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Nov. 1944 - Part 2


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9FS Unit History

November 1944 - Part 1


The month began with the arrival of the remaining men of the air echelon from Biak Island. Their trip was made without incident and all arrived safe and sound. In the meantime, the roads had grown steadily worse, and it was no mean feat just to go to the airstrip in the morning and return at night. The services of the Duck obtained from a kindly engineering outfit was a lifesaver indeed.

The night of October 31 was one of constant alerts and several raids. One string of bombs was the closest yet, and converted many of the "unbelievers". During the early morning patrol, 3 enemy planes were destroyed and one probably destroyed by the 9th. The enemy was engaged about 10 miles from our camp. Lt. C. Gupton accounted for two Vals, Lt. H. Oglesby an Oscar, and Lt. J. Forgey a probably Tojo.

2 November 1944 was the most hectic day within the memory of the present personnel of the unit. The Japs kept fighters constantly in the air over Ormoc (western Leyte) to protect one of their convoys attempting to reinforce the city. Our planes met them in combat, and before the day ended the 9th added eleven enemy planes to its total victories. Lts. W. Huisman, J. Poston and T.E. Hamilton destroyed two enemy planes each and the following officers one apiece: Lts. Oglesby, P. Nahnibida and E. Ambort. Ten of the planes were shot down during the first mission of the day and the other one on the second mission. Upon return of this second mission a tragic landing accident occurred under the shadow of the Operations alert tent. Lt. Huisman was about to land after his 2nd combat of the morning (in which he is believed to have destroyed an enemy plane) when another P-38 from one of the other squadrons came from the rear. The propellers of this plane chewed the tail off Lt. Huisman's plane, causing it to slide down the runway engulfed in flames. The other '38 barely missed the tent, going just over the top before crashing and exploding a short distance away. Several men in that area were injured; one was rescued by the heroic action of our medical enlisted men. None of the injured belonged to our unit. The pilot of this plane never had a chance, and was trapped in his seat. Meanwhile, Lt. Huisman's plane finally came to a stop, a mass of flames. Into this holocaust two of the 9th Fighter enlisted men plunged, and disregarding their own safety, succeeded in freeing Lt. Huisman who was trapped by his safety belt. They then carried him to the First Aid Station by means of a nearby jeep. Both men were recommended for the Soldiers Medal for their heroism. An enlisted man of another unit was knocked unconscious when the other plane crashed, and was taken out of the flaming wreckage by medics under similar circumstances. These men also were recommended for the Soldiers Medal. Lt. Huisman was burned badly and was evacuated. The squadron received news that he subsequently died of his injuries a few days later aboard a hospital ship. He was buried at sea with full military honors. It is regrettable that a pilot returning from a successful combat action should lose his life in an operational accident, and Lt. Huisman will be sorely missed by his comrades. On this same mission the plane flown by Lt. J. Hanisch was seen going down in the Ormoc area, and his fate is unknown at this time.

All during the day swarms of photographers and correspondents were around snapping pictures of celebrities such as Majors Richard Bong and Tom McGuire, the 2 leading fighter aces, and our squadron C.O. Major Wally Jordan. A combat photographer took many pictures of the unit at work to be used in future histories of the Air Force in the Philippines. The day ended when a second plane nearly ran into the alert tent, and all personnel concerned agreed it was a never-to-be-forgotten day!

The night of 2-3 November was one of constant alerts, with enemy planes dropping bombs every ten or fifteen minutes. Many men had their first look at a phosphorus bomb which exploded a short distance away. The long tentacles made an eerie effect and caused uneasy quivers in many a heart even though there was little danger from that bomb. In the hour preceding dawn, many of the line personnel were caught in a strafing and bombing attack, but fortunately everyone "hit the dirt" in time and no one was injured.

On November 3, 1944, the 9th ran a bombing and strafing attack on enemy shipping in Ormoc Bay. While returning from the mission the squadron sighted a large enemy convoy on Highway #2 between Ormoc and Valencia. The convoy consisted of trucks, artillery, small tanks and infantry and the 9th pilots immediately attacked. It was estimated that 25-30 trucks were destroyed and many others left smoking. An Ammo truck exploded causing additional damage; 30 to 40 horses were killed, and casualties among the troops were impossible to judge. An unconfirmed report received from Filipino guerillas and relayed to the squadron by the Army Liaison Officer gave the number of Japs killed or wounded as 2,400. An entire division sorely needed to reinforce their crumbling lines had been badly mauled and rendered temporarily impotent. This havoc was not accomplished without cost to our unit. Lt. R. Bates was last observed at 6,000 feet over Ormoc Bay, his plane apparently out of control. He was not seen to crash, and at the time it was thought he may have bailed out. If so, he would most certainly be a prisoner of war. First Lt. R. Hamburger was able to parachute successfully when his plane caught fire after the strafing. He was barely able to miss the flaming wreckage of his plane when he landed, and was picked up by friendly Filipinos and taken to the guerillas. Lt. Hamburger returned to the unit later, after evaluating his report it was felt that Lt. Bates was not killed when his plane crashed, but had been injured and in enemy hands. This information was received from guerilla sources.

After strafing the motor convoy the squadron headed for base, but was jumped by approximately 15 enemy fighters. The enemy had the advantage, and our planes were unable to add to the squadron score. Lt. B. Krankowitz had one engine shot out and was vainly trying to evade three enemy planes which were on his tail. Just as his plane was about to be riddled by Japanese bullets, he was saved by the gallant action of one of his brother officers. Lt. F. Helterline had made several passes at enemy planes and exhausted his ammunition, already largely expended during the strafing. He observed Krankowitz's predicament and despite the fact he was without ammunition, he made a daring head-on pass at the 3 enemy planes, going between the leader and his wingman and breaking up their attack. The planes immediately took after Lt. Helterline, who because of the superior performance of his plane, was able to get safely away. This brave act most assuredly saved the life of Lt. Krankowitz, and Lt. Helterline has been recommended for the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

The next night (Nov. 3rd) was the worst night to date. There was a continuous red alert form 2300 to 0630, and more than 50 separate raids were made, occurring at 10 to 15 minute intervals. Another phosphorus bomb exploded almost in the identical spot as the previous night. Shortly after dawn about 25 Jap fighters bombed the strip, flying directly over camp en route. The anti-aircraft fire was awesome in intensity, but its accuracy left much to be desired. It did, however, harass the enemy sufficiently to make the raid a failure, in that only one small crater was on the runway and one plane damaged.

The night of November 4th was almost as bad as the previous one. Constant bombing and lack of sleep was beginning to tell on the men as nerves became frayed and tempers shorter than usual. Many dug big foxholes, placed their cots therein, and slept in comparative safety, but the majority were kept hopping in and out of bed 3 or 4 times every hour. November 5th, six of our pilots received orders sending them home. They had been flying constantly and relief came at a very opportune time. The officers were 1st Lts. J. Poston, H. Oglesby, Hufford, W. Maddox, Richard Kirkland and B. Krankowitz. That night was comparatively peaceful with only two raids. The best night's sleep for a week did much to refresh both body and spirit. On Nov. 6th Lt. Hanisch surprised everyone by landing on the strip in a Cub. He was shot down near Ormoc on Nov. 2nd, and crash landed his plane in a field south of Ormoc. The enemy planes strafed him when he landed, but missed him while riddling the plane. He suffered a deep laceration of the forehead. Within 15 minutes he was picked up the guerillas and feted like a conquering hero by the Filipinos, as he was the first American they had seen in three years!

On the morning of 7 November four of our P-38's encountered enemy fighters in two separate engagements: one 20 miles west of Buri and the other over Ormoc Bay. Two Oscars were destroyed, one each by 1st Lt. E. Cooper and 2nd Lt. J. Hovik. Lt. Cooper also probably destroyed a second. The next few days were uneventful except for a comparatively minor typhoon November 8th.

Possibly one of the most dangerous missions flown by the squadron was on November 9, 1944. An enemy convoy of 12 ships including six destroyers and 2 destroyer escorts was sighted in Ormoc Bay attempting to reinforce the town. Each plane on the mission was armed with two 1,000 pound bombs. Seven planes made skip-bombing runs at masthead level through the heaviest barrage of anti-aircraft fire the pilots had ever seen. Several direct hits were made, but damage assessment was impossible due to lack of observation. Lt. D. Kanoff's plane was downed by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the Bay. He was one of our newer pilots, but his performance of duty even at the cost of his life reflected the spirit of the 9th Fighter Squadron.



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