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October 1944 - Part 1


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9FS Unit History

September 1944


The new month commenced most suspiciously with the 1st mission to the Philippines. Following an established precedence the 9th was selected to be among the first fighters to return to the Islands. The squadron went to Middleburg, Dutch New Guinea, the previous day. They were to take off from there for Davao (on Mindanao) 690 miles away. Just before reaching San Augustin Point on Mindanao, a large storm front was encountered and the squadron reluctantly returned after being nearly in sight of its goal.

On 2 September our planes took off from Middleburg to try to get through to Davao once more. This time the weather was favorable and the squadron reached the target. Despite expectations (justified by the importance of this base to the enemy) the resistance met was slight. No enemy planes rose to intercept and the anti-aircraft fire was slight and inaccurate. Two other P-38 squadrons were fortunate enough to find 3 enemy planes, definitely not interceptors, and shot them down. Our squadron saw no indication of enemy air activity.

A dive bombing mission was executed against Amahai airstrip on 2 Sept. by the 9th. Upon returning to Biak prior to landing, a very sad tragedy occurred. Lt. J. McLean was buzzing along the shore line and pulling up, attempted a roll. For some unexplained reason the plane did a one and a half turn and knifed into the water, leaving hardly no visible signs of its entry. Neither plane nor pilot was recovered, the depth being about 700 feet. Lt. McLean had been with the 9th since July of last year and was highly regarded by officers and men, both because of his flying ability and quiet demeanor and conduct. His passing is a distinct loss to the unit.

A personnel area at Galela in the Halmaheras was dive-bombed on the 5th, when 7 bombs out of a total of nine fell in the assigned area, the other 2 being near misses which undoubtedly caused damage.

Four of our planes covered a PBY rescue plane over the northern Celebes on Sept. 6th, which was the first time our squadron had gone to that area. About 20 miles east of Lembeh Island, one lone Jap Zeke (whose pilot may be commended more for his rashness than his caution and flying ability) made a unique attack on our flight. The Zeke made a head-on pass at the flight, pulling out about 300 feet above. When over the formation, 2 phosphorus bombs were dropped, causing no damage. After dropping the bombs the enemy plane made a diving turn, a very grave error, as it allowed Lt. H. Norton to get on its tail. He fired some accurate bursts, causing the enemy fighter to smoke. After Lt. Norton peeled up, his wingman (Lt. W. Baxter) came in closely, firing on the tail of the Zeke which crashed into the sea.

Twelve of our '38's went to a new target Sept. 7th, when Djalolo strip on Halmahera Island was dive-bombed. A perfect score was made with all bombs hitting the runway. A strafing pass on nearby Sahoe left several warehouses burning furiously. Amahai runway was left unserviceable by our squadron which dive-bombed it on the 10th. The following day, Sept. 11th, the squadron was assigned the task of bombing Liang Airdrome in Ceras. The planes found weather closed in over the target, and selected Boela oil fields as their alternate. After a most effective bombing, 2 flights vigoriously strafed the entire area. During one of the passes the plane piloted by Lt. H. J. Frank was seen to be afire in both engines. Whether a mechanical fault or ground fire was responsible is unknown, but the plane was seen to crash near runway number 1. Lt. Frank bailed out, and when last observed was falling into the woods 2000 feet southeast of the runway. The extent of the enemy installations where he landed is not known, but since the area is very well built up, it is thought that he was captured. Lt. Frank had been with the 9th only a few weeks, and his loss was a shock. Weather was bad the following few days, but on the 15th a fruitless search mission of the Boela area was made.

On 17 September nearly all the pilots went to Nadzab to bring back new planes, P-38L's. The 49th Group is being converted to an all P-38 outfit, so the 7th and 8th squadrons will have their pilots checked out in '38's. Ninth squadron P-38J's were divided between the other 2 squadrons for this purpose. No missions were scheduled until Sept. 30 when Amahai strip was dive-bombed with excellent results.

Red alerts and air raids were much more scarce this month. There were a few bombs dropped in the vicinity of Sorido Sept. 1st. On Sept. 7th Owi Island was bombed during the early morning hours. About 3:30 A.M. on 9 September, 8 or 9 enemy bombers came over our base and Owi Island. The searchlights caught one bomber directly over the field and were able to keep the lights on it during the entire run. Anti-aircraft fire was spectacular but ineffective and the bomber leisurely completed a 180 degree turn and departed. A large series of explosions was seen in the direction of Japen Island which caused much conjuncture as to whether it was a plane crashing or bombs being jettisoned. It was later learned that one of the P-61 night-fighters shot down one of the raiders, causing it to crash on Japen Island. The enemy planes remained overhead well over an hour and dropped bombs, none of which fell in our area. A second enemy bomber was shot down, but after the only two night-fighters airborne denied being responsible, it became obvious that in the confusion one of the enemy bombers had shot down its companion. Many tracers were seen going into the doomed aircraft before it crashed, and as neither of our planes was firing at the time, there is little doubt that the Japs are still living up to the saying coined at Wewak: "It's a hell of a way to run an air force!"

September 14th, the squadron was surprised and greatly pleased to have Major Richard Bong, leading ace in the SWPA and former 9th pilot, pay a visit. This is Major Bong's third tour of duty in this theater, and it is hoped he will add to his score of 27 enemy planes shot down in combat. Until recently the Major was the leading ace in the Army Air Force, but has just been topped by Lt. Col. Gabreski (now a prisoner of war) in the European theater.

Late in the month the squadron was alerted preparatory to moving to an unknown destination in the near future. Needless to say, rumors, opinions, ideas and conjectures ran rampant, but the Philippines was the favorite of the majority. The move will be nearly all waterborne, with the air echelon cut to a minimum.

Four of our oldest pilots in point of service left for home during the month. Capt. Ralph Wandrey, Capt. D. Moore and 1st Lts. J. Chandler and C. Kamphausen departed for the States. Although their leaving was a distinct loss to the unit, they had performed their duty, faithfully and well, and deserve to return to their native shores. Captain Wandrey's departure now leaves the 9th without any current aces on the roster. It is hoped this situation soon will be rectified.

The prize rumor of the year broke loose on the 19th when the entire Island of Biak teemed with the news that Germany had surrendered. Many premature joyous celebrations were held before the cold fact of grim realism dawned. It was formally announced by field grade officers at Nadzab that the European War was over, and our ferry pilots brought what they thought were glad tidings, only to be rudely awakened. The morale of the entire outfit was elevated to heights undreamed of on Sept. 14 when it was announced that the rotation plan had bogged down, by the word that it would be brought up to date with the imminent departure of the July, August and September quotas. Two days later, 1st Lt. F. Campau, 9th armament officer, and 50 enlisted men left for the States. It must be admitted that none was reluctant. During the month many new pilots were assigned to the squadron, and it is expected that future chapters of the history will ring with their accomplishments.



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