The month started unexcitedly with routine patrols the first few days.
We were still encamped at the "temporary" area upon which descended October 24,
and awaited orders to move to the "permanent" campsite a few miles nearer the
December 5th, while on a mission to protect a convoy southeast of Leyte, 3 of
our P-38's ran into 8 Vals and 2 Oscars while the enemy was attempting to dive-bomb the
convoy about ten miles southeast of the tip of Leyte. F/O H. Hammett shot down a Val and
an Oscar, as did 2nd Lt. E. Ambort. Lt. C. McElroy destroyed a Val, making a total of
five enemy planes downed without loss to our side. Later in the day at 5 PM, four of our
'38's encountered a number of Oscars which were going in and out of clouds making
dive-bombing passes on the convoy which was then below Dulag. In the ensuing combat, Lt.
W. Curton destroyed an Oscar, making his fifth victory and creating a new ace for the
The next day some of the personnel moved into the new camp area. There were a few air
raids and several red alerts at night, and at 7 PM a blinding flash was observed in the
direction of the strip. In the morning a Jap Sally bomber was found scattered over the
east side of the strip. Several Jap bodies were around the area, a satisfactory, if
slightly gruesome sight. It was learned later that this was an "honor mission"
in which the purpose was to fly into the traffic pattern, crash land on the strip, and
disperse the occupants of the plane in the vicinity of the landing. The Japs were equipped
with mines which adhered to the plane until detonated. Obviously a great deal of damage
could have been wrought with such a surprise attack. Unfortunately for the Japs, our
anti-aircraft defenses penetrated the deception and when the Sally came over the south end
of the strip it was greeted by everything that could be thrown up, and it 'augered' in as
only the Japs seem to be able to do. Our technical intelligence lads were on the job
early, much to the disgruntlement of souvenir hunters who were also on the scene as early
and faithful as ever! At least 2 Samurai swords were in the wreckage, and subsequent
checking showed all of the enemy were officers and all had civilian clothes beneath their
uniforms except one who wore an American army uniform under his Jap one.
On December 7th, Lt. McElroy's flight, while patrolling Carigara Bay, spotted a Jap
convoy off the northwest tip of Leyte and called it in. Before returning to base the
flight tangled with an equal number of Oscars over Ormoc, and probably destroyed one
before the Japs dived into clouds. The flight of Capt. W. Treadway was jumped out of the
sun at Ormoc by an unknown number of Oscars, one of which was damaged by Lt. C. Gupton.
Just east of Ponson Island Lt. McElroy's flight, on a second mission, encountered 8 to 10
Oscars and a Zeke. Lt. McElroy destroyed an Oscar and Lt. Ambort a Zeke, with no damage in
the process. On his 3rd mission Lt. McElroy's entire flight shot at a Lily over the convoy
at Ponson Island, and Lt. Williams got credit for its destruction. Meanwhile, Capt.
Treadway's flight dive bombed Route #2 in the Valencia section, cratering the road. After
completing this, the flight ran into a number of Zekes, and Treadway and Lt.
each destroyed one. Despite the action of this day, the squadron moved to the new campsite
The next week was comparatively uneventful. Early on the 10th, a blinding flash and one
of the loudest explosions heard to date, awakened the camp. It was not a bombing but the
destruction of approximately one hundred tons of TNT near Palo. Its cause was not
determined although the electrical storm going on at the time might well have accounted
for it. On 10th December First Lt. Hamburger returned to the squadron after having been
missing since 5 November, when he bailed out near Ormoc.
12 December 1944, was a very proud day for the 9th Fighter Squadron, when General
MacArthur personally decorated Major Bong with the highest honor a grateful nation can
give, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The ceremony was simple but impressive and made a
lasting impression of the minds of on-lookers. At the time, Major Bong had 38 enemy planes
to his credit and before leaving for the United States later in the month he found time to
run his score to 40.
An unfortunate tragedy occurred on the following day (13 December). While taking off on
a routine mission, the plane piloted by 2nd Lt. J. Collins crashed into some B-24's
parked near the runway as a result of a tire blowing out. The resultant fire was terrific.
Lt. Collins was thrown clear but was burned seriously. He died before the day was over. He
also was one of the newer pilots in the unit and it is regrettable that a pilot should
lose his life under such circumstances.
The squadron covered the amphibious assault on Mindoro Island on the 15th but met no
opposition. It wasn't until the 18th that any combat resulted for our squadron. On this
day a lone Dinah was sighted about ten miles south of the beach-head and promptly disposed
of by Captain W. Williams, our operations officer. Six of our P-38's strafed Fabrica
Airdrome destroying a truck and starting two fires.
On the next day (21 December), the squadron was stunned to receive orders to move
within a few days. It was thought originally that our stay at the "permanent"
camp site would be a protracted one and nearly every tent had fine wooden flooring. Morale
was nil for awhile.
Sixteen P-38's escorted B-24's to Grace Park (Manila) on the 23rd of December. Major
Jordan and Captain Howes each shot at enemy fighters which attempted to attack the
bombers, but were unable to engage in a dogfight due to bomber escort commitment.
The squadron celebrated Christmas Day by escorting B-24s to Mabalacat Airdrome near
Manila. Approximately a dozen enemy fighters, mostly Tojos, attempted to intercept the
bombers but failed due to our squadron's prompt action. 1st Lt. A.B. Lewelling destroyed
two Tojos and 2nd Lt. D. Holladay got one. 2nd Lt. T. Smith started a Tojo smoking
violently but the combat was broken off before confirmation could be made, so Lt. Smith
was credited with only a probable.
The ensuing day (26 December) our ground echelon left on an LST bound for Mindoro. On
the same day the news was flashed that Mindoro was under attack by a Jap Naval Task Force.
As far as tactical operations were concerned there was nothing of interest for the
remainder of the month with only routine missions performed. The air echelon remained
patiently at Leyte, occupying the area located near the ground echelon of Group
The ground echelon had a very hectic voyage, not soon to be forgotten. Below Leyte the
convoy of which our unit was a part, was subjected to constant attack by dive bombers. The
LST on which the outfit had embarked had a prominent place in the lead in the convoy. A
Liberty ship nearby vanished in a terrific explosion after a Jap plane made a suicide dive
on it. Another Jap plane crash-dived the LST containing our squadron, damaging but not
sinking it. Several of our officers and men were volunteers on the ship's gun crews and
casualties were suffered by them in the crash. A .30 calibre machine gun, manned by Sgt.
J. Riley and Sgt. E. Poplansky did yeoman service and wings from the enemy airplane
showed a large number of calibre .30 holes. 1st Lt. Les Nelson acting as plane spotter
(as were 1st Lt. D. Fisher and 1st Lt. W. Lewis, Jr. at other turrets) was badly
wounded by the crash. Private 1st Class D. Smith, who was performing the duties of an
aid man on the deck, was also wounded in the action. The ground echelon landed at Mindoro
on the morning of the 30th without further loss. The vessel was speedily unloaded and camp
was set up. That night and the following had many bombings and many more alerts but no
bombs fell close to our area. Thus ended another eventful month.