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June 1945 - Part 2


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9FS Unit History

June 1945 - Part 1


Compared to the world shaking events occurring in May, June was a quiet month. It was a month of changes for the squadron with additions, cozy missions, rest and re-equipping; a month which found the Ninth out of a combat zone for the first time in many months, furnishing air support for the 6th Army's break through Balete Pass into the Cagayan Valley, winding up the Philippine Campaign. Captain Howes arrived back to the squadron after four months in the States on temporary duty during which he attended Air Corps Gunnery School at Matagorda, Texas. One afternoon, a few days later, Captain Norton was informed, via telephone from Group, that his orders returning him to the States were awaiting to be picked up, whereupon he joyfully hustled over to Squadron Operations, erased his name as Operations Officer and put Lt. Hanisch in his place. He was obviously pretty happy about it, as he said, "I've been packing and unpacking for a month, practicing up for this."

Captain Norton, known to the squadron as "Fat Boy", was a product of Texas. One of those cowboys who never rode a horse, he had an acute sense of humor and was an inveterate poker player. As a matter of fact, he left the squadron with several hundred pesos of the pilots' money, the proceeds of a recent game of chance. He completed over five hundred combat hours in his eighteen months with the squadron. He assumed the duties of operations officer in February 1945. The squadron lost an excellent pilot, a good friend and a good leader when he left. He certainly deserved a rest.

On the 7th, one of those strange, inexplicable tragedies occurred in the squadron. On that afternoon, fourteen planes took off on a dive bombing mission to the Cagayan Valley, Major Petrovich leading. The weather was bad between the field and the target and considerable time was spent locating it, but finally the mission was completed and the flights returned to base just ahead of a rain squall approaching from the north. Upon landing, it was learned that Lt. Simon had some trouble starting his engines and had taken off some twenty minutes late. His desire to get off in spite of the delay was occasioned by the fact that he was carrying napalm tanks and they are practically impossible to remove safely on the ground. Usually, they must be expended in the air once attached to the plane. When Lt. Simon failed to return after a short time, the controller "Ashlum" was called to be on the lookout for him. The evening wore on, darkness set in, and the last word heard from him was by Captain Cobb who was flying the Group's C-47 on a courier mission, returning from Laoag, on Northern Luzon. He landed around 1730 hours and stated that he had been in radio contact with Lt. Simon, who was also in contact with the GCI Stations at both Lingayen and Laoag, and at last reports he was forty miles due north of Lingayen strip, on instruments, and heading south. He never showed up. Lt. Simon joined the 9th on Mindoro in January 1945, a veteran flier with over two thousand hours in training and tactical type aircraft. What occurred to him during the last few minutes of flight before he would have broken out in the clear at Lingayen will probably never be known. The weather at this time, incidentally, was often poor in the afternoon, with towering cumulus build-ups over the mountains to the east and a low overcast with scattered showers in the Lingayen Valley. The strip would be closed upwards of half an hour while one of these showers meandered across the area, but few violent storms occurred and weather was seldom actually dangerous to pilots.

During the early part of the month nearly all of the missions were ground support in Northern Luzon with one-thousand pound instant demolition and 165 gallon belly-tank napalm bombs. A general re-equipping of the organization was in progress and five of the 9th's pilots journeyed to Biak Island to ferry back five brand spanking new P-38 L-5's. Lt. Bryant led the flight, flying war wearies down, and by nursing, cajoling, and even performing minor repair jobs of their own, the pilots managed to complete the trip without undue incident.

Another ferry trip, this time to Leyte Island, ended in near tragedy, however. Lieuts. Moeller, Easterbrook, Koby, flew in a C-47 to Leyte on the morning of the 9th, picked up three new planes, and started back about 1700 hours. The flight was split up when it hit bad weather southeast of Luzon and Lt. Moeller landed at Clark Field without knowledge of the whereabouts of the other two planes. The first the squadron was aware of something wrong was the following day when Lt. Moeller arrived back in Lingayen sans Koby and Easterbrook. Tracers were immediately sent out when they failed to put in an appearance, and information was received that two P-38's had landed at a field in Southern Luzon. It wasn't until the eve of the 10th that word was received over the teletype that Easterbrook had crash landed in the waters near Daet, in Camerines North Province, and was with elements of the 158th Regt. Combat Team. Lt. Koby's whereabouts were still unknown. Six days later a sunburned, unshaven, unkept individual in Navy denims put in his appearance at the squadron, and Lt. Poston had to return Koby's air mattress; the prodigal had returned.

A break through the Balete Pass area on or about the 6th by elements of the 37th and 25th Divisions, started one of the most amazing routes of the Imperial Japanese Army in the history of the war. An estimated force of 14,000 Nips stood between the 6th U.S. Army and the upper reaches of the Cagayan Valley around Santiago and Echaque, yet the American forces advanced miles up the National Highway #5 meeting little resistance. On the 9th, they were within four miles of Bagabag and Philippine based planes had dropped three hundred tons of bombs in support of this advance. Ground support was an ever changing picture, today's target becoming tomorrow's rear lines. After being held up over four months in the Balete Pass area, the Yanks cleaned up the Cagayan Valley in twenty days after the break through, when elements of the 511th Parachute Infantry, coming south from Aparri, 3,000 yards east of Alcala at 1235 hours, 26 June. During this period of rapid advance, the 9th played an unusual and important part. They maintained a continuous air alert over Tuguegarao from 0830 hours to 1600 hours, 20th June, while Philippine Army troops made a crossing of the Cagayan River in an endeavor to take the enemy stronghold. The day's flying involved twenty-one pilots and planes, flying thirty-eight sorties to amass a total of seventy-three combat hours for the squadron. Twenty-five tons of demolition bombs and 5,280 rods of ammunition were fired. Lt. Vance scored top honors for the day with a bit of pin point bombing by dropping a thousand pounder right in the middle of a machine gun nest, destroying same.



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