9FS Unit History
|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.
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
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!"
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.
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.
to October 1944 - Part 1
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