that strolled by. As the fliers unloaded their planes, a group of black-uniformed Japanese police, complete with sword and side-arms, looked on interestedly and counted the Jap flags painted on the side of the "Lockheedos". The conquering heroes had not thundered over the enemy capital, impressing the populace with their skill and numbers. Instead, they slipped away quietly in a short time before dusk and were almost immediately lost in the shuffle. Four A-26's of the Third Attack landed and parked in the same area, with four Ninth squadron crew chiefs aboard, and later two B-24's completed the advance echelon of the Fifth Air Force in Japan.

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

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

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

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

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


Mt. Fujiyama - 1945

Mt. Fujiyama - 1945
[c/o Warren Fowler]



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