PrefaceChapter 18Chapter 20


A criticism of this book sometimes voiced while it was being assembled was that it did not devote enough enough attention to the activities of the Ground Echelons. The editors submit that this may at first glance appear true, but to the thinking reader, no one of the aerial accomplishments in which the history abounds would have been possible without the tireless effort of the ground sections and crews. Excerpts from the squadron histories at this time give an idea of the volume and intensity of this work, as do the many photographs herein. "The mess. . . served 90 regular meals during the month and 25 special meals for early take offs or late landings . . . rationed 445 men . . . 2700 gallons of coffee made . . . 37,761 pounds of food received from the ration dump. . . " Engineering... Four engine changes, eight 50-hour inspections, one 200 hour, two 300-hour, one 400-hour, two 500-hour, four 600-hour . . . Two especially tedious sheet-metal jobs repairing flak damage . . . 200,000 gallons metered on the fuel truck . . . T/Sgt. Anthony J. Kaslauskas received a commendation from Colonel Kegelman:

"1. The Group Technical Inspection Section has brought to my attention the results of an inspection made on aircraft maintained by Sergeant Kaslaukas. In a very thorough inspection of this aircraft no discrepancies were noted.

2. It is my desire that Sergeant Kaslauskas be highly commended for his very apparent high standard of work, which has not gone unnoticed. It is not only valued for having an aircraft in excellent condition, but sets a fine example for all crews of the organization."

"Communications: Additional classes and training within the section for both combat and maintenance crews... more efficient operation with few bottle-necks. . . better transmissions." "Armament-Ordnance: Handled in addition to 397,600 pounds of bombs. . . the new M-82, 500-pound fragmentation bomb. the new M-17 oil and magnesium incendiary." "Transportation: Nineteen 100-mile check-ups; 27 vehicles greased and serviced. . . One complete paint job . . . 3 jeep and truck tires checked and repaired ... 6000 gallons red gas supplied." "Medics--400 men received treatment during this 30-day period. Seven confined to quarters, It hospitalized, three personnel evacuated ... Twenty immunizations administered.. ."

Meantime Tokio Rose and other busy Nip broadcasters continued to put forth their own brand of humor.

Thy Need is Greater Than Mine

Tokio, 2 September, In English: "A patriotic Japanese named Watanabe called on the German military attache in Tokio and handed him the amount of 400 yen for the benefit of the German army."

Why We Advance

Tokio, 3 September, In English: "The time is fast approaching when Japan and Germany will deliver a final and decisive blow," declared Lieutenant Colonel Nakajima, naval spokesman, at his regular press conference on Friday afternoon. Commenting on the present war situation, he declared that for strategic reasons the enemy had been allowed to take the initiative in both theaters of war."

What a Waste, Unless--

Tokio, 2 September, Domestic, "Admiral Shiro Takatsu, War Councillor, received a dozen bottles of grape juice from the Emperor at the Tsukiji Naval Hospital at 9:50 p. m. last night. He died at 6:30 a. in. today, according to the Navy Ministry."

Department of Interesting Comparisons

Batavia, 3 September 1944: "Tokio: 1,685 enemy planes were shot down and another 519 damaged by Japanese air forces in cooperation with the land forces of Rabaul, during a ten-month period up to July 15th."

Tokio, 3 September, In German: "In the 10 months from October to July at least 23,500 enemy planes came over Rabaul. Of this number 2,090 were shot down and 344 damaged."

Japan's New Concept of Naval Warfare

W/T, September 6, in English:--"As soon as our Naval Air Arm gets ready, our Combined Fleet will move out to engage the enemy fleets in a decisive sea battle and deal them an annihilative blow, Admiral Ryozo Nakamura (retired), a noted naval strategist, asserted in an article appearing in this morning's Asahi. He said because of radical changes in modern naval tactics, the main forces of a navy now comprise its air force, including fleet air squadrons centering on carrier-based planes, and a land-based air corps. It will be suicidal, therefore he added, for our Combined Fleet to engage the enemy fleets in a decisive battle without filling in the disparity in air forces existing between our Navy and the enemy's. He added that armchair strategists express that amateurish opinion that our Combined Fleet should go out to engage the enemy in a decisive battle at this juncture."

Put Down that Mirror

Tokio, August 25, Domestic:--"That the enemy is in a serious predicament in regard to manpower can also be known from the strength of the crew of a B-24 plane. From a full complement of 12 persons, a B-24's crew has been reduced to ten, and then even to eight persons."

No Deep Sea Divers Needed

Shanghai, September 23, in English:--"In a bombing attack on enemy carriers to the east of Philippines on September 22, Japanese aircraft destroyed or damaged probably several enemy aircraft carriers. Investigations to ascertain the details are now under way." The facts are that the Japanese planes did not get near enough to aim a single bomb at the Task Force.

Philippines The Climax

Tokyo, September 23, in Japanese: --"Should the enemy land in the Philippines, an unconditionally strategic point will pass into his control, so our forces will oppose him resolutely, to deny him a foothold. Preparations for all eventualities are being hurried, in order that our island garrisons may not have died in vain, and in order that our Imperial life-line, the Philippines, may be protected."

Picture Picture Picture

An outstanding series of pictures showing the destruction by parafrags of a gun position at Goeroea, Halmahera. Besides the direct hit shown, following bombs disrupted the entire battery. The photographs were taken December 8, 1944.

Japanese War Reporting

Without ever having been told, the Japanese people may be presumed to know that Morotai, Pelelieu, and Angaur were lost. Radio Tokio's pattern had been the old familiar one:

(a) We are annihilating the enemy, (b) we are counterattacking the enemy, (c) We are fighting fiercely, (d) Silence.

The blame was laid on relative shortage of aircraft, though one broadcast indicated that the real concern was for pilots rather than planes.

As usual, the gloom was lightened by occasional broadcasts of the brightest promises. Selections below:

Who Welcomed Sutton?

Tokyo, September 22, Domestic:--"Our Japanese Colony In California did not succeed, due to the lack of water in that region, but those going to California later overcame difficulties and prepared in agriculture, producing world-famous California fruits and vegetables. Americans are outrageous people for having forgotten their gratitude to the Japanese for making America an agricultural nation."

Department of Interesting Comparisons
We Satisfy Everybody Division

W/T, 18 September, in English:--"'In the present stage of fighting in the Pacific War Theatre, Japan should cast aside its conservative strategy and instead resort to positive operations', declared retired Admiral Ryozo Nakamura in a recent issue of the organ of the Pacific Association."

Batavia, September 20, in English:--"'In the present stage of war in the Pacific, Japan's strategy must be conservative rather than daring', declared Rear Admiral Ryozo Nakamura in the organ of the Pacific Association."

The Kind of Thinking That Led To The Baka

Tokyo, September 20, Domestic:--"Would it be better to have one plane and ten pilots, or ten planes and one pilot? The first would give a plane the capability of ten pilots, whereas the second would always be the strength of one pilot. The increased training of pilots will put us in the favorable ten to one odds. However, numbers alone are not enough, since it would be like a flock of crows. Those who can keep their heads and spirits are desired in air training."

The Big Four

W/T, September 27, in English:--"In the course of fierce counter-attacks conducted by our garrison units on Morotai Island north of Halmahera against enemy troops which effected a landing on September 15, more than 600 casualties were suffered by the enemy against our four killed up to September 26, it was discovered."

Comment:   Of the "four" Japanese casualties up to September 26, 12 were taken prisoner and 57 killed. Our casualties--from non-combat as well as combat--up to September 26 were 17 killed, 53 wounded, one missing.

10,000 Islands, 10,000 Carriers

Tokio, September 26, in English:--"According to correspondent Oneda, the people on the home front are striving in production with renewed vigor in order to make the Philippine fortress a reality, while awaiting the day of victory. The powder magazines of the enemy task forces, their carriers, are probably several times the numbers we have, but they are as inflammable as matchboxes and weak in defensive power. Therefore, the enemy treats his carriers as dolls in boxes, and surrounds them in ring formation with anti-aircraft batteries composed of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, and invades in a courtly procession. It is assured that should these carriers be attacked, the enemy will run in confusion. Countless new unsinkable aircraft carriers have been launched on our side. Even with the strength of bases in the Philippines for example, there are close to 10,000 islands, which, if strengthened one by one by installing aircraft bases, will stand as unsinkable carriers. In addition, there are many aviators awaiting the day when they may follow the principle of sinking one ship with one plane."

Leyte: Views From Home and Abroad

Tokyo, November 2, Domestic:--"The war situation in the Philippines centering on Leyte Bay area is steadily assuming serious proportions. Whether the war in the whole Pacific will turn in favor of America or Japan depends on whichever side can hold out and remain the stronger, and this does not need saying."

Tokyo, November 3, Domestic:--"The fighting on Leyte Island is developing into a testing of airpower on both sides, making it clear that the decisive factor will be the supply problem of airpower."

Batavia, November 2, In English:--"The U. S. forces now trapped on Leyte Island are now definitely doomed and their complete annihilation is considered a matter of days, if not of hours."

W/T, November 11, in English:--" 'Leyte can be compared to a virtual war prisoners' camp' ", declared Lt. Col. Shozo Nakajima, Chief Army Spokesman, speaking at his regular weekly press conference yesterday. He asserted, 'I firmly believe that in the near future all these American landing forces will be annihilated.'

December brought an important change in the type of attack used by the Group, although the targets remained much the same. Over the month the main strike turned from medium level bombing to on-the-deck bombing and strafing. Air Force operations and intelligence had found that no matter how heavily and how frequently a Jap field was bombed from high levels, Nips managed to get harrassing planes into the air. They also learned that when that same field was worked over with bombs and bullets from minimum altitude, all local operations ceased. This was important in the Ceram-Halmahera-Celebes area from whence Morotai was undergoing repeated nightly attacks. The Crusaders went down to the deck and the attacks ceased.


Photo showing the remains of a Jap fuel dump at Goeroea. Burst drums and blackened, burnt trees show the effectiveness of bombs and strafing.

The medium work had been well done; what remained was a sort of sweeping up process, and when we say sweep, we mean it. The formations skimmed their targets with so little to spare that the Woodcutter's Club came into being. Before the Group moved from Sansapor, about half the pilots became members, willy-nilly, by bringing home assorted samples of the Halmahera, Celebes, and Ceram forests, and in a few isolated cases, coconuts. One object of those strafes was to kindle the camouflaged supply dumps and to put an end to the barge-building activity that sprung up to replace the toll taken by the vigilant shipping searchers. Squadrons also struck out further afield to hit additional Philippine targets and the southeast Celebes.

Intelligence reported that the Sorong-Doom Islands Japs were on the move to Kabarei and Andai Villages on Waigeo, which previously had been neglected as of small importance. The optimistic Nips were quickly knocked back into despondence, and thereafter these two jungle towns were scheduled as secondary dumping grounds for all missions weathered off the primary or returning bombs for any other reasons.

About mid-month another new operating technique went into effect: the shuttle run, bombing a Halmahera target on the way up in the morning, putting in at Morotai for fuel, bombs, and lunch, and hitting the same or another Moluccan base on the return trip in the afternoon. Announcement of a shuttle run was invariably greeted by combat crews with "Oh, my aching back!" The double-headers weren't too popular except with firebrands, but they were effective. They ran like railroad timetables: Depart Mar 0530, Over Galela 0800, Land Morotai 0840. Depart Morotai 1320, Over Galela 1405, Land Mar 1645. What was left of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in the Spice Islands got a thorough salting and peppering.

Rumor of an attack on Morotai on Christmas Eve by Japs trapped in the Halmaheras brought immediate attention to those targets.

You can almost hear the bombs exploding and see the tracers in an official resume of the activities of December 22. We were, of course, only a part of the parade of American aircraft over the Halmaheras on that day, but we need not be modest about our part. This was a very typical sample of shuttle bombing. The following is copied from the 13th AAF Summary of December 23.

II Air Activity

Thirteenth Air Force

"The enemy concentrations of troops, supplies, and small shipping in the Wasile Bay area and his air facilities at Hatetabako and Lolobata were subjected to saturation bombing by heavy, medium, and fighter bombers on 22 December.

"Seven Mustangs and 13 Warhawks of the 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron started the fireworks at 0720, bombing and strafing radio installations, warehouses, and small shipping near Wasile Town. Forty-three Mitchells of the 42nd Group, flying at minimum altitude, moved in at 0800 and spent 30 minutes scattering 516 centuries into AA positions and personnel areas from Goeroea Bay to Hatetabako airdrome. Thirty-one Liberators of the 307th Group followed the medium bombers and concentrated 566 x 250-pounders around and between the Lolobata and Hatetabako airfields. Then came 16 RAF Beaufighters using rockets, bombs, and strafing to score excellent results against AA positions within the Goeroea defense ring. Thirty-seven heavies of the 5th Group attacked the supply areas at Lolobata and Hatetabako from 0834 until 0929, with 65 per cent of 700 x 250-pounders falling into assigned targets. The 347th Group participated in the morning attack by having 25 Lightnings over Goeroea at 1000. Each P-38 dropped 2 x 165-gallon Napalm fire bombs into AA positions and dock installations, starting large fires. At 1020 sixteen Warhawks of the RAAF divebombed Wasile river installations and reported all but one of their 32 quarter-tonners in the target area.

"The afternoon performance began at 1330 when 18 Lightnings, on the return trip to Sansapor, dropped 36 half-tonners on Hatetabako targets. The P-38s were quickly followed by 16 Warhawks of the RAAF 80th Squadron, which struck AA positions in the same area. Mitchells of the 42nd, en route home, flying at deck level unloaded 462 centuries on Lolobata and Hatetabako. Mustangs and Warhawks, having begun the day's work, furnished the finale by dropping 40 quarter-tonners and expending 17500 x .50 caliber over the entire sector which, by that time (1545), was covered with fires and smoke."

A recapitulation of the strikes show 285 sorties and over 250 tons of demolition and incendiaries, together with Napalm fire bombs and rockets, trained against targets in an area measuring not over four square miles.

This intense action meant, of course, that injuries and losses could not be avoided. Capt. H. G. Goodson was cut up as a result of hitting a tree and Cpl. R. E. Avrocker, also of the 69th, was bit in the knee by stray flak.

Over Lolobata on the 23rd, a shell exploding inside their plane injured T/Sgt. Otis E. Forth, Sgt. Cecil A. Spurlock and S/Sgt. Gerald Russell, also of the 69th.

The shipping hunts and general snoops continued to be a daily assignment. Captain Whitehead, 75th, got a 100-foot schooner at Cape Laroma, Ceram; Lieut. Willard R. Horne, 390th, nailed two barges and a gun position at Manipa Island. The enemy's radar stations at Cape Noesanive, Cape Patak, and southeast Laoet Island got a going over from all squadrons, and Major Henson, flying a 75th ship, destroyed the radar hut at Lolobata. As has been seen earlier, another new wrinkle of December was the radar ferret. It was discovered that the Japs usually turned off their apparatus when they drew a plot on one of our Mitchells, for fear that the pilot would home on them. The single radar ferreter was therefore dispatched ahead of a mission to a target known to have radar protection. While he occupied the air-wave searchers, the strike formation gained an element of surprise in hitting the planned target and caught more Nips at work around the premises.

Also in December, Crusader crews were sent to the 38th Bomb Group at Morotai on detached service, and while our planes were not the carriers, to these detached personnel goes credit for some of the early destruction of Mindanao-Jolo-Sanga-Sanga airfields Tawao, and Sandakan, and reconnaissance of the Pangutaran Group and the Sulu Sea--a body of water that their fellow Crusaders were to become intimately familiar with somewhat later. The exploits of these Crusaders tilting the lance away from home base did not, unfortunately, go into the Group's records in detail. A few lines from a higher headquarters' summary of the 11th and 12th of December, however, give a few facts:

"After negative sightings on a shipping search along the Mindanao coastline, three Mitchells of the 42nd Bomb Group bombed and strafed Tatalan Island Lighthouse, Zettlefield A/D, and 2 buildings at the base of the jetty.

"The drydock and ship-building area at Sandakan was bombed and strafed by two 42nd Bomb Group Mitchells. Eight 500-pound incendiaries were dropped, starting small fires, and a barge in the harbor was strafed and damaged."

The Morotai DS, while as attractive as Sansapor for those who wanted to pile up missions rapidly, was a poor spot for sack-time. Before rigor mortis set in for keeps, Charlie was capable of giving considerable trouble, and seemed particularly annoyed at having lost Morotai. Note the following:

Enemy Air Action (December)

"Morotai--Red alert at 0243/09 when a bogey approaching the island from the southwest at very low altitude was picked up. As the bandit orbited to gain altitude, a night fighter was vectored into the area and the bandit soon faded away to the west. A second bogey 34 miles south-southwest of the island was picked up at 0305, and a P-61 of the 419th Night Fighter Squadron was immediately vectored there. On first contact the night fighter overshot the target but identified the bandit as a Paul, a twin-float reconnaissance seaplane. A second contact was made at approximately 0310 at a distance of 10,000' on a heading of 120 degrees and at an altitude of 12,000', and the P-61 closed to 800' to fire 300 rounds of 20MM cannon fire, causing the Paul to burst into flames and crash into the sea at a point about 25 miles southeast of Morotai. No return fire was received from the bandit. The kill was witnessed by many ground personnel as well as by another airborne P-61. All clear at 0335.

"Morotai--Red alert at 0302/10 when unidentified aircraft approaching the island from the southwest were picked up. At 0311 one of the bandits flying at 200W feet crossed Gila Peninsula from the west, dropping four bombs, which fell on the peninsula. At about the same time two other bandits entered the area on an easterly course from the west, dropped 10 bombs from 20,000 feet, which fell west of Pitoe Strip. and departed to the northwest. At 0332 another bombing run was made from west to east, the three bombs dropped falling to the northwest of Pitoe strip and the bandit going away to the northwest. Window was dropped at 0330 approximately eight miles northwest of Pitoe strip. Searchlights illuminated one bandit on each course and 90MM fire engaged all targets. A P-61 of the 419th Night Fighter Squadron closed to 300 feet on one bandit, but lost the target when extreme evasive action was taken. A tent and personal equipment of a gun section were damaged--the extent of our losses from the attack. All clear at 0356.

"Red alert at 0433/10 when a bandit came in low from the north undetected and in a west to east run dropped an unknown number of anti-personnel bombs on the east end of Pitoe Strip, following with strafing. The bandit turned northeast and went out to the northwest, being engaged by 40MM and .50 caliber fire with unobserved results. Two enlisted men of a gun position were injured in the attack. All clear at 0501."

It wasn't always good sleeping at Sansapor in December either--two of the longest alerts came on the 28th and 30th, lasting more than an hour each. Two bogies came over each night, one decoying our AA fire while the other moved in to drop. Bombs hit the 75th area on the 28th and killed F/O Richard J. Larsen before he could reach his foxhole. A facetious aspect of this raid was the damage done to the Group Officers' latrine. Unfortunately, the remarks of passers-by, in varying degrees of humor, have not been preserved for the record, and this is a family publication, anyhow. The structure was, happily, untenanted at the time. The intruders returned on the 30th, and this time a night-flying P-38 sent one of them down flaming. Those who preferred a spectacle to safety saw the flaming bogey take his last dive, ending up in the ocean.

December was also a month of intensive and difficult maintenance. The schedule called for most or all of the planes to be in the air each day. Sheet-metal and dope and fabric sections were very busy after the strafing raids, removing splinters up to 2 feet long and patching up.

During the month the 886th continued at its heavy and, for the Japs, fiercely destructive work, sharing the Group's bad and good fortunes with respect to the struggle to establish camp, air raids, Dutch Guilders, a few, very few, drawings for rotation and rest leave in Mackay, fresh eggs, meat, and cucumbers arriving at the Mar district via the Group's Fat Cats. During the month Lieut. David C. Sinding and Cpl. C. H. Staten took a detachment to Morotai to prepare fire bombs for the 18th Fighter Group.

So came Christmas Day at Sansapor, with its increased mess activities. The day itself was saddened for the 100th by the loss of Lieut. Frank E, Hendricks and crew, who took off for a shipping sweep of western Ceram at 0440 and were lost in weather. Intensive searches initiated immediately proved negative.

The 69th terms as its outstanding mission of the month the medium attack on Haroekoe led by Lieut. L. E. Davis on the 28th. Three elements of three, stacked down from 9000 to 8600 and echeloned right, divided the runways into thirds from east to west. Falling in train, 90 per cent of the bombs smacked onto the strip.

The 69th, 70th, 75th, and 390th formed on Captains Hedlund and Elliott and Lieuts. Bob Plympton and Bob Moyna to bomb the Wasile Bay area from medium on the 31st. The 886th's incendiaries were laid down in a tight 700 by 1000-foot pattern on the morning leg of this double-header. The return trip crossed the same target at minimum with 100 pound demos and found black smoke still rising to 1500 feet, and the pier east of the target aflame from end to end from the morning's attack. Light, medium, and heavy fire met both runs. Mortar fire also came up on the strafing run.

It was a fitting ending for December and for 1944, the year in which the Group spent its second Christmas overseas. If the end of 1943 had seen the Group shaping and hardening into a top-notch medium bomb group, the end of 1944 found it a hardened, seasoned, toughened allround bombing and attack group that could take anything in stride and make a good offensive job of it. We had suffered losses, yes, but we had extracted very high payment for our proportionately small losses. We had not pulled the Imperial Palace down on Hirohito, but beginning in January at Rabaul and thence through Western New Guinea in September and the Indies at the year's end, we had smashed the pillars of, and brought crumbling down in smoke and ruins, the south and southwest wings of his structure of conquest. We had driven his large ships from our territory and systematically riddled the smaller ones that still dared appear. Our brothers-in-arms had re-established themselves in the Philippines without molestation from our sector, and we would soon join them to complete the job. We had subordinated jungle and coral and rain-forest to campsite and line, and had learned to live among heat, humidity, discomfort, and disease. We had taken our war as we found it, and at the end of December, 1944, 22 months after leaving the United States, we could look upon the results of our work and find satisfaction in a bloody, dirty and vitally necessary job well done.

PrefaceChapter 18Chapter 20