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August 1944


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9FS Unit History

July 1944


The month commenced uneventfully with all the officers and men industriously engaged in fixing up their living quarters. Slowly but surely the camp took on an orderly appearance.

A brief description of Biak would possibly be in order at this time. It is the larger of 2 main islands comprising the Schouten Group. The other island, Soepiori, separated by a narrow channel, lies to the northwest. A number of islets lie off the coasts of Soepiori, but are of no military importance. Off the southeast coast of Biak are the Padaido Isles of which Owi island is occupied by us, with 2 large air force installations in the progress of being completed. The eastern one-third of Biak island where our Group is encamped, and where all three airfields (Mokmer, Sordio and Boeroke) are situated, is drained entirely by filtration to underground streams. Since rivers are non-existent, water presents more of a problem to the squadron than in the past. At low tide, water seeps out of the coral along the shore, and the usual method of bathing is to await low tide and use a bomb crater for a tub. One can also find a depression in which a helmet can be dipped, and by pouring water over one's body, a bath may be had. The water is brackish but cool enough to be refreshing; it contains, among other things a goodly number of coral snakes!

Nothing of interest happened during the first few days except several red alerts at night, especially during the early hours of the morning, but none materialized into raids. The artillery was blasting away continuously at Japs who were ensconced in caves (called the Ibdi pocket) on the steep cliffs overlooking our encampment. It was a common habit to sit at the open-air mess hall and watch shell bursts a short distance away, meanwhile counting mentally the seconds that elapsed between the flash of the burst and the sound of the explosion. On the 5th the Japs were considered neutralized and our artillery show ceased.

During the month the infantry boys came around faithfully, offering fabulous bargains in souvenirs to squadron personnel. With each souvenir came a hair-raising story of how it was obtained, and the prices paid were in distinct ratio to the fertility of the seller's imagination. Gin, at $60 a bottle, was a common barter medium, and the "snow jobs" grew heavy as the liquor flowed more free!

On every side was evidence of the late Jap occupancy. Before such areas were declared out of bounds, intelligence personnel and some of the officers made a survey of the perimeter. A Jap warehouse yielded a large number of clamp-style Jap ice skates, much baseball equipment, and some cases of Jap BEER! Many cans of the latter vanished into the tents of the 9th before the commanding general put the place off limits and surrounded it with MP's.

An examination of three wrecked Jap Naval guns was an impressive example of our air attacks prior to the landing.

The blackout which had been enforced from the time of our arrival was lifted July 3rd, and we had our first movie which was not cut off by enemy raids. On the 6th in the early hours of the morning, a Jap plane made a run on the strip and dropped a few bombs, causing no harm. Inasmuch as our camp is lined up with the length of the strip, it was unanimously desired that the enemy not over-shoot! In the evening the movie was interrupted 3 times by red alerts, and on one alert a plane appeared and was greeted by an impressive if not effective anti-aircraft barrage. Later in the evening Owi Island was bombed, putting the radio station temporarily out of commission.

An amphibious and paratrooper landing was made at Kamiri strip on Noemfoor Island (about 90 miles west of Biak, halfway to the New Guinea mainland) on 2 July, and 5 days later Namber strip there was captured. Kornasonren strip located there was also taken, giving the allies possession of the entire island.

Until the 8th, the missions flown by the squadron were very prosaic patrols, but on this date our planes escorted B-25's to Fac Fac. Upon completion of the bombing all the flights strafed the target with fine results. Lt. H. Oglesby strafed a warehouse which turned out to be an ammunition depot. The resultant explosion threw debris to a very respectable height. Passing thru all the flying boxes and miscellaneous matter fouled up the coolant system of his plane, and Lt. Oglesby came home on one engine with his right prop feathered, a distance of 290 miles, landing safely. Pieces of ammunition boxes lodged in his intercoolers bore mute testimony to the fate of the warehouse. This was an example of good minimum altitude strafing.

Except for a few alerts at night, we pursued the even tenor of our ways, flying routine patrols and escorting the air-sea rescue PBY's without incident until July 14th, when a large strike was made on the famous Boela oil fields on Ceram. All of our flights strafed when the bombers had finished, sinking a Jap-filled boat and firing a lugger moored to a jetty. The strike was a huge success, with oil storage tanks flaming nicely when we left.

Once more came a period of monotony, and except for a one flight strafing mission to Wardo (on Biak) with unobserved results, routine patrols were our lot. On the 27th our planes escorted B-24's to the Halmahera Islands 600 miles distant, but weather intervened and the mission was incomplete.

The following day, July 28th, the first combat since memorable 3rd June took place over Ceram. The squadron escorted B-24's and '25's to the Boeroe-Ambon area. While over Elpapoetih Bay, western Ceram, the squadron observed 2 enemy planes at 6,000 feet while our planes were at 12,000. One Jap aircraft disappeared into the clouds as the 9th flights closed in on the remaining plane, a Val type dive bomber. This plane also tried to evade by using cloud cover, and finally after several planes had fired many rounds without apparent result, Lt. J. Haislip scored on a perfect tail shot, causing the Val to plunge into the sea and explode. This engagement comprised the sole aerial combat for the month.

On 30 July the squadron covered the amphibious landing at Cape Sansapor and Middleburg Island in Northern New Guinea, and despite expectations, the enemy air force made no appearance. The month ended with a fine search light and anti-aircraft display when Jap bombers came over our area. No bombs fell in our vicinity, but Owi island was hit causing a large fire which could be seen plainly from our camp.

During the month many things were accomplished toward making our camp as civilized as possible. A screened mess hall was built, and after much difficulty a portable building was obtained and erection began on a combination alert and Intelligence-Operations hut. It is felt that all reasonable expectations had been fulfilled in the line of progress, and all awaited the coming month with confidence.


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