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.
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
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
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
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.