|Preface||Chapter 8||Chapter 10|
On October 12th the 75th came back into action, and was joined by the 70th Squadron on the 24th. Escorting pursuit aircraft from Espiritu Santo to 'Canal on the 12th, No. 571 of the 75th, piloted by Lieut. Robert W. Wending, was lost in weather with crew and passengers. In addition to the crew aboard, there were two officers from the 390th who were lost, Capt. Charles D. Bergman and Lieut. John J. Schirp, Armament and Ordnance Officers, respectively.
On an early mission from the Russells, a medium altitude bombing attack on Kahili on October 24th, S/Sgt. Robert E. Floyd, Aerial Engineer, met his death. Intense fire was coming up from the target, and a shell (40MM or larger) entered the fuselage on the underside and to the right of the camera hatch, which Sergeant Floyd was bending over. The shell continued through the left top fuselage, just missing some of the control cables. The shell was apparently a dud, for there was no explosion within the plane, and later examination of the type of hole it made indicated it might have been traveling end over end. After clearing the target, the pilot, Lieut. Willard 0. Johnson, tried to check the condition of his ship with members of the crew. The interphone was out so S/Sgt. William V. McCarter, the gunner, climbed into the back and found Sgt. Floyd slumped over the camera. He gave the news to the pilot, who immediately broke formation, radioed for an ambulance and landed at Munda. But to no avail, for Floyd was killed instantly; the shell had hit him squarely in the chest.
Later in October Major Daugherty led the 70th on a strafer against the Buka-Bonis area, which is well described in a public relations release written by Capt. William Trone.
AT A BASE SOMEWHERE IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC-October 27, 1943. Flying continually over 800 miles of water, elements of the 70th Bombardment Squadron, 13th Air Force, yesterday struck Jap-held Buka Passage Airdrome in the Northern Solomons.
Just clearing the palm tree tops, the planes, led by Maj. Jean H. Daugherty, of Dallas, Texas, caught the Japs flatfooted. With all guns blazing, the planes swept over the airfield and revetment area dropping over 5000 pounds of parachute fragmentation bombs, scattering death and destruction throughout.
One cluster of bombs was observed to have exploded in and about an operations hut, completely demolishing it. One aircraft piloted by Lieut. William D. Morrison, Amenia, N. Y., with Lieut. Joseph E. Blackburn, Baltimore, Md., co-piloting, dove on the airdrome control tower, leaving it more like a sieve than a tower. Lieut. Clyde W. Wooten, Louisa, Ky., was bombardier-navigator.
Two parked Japanese airplanes identified as Bettys were strafed and burned. A gasoline dump exploded, sending flames and debris upwards to 300 feet. Black, billowing smoke could be seen 40 miles, towering up to 2500 feet.
Still another plane dove, spewing fire upon 25 to 30 Nips scurrying for cover of coconut logs, the intense fire dropping them. Major Daugherty, pilot of this plane remarked, "It was just like the movies, and those guys were big." But then, anything over 5' 7" looked big to the pintsized Major, who has to stretch to see out of the windshield.
Lieut. Paul D. Ryder, Whitman, Mass., and F/0 Roger D. Young, Bandy, Va., attacked a machine gun nest at the end of the runway that was firing upon the attack planes. The nest and occupants disappeared in a sheet of flame and smoke.
P-38s also joined in the melee, sinking one small vessel just off shore, and providing fighter cover for the bombers. All planes returned to base safely.
The Mitchells belonging to the 42nd Group were soon known as Wilson's Horses; Wilson for the Group C. 0., and Horse being the code name for a B-25 just as "Box Car" mean a B-24, "Street Car" a C-47, and so on. And Wilson's Horses soon proved themselves thoroughbreds of the first water, especially where Tojo's shipping was concerned. The best hunting was experienced in a two-day period early in November when they rang up the following scores:
SUNK: Two 300' cargo ships, two 150' cargo ships, one 150' destroyer escort, two 100' cargo ships and six supply barges.
ON WHOSE CREW WERE YOU?
DAMAGED: Two 100' cargo ships and seven supply barges.
The above catch is credited the Crusaders in the publication compiled by the Statistical Department of the Bomber Command, the official score-keepers of all bombardment aircraft claims in the South Pacific. More of this kind of warfare is taken from an account of Capt. Otto R. Hartwig, Jr., who participated in many sea searches and successful attacks against Jap shipping. He says:
"Our six Mitchells had been assigned to search the northern coast of Bougainville to intercept the supplies the Japs were expected to send to their forces on the southern end of the island. We took off from the Munda airfield while it was still dark and arrived in the search area at daylight. Almost immediately, a small convoy consisting of a supply ship, an ammunition ship, and an escorting corvette, was encountered. We made individual attacks at mast level, strafing the ships' decks with our forward-firing 50's and dropping a 500-pound bomb, and then repeated the performance on one of the other ships in the convoy. The first bombs hit the supply ship, starting a large fire, but from then on the action was too confused to follow in detail. Within 20 minutes the ammunition ship had been completely destroyed, the freighter was afire from bow to stern and settling rapidly, and the wreckage of the coverette was going down stern first. As much of our ammunition and all of our bombs bad been expended, we headed back towards Munda. At Empress Augusta Bay we were intercepted by a superior force of Zeros who attacked us aggressively and resolutely. Three of them made co-ordinated attacks on our plane, scoring four direct hits with 20MM shells and inflicting painful injuries to Lieutenant Gant, the Bombardier, and Lieut. John H. Brownell, Armament Officer of the Squadron, who was flying that day. The turret gunner and the radio operator caught one Zero in a perfect cross fire and sent him down in flames. Right after that the fighters broke off, and we returned to base without any other incidents."
With the offensive in the Solomons rolling along in "high blower", another step up the ladder of victory was taken when, on October 27th, an invasion force combining the force of both the United States and the junglewise New Zealanders stormed on the beaches of Stirling and Mono Islands in the Treasury Group. This landing took the war right into the proverbial laps of the Japs, for the Treasury Group was within shelling distance of the Shortland Islands, and only 45 miles from Kahili. Stirling Island, which was to become home for Group Headquarters and three of her squadrons, was a narrow island less than four miles in length and unoccupied except for a few enemy gun positions. A mile away on Mono were to be found a handful of typical Solomon Island natives who spoke of Stirling as "Sick Island", firmly obsessed with the idea that no human could survive for very long on this atoll in the Solomon Sea. Six days later Allied troops hit the beaches of Empress Augusta Bay on the central part of the western coast of Bougainville. The foot soldiers pushed inland far enough to protect the contemplated airfields, and then established a static perimeter. A landing strip was carved from the jungles and swamps of Torokina, and by the 24th of November it was available for emergency use and by December 10th, completely operational. For the first time in the South Pacific War, the Allies established an air base on an island still held by strong enemy ground forces and did not attempt to wipe out the enemy. With the perimeter established, the success of this new type operation was assured. An airbase had been built on an enemy-held island without the expenditure in men and time necessary to knock out enemy bases by direct frontal ground action.
In the last days of October, Kolombangara and Vella Lavella bad been evacuated by the Japs, and by November 5th, Kahili and Kara airdromes became unserviceable for the duration. The original "eager beavers" of the South Pacific, the Naval Construction Battalions, hereinafter referred to by a name we will all remember, Seabees, had built a strip on Vella Lavella which was named Barakoma, and were at this time busily engaged in building a strip on Stirling. Their work was something to marvel at and was more than appreciated by the late Lieutenant Swartsfager and crew who made the first landing at Stirling. On a mission over southern Bougainville, Lieutenant Swartzfager's plane was shot up so badly that a crash landing seemed inevitable. Yet a belly landing seemed out of the question, for his plane was dripping with gasoline and the possibilities of fire were very great. With gas gauges soon hovering around the empty mark, Swartzfager decided to try a landing at Stirling even though only 1300 feet of the strip had been completed. He succeeded in setting his plane down with consummate skill, and save for a blown tire when the brakes were applied for all they were worth, his plane and crew were unharmed. The construction gang on the strip literally swarmed over his plane, and their pride, when they realized that they had saved human lives by their hard work as strip builders, more than compensated them for their efforts. To the Seabees the Crusaders have always felt as close kin, for not only were the relations at Stirling of the pleasantest nature, but two years later they again teamed up as part of the island force on Palawan.
In the meantime missions were being flown every day, either direct from the Russells or by staging through Munda, and the thrills and chills, the fears and joys that combat had to offer went on.
The 75th opened November with a pre-dawn two-plane strafe of the seaplane bases at Tuha Channel, Shortland Island. It was a successful mission but meant a water landing between Baga and Vella LaVella for Lieut. C. B. Simmons, hit by AA. All crewmen were picked up by a PBY and taken to Tulagi for treatment of injuries.
The 6th was a very eventful day. Six 75th Mitchells led by Lieutenant Matlock, assigned to seek out and destroy two ammunition barges enroute around Buka Island, located two AKs and a gunboat on the west coast and made six runs, scoring seven direct hits, and six near misses. The smaller AK was definitely sunk, the larger AK and the gunboat left burning and listing. On the return trip the six were jumped by eight Zekes and were well shot up, four crew members receiving wounds. Sergeant Harvey, gunner on one ship, got hits on the engine of one of the interceptors, sending it down out of control. Six planes from the 75th also flew on the 70th's mission of this day, led by Lieutenant Morrison, which dropped 64 five hundred-pound bombs neatly on Kara. This mission also met two Zeros at 12,000 feet, but the intruders were diverted by F4U's flying cover. The 70th's four-plane search mission of the day enjoyed a good bag--two barges and three AO's in Natuana Channel and Maldin Bay damaged, 25 barges along shore between Chabai and Pau Plantation strafed.
On November 10th Capt. L. J. Davidson, alias junior Davidson, led a mission, and his statement is printed herewith:
SUBJECT: MISSION TO MATCHIN
Late in the evening of November 10, 1943, Flight Officers Snyder, Routh, and myself took off from Munda Airfield for a target which looked very interesting: a Jap freighter anchored just off shore from Tarlena Village, in Matchin Bay.
The flight up the coast of Bougainville proved uneventful. As we neared Matchin Bay we formed an echelon to the left and started picking up speed. Making a slight turn to the right, we headed into the mouth of the Bay and saw our target for the first time.
Hugging the water, I started on my run. I received no fire from the freighter, but the shore batteries were putting up a terrific barrage of AA between my plane and the ship. It looked as if we had flown into a trap, but there was no turning at that stage of the game. I opened fire with my nose guns at about a thousand yards from the freighter, covering it with .50 calibre bullets. The AA was bouncing my plane around as I neared the bomb release point, but the run was good. I released two bombs, pulled up to miss the masts of the freighter and made a skidding turn to the right for the protection and to see where my bombs hit. Two near misses. I had made the mistake of releasing my bombs and pulling up at the same time, thereby throwing my bombs over the ship.
Flight Officer Snyder, whose plane was right behind me, probably saved my plane from destruction. Instead of making a run on the freighter he cut behind my plane and dove straight for a concentration of shore batteries which were firing at my plane, strafing and bombing them into silence.
Flight Officer Routh continued his run on the ship, strafing and placing a bomb directly amidship, blasting a large hole. The freighter sank immediately.
We spent 15 minutes mopping up the ground fire by diving straight into the guns, strafing and bombing as we passed. The attacks were made successfully by co-ordination of the three planes. As one plane strafed one gun position, the other two planes would protect him by strafing the surrounding ground fire.
That evening we silenced approximately 30 guns, blasted two wharfs, strafed, and bombed two bivouac areas, strafed army trucks along the woods, strafed and bombed a large warehouse and sank our primary target, the Jap freighter.
On the last run on a gun position my plane was hit by a 37MM explosive shell, setting my plane on fire. The co-pilot, Lieutenant Jones, and myself were preparing the plane for a water landing before the gas tanks could explode, but the quick thinking and work of Lieutenant Speer and Staff Sergeant Clapper with the use of fire extinguishers, had the fire out before we reached the water. We had had enough. I called the flight together and headed home.
A full moon shining on the placid waters off the southwest Pacific ocean brought contentment to our minds as we flew down The Slot toward our friends and a soft bed.
* * *
The 75th strike of the 23rd, a strafe of Chabai led by Captain Davidson (12 aircraft of the 75th and an element of four from the 70th led by Lieutenant Blackburn) strewed parafrags through the target, meeting intense fire of all calibers which holed three planes. Flight Officer Schaffner and crew, the worst hit, went into the water and were lost.
Another mission with thrills for the participants is written up by Lieutenant William Alfstad, Intelligence and one-time Public Relations Officer of the 70th.
" 'Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea' To the crew of this Mitchell Bomber of the 13th AAF, the old saying had a momentous meaning.
"The story as it happened is almost unbelievable, but to the men who came back, it is stark truth. It happened on the morning of November 24, 1943.
"While bombing and strafing Jap-held Kahila Airdrome, Bougainville, at tree-top level, 'Careless,' a medium bomber piloted by Lieut. James H. Dickinson, Bishopville, South Carolina, suffered a d irect hit by anti-aircraft fire. Immediately the left engine burst into flames, and as the plane was turned out over the water, flames swept up into the bomb bay and the navigator's compartment, forcing Lieut. Leslie J. Callahan, 409 Huntoon Street, Topeka, Kansas, to crawl into the cubby hole behind the pilot and co-pilot.
"The fire swept back into the radio compartment, driving the radio operator, turret gunner, and waist gunner into the tall of the plane.
"While the remainder of the attacking planes hopefully watched, Lieutenant Dickinson skillfully made a belly landing in the water. Opening the top escape hatch, Flight Officer Charles R. McCurry, 1510 Mulberry Street, Denton, Texas, co-pilot, crawled out upon the wing, dangerously close to the ever increasing flames, to loosen the life raft which had stuck when the plane hit the water.
"Both S/Sgt. Millard V. Bills, Sechlerville, Wisconsin, and Sgt. William R. Fort, Fortville, Indiana, dove through the bottom escape hatch to safety, but returned to the rapidly sinking aircraft to rescue S/Sgt. Nealan L. Guner, 331 Drexel Avenue, San Antonio, Texas, who had become caught trying to escape through the small waist window.
"Just as all members climbed into the one small life raft, the plane sank from sight.
"Now the torture of waiting for possible rescue started. This is where the devil and the deep blue sea come in. The plane had made a forced landing in the very center of Jap waters. To the northeast a scant seven miles was Kahili Airdrome, southeast seven miles was Ballale Airdrome, and directly south ten miles was the Shortland float plane base.
"One by one the comrades circling overhead had to leave the tossing raft because their gas was growing low. With each disappearing plane, hopes for rescue rapidly diminished.
"Huddled together in the small, pitching raft, the men alternated paddling to keep from drifting towards the enemy. For three, long, hard, nerve-wracking hours, these men waited, actually within sight of the enemy. Finally, after what seemed to be years, two friendly fighter planes appeared, but did not see the small raft. For an hour more the crew waited, and finally ten covering fighters escorting a flying boat came into view; while the fighters flew overhead for protection, the pilot of the flying boat skillfully set the plane down close to the raft.
"Even now it was not all over. Shore guns from Ballale and Kahili started lobbing shells at the plane, each one drawing nearer as the gunners began to find the range. Finally the crew were hauled safely aboard the plane and it started taxiing into the wind for take-off. The Japs on shore were frantically throwing shells at the plane as it rose into the air and headed for safety.
"Only one crew member, Sergeant Fort, received slight injuries about the legs and face."
The ever continuing barge hunts resulted, on November 29th, in the loss to the 69th of Lieut. Edward P. Ernest and crew, their plane having been shot down and seen to explode in Kieta Harbor following a successful strafing and bombing with 250-pound GP's of Numa Numa, Kieta, and Arigua Plantation. Lieutenant Kivipelto was badly shot up and had to land without a nose wheel, his hydraulic system out.
Staging through Munda enabled the Mitchells to reach many targets that would not have been hit had they been forced to fly from the Russells. Not only was Munda an excellent strip to work off, but a strip for fighters had been established across Blackett Straits on the island of Ondonga, less than 10 miles from Munda. This meant that three strips in close proximity to one another were in full operation by the Allies and ready for use should weather conditions prevent returning aircraft from landing at their originally planned field. And so it went, first one squadron, then another, hitting bombing and smashing enemy installations up and down the Solomons.
On the 4th of December, 17 airplanes, led by Lieutenant Eivers of the 390th and Lieutenant Rogers of the 75th, dropped 140 quarter-tonners at Chabai Village on Northwest Bougainville. On the following day the 69th's Captain Brown and the 75th's Captain Longwill led 17 more Mitchells against the enemy's defensive concentrations near Motupina Point, Bougainville, from minimum altitude in three waves, sending 85 of the 500-pounders and 20,000 rounds into the target. On the 6th, Tarlena Villaore was bit by 24 planes led by Captain Romstad of the 69th and long, tall Capt. Baron Sailors of the 390th. On the 11th, 16 struck near Kahili, and on the 15th a notably successful raid was staged on the supply and personnel area stretched along the north shore of Buka Passage, centering at Chinatown. This raid was led by Captain Brown of the 69th, Captain Carmody of the 390th, and Captain Davidson of the 75th. One string of bombs on this raid sent flames to 1000 feet and thick black smoke to 7000 feet. Patrol planes, passing the target at a distance of 30 miles almost one hour later, reported the fire still blazing.
A memorable raid as far as Lieut. Albert B. Marx and crew are concerned is the one they flew in December, during which their airplane was shot up so badly that ditching was an absolute must. Two of the crew had been injured, but all six of them made the rafts and were picked up by "Dumbo, I Love You," two hours and 20 minutes later.
On the 69th-75th raid at Maliari of December 17th, led by Major Yeoman, 1st Lieut. Robert A. Meister was hit in the left engine and had to ditch a mile west of Baba; Captain Longwill circled the downed crew until Dumbo arrived. Lieutenant Meister and the gunner, S/Sgt. Charles J. Hughley, went down with the plane; Lieut. F. K. Everett, co-pilot, T/Sgt. C. J. Manhart, and S/Sgt. R. K. Cole were rescued.
Through the balance of the month, Maliai, Shortland, was hit, as were Malevoli on North Choiseul, and Numa Numa. The success of the Malevoli raid was attested by ComAirSols Intelligence Summary of December 29th: "The Choiseul coast watcher reports that the Malevoll radio shack and contents have been demolished by a direct bomb hit. 'Very accurate bombing' is the opinion of the coast watcher in commenting on the strike on December 23rd by six Mitchells. Only three Japs are believed to remain alive at Malevoli." Also on the 23rd, 24 planes dropped 120 150-pound general purpose bombs on Sohana Island, Buka Passage, and started a large fire at the seaplane base. On Christmas day, greetings in the form of 72 100-pounders and 8700 rounds were duly left at a radio station at Motupina Point by the 390th, led by Captain Carmody, while Captain Boswell took the 70th, over Target H., Kahili, with 96 frag clusters.
On December 26th we made our first strike outside the Solomons area-seven Mitchells releasing 84 centuries on the radar station at the southernmost tip of Cape St. George, New Ireland, together with 9500 rounds. The tower was toppled by one hit and the shack perforated by tracers. Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer led the attack.
From this mission through the end of the year, it was impossible to hit Bougainville, which was completely socked in, and the missions that started for the island were forced to hit alternates or to return their loads to base.
A medium altitude strike led by Lieutenant Trubschneck of the 390th and Captain Boswell of the 70th against Bonis Airdrome on December 30th, was weathered off its primary, but got through to rap Kahili again, stringing 62 250-pounders through the revetment area. They received a barrage of intense AA from the bomb release line until out of range with the saki-sippers throwing up a new one, a shell that exploded in the normal manner, but with a mushroom smoke puff that emitted a second projectile which went up another 5000 feet before detonating.
1943 ended rather quietly, as an extract from a Group Summary indicates.
"The months of December, January, and February comprise the rainy season in the Solomons area. The rains came on schedule and the unfavorable weather throughout the month resulted in the cancellation of some missions, the frequent bombing of alternate rather than primary targets, and a slight impairment of the accuracy of the bombardiers. In spite of the handicap, however, the record of the Group in weight of bombs dropped and number of missions successfully completed did not fall below standard."
This Group had three squadrons in the forward area based on Banika Island within striking range of the whole of Bougainville and Buka Island. During the month six airplanes were sent to the advanced air base at Munda each afternoon, and maintained a shipping alert during the dark hours. In the absence of shipping targets these planes were dispatched from Munda the following day to attack a Bougainville target and returned direct to the Russells when the mission was completed. The remaining airplanes hit targets on Bougainville direct from the Russells, with the option of refueling at Munda on the return if necessary.
In the complete absence of any shipping targets, the principal objectives of the group were supply areas, camp areas, and localities in which the enemy was reported to be entrenched. Crews at times became bored with activities against targets where definite results could not be seen, but numerous reports from ground observers in a position to assess damage indicated that enemy personnel were being killed and materiel destroyed by these daily attacks.
It was a lull before a storm, however, as the pyrotechnic period of Rabaul was coming into view.
To complete 1943, it is necessary to say a word about ComAirSols--Commander for Air of the Solomon Islands. This was the top operating staff in the Solomons, (later ComAirNorSols in the Northern Solomons) organized following a conference between Admiral Fitch and Gen. Millard F. Harmon at the first of March, 1943. Successive commanders were Brigadier General Geiger, U. S. M. C., Admiral Mason, Admiral Mitscher, Major General Twining, Major General Mitchell, U. S M. C., and Major General H. R. Harmon. All Solomons air power was under this command, which was rotated among Army, Navy, and Marines. ComAirSols supplied the coordinated air link of the smoothly functioning air-ground-sea team which pushed the South Pacific campaign into the realm of history. ComAirSols was located at Guadalcanal in the spring of 1943, at Munda in the early fall, and at Torokina early in 1944.
16 December 1943
TO: The Thirteenth Air Force.
1. From 25 July 1943 to 20 November 1943, Maj. Gen. Nathan Twining by direction of ComSoPac and pursuant to the air employment, directives, and policies of ComAirSoPac, commanded the Allied Air Forces Solomons, Brig. Gen. Dean C. Strother served as Fighter Commander, while Brig. Gen. William A. Matheny was Bomber Commander.
2. During this period, immeasurable damage was done to the enemy. His ships and barges were destroyed, all of the New Georgia Group was overrun by our forces, Treasury was captured and Bougainville was invaded, the Jap was subjected to heavy loss of aircraft and personnel, and his Bougainville airdromes were made untenable. As a result we have materially improved our position for further assaults on the enemy, and we have acquired important naval facilities and many fine additional airdromes, A great share of the credit for these victories goes to the Air Arm: to the airmen of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Royal New Zealand Air Force, both shore and carrier based.
3. In all this the 13th Air Force, its Fighter Command, Bomber Command, Service Command, and all the officers and men of flight and ground echelons have had a major role. Your contribution to the success of the campaigns of the Armed Forces is inspiring to all. Your courage; your spirit of high endeavor; your patient endurance of discomforts, hardships, and dangers; your cheerfulness through all; and your will to win are a source of pride to all who are concerned with the destruction of Japanese forces, the annihilation of his military power, and the imposition of swift retribution on his individual leaders, his government, and his subjects.
4. The 13th Air Force will continue to carry the fight until the Jap is completely crushed and made to pay many times over for the crimes he has committed against our airmen, soldiers, sailors, and marines, and for the bestial deceit and brutality of Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, China, and Malaya.
5. The 13th Air Force, born on the 13th Day of January, 1943, is now almost a year old-and what a year! Many of you men of this force have been carrying on in this area since before our attacks and capture of Guadalcanal and Tulagi. You have worked and sweated through the mud and heat, the malaria, the dangers and hardships of the early days of Efate, Espiritu Santo, and Guadalcanal. You wondered then if our meager force could really stop the Jap. But soon this doubt changed to confidence as the gathering power and momentum of our forces increased, and then you helped to break forever the myth of Jap invincibility and to blast him out of Guadalcanal, the Russells, Munda, and all of the New Georgia Group, and now Treasury and Bougainville. You have seen him defeated in the air, on the ground, and on the seas. The issue is no longer in doubt.
6. Our people at home take just pride in your accomplishments and sacrifices, glory in your victories, and reverence the memory of your comrades who will not go home.
7. God Bless you for your achievements and grant each of you the fortitude to carry on to complete victory. Keep health, keep smiling, and keep fighting.
M. F. HARMON
Lieutenant General U. S. ARMY
AG 201-22 Ist Ind.
HEADQUARTERS THIRTEENTH AIR FORCE APO 719, 22 December 1943.
TO: Commanding Officers, All units, Thirteenth Air Force.
1. It is with considerable gratification and pride that I forward the above commendation from the Commanding General United States Army Forces in the South Pacific area to every member of the 13th Air Force.
2. General Harmon's splendid tribute will be read to every member of this Air Force at the first formation after receipt of this letter.
3. A copy of this commendation will be made part of the historical records of each organization.
RAY L. OWENS
Brigadier General, U. S. Army
From the time we flew our first mission in mid-June until December 27th when "Spence" led the boys outside the Solomons for their first mission, the Crusaders flew 228 missions for a total of 2,381 sorties, and dropped 3,689,000 pounds of bombs on the "sons of heaven."
So ended 1943--the year that brought the group overseas--7000 miles and more from home for the majority of its members. From the bracing cold of the Pacific Northwest winter in January to the perpetually steaming and sunbathed jungles and coral reefs of the Solomons, via New Caledonia and Fiji, the Crusaders crossed the Pacific by plane and boat to meet the Jap and drive him back to his own narrow and packed islands whence be had set out to subdue the world. We had taught him to fear, our bombs and bullets; Act I of the Group's overseas career was indelibly etched upon the record.
|Preface||Chapter 8||Chapter 10|