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9FS Unit History

September 1945


The advance echelon of the squadron, twenty-seven pilots and six crew chiefs, ate their last meal as guests of the Japanese government on the night of the second and for the next week or so food was a major problem. The "C" rations brought up in the P-38's (14 cases) wouldn't quite stretch so, while no one actually went hungry, it was necessary to scrounge around for food, borrowing a case here and there from other outfits. Captains D. Bux and Davidson arrived on the 14th with another section of the air echelon (one C-46 load) along with Major Basmania and Lt. Mueller of the Group Medics, and joined the little band of pioneers.

No efforts had been made to locate the advance party in any sort of permanent area. Instead they were just useless and unwanted guests of the 63rd Service Group, which, it must be said, did their best to help by housing and feeding twelve of the officers while the rest of the party bedded down in an old school building on the post in a catch-as-catch can existence. No one seemed to know anything one way or the other about the eventual disposition of the 49th Fighter Group until Thursday, 6 September, 8th day of occupation, when, on word from Colonel Johnson, Maj. ' Pete' drove to Tachikawa Drome where it was believed that the unit might be moved. The Major discovered at Tachikawa advance elements of 5th Air Force and was told to move immediately to Chofu Drome, eight miles west of Tokyo and a good hour and a half drive over rough, secondary roads from Atsugi. Since the squadron's transportation consisted of two jeeps and trailer and one cranky, undependable Jap truck put into operation by the enlisted men, the term "immediate" was a little overstated. Captain Howes contacted Major Huckabe, C.O., of the "Flying Circus", and made arrangements to borrow a C-47 to facilitate the move. Major Basmania contacted a Chemical company at Atsugi and traveled with their DDT unit to Chofu to de-flea the group's new barracks on the 7th. Meanwhile, Major Pete traveled by jeep to Chofu and contacted General Wolfe, who further instructed him in the move and represented the first definite authority yet received on anything having to do with the 9th in Japan. The move was held up on the 8th when the borrowed C-47 broke down, and the remainder of the Group's fighters arrived in Atsugi.

Day dawned clear and bright on the 9th and the move to Chofu was finally completed. By this time the advanced party had grown in size to thirty-two enlisted men and twenty-nine officers of the 9th with approximately sixty additional officers of the two other squadrons and headquarters. Chofu was back to the country compared to Atsugi. The barracks were one-story, dark brown wooden structures, dank, dark, and filled with cobwebs and dust. The DDT effectively evicted or slaughtered the former tenants but it couldn't remove the musty odors or the collected dirt of months. The enlisted men erected squad tents which they seemed to prefer until rain and wind drove them indoors, and the officers set to work to make their places livable. Japanese laborers, brought on the field by the 3rd Attack Group, the only other sizable outfit on the base, were put to work cleaning up the area.

Once again indecision reigned, since no one seemed to know where to go or what to do. The quarters assigned to the 49th wouldn't possibly accommodate the entire group, or did the 3rd Attack have excess room. There were no other quarters on the field or nearby and some work was done on one of the hangars on the line fortunate in retaining its roof, with an eye to moving the enlisted men into it when the water echelon arrived. Meanwhile, each individual worked around his own area or went sightseeing or souvenir collecting. Some dug up and put into operation automobiles or trucks while others had bicycles on loan from the neighbors. When rations threatened to run out, Captain Davidson drove to Yokohama and drew "B" rations from the quartermaster at the docks since no local quartermaster was set up yet. No one in authority seemed to be available so once again an orphan had to shift for itself.

Finally on 13 September, definite instructions were again forthcoming from higher headquarters, this time from General Whitehead. The 49th was to move back to Atsugi. The following day the squadron commanding officers and Colonel C. Tice returned to that field in search of a campsite. They selected an area about two miles southwest of the strip, a former Navy Officers' area with one huge two-story wooden building capable of housing five hundred men and all the administrative sections as well as one large mess hall for the entire group. In addition to this there were more than thirty to thirty-five individual houses large enough for up to six men each. Once again work was started on living quarters as an advance detail of officers directed Formosan laborers in a broom and shovel brigade on the 15th. On the night of the 15th the water echelon arrived at the LST docks in Yokohama, unloaded and began setting up at Atsugi. Three days later the advanced echelon moved down from Chofu, leaving the planes and a skeleton crew at Chofu until the 20th. A rear echelon was still on Okinawa and it wasn't until the 5th of October that the squadron was completely rejoined.

While the advance echelon was still at Atsugi the first time they received the welcome news via a correspondent that Captain W. Arthur, who bailed out over Formosa last July, was still alive and aboard a hospital ship in Tokyo Bay. Four of the officers went down to see him then, and later at Chofu, he paid the squadron a visit just before climbing aboard a C-54 en route to the States. He walked on crutches because of his useless ankles, broken when he landed in his chute and for which he received no medical attention from his captors. He was pale but his cheeks were fat with the unnatural rotundity of a man who has suddenly started eating well after a period of near starvation. He had received the same treatment that was by this time an old story to the world after the repatriation of thousands of prisoners of war of the Japanese, but his being of the outfit and a personal acquaintance served to further authenticate these stories.

The move back to Atsugi marked the end of a long phase in the history of the "Flying Knights". They ceased to function as a self-sustaining combat unit and became an administrative section of the 49th Group as a whole. Their activities were no longer individual but merely one-third of the activities of the group, consequently their history under a separate cover became unnecessary and merged with the history of the "Forty-Niners". In preparation for the relieving of all ground officers in the group, the newer pilots were assigned as assistants in all departments with an eye to their eventual taking over of all ground officers' duties. Several of the 9th's pilots transferred to group headquarters for this purpose, while pilots with over seventy-five points were more or less shelved for eventual return to the States, unless they had ideas of making the Army a career.

It would be impossible for the observer in the lower echelons to present properly the picture of confusion, stagnation, inconsistency and indecision that characterizes the outfit during the difficult period of conversion. The gap between cause and effect was too great to be seen from the lowly perspective, but it was apparent that the morale of officers and men alike reached an all time low for a few weeks until things got straightened out somewhat. Although the squadrons, veterans of many moves which usually resulted in starting from scratch again, had more to start with than ever before, there were few improvements apparent. The food was poor, the weather foul and progress nil. It seemed the whole outfit was stuck in the mud like its vehicles and the gray overcast that covered the sky for days at a time, reflected the spirit of the men.

This depressing atmosphere broke when the first men left under the point system around the 10th of October, transferring to the 11th Replacement Depot at Irumagawa. The Peace had finally caught up to it, writing finis to a wartime record of which the troops, past and present, could be justly proud.




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