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April 1944


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9FS Unit History

March 1944


March of 1944 began with great expectations of future activity as a result of the landing on the Admiralty Islands yesterday in what was intended as a large scale reconnaissance, but which developed into a full scale invasion when opposition was less than anticipated. Our squadron did not have occasion to participate in subsequent activities in this connection, and the following days were concerned solely with patrols interspersed with an occasional short fighter sweep or missions which were quite uneventful. At Group Headquarters on the evening of March 3rd, there was formally opened the only covered theater in Gusap (The Ramuvie), which was a step forward in the right direction as the weather had a tendency to wait until show time until the deluge began.

On 4 March, 5 or 6 Jap fighters made a surprise raid, strafing and bombing the squadron dispersal areas on strip #5, catching everyone unaware as there was no warning of their approach. Small anti-personnel bombs were dropped, the closest falling about 35 yards from our alert shack but causing no damage. The Japs expended a sizable number of machine gun bullets, but their sole result consisted of a number of holes in an A-20 parked nearby. Nearly everyone in the valley was treated to the spectacle of a Jap fighter being shot down in flames as a pilot from another squadron flying a P-47 attacked and destroyed one of the enemy planes. It was an inspiring sight to see the Jap 'Tony' vainly attempt to evade its fate. The P-47 came up behind the Tony and managed to score vital hits on the first burst even though the deflection was unfavorable. The Tony attempted to pull up, but caught fire, crashed and exploded.

Nothing of note concerning the 9th occurred during the following week. We were all shocked to learn that Col. N. Kearby, second only to Major Bong in number of victories in the Asiatic Theatre, was shot down over Wewak while on a fighter sweep March 5th. Two days later we heard that Lt. Col. Thomas Lynch, a running mate of Bong on fighter sweeps to various enemy bases, was shot down at Wewak by ack ack fire. No tracers were used by the enemy, and it is believed that Lynch was unaware of the proximity of the battery.

10 March was Japanese Army Day, and at Wewak on an escort mission one of our flights spotted an enemy 'Zeke'. The squadron leader scored a few hits, but the enemy pilot, showing no enthusiasm for combat, dove away and successfully avoided destruction.

Two days later a similar situation occurred over Boram Strip at Wewak, and once again the enemy managed to elude his pursuers.

Several of our newer pilots had their first taste of combat on the 13th of March when 16 of the 9th's '47's encountered 40 to 50 enemy fighters consisting of Zekes, Oscars and Tonys, at Wewak. Due to inexperience our boys split up badly, but used correct evasive tactics and made good use of the conventional two-ship element formation. Three of our planes were slightly damaged by gunfire, but all returned safely and no one was injured. Captain Ralph Wandrey, who was leading the squadron on this mission, dived at a Zeke which turned tail and ran. The enemy fighter dived at a 60 degree angle and Wandrey followed it down, scoring hits on its fuselage and right wing root, causing it to crash into the ocean and explode. Lt. J. Crowder got in a long burst at an Oscar which was executing a chandelle to the right. Hits were scored on the engine and the left wheel of the Oscar dropped down. This enemy fighter was not observed to go in, but several of the pilots saw an enemy plane crash land on Muschu Isle just below the flight. Although this is believed to have been the plane attacked by Crowder, it was not considered destroyed through lack of confirmation. Lt. F. Helterline did a snap roll to evade a Tony which was behind him, and ended up on the tail of his opponent. Helterline fired a long burst into the Tony causing it to smoke badly. The enemy plane split-essed, but Helterline succeeded in getting a further burst, and when last seen the enemy fighter was going straight down, but was not seen to crash. In view of the numerical superiority of the enemy, and it being the initial combat for several of our pilots, it is felt that the squadron acquitted itself very creditably and gained invaluable combat experience.

The following day, March 14, the 9th again ran into the enemy over Wewak while being led by Captain Wally Jordan, Commanding Officer. This time our boys outnumbered the Japs as only 8 Oscars were seen, and as a result succeeded in definitely destroying 2 of the enemy and probably destroying two more. Capt. Jordan made a head-on pass, climbing into an Oscar which was beginning a diving turn into him. The Oscar passed directly in front of Jordan who gave it a burst. This plane was seen going down burning firecely by his wing man. Lt. E. Howes dived on an Oscar scoring hits on the wings, fuselage and canopy. Two of the pilots in his flight observed this plane crash into the water. Both Lts. W. Treadway and Richard Kirkland scored hits on two enemy fighters, causing them to smoke badly, but no further results were observed. In this combat the use of 2 ship elements worked very successfully.

Early in the morning of March 15th a lone enemy bomber sneaked in, dropping two bombs in the camp area of a nearby unit, causing no damage. The unit involved made practical use of the craters as grease pits for their motor pool. Later the same day, the 9th intercepted 16 Oscars and 3 Tonys over Wewak. The enemy were experienced but were definitely not willing to engage in combat. Lt. W. Huisman followed a Tony down to 2,000 feet, giving it a long burst. The enemy fighter started to smoke, did a split-ess, and crashed into the ocean. Two of our P-47's were slightly damaged by gunfire, but neither of the pilots were hurt. In this engagement our pilots showed that they had gained from the two previous combats, as the squadron continued routine escort and patrol missions.

On 22 March, two of our flights strafed three barges south of Aitape, beaching all three and setting two afire. The area behind a jetty nearby was also strafed, causing a large explosion with smoke rising to 4000 feet. A flight also strafed Angoram with unobserved results. March 25th an unidentified enemy ship was seen about 2 miles northwest of Mairiru Isle off Wewak heading out to sea. Two flights dived to strafe the ship, starting to fire from about 2500 feet. Upon coming closer, a dirty red cross was seen on the roof of the cabin, not visible beyond 2000 feet. It was not recognized as a hospital ship until the red crosses were seen on its sides from 60 feet, and no name was visible. None of the planes scored hits on the ship as they ceased the attack immediately upon recognition as a non-combatant vessel.

The 9th carried out routine missions until March 30th when the first large scale attack was made on Hollandia. As the target was out of range of our P-47's, our squadron rendezvoused with the bombers at Tadji after the bombing and escorted them home uneventfully. On the last day of March the squadron escorted light and medium bombers to Wewak while heavy bombers struck at Hollandia. No enemy planes were seen airborne. Three strafing passes were made by the 9th on seven barges off Cape Bjeruen, causing all of them to burn fiercely, two of them sinking before our planes left the area. Slightly more action occurred this month than during the preceding one, as the 9th engaged in three aerial combats, destroying four enemy planes and probably destroying three more without loss to our squadron.



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