This month was destined to be a momentous one in the history of the
unit. Everyone awaited the word to move, and it would not be accurate to say that an
entirely unknown destination lay ahead as it was fairly common knowledge that our next
home would be somewhere in the Philippines. A full moon tide combined with a strong
onshore wind gave the officers (all encamped along the shore) many anxious and in some
cases, wet moments. The Officer's Mess built over the water on pilings, was dismantled
just before the wind and water completed the job.
Our first mission of importance was
dive-bombing Halong Float plane base. As the target was closed in by weather, the planes
bombed Kairatoe on Ceram Island as an alternate, with good results.
Monday October 9th, sixteen of our '38's took off for Morotai in the Halmaheras where
they were to stage to Balikpapen, Borneo, a most important Jap oil center. Among the
pilots participating was Major Richard Bong, leading ace of the Army Air Force. Commanding
Officer Major Wally Jordan led the squadron. The distance to the target was 813 miles, a
round trip of well over 1600 miles and doubtlessly one of the longest fighter cover
missions ever flown by any unit in any theater. The enemy intercepted the strike which
took place on October 10th. Our planes definitely destroyed 6 enemy planes with all of our
planes and pilots returning safely to Morotai. Major Wally Jordan destroyed two planes, 1st Lts.
E. Howes and W. Curton each got one and Major Bong accounted for two, bringing his
score up to an impresssive 30 planes destroyed in aerial combat.
On 13 October LST No. 610, which our squadron was to use for the move, arrived safely
at Bosnek. Our planes took off again for Morotai, where once more they were to stage to
Balikpapen. All during the nights of 14 and 15 October our ship cruised up and down off
Biak Island, as the deep water prevented anchoring. During the day 5 more LST's joined the
convoy of 3 ships carrying the 49th Fighter Group, making a total of eight. At 1700 we got
underway to Hollandia where the big convoy was to form. While floating offshore, we were
electrified to hear that our pilots had once more engaged the enemy at Balikpapen and had
shot down 11 enemy planes as well as probably destroying 3 more, with all of our planes
and pilots returning intact. By this feat the 9th passed the rival 80th Fighter Squadron
which had taken the lead in the SWPA, and once more the 9th was champion.
Early on October 18 our convoy, by now over 75 ships, left Hollandia bound for the
Philippine Islands. After we were a couple of days out, Troop Commander Capt. Knight
informed the 9th Squadron and the 49th Group Headquarters (also on board) that our
destination was Tacloban, principal city of Leyte, one of the Visayan group in the