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History of the 348th Fighter Group

Discussion in 'Air War in the Pacific' started by Biak, Nov 1, 2010.

  1. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I have begun transcribing my copy of the History of the 348th Fighter Group and will try to post as a month by month history here. I tried to 'scan' but the sheets of paper are too fragile and faint to read. Thus a very slow process due to my inferior typing skills. The following is the first five pages covering January to June of 1943.
    While I'm not sure of the author of the entire History as given, credit is due to;
    Taken from the final 'cover sheet':
    "" 2. The material submitted was prepared by 1st. Lt. Robert D. Ramsey, 0719426, Air Corps. Facts and observations included in the narrative and not otherwise credited are based on the personal opinion of Lt. Ramsey.

    Walter G. Benz
    Major, Air Corps.
    Commanding. ""

    Narrative History

    Headquarters 348TH Fighter Group
    (January/June 1943)

    The New Year found preparations for our third move in full swing, S.O. No. 5, First Fighter Command, directed the move to unnamed stations which we found to be Providence Rhode Island for Group Headquarters, 340th, and 341st Fighter Squadrons and Bedford, Massachusetts, for the 342nd Fighter Squadron.
    The Groups offices in the new hangar, at Green Field, were fine and roomy. The hangers and strips excellent, but the living-quarters were Spartan. Since this Group was the only tactical unit on the field, more room and improved flying weather led to more flying hours per day than has hereto been flown in a week.
    There was a marked reduction of personnel turnover this month, although the following changes occurred. Lts. Connally and Parant were lost to other units, with Lt. Hall relieving Lt. Connally as Group Adjutant. Lt. Roth left the Group to be S-2 at Bedford.
    Major Robert R. Rowland joined the Group on February 1st and was promptly appointed Executive Officer, relieving Major Hall who left for the NYADW. Captain Lloyd N. Johnson arrived on February 3rd and was appointed Group Adjutant to which he brought many years of valuable Army experience. Lt. Hall returned to NYADW and became Adjutant of the Headquarters Squadron there.
    Lts. Ivey, Rowe and LaBounty were transferred from their Squadrons to be Assistant Operations Officers at Group on February 18th. The Group as a whole produced an outstanding record for the month by flying in excess of 4,250 hours, with but three minor accidents and no injuries.

    The first issue of “Fighter Flight” was issued on January 26th and was welcome by all. At this time, mention should be made of a disaster which occurred on February 11th in which this group was not directly involved but which profoundly affected all. Lt. Drake and three trainees of the 352nd Fighter Group were sent to ferry planes to Groton. They took off in the face of lowering ceiling and were almost immediately lost. For many days thereafter, Greenfield was the scene of the ensuing investigation. The resultant shake-up brought Lt. Colonel A. A. Price to Greenfield as Base Executive Officer.
    A supper and reception was given on the evening of March 4th for the recently appointed Wing commander, Brigadier General E. E. Partridge. The affair was an enjoyable one, being given at the Hotel New Yorker. Many of our officers, pilots and ground, were present. All were favorably impressed with the General, including Captain Hovis who spent considerer able time with the General and who was quite impressive in his own right. After this supper, the officers put in an appearance at almost all of New York’s brighter spots.
    March brought in a crop of new assignments. Captain Hovis moved to S-4 where his talents would be a special value. Captain R. R. Russell was moved from the 342nd Fighter Squadron to become S-2 of the Group. Lt. A. J. Cornwell was also moved from this Squadron to become Ass’t S-4, while Lt. Chew was suddenly transferred to the Wing. Lt. P. L. Foster was brought up from the 342nd Fighter Squadron as Statistical Officer. Lts. Washburn and Taylor left for Westover on the 10th and Lt. J. R. Whitney replaced Lt. Abbott as Group Special Service Officer.
    As the month wore on, it became increasingly evident that our Group was nearing a state of readiness. Rumors concerning our ultimate overseas address were a dime a dozen, especially after the evening of March 28th when Colonel Kearby put one fact before us - we were warned as of
    April 1st.
    The next forty-four days preceding the Group’s embarkation were busy days, with all the personnel of the Command seeing to their equipment, markings, inspecting, packing and repacking. All ground officers had to struggle with provisions of P.O.M. which described in detail the plan for the movement.
    In anticipation of the warning order, many leaves and furloughs were granted to those in need of rest. Colonel Kearby left on April 3rd for six days of rest and relaxation.
    It would be improper to omit mention of the unannounced visit of General Partridge to Greenfield. This visit coincided with the last four days of Colonel Kearby’s leave of absence. It was one of those unfortunate occasions when everything seems to go wrong. There was a fatal accident at Bedford to start with, followed by minor but magnified mischance’s, one involving the failure to get assigned transportation for the General to the field and the failure to get a taxi past the guard. He had resorted to civilian transportation and only overcame the difficulties by having his own staff car driven up from New York. In spite of these events, the General became and remained a firm friend to the 348th Group as evidence by his letter written to Colonel Kearby on the occasion of his transfer to overseas duty.
    By the middle of April, secret messages were received and sent by the Group almost daily. Boxes were being stenciled with movement No. 2948, and P. of E. New York, assuring all, except of the few in the “know:”, that we were destined for North Africa. The fact that we were taking both woolens and khakis seemed to verify it.
    All operational activity was suspended at the end of the month, but an impressive training record had been established. A total of 17,135 hours had been flown and the pilots averaged 185 hours in their P-47 aircraft.
    On Sunday April 25th, the Group was informed they would move back to Westover Field, preparatory to staging, and that the move would be made by truck on the following Wednesday. The move was made without bloodshed but there was a lesson to be learned from the misdirection of several trucks by the Squadrons.
    The few days at Westover were used in remarking and reshuffling boxes and personal luggage and tending to a miscellaneous assortment of preparatory jobs. Officers and men were even given a bit of close order drill in the cold New England spring.
    On May 2nd Captain Hovis was suddenly recalled to NYADW and his position was immediately filled by Captain J. H. Hykes.
    On May 4th, the loading of organization equipment into box-cars commenced and on the 9th of May the entire organization rose very early and under full pack entrained from Westover for Camp Shanks, N. Y. It was a beautiful spring day and gave us all an impressive picture of our country to carry with us.
    Four days were spent at Shanks in final preparation, two of which were very wet. Last minute supplies were obtained, personnel filled last minute vacancies and all administrative files and records were inspected. The medics took advantage of this breathing period to examine all personnel, officers and EM.
    In the late afternoon of May 14th, the unit marched under full pack to the train and after a ride fraught with many uncomfortable moments, it detrained at Weehauken, (Weehawken) New Jersey and was ferried down the river to the Staten Island Pier. By midnight all were safely aboard the USAT Henry Gibbons.
    We sailed at dawn and soon found we were on the smallest of four, 16 knot ships, guarded by 4 destroyers. Later a cruiser, the Trenton, was picked up at Panama, which may have been the cause of a decided lack of enemy underseas activity during the voyage.
    On the 2nd day out, pamphlets on Australia had been circulated thus informing most, for the first time, that the Group destination was to the SWPA. Except for the first few days of fairly rough seas, the weather was perfect and all signs of seasickness disappeared.
    On the afternoon of May 21st we passed through the Panama Canal and sailed from Balboa the morning of the second day. The trip was enlivened by the initiation of all “Pollywogs” aboard to the exalted state of “Shellbacks”, and during the proceedings much hair was lost and many vital parts were bruised.
    We spent an afternoon and night in the beautiful harbor of Bora Bora and arrived in Brisbane on the final leg of the sea trip to Port Moresby, where she dropped anchor on June 23rd. There was hardly a man among the entire Group who did not enjoy the trip and benefit by the rest.
    Some of the enjoyable memories of the voyage included the first sight of the Canal for many; the South Sea Isles (the beautiful ones); or of one or more of the twenty-five Army Nurses aboard.
    When the ship arrived at Brisbane the unit was divided, with the pilots and 207 enlisted men debarking. The planes had already arrived by other boats and soon were being assembled by our men at Eagle Farms Base, with the help of the 81st Depot Group.
    While the air echelon was busy in Brisbane, the ground echelon had been no less active in building camps. The 348th Fighter Group established its Headquarters in tents adjacent to the 8th Fighter Group, with whom they messed. During these days, the problems of collecting our equipment and sorting it our soon merged with the bigger problems of supply; supplies needed to “keep ’em flying”, to build camp, light it and pipe water to it.

    links of possible interest;
    http://www.352ndfightergroup.com/assoc/main.html
    http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=6689
     
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  2. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    CHAPTER III
    (1 July 1943 - 31 January 1944)

    348th Fighter Group
    310 Bombardment Wing (M)
    Fifth Air Force
    United States Army

    Activities of the 348th Fighter Group during the first few weeks of July were mainly confined to the tasks of removing the group from the Eagle Farm erection and maintenance depot to the various strips assigned at Port Moresby, New Guinea and readying the camp area for living and the strip for maintenance and operations.
    The ground echelon, which had arrived at Port Moresby aboard the Henry Gibbons on June 23, soon had camps erected and operations and maintenance facilities well prepared for the arrival of the air echelon. On July 12 the first squadron of Thunderbolts flew North to Port Moresby, having been assembled and test flown for the necessary 10 hours at Eagle Farms. Lt Col. Neel E. Kearby, C.O. of the 348th Fighter Group, led the first squadron and returned to Australia to lead the last squadron, which left New Guinea on 22 July. So successful was the move, only one minor accident marring an otherwise perfect record, the Group received a letter of commendation from Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, commanding General of the Fifth Air Force, for the record of safe passage.
    The 342nd Squadron being the first to leave Eagle Farms and hence the first to arrive at Port Moresby, took pleasure in vaunting themselves as the “First Thunderbolt Squadron in the Southwest Pacific”, much to the provocation of the 340th and 341st Squadrons who actually began operations the same time as the 342nd.
    Group Headquarters was located 3 miles beyond Jackson Drome, which was 7 miles East of Port Moresby and the new home of the 340th Fighter Squadron.
    This location was dubbed “Thunderbolt Valley” by personnel of the 340th. The 341st Squadron was located at Durand Drome, which was known as “Seventeen Mile” since it was this distance East of Port Moresby, while the 342nd Fighter Squadron settled at Wards Drome, 5 miles East of Port Moresby.
    Operations during July were, for the most part, limited to orientation flights to familiarize the pilots with the terrain and flying conditions peculiar to the area. Occasionally the squadrons would be scrambled on a possible enemy interception, but each one turned out to be a friendly pilot. Since the P-47 was the newest American fighter and though it had proven itself in the European theater but had not yet had a chance to prove its worth in the Pacific, the Fighter Command and Fifth Air Force seemed reluctant to assign hazardous combat missions to a “green” group flying a new type fighter plane. Pilots of the 348th Fighter Group were certain, however, that they and their Thunderbolts could take a place among the hottest fighters in the theatre.
    During this orientation period and in the months to come, the personnel of the 348th Fighter Group had ample opportunity to take stock of their neighbors and surroundings in Post Moresby. The Port Moresby area differs from the rest of New Guinea chiefly in amount of rainfall. It has approximately 80 inches a year whereas 20 to 30 miles away rainfall averaged 120 to 150 inches annually. The “Dry Area” is chiefly developed by the Australians and in peace time has a population of approximately 1000 whites, centered at Port Moresby with fringes of plantations running as much as 15-20 miles from town where on the East the foothills of the Owen Stanley range began and on the North and South were impassable swamps.
    During the stay at Port Moresby the group personnel were accordingly restricted in their ground travel to the area thus cut off, except for a road leading into the foothills East of town. It was by this road that the Japs had attempted to reach Port Moresby in the Fall of ‘42 where they crossed the Owen Stanleys and were stopped by the Australians some 25 miles from Port Moresby. This road was the beginning of the Kokoda Trail over which the Aussies pushed the Japs in the early days of the battle that ended with the recapture of Buna in March 1943. This trail offered the wildest scenery in the Port Moresby area and occasionally members of the 348th went sightseeing along this road and into the hills beyond it, past an inoperative emerald mine, breath taking Rouna Falls, and onto the plateau East of the falls, where in the edge of the belt of heavier rainfall, hundreds of frizzled-headed Papuans worked on a rubber plantation that was one of the few Allied sources of precious natural rubber.
    The Papuan natives, the most common reminder to a Port Moresby G. I. that he was on the fringe of one of the greatest remaining unexplored regions of the Earth, were wild in appearance, but through several generations of association with white man, were in fact quite docile. A few of them were moderately educated and one could never be sure that some half-clad boy - his hair a dull orange from applications of clay and lime juice, strolling along some road with a kind of pathetic dignity, followed by his wife bent double with a load that might have taxed the capacity of a pack burro - might not, nevertheless, be a fairly intelligent person, probably educated at some missionary school. They reportedly had a complete understanding of the game of Black Jack. Captain Schrager and Mr. Shubert, the Headquarters checker enthusiasts, discovered to their embarrassment that one of their laundry boys was able to beat them at what they presumed to be a white man’s game. The Papuan woman far from being the dusky South Sea island beauties of the screen, were an incredibly ugly aggregation frequently marked with breasts that drooped so far that they were seen to sling them over their shoulders to gain freedom of movement for other parts of their bodies. Needles to say fraternization in the copulative sense was non-existent.

    The fauna of the Port Moresby area scarcely fitted into the preconceived picture of teeming animal life in a New Guinea jungle. Chiefly it consisted of wallabies, which for the purposes of the non scientific G. I. seemed to include every New Guinea animal smaller than a Kangaroo proper. There were big Wallabies, brown and grey ones, there were Wallabies with long tails and Wallabies with practically no tails. Probably a great many soldiers that spent months at Port Moresby never knew that the enormous rats that they frequently saw in and around their tents were, in fact, merely pint sized Wallabies and members of the Kangaroo family. Contrary to general expectations scarcely any snakes were seen in the Moresby area. There were a great many lizards of all types, the largest being the Iguana of which four foot specimens were not uncommon. Those members of the group who brought stalks of bananas and hung them beside their tents to ripen shortly made the acquaintance of the fierce looking, but harmless fruit bat with a body the size of a house cat and with wing span of as much as four feet. Spiders, scorpions and centipedes were plentiful and a few men were stung or bitten, but without any serious effect. Due to an effective malarial control program mosquitoes were not numerous, except in the vicinity of Seventeen mile strip, where a nearby swamp maintained a constant over-supply of voracious, but non-malarial specimens.
    The 348th Fighter Group arrived in New Guinea with the vanguard of a flow of reinforcements that, added to the relatively small number of veteran outfits that had stopped the Jap offensive in the early days of the New Guinea campaign, enabled the Allies in the Southwest Pacific to take the offensive in the Fall of 1943. At the time of our arrival this offensive was being prepared. The base at Buna was being expanded and supplied. The mountain-locked air base at Tsili-Tsili was being built and, aided by U. S. troops who landed at Nassau Bay, the Australians, East of the gold field regions of Wau, Bululo and Sunshinge, were slowly pushing the Japs North toward Salamana on the New Guinea East Coast north of Buna.
    The bulk of the 348th early missions were flown in protection of the airfield at Tsili Tsili. This airbase, the Northernmost of the Allied fields of New Guinea, was vital to the offensive as it provided a staging point for fighters needed to protect bombers whose mission was the neutralization of the enemy fortress at Wewak, 350 miles Northwest of Tsili Tsili. Located only a few minutes flight from the Jap held Markham Valley, Tsili Tsili had been opened by a few men who came by a precarious mountain trail from Bulldog at the North end of the Papuan Gulf. The airfield had been built and maintained entirely by airborne troops and supplies and it’s vulnerability to enemy air attack made its protection vital to Allied plans. It was over Tsili Tsili that the pilots of the 340th and 341st Squadrons first engaged in combat planes of the Japanese air force. In the ensuing battle one of our pilots was shot down by the enemy. It was to be months and many victories late before the 348th lost another pilot by enemy action.

    This appears to be a good link containing many of the airfields the 348th Fighter Group utilized;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Air_Forces_in_the_South_West_Pacific_Theatre

     
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  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Thanks for sharing this information with us. I always appreciate good first-hand information on the war in the Pacific!

    Again, many thanks again for posting this!
     
  4. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    Yep. It's a great read - always good to get stories rather than reports, when the facts are right. Fleshes everything out. Thanks a lot :)
     
  5. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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  6. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    Thanks guys! My Uncle gave me his copy many moons ago. He received it in January or February of 1946 while stationed in Japan during the occupation, and I've been going to retype it for nearly 6 years. What better way to preserved it than to copy to the computer and save a back-up copy than on this forum! It has a little "age" on it and difficult to read in places but I'm doing my best to save this. You're right also, I'd rather read it "how it was written". The style and wit comes through. I just wish we could find out some of the 'insider information' such as, What really happened when the General came to visit and no one let him on base?!
    10 pages down, only a few hundred more to go.
    I'll check out the Sharing copies of WWII Documents also. Just remembered I also have a couple of letters he wrote home and his Graduating class (42-I) class book. May have to scan and post that too.
     
  7. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    It was on August 16th 1943, while escorting C-47 transports over the Owen Stanleys Range to Tsili Tsili that the 348th Fighter Group brought down it’s first Jap plane and scored the first victories for the P-47 Thunderbolts in the South-West Pacific. Major Max R. Wicks, Squadron leader of the 340th Fighter Squadron, is credited with bring down the first Jap plane, a Zeke. Lt. Thomas Barber also of the 340th claimed a probable on the same mission. 2nd Lt. Wilburn S. Henderson and 2nd Lt. Leonard G. Leighton of the 341st each destroyed a Jap plane, an Oscar and a Zeke, but Lt. Leighton was shot down by another Zeke while following the first Zeke down. From this unfortunate loss, the all essential lesson of staying in at least a two ship element was impressed upon the pilots of the group.
    For the most part, operations during August were confirmed (confined?) to transport cover to …….?, Tsili Tsili, Gussap Wau, Bulolo and Nadzak. This seemed a part of the Fifth Air Force’s policy of refusing the 348th Fighter Group arduous combat missions until they had become seasoned pilots. Colonel Kearby, was dissatisfied with these missions, for he knew that he had an eager and capable group of pilots with him and he had unremitting confidence in the Thunderbolt. Therefore, on Sept. 4th he obtained permission from the Fifth Fighter Command to lead a flight of 20 Thunderbolts on a Fighter sweep over the enemy bases at Morabe, Salamana, and Finschaffin, to see if they couldn’t attract enemy opposition or catch an unwary enemy formation in flight. Over Morabe, he spotted a Betty, escorted by two Oscars. Col. Kearby destroyed the Betty and one of the Oscars, thus initiating our group to “hazardous combat”, a thing it was to undergo quite frequently in the future.
    The opening of the first major allied offensive in the Southwest Pacific came on the 5th of September, 1943 when after intensive preparatory aerial bombardment of the nearby Jap bases, U. S. paratroopers were dropped at Nadzak in the Markham Valley some 20 miles West of Lae, and Australian infantry poured ashore at Hapoi on the New Guinea East Coast approximately the same distance east of Lae and drove west to capture the former Jap stronghold while the American paratroopers maintained a road block barring reinforcements from crossing down the Markham Valley from the West. The 348th played an active part in the operation, covering the preparatory bombing and patrolling the area after the troops had landed. Nadzak later played a peculiar important part in the 348th history, since it was from this airbase that our frequent fighter sweeps took off on harassing missions to the Wewak area that earned them the nickname in the Australian press of “The Wewak Scourges”.
    On the 16th of Sept., American and Australian troops made an amphibious landing at Lae, clearing the area of the enemy in a short while. Kaiapit, a base North of Nadzak and directly East of Finschaffin, was capture on the 18th followed by the capture of the strip at Finschaffin on the 21st.
    The 348th Fighter Group had no little share in these operations. It provided fighter cover for the parachute landings at Nadzak, provided escort for transports supplying troops advancing on Salamana, which was captured on the 12th of Sept, was part of the fighter cover for Allied landings at Finschaffin and during the last weeks in September, escorted innumerable flights of transports flying supplies to these newly captured bases.
    The group was rewarded for its efforts in these campaigns by tripling its August fighter kills. Our pilots destroyed 9 enemy aircraft in September, substantiating Colonel Kearby’s confidence in his outfit. Colonel Kearby himself accounted for 3 victories. In addition to downing a Betty and an Oscar, on a fighter sweep to Morabe on the 4th, he shot down a Dinah while flying high cover for a C-47 landings at Nadzak on the 14th.
    Col. Kearby was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his action on Set. 4th. He received the Air Medal for participating in twenty-five operational missions from 2 August to 14 September.
     
  8. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    It was on September 20 that the group experienced its first air raid. At 0400 hours two Betty type bombers dropped 10 unidentified bombs in the jungle missing completely the airstrip which was their target. Their raids were to be repeated many times in the future and it was on this first raid that personnel learned the advantages of their “fox holes”. Thereafter, at the sound of unfamiliar engines no one lost any time in diving for the nearest slit trench.
    The 348th Fighter Group celebrated it’s first anniversary on Oct. 1st. During the year, a fighter group had been conceived, organized, trained and successfully began its combat career. Our group’s successful start received commendation from Brigadier General Paul B. Wurtsmith, commanding General of the Fifth Fighter Command, in a letter to the First Air Force under which we had trained.
    Evidently General Wurtsmith’s letter made the pilots of the Group determined to continue as the “competent eager pilots able to handle themselves and their airplanes against anything the enemy may offer”, for subsequent Oct. operations more than exceeded General Wurthsmith’s expectations. Though off to a slow start, the weather for the most part being bad with low overcasts preventing flying and routine transport escort missions to Nadzak and Tsili Tsili comprising most of the operations, the 348th’s pilots put on a expected performance on Oct. 11th over Wewak on a reconnaissance and fighter sweep. A flight of four P-47s led by Col. Kearby with Captain Moore of the 341st on his wing, Major Gallagen, the 342nd’s C.O., and Captain Dunbane, ran into a large formation of Nip planes. In the ensuing battle Colonel Kearby shot down 6 enemy fighters, Captain Moore got 2 and Captain Dunbane destroyed 1. Col. Kearby’s 6 victories on one mission set a new record in the theatre and won him the Congressional Medal of Honor. ( G.O. No 3 WD Wash DC dated 6 Jan ‘44)
    On the 16th of the month the group added 13 Zekes to its mounting record on a sweep to Wewak and a cover mission for B-25s to Alexischafan. Col. Kearby scored again for group headquarters. On the 19th Col. Kearby led a flight on the now routine Wewak sweep, knocking down 2 Petes. This combined with the squadrons victories made the Groups total for the day 6. On the 23rd, 14 P-47s patrolling shipping over Finschaffin tangled with a dozen enemy fighters, knocking down five without loss to our side. Lt. James L. Rowe brought headquarters score up a notch with his victory over a Hamp.
    Thus October proved to be a lucrative month for the victory hungry 348th Fighter Squadron (Group). 37 enemy planes were destroyed, with Group Headquarters pilots accounting for 11 of these. The 342nd Squadron led the Squadrons with 14 victories, while the 340th and 341st squadrons claimed 6 each.
    Shortly after the arrival of the 348th at Port Moresby, the Buna Area known as Dobodura began to come into increasing prominence as an Allied air base and in a few months grew from 3 or 4 strips to a total of twenty. It was the base from which neutralization attacks were carried out against the Jap strongholds of Rabaul and Cape Gloucester at the east and west ends respectively of New Britain. On many of the missions flown by the 348th during the late summer and fall of 1943 our planes staged through Dobodura and for two weeks in late October and early November an operating ground echelon from each squadron was maintained at Dobodura.
    Air echelons from each of the three squadrons left on the 22nd of Oct. for operations at Dobodura. Here they remained until November 9th when they returned to the Group just in time to prepare for a move to Finschaffin.
    During these early days in November frequent volunteer fighter sweeps were run to the fruitful Wewak area. On the 5th Lt. Col. Rowland, Group Deputy Commander, Major Oskala, Group Operations Officer and 2 pilots from the Squadrons ran into 35 Nip fighters and destroyed six of them thought the odds were almost 10 to 1. Lt. Col Rowland short down 2 Tonys and Major Oskala downed another. This same combination of pilots destroyed 4 Hamps after a brief chase over Wewak on the 7th. Lt Col Rowland and Major Oskala repeated their performances of the previous day except that their victories were Hamps.
    The 342nd Squadron encountered 15 to 20 Jap fighters on a B-25 escort mission to Wewak on the 15th of November and boosted their score no little with 5 enemy definitely destroyed and 3 more probable. Ten days later Captain William M. Banks downed a Dinah over the Wewak stomping grounds.
    The November victories totaled 16 for the 348th Fighter Group. This was less than half October’s score, possibly due to the interruption of operations caused by November’s frequent moves.
    Lt. Col. Kearby was promoted to full Colonel in November and transferred to VFC as Chief of Staff. A farewell party was held at which Colonel Kearby and Major Russel, also transferred to VFC, acted as hosts. The entire program felt deeply the loss of our Commanding Officer a loss lessened by the frequent visits Col, Kearby paid to the group.
    Lt. Col. Robert R. Rowland assumed command of the group on 12th of November with Major Gallagher becoming Executive Officer.
    On November 27th Lt. General Kenney, Commanding General of the Fifth Air Force arrived at Port Moresby from his headquarters in Australia and presented a total of 83 decorations to the group. At this impressive ceremony Lt. Col. Rowland received the Air Medal and 1st Oak Leaf Cluster. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for destroying two enemy aircraft over Wewak on Nov. 5th.
    The 348th Fighter Group from their advanced base at Dobadura had taken part in the softening up of the Arawe and Cape Gloucester landings. This softening up of these Jap strongholds was a necessary prelude to the landings that took place at Arawe about the middle of December. The 348th provided the landing parties with an aerial umbrella. This landing however was a diversionary action planned to draw the Jap troops attraction from a road-block to keep reinforcements from the Madang area from interfering with the main landing at Cape Gloucester. Arawe fell easily to the Allied onslaught but not so Cape Gloucester. Here the Fifth, Thirteenth Air Force and Naval Forces were called upon for an intensive bombing and shelling of the Cape Gloucester area. So Effective and devastating was the bombardment that enemy installations, supplies, communications and troops were completely knocked out and the resulting confusion enabled the U. S. troops to land with veritably no resistance. The 348th enjoyed a series of “field days” during these operations, shooting down great numbers of Jap aircraft and sinking and strafing enemy shipping at random.
    These beachheads constituted the first major breach in Japan’s outer perimeter and eliminated danger to U. S. shipping between New Guinea and New Britain. It also split the Japanese supply route from New Guinea to New Britain and isolated Rabaul.
    As some of the New Britain landings were well in hand another move was made up the New Guinea coast to Saidor. The purpose was to sever one Jap division from its source of supply. The resistance was moderate but the air-strip was in such bad condition the Seabees had to be assigned to repair it. It was from this strip the Group was able to so effectively participate in the Admiralty Islands campaign about four months later.
    Combat activity for the Group continued on an increasing scale during Dec. as the enemy made some effort to stem the tide of Allied advances up the New Guinea coast. Operations for the 348th Fighter Group as part of the plan for softening up the Cape Gloucester and Arawe areas consisted of the fighter sweeps, bomber escort, patrols, straffing missions and interception of the Nip planes now quite frequently showing themselves in an effort to impede Allied progress. The combination of the excellent combat experience gained by the Group in the past months of operations and the Jap willingness to engage our pilots made possible in the month of December the largest bag in victories for the 348th Fighter Group. When the smoke had cleared from the months action the group had 95 more Nip planes to its credit.
     
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  9. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I have a letter dated Nov. 27, 1943 that I'll add here since it goes along with the above post. Sadly there is only the one page.
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    This record bag was initiated in the months infancy when on December 1st the 341st Squadron brought down 4 Tonys and (out?) of 20 encountered while on a B-24 escort over Wewak. On December 3rd Col. Kearby shot down 3 enemy fighters and Captain Wade M. Brown of the 340th downed another. Captain Oskala who had to escort a “snafu” home became separated from his charge shot down a Tony that was following the other two ships.
    The second week in December found the Group preparing for its move to Finschaffin. An advance echelon which departed for Finschaffin around Nov. 12 had the site in readiness where the first air echelon arrived on Dec. 15th. So well had the advanced echelon done their job the first Finschaffin based mission took off the following day. On the same day our echelon left Port Moresby, Allied troops made a landing at Arawe and upon our arrival and in subsequent days we provided continuous day cover over the area.
    8 P-47s were scrambled on the 16th to intercept an unidentified plot. Finding a flight of some fifteen enemy ships over the target, our Thunderbolts lost no time in starting five of the enemy on the road to “Divine Glory”. On the following day while patrolling the Arawe area our pilots dispatched nine more Nips to their “Great Reward”.
    There began a series of missions the result of which far overshadowed any previous victory stroke of the 348th Fighter Group. Evidently an overwhelming Christmas spirit of giving prevailed among our pilots for in the 1943 Yule tide season the Japs were recipients of just about every thing our boys had. The first present was delivered a little prematurely on the 21st to ten Jap pilots. These Nips had 8 Vals and 2 Hamps shot out from under them. Again exercising the Noel spirit our pilots personally delivered numerous presents in the form of flaming 50s to 3 Zekes over Wewak. The Japs were overwhelmed by our generosity.
    On Dec 26 our boys set out to deliver a few belated momentos to their Nip friends who were watching the U. S. Marines land on Cape Gloucester. Our Thunderbolts lost no time in delivering their presents to their best girl Betty, with the result that out of a flight of fifteen not one of the girls was neglected. We even had a few gifts left over for the twin brothers, Tony I and Tony II. Major Raymond K. Gallagher and Lt. Col. Robert R. Rowland each downed a Betty.
    The following day the 340th and 341st Squadrons in a day of over-bounding generosity delivered the Spirit to 29 Jap fighters. 18 Zekes, 8 Vals, 2 Oscars and a Tony provided the flaming climax to the 348th Fighter Group’s dole. Lt. Col. Rowland, leading the formation accounted for a Zeke. The 340th clobbered 16 and the 341st took care of the remaining 13. The Group brought its Yuletide season to a close when the still ebullient 342nd Squadron definitely destroyed 6 Vals and 2 Zekes on a Cape Gloucester patrol on the 31st. The 348th Fighter Group’s Christmas tree was well lighted with 95 victories hanging upon its limbs.
     
  11. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    Here is the only other letter I have.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  12. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Great stuff, Biak. The letters add a bit of personal touch to the rest. It's a shame you don't have more of them. Keep at it.
     
  13. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    The New Year was ushered in without fanfare the usual routine of 1943 passing into 1944. Had the babe with the top hat and streaming banner noticed closely the 348th Fighter Group she would have perceived the determination in the personnel to bring even greater devastation to the Jap in the coming year than that wrought previously. And it was with this spirit that the Group undertook its January missions. A fighter sweep to 1943’s prolific Wewak area on Jan. 3 lead by Lt. Col Kearby was our year opener. The Betty that crashed in flames under Col. Kearby’s withering fire was an omen of what the Japanese could well expect in the coming 362 days. On the 9th, Col. Kearby led another flight of four to Wewak where they met some 18 Jap fighters. Col. Kearby shot down 2 Tonys in the ensuing combat. On the 18th, Lt. Myron N. Hnatio of the 340th downed a Zeke while sweeping the Wewak area. Missions for the month of January consisted chiefly of patrols over Wewak, Saidor, Cape Gloucester and Arawe. The 348th during the time also began tactical operations and ground support that in the future brought it large recognition.
    Finschhafen proved to be a station of numerous red alerts and air raids. The second night after our arrival 2 Bettys dropped 10 unidentifiable bombs against shipping in the harbor causing no damage. On the 19th 2 more of the 348th’s sweethearts dropped from (five?) 150 kilograms daisy cutters and 2 more Bettys laid six unidentifiable bombs harmlessly in the jungle the following night. After a weeks rest the enemy again resumed its nuisance raids on the 27th dropping ten 150 kilogram daisy cutters on the Finschhafen strip damaging a single P-47. Two more Bettys seemingly following the feminine habit of bothering men, dropped four antipersonnel bombs in a camp area some distance from ours. A single Betty wrought considerable damage on the 30th when it dropped seven antipersonnel bombs and three incendiary clusters. Revenge was sweet when the lady met her death at the hands of our ack-ack batteries.
    January brought little respite from the annoying Jap intrusions. On the 23rd five men were killed when 10 bombs from six Bettys scored hits on a Liberty ship. Two unidentified enemy dive bombers dropped two demolition bombs causing no damage other than the strain put upon the nerves of the personnel. On the night of the 25th a single Zeke dive bomber scored a near miss on a L.S.T. in the harbor. In the middle of the afternoon on the 29th a single Zeke without causing a red alert, laid an egg near a liberty ship and to round out the night, another Zeke dive bomber harmlessly planted a bomb in the water.
    As the Group was young and assignments only recently made, personnel changes and promotions during this period were relatively few. 1st. Lt. Paul L. Foster was appointed mess officer and Cpl. Burkett mess sergeant when the group arrived at Port Moresby. On the 6th of December 2nd Lt. Delmar L. Martin, JR. was transferred to VFC and from there to a service outfit on the mainland. Capt. Johnson was placed on T. D. in order to attend malarial control school. 1st Lt. Paul L. Foster became acting adjutant. 1st Lt. Frank J. Brennan, ordnance officer, was transferred out of Group for medical reasons with 1st Lt. Elmer Mark Bothun, formerly of the 8th Fighter Group, taking over his duties on the 3rd of November. Sgts. Deatrick and Martin joined the ordnance staff soon after Lt. Bothun’s advent. On December 22nd 1st Lt. Fred L. Heller was assigned to the Group Flak Intell. Officer. 1st Lt. Robert La Bounty was relieved and sent to 342nd Fighter Squadron. Lt. Harold A. Vanderburg took over the duties of ass’t S-3.
    Awards for the period were confined to pilots who had distinguished themselves in combat. Colonel Neal E. Kearby as stated before, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for downing two planes on a single mission neat Hapoi, New Guinea. He received the Air Medal for operational flight missions from 2 August 1943 to 14 September 1943. Col. Kearby received the Silver Star Decoration for gallantry in action over Wewak and New Guinea on 16 Oct. 1943. For heroism in flight and exceptional and outstanding accomplishment in the face of great danger above and beyond the call of duty over Wewak, New Guinea on 19th October 1943 Col. Kearby was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross. For his outstanding performance of shooting down 6 enemy planes on a single Wewak mission on 11 October 1943 and for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty the Medal of Honor was given to Col. Kearby.
    Captain Francis G. Oksala became the proud possessor of the Air Medal when it was given to him for operational flight missions from 6 August 1943 to 18 October 1943. Captain Oksala received an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight over Wewak, New Guinea on 5 November 1943 and was awarded a second Oak Leaf Cluster to the A. M. for achievement over Wewak on 7 November 1943.
    1st Lt. Jesse (?.) Ivey was awarded the Air Medal for operational flights from 17 October 1943 to 25 November 1943. 1st Lt. James L. Rowe received his for flights from 6 August to 17 November 1943 and 1st Lt. Robert H. La Bounty for missions from 2 August 1943 to 22 November 1943. 1st Lt. Rowe was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight of Finschafen, New Guinea on 23 October 1943.
    Major Raymond K. Gallagher received an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for achievement in an aerial flight of Cape Gloucester New Britain on 26 Dec. 1943.
    Though the Group had received excellent maintenance training in the U. S. several new problems arose that had to be solved to keep operations running smoothly. Men in the communication dept. had not had actual experience with Radar back in the states and their knowledge of its operation coming from what they learned in school a year before. However, before our planes arrived at Port Moresby the Radar men worked with men of the 36th Fighter Squadron who showed them how it worked in actual operations so that when our echelon arrived they were adept at handling the equipment. They found that the transportation of the radio sets from the United States had subjected the delicate radio equipment to a great deal of vibration which resulted in the wearing out of mountings and electrical contacts in the equipment. These had to be exchanged and re-exchanged at the Service Squadrons until satisfactory sets were obtained. It was found that the regulation antenna was too short to give the set sufficient range so a newly developed antenna was to be installed to remedy the situation stock radio and radar sets were kept in perfect condition in the communications shop all the time. When a set would go out of order all that was required was the 5 to 10 minutes necessary to make the change, thus no plane had to be marked out for radio very long.
    Work was started by the Engineering section soon after our initial missions to devise a belly tank that could be affixed externally on the P-47 for long range missions. Since tanks made specifically for the P-47s could not be found a P-39 tank had to be converted by our Engineering personnel. Pilots were instructed to make two wheel landings to relieve the wear on the tail wheel tires where Service Squadron stocks were exhausted.
    A summary of combat lessons and enemy evaluation reports are contained in Enclosures. ( Damn, I don’t have those !)

    In the period from July 1st, 1943 to January 31st, 1944 the 348th Fighter Group received its combat baptism. In these initial months of its career the 348th Fighter Group changed from an inexperienced but determined outfit to a mature battle tested fighter group. In its encounters with the enemy of its varied missions- escort, patrol, bomber cover, fighter sweeps and interceptions- the Group conducted itself in such a manner as to gain the confidence of the higher authorities and put fear into the heart of the enemy. Our record of 165 victories in this period spoke for the accuracy of our pilots gunnery and eagerness to engage the enemy. None of this could have been accomplished with out the excellent maintenance our planes received and without the cooperation and tireless effort shown by all sections and personnel. These factors were essential in the change of the 348th Fighter Group from its infancy to the patent fighting machine it is today.
     
  14. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    History of the 348th Fighter Group
    Chapter IV
    (February 1944)

    During the month of February the 348th Fighter Group continued to operate from Finschhafen strip under the 85th Wing and Fifth Fighter Command.
    On the first day of the month there were four promotions of enlisted men. Sergeant Richard J. Cloonan, 32228207, and Sergeant Louis Hapke, 35371559, were promoted to the rank of S/Sergeant. Pfc. Joseph E. Conroy, 31168604, and Pfc. Leonard C. Box, 35459337, were promoted to Corporal.
    Five officers and three enlisted men were granted leaves. Major Gallagher and Oksala and Captain Miller left on the 19th of the month via General Connell’s B-17 for an extended tour of Australia--touching at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart before returning in March. The other two officers who left on leave during February were 1st Lt. Jesse B. Ivey and 1st. Lt. George Hart. Lt. Hart also attended Chemical Warfare school while in Australia. The three enlisted men and seven officers who had gone on leave in January returned before the end of the month. A good many of the returnees swear that the effort involved in getting down to and back from the mainland was hardly worth the good time. Their tune changed radically after a few weeks however.
    Captain Oksala received a general order from the Fifth Air Force listing him among those that were promoted “From Captain to Major” dated 31 January, 1944. The affair was duly solemnized that evening by both the enlisted men and officers.
    Early in the month Major Gallagher proposed that the group design and adopt an insignia--one that would be representative and distinctive. A contest was initiated and considerable interest was created. The judges decided that Pfc. Helmuth’s and Lt. Spaulding’s contributions should be combined into one design and when accomplished adopted it as the group insignia. (See Exhibit C)
    The operations and S-1 buildings were completed about the middle of the month and proved to be a great asset with their wooden floors raised off the damp ground. The buildings were erected just in the nick of time because the monsoon weather descended shortly afterwards flooding the area for days on end. The only joy in the rain was that it drowned our other torture-- the heat and dust.
    The PX under the directorship of 2nd Lt. Taylor opened for business in one of the tents vacated by the advance echelon from the group who had departed for the new location -- Saidor. A fine assortment of supplies was provided and all hands purchased their fill of soap, peanuts, watchstraps, etc. A few fortunate ones fell heir to the nine watches which needless to say were in demand. Some of the supplies were set aside to provide the advance echelon consisting of four officers and twelve enlisted men with a taste of civilization again.
    The local theater was an achievement of “art” being in the shape of a natural amphitheatre. Many enjoyable evening were passed there--particularly one in which the master-of-ceremonies was none other that that rip-roaring, two fisted hero of the screen, John Wayne.
    Worship services were held for both Catholic and Protestant men at the 342nd and 340th mess halls respectively. All meetings were well attended and much inspiration was gleamed from them.
    The Nips provided us with considerable entertainment in the form of air raids. Bombs were dropped in our vicinity on five occasions; the 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 17th. One air raid in particular produced a large assortment of “duds” which were carefully removed under the direction of Lt. Snyder-340th Ordnance officer. In all over eighty (80) bombs were defused during the month.
    The enlisted men made a number of forays into the surrounding area and produced many souvenirs for their efforts. After due censorship many of the items were sent home.
    Major Hykes commenced to gather the “348th Fleet”, procuring a small 26’ motor boat from the Navy early in the month. The fleet later grew to five boats--a considerable undertaking for a fighter group.
    Lt. Jesse P. Ivey was appointed headquarters personal equipment officer in addition to his other duties--accepting the job with complacent demeanor.
    Athletic activities consisted of volley-ball with the 340th Fighter Squadron teams and swimming in the clear water of Iangemak Bay
    The operational activities for the month of February consisted of Patrols to Finschhafen, Saidor and area cover at the Admiralty Islands; Escort missions to Marienburg (A-20s), to Wewak (B-24s), to Nubia (B-25s), and to various points with PBYs; and covering various convoys off Cape Gloucester. Pilots of the group shot down eleven (11) Japanese planes during the month. The 342nd accounted for 5, the 340th 5 and group headquarters 1. Of the eleven planes seven were Tonys, two were Hamps, 1 was a Helen and 1 was a Sally. In carrying our these missions 1876 sorties were flown and 43,485 rounds of .50 cal. Ammo were expended.
     
  15. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I should put in here that I am trying to copy the narrative as closely as I can, so some of the personnel names and place names may not be spelled as we know them now. Or even correctly then. I have corrected the few that I'm sure were merely "typo's" (and probably put in a few of my own) but left the rest in case of questions about researching. It could be that some areas/names that cannot be found today are due to the spelling used and changes made since the 1940's. I've also noticed the "writing style" changes from month to month, most likely due to changes in assignments and the varied personnel changes involved.
    Now if I could only sit here in a canvas tent with a wooden floor, a few Iguana's, Bats and Monkeys, an old typewriter and my own P-47 sitting outside....




    March 1944

    The 4th of March saw 1st. Lt. Robert H. LaBounty relieved from assignment, Headquarters 348th Fighter Group and transferred to the 342nd Fighter Squadron. On the same order, S. O. 24 Headquarters 348th Fighter Group, 1st Lt. Harold E. Bandayburg was assigned to Headquarters 348th Fighter Group from the 342nd Fighter Squadron as assistant S-3 until 12th of May when 1st Lt. Randall L Hilbig in turn relieved him.
    The Group was shocked and plunged into great sorrow when on March 5th Colonel Neel E. Kearby, our former Group Commander and constant booster failed to return from a mission over Wewak. It was in this engagement that he shot down his 21st Nip plane and came within one plane of Captain Richard Bong’s SWAP record. To Colonel Kearby goes the greater part of the credit for the Group’s remarkable record since it was under his inspired leadership that the unit grew from a green organization to one of the best trained outfits in this theatre.
    1st Lt. William M. DuPuy was assigned and joined Headquarters on 6 March, 1944 per par 1, S. O. 66, Hdqrs. V fighter Command and was placed in the S-4 department as Engineering Officer.
    Headquarters underwent quite an upheaval when on 12th March 1944, it was announced in S.O. 25 pars 2-6 that Captain Leighton H. Stevens was appointed Group Adjutant and Detachment commander, vice Major Lloyd Johnson relieved. The latter was appointed Group Executive Officer vice Major Raymond Gallagher relieved who in turn became Deputy Group Commander. 1st Lt. Paul Foster was relieved as Assistant Adjutant per same order. Shortly afterwards 1st Lt. John H. Whitney was relieved as Special Service Officer and was appointed assistant S-2; a position that he was well qualified in.
    Four officers departed from the “beautiful Isle” to enjoy the pleasure of Sydney for an all too short period while three returned from the same area.
    Major Gallagher left the Group temporarily to perform a special task for higher Headquarters at APO 922 shortly after he received his Lt. Colonel “leaves” on 15 March 1944. The party in honor of this occasion will long live in the memory of most Group officers as it was indeed a rare feast. The party was made most entertaining by the presence of a “detachment” of newly arrived nurses. The cooking ability of Major Hykes and Captain Bothun was given due recognition while 2nd Lt. Taylor was the “forgotten man” doing K/P.
    Many thanks went to Major Hykes for supplying steaks, potatoes, butter and fresh bread for the many parties held during the month, including parties for the enlisted men in Headquarters.
    1st Lt. Roy A. Russell was assigned and joined Headquarters per par 5, S.O.73, Headquarters V Fighter Command as Group Armament Officer. 1st Lt. Elliott M. Thatt also was assigned and joined on the same order as Assistant Group Medical Officer. The medical section was again shuffled on March 19th when Captain Ralph M. Cantafio was relieved from assignment with the 341st Fighter Squadron and was assigned to Headquarters. 1st Lt. Thatt taking his place in the Squadron.
    Headquarters personnel vacancies were filled by the later half of the month with the arrival of 3 assigned and 7 attached enlisted men. Thirteen medical enlisted men were relieved from assignment to the squadrons and were assigned to Headquarters although still remaining on D.S. in the respective units.
    Captain Schrager contributed much to the Group morale by personally erecting the coca-cola machine and dispensing the contents to thirsty and eager individuals for 6 pence a cup. The Navy aided in the project by supplying CO2 and various parts. The good Captain also had a refrigerator built at this time by the Sea-Bees which had a novel innovation--a spigot for dispensing ice-water. Needless to say the Dentist’s office became a familiar “hang-out” for many.
    The ice-cream machine was put into operation with each of the three units of the Group getting the use of the same for two days a week.
    There was considerable amount of rain during the month which turned the well-oiled roads into a slippery glass, much like ice. Many tense moments were had by individuals living along the main road when vehicles were sliding hither and thither with great abandon.
    The 28th of the month saw the Group pack and leave Finschhafen moving 110 miles up the coast to the newly captured Saidor area. The move was accomplished with dispatch and without a major hitch and upon arrival the camp area was found to be practically completed and ready for occupancy. The advance party under 1st. Lts. Cornwell and Ivey and Captain Bothun had done a magnificent job.
    The operational activity of the groups was confined to escort and patrol missions with an occasional fighter sweep to break the monotonous routine. The targets of the former activities took our flights to the Nibia-Hansa Bay area lying halfway between the towns of Wewak and Madang, New Guinea.
    The preliminary softening-up of the Admiralty Islands progressed satisfactorily with P-47s aiding the Naval bombardment by sweeping the skies clear of fighter opposition. Momote Strip on Los Negros Island and Manus Island both part of the Admiralty group were the particular targets of the fighter escorted bombers of the 5th Air Force. Fires and great damage were observed to result from the combined Naval-Air Force saturation bombings.
    Fighter sweeps were made to Wewak and Hansa Bay, New Guinea and Cape Hoskins on the north coast of New Britain Island. The results were often obscured by low hanging clouds and by the fact that the area was very heavily wooded. However many well camouflaged barges with personnel were set afire or severely damaged as well as surrounding buildings and supply depts. One Zeke was probably destroyed on the ground during one of these raids.
    As indicated above, the group was involved in aerial combat during the month meeting some of the stiffest opposition to date. The Jap pilots were found to have taken a “new-lease on life” and were particularly aggressive and resourceful. The enemy tactics involved sharp turns to the right and left and split S’s. These maneuvers were countered with diving turns, zooms and skids to both the right and left by our “birdmen”. The Japanese made use of decoys to lure our planes to the lower altitudes by employing a formation of 8-10 planes on the deck while deploying a larger looser formation at approximately 27,000’ altitudes to dive on our attacking aircraft. The P-47s were able to counter these tactics by diving at high speeds and by effectively covering each other’s tails.
    Considerable controversy arose among the air-men regarding the advisability of painting the tails of the P-47s white. It appeared to confuse the Japs as they would often by-pass an unpainted P-47 apparently failing to recognize it-but by the same token our own pilots found it difficult to quickly identify a P-47 in combat. Further identification was provided when the leading edge of the wings were painted white. The pilots were thoroughly briefed on the newer Jap planes with particular reference to distinctive characteristics and so it is felt that the difficulty recounted above will be minimized in the future.
    A possible new strip was seen at Josephstaal, 35 miles southeast of Nubia, New Guinea in a large Kunai grass area. The estimated length was 3500 to 4000 feet and it appeared to be in good shape. This area will undoubtedly be watched closely and proper action taken if its development proceeds too rapidly.
    The group proudly reported a month’s score of 26 Nip planes (23 Fighters and 3 Bombers), with no losses.
     
  16. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    History
    (April 1944)

    The beginning of April found the Group well established and entrenched at Saidor. All tents were perched on frames and fox-holes dug just in case. Showers had been installed with cement floors and occasionally the water supply was adequate enough for a complete shower. On the other occasions some were caught “soaped up” at the time the water supply vanished.
    The chapel was completed by the natives and was a very presentable assembly hall. Two services were held therein before the departure of the Group from the area--both of which were well attended. (exhibit ?)
    A very welcome movie schedule was presented under the direction of Chaplain MacDaniel and was greatly enjoyed by all the units in the area. A bit of difficulty arose when so many men brought boxes with them and abandoned them in the area. It was finally necessary to place guards to prevent the debris from being brought in and on the whole the situation was remedied.
    The Group was honored by a visit from the Commanding General, V Fighter Command, Brigadier General Wurtsmith, at which time a presentation of earned awards was made to eligible group men. Among those honored were Lt. Colonel Rowland with an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and three (3) Oak-Leaf Clusters, and the Silver Star; Major Francis G. Oksala received the Air Medal and one Oak-Leaf Cluster. 1st Lt. Jesse P. Ivey the Air Medal; 1st Lt. Randall L. Hilbig, the Air Medal and one Oak-Leaf Cluster; and 1st Lt. James L. Rowe, the Air Medal and one Oak-Leaf Cluster.
    1st Lt. John V. Geary was welcomed to the Group Headquarters on 23 April 1944 per par 5 Special Order 40, Headquarters 348th Fighter Group as (was) 1st Lt. Robert D. Baxter formerly squadron S-2 of the 341st Fighter Squadron per par 12 S.O. 41, Headquarters 348th Fighter Group on April 1944.
    The outstanding, albeit tragic event of the month occurred on Sunday when over 32 Allied planes were lost in and around Saidor Strip. It seemed that large number of planes were returning from a strike late in the afternoon and because of fuel shortage were forced to land at Saidor to refuel. Extremely bad weather closed in on the field in the meantime making it extremely hazardous to land and before all the planes cold be brought down, approximately twelve (12) were involved in accidents varying from minor damage to total destruction. Over twenty more planes were lost at sea or in the adjoining area. Lt. Col. Rowland was the cause of considerable anxiety before he landed safely in the late afternoon. The Group aided considerably by rushing all its ambulances to the line and by supplying medical attention as required. Captain Weddle, 342nd Fighter Squadron was especially outstanding in his efforts and was awarded a Soldiers Medal in recognition thereof. Captain Arthur Schrager, the Group Dentist, drove one of the ambulances also.
    The weather was extremely damp and many times it was necessary to “bail out” the fox-holes in order to make them serviceable. The mud became ankle deep at times and was the cause of all personnel using the available washing facilities extensively.
    Before the month was many days old a number of additional stripes appeared. 1 T/Sgt, 2 S/Sgts, 1 Cpl., 1 Pfc, a reward for diligent effort to the recipients.
    1st Lt. Thorne E. Spaulding was appointed Communications Inspector on April 8, 1944 in addition to his other duties as Cryptographic Security Officer. 1st Lt. Altamont J. Cornwell was appointed Technical Inspector on 16 April 1944.
    1st Lt. Jesse P. Ivey was appointed Tactical Inspector, relieving Major Francis G. Oksala. 1st Lt. James L. Rowe was appointed Weather Officer and 1st Lt. Randall L. Hilbig was appointed Personnel equipment officer, vice 1st Lt. Jesse P. Ivey on 11 April 1944. The last named officer was appointed Group Surveying Officer at this time also and soon found himself confronted with weighty and pertinent problems.
    One officer and one enlisted man from Headquarters left for much deserved rests on the mainland.
    The Group encountered no Nip opposition during the Month although every day our P-47s were seeking diligently for the enemy.


    History
    Headquarters 348th Fighter Group
    May 1944

    During the month of May the administrative procedure of Group Headquarters was considerably disrupted by the move from Saidor to Wakde Island on 9 May 1944. The move was made via LST and while the loading was accomplished with dispatch a terrific thunder storm arose and thoroughly drenched much of the equipment and personal belongings. Much time and effort was expended in salvaging every available scrap of lumber since it was rumored that it would be priceless at the new location.
    After three nights and two days aboard ship during which time all the officers and enlisted men had a fine opportunity to catch up on sleep and to fatten up on good Navy chow, the unit was put ashore at Hollandia. Confusion and disorder seemed to be the order of the day with all equipment and supplies being dumped helter-skelter along the beach. Probably one of the most discouraging scenes was watching a bulldozer push the much belabored lumber into the jungle in order to clear the beach.
    Shortly after arriving a fire of immense proportion broke out destroying much of the food supplies and ammunition. Major Johnson and Captain Stevens showed outstanding heroism at this time in rescuing soldiers and controlling the excited crowds.
    The unit spent a hectic nine days scattered over the twenty odd miles between the beach and the strip. Much equipment was stolen or lost and it was with great relief that the unit embarked again on LST’s. An overnight trip brought them to Wakde Islands.
    Fortunately a small adjacent island named Insoemanai, had been set apart for the use of the 348th Fighter Group and so the next week was spent in clearing the area, erecting tents, etc. The fresh water supply was non-existent here so work was immediately started on wells and piping, In the interim, the numerous cloudbursts were of great aid in providing H2O. Administrative headquarters were set up again and soon began functioning smoothly.
    In the meantime the rear echelon of 9 officers and 10 enlisted men “held the fort” at Saidor until such time as notification was received that the strip at Wakde was ready rejoining the Group on the 28th of May.
    The unit was fortunate in having 1st Lt. Scheffler assigned to the Group on the 13th of May as Group Special Services Officer. Lt. Scheffler was a professional baseball player before his entry into the Army and is expected t set up a fine athletic program in the near future. Soon after his arrival the Unit began enjoying movies almost every night--a very welcome diversion.
    The Special Services section in addition to the movies, set up an extensive program of volley-ball, horseshoes, and day-room activities. An orchestra was formed and soon the jitterbugs will have an opportunity to keep trim, pending a return to civilization and the opposite sex. Magazines, papers and books continued to pour in, although most of them were rather old and “beaten up”.
    The Group Commander, Lt. Colonel Rowland, received his “chickens” on May 15 1944 and was duly congratulated on this recognition of his outstanding service.
    Captain Cantafio was relieved from assigned to the Group o the 9th of May and Lt. DuPuy was assigned to 342nd Fighter Squadron as Engineering Officer on the 27th of May.
    Lt. Colonel Gallagher the Deputy Group Commander departed to take up the position of Chief of Staff at Hollandia and Major Banks was brought up to act in his stead. On the 28th of May Major Banks was recalled to the States to attend Staff and Command School and Major Moore was elected to be the Acting Deputy Commander.
    The S-4 section, under the able leadership of Major John H. Hykes, had a rather hectic although successful month. The Group Armament Inspector, 1st Lt. Roy A. Russell, was hospitalized for most of the month and the Group Assistant Technical Inspector, CWO Charles W. Schubert fell heir to a re-occurrence of the disease commonly called “New Guinea Crud”, and will in all probability be evacuated. One enlisted man of the section followed in CWO Schubert’s footsteps and was evacuated for the “Crud” trouble.
    Despite these handicaps, the section maintained the essential Ferry Service from Wakde Island to Insoemenia Island, with only one accident of a minor nature. The vehicles were put through an extensive check which was badly needed after the battering they received at Hollandia. Many conferences with the Squadron Supply and Transportation Officers were held for the purposes of improving the departments. One of the major problems of the section and a pet of Major Hykes, is the reduction of paper work throughout the group. It sometimes seems at times as though the war hangs on getting the paper work accomplished.
    During the month of May certain enlisted men were rewarded for their efforts to the extent of 2 new Master Sgt’s, 1 T/Sgt, and 3 Cpls. One of the enlisted men left on leave to the mainland and came back a married man--his bride being an English miss.
    One of the problems of increasing importance is concerned with furloughs, or lack of furloughs, for the enlisted men. So few men are permitted to be absent at any one time that it seems almost impossible for may of the men to hope to have a furlough. This tends to create a mental hazard as well as being detrimental to the physical well-being of the individuals concerned.
    Since no Finance Office had been set-up in the new area the regular monthly pay-roll and vouchers had to be forgone temporarily. It really didn’t make a great deal of difference to the majority of men, except as it interfered with the pursuance of the favorite Army pastime.
    The Group was the cause of 8 more “Sons of Heaven” complete with aircraft, biting the dust during the month, with greater activity pending in the near future.
    The Ordnance Section had ample opportunity to exhibit their prowess in removing several Nip duds in the camp area--all of which was accomplished successfully with only a few frayed nerves as a result. The morale in the Ordnance section is sky high due to the prospect of an early return to the old country of the three representatives thereof.
    Because of a slack in the numbers of scraps with the “Sons of Nippon” during the end of the 348th Fighter Group’s stay at Saidor, a program of glide bombing and strafing was undertaken. The biggest problem for the pilots was whether or not to land with a bomb hung-up in a wing shackle. Over 200 tons of bombs have been hurled at the Nips by the pea-shooters of this Group with the biggest success being scored by Colonel Rowland when he slapped a direct and demolishing hit on a Nip bridge.
    The S-2 equipment suffered considerable damage enroute to APO565 Unit #1 because of rough handling, repeated loading and unloading, and exposure to rain. The lack of plywood and canite board made it difficult to set up a proper presentation of the strategic and situation maps. Steps that will be taken in the future to insure the safe delivery of department equipment are:
    (1) Elimination of all supplies or boxes that are not absolutely essential.
    (2) Packing as much equipment as possible in the department’s vehicles and trailer to reduce handling.
    (3) Shellacking or painting all plywood mapboards to prevent warping and the building of a heavy crate as a protection against physical damage.
    (4) Allowing the rear echelon to move a greater part of the departmental equipment.
    Due to the necessity of supplying details for general camp duty, the sections strength was at a decided minimum most of the month. As a precaution against future emergency “raids” on S-2 personnel, the following steps are being taken to insure a continuous flow of work:
    (1) All receipts for Secret and Confidential documents are to be kept in one journal, instead of on separate receipt sheets.
    (2) The system of filing maps has been simplified by folding the maps and filing them according to scale and alphabet. The file cabinet was made of .50 cal. Ammunition boxes and proved to be quite adequate.
     
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  17. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    History
    348th Fighter Group
    June 1944

    The month of June opened with S.O. 50 Headquarters 348th Fighter Group dated 1 June 1944 awarding one new stripe each to two Corporals and two Privates--thereby creating two additional Sergeants and two Privates First Class. As the month progressed one enlisted man joined from the 342nd Fighter Squadron while two enlisted men were transferred to the hospital units. Two fortunate individuals departed for MacKay (and civilization) while three men reluctantly returned from the same town. The returnees were loud in their praise of the rest area--having enjoyed real food, ice cream, milk and assorted beverages to the fullest extent. The health of all was greatly improved.
    1st Lt. Paul L. Foster was appointed Group Historical Officer per paragraph 11, Special Order 50, dated 1 June 1944, vice Captain George W. Rand.
    On the 8th of June the group was grieved to hear of 1st Lt. James L. Rowe’s death while acting as co-pilot of a B-25. Lt. Rowe was on DS with the Wing at the time and was anticipating an early return to the group. The heroism displayed by the flight and the stupendous results accomplished will indeed be one of the Air Corps’ most brilliant records. Lt. Rowe will be remembered for his good nature and his remarkable ability for getting what he set out to obtain.
    The mess halls were completed early in the month and was duly appreciated by the assembled multitude. It was a distinct pleasure to be able to sit down in a building with a roof overhead and be served hot food from steam tables. Another pleasure was added with completion of the showers--relieving the ocean of the responsibility for the cleanliness of the group. S-4 was responsible for this project.
    The S-4 section contributed to the welfare of all administrative departments by initiating a typewriter repair program. A radio request to the V ASAC resulted in two typewriter repairmen being dispatched to this headquarters to aid in the program and soon all the sections were once (again) operating in high gear. Two 2 ½ ton trucks were procured to replace those ruined during the previous movements and one water reservoir tank was obtained and installed.
    A detachment of experts arrived from Command to aid our communications in installing the new secret VHF equipment. Upon completion of the work a much more efficient and workable radio network will be available and it should do much to increase the safety of flying.
    The group of experts was sorry to lose the ALO officers and enlisted men that had been attached since Port Moresby but since we had left Australian territory their work finished. Lt. Heller, the Flak Intelligence Officer was also relieved from assigned and was sent to the Wing at Hollandia to train new CA officers.
    The chapel was finally “raised” and in use by the end of the month although two unsuccessful “raisings” were conducted before the edifice was securely moored. Services, both Catholic and Protestant, were held throughout the month and were on the whole well attended.
    Doctor Schrager took time out from his work to set the coca-cola machine in operation and this was appreciated by all.
    The Special Service section assisted by their courier, 1st Lt. Sutcliffe, literally swamped the group with movies on the last three days of the month--showing two features plus shorts for two consecutive nights and one picture and shorts on the third. Although greatly enjoyed some of the personnel experienced great difficulty in arising in the mornings.
    With the establishing of a PT base nearby liaison was made with the PT intelligence office and arrangements were made for the interchange of information, maps, etc.
    The rear echelon from Saidor arrived on the 30th--just in time to get “first wind” of our next move. Work was immediately started on remarking and stenciling boxes, etc.
    Word was received late in the month of the nearly fatal accident involving Lt. Jackson former 340th Engineering Officer. It was felt that the 475th Fighter Group lost the services of a fine officer temporarily.
    Enemy action during the month was confined to three or four nuisance raids although a few planes were lost and damaged by falling bombs and shrapnel. Fortunately the casualties were low probably due to the depth of the fox-holes and the willing cooperation of all concerned in using the same.
    As the first day of the month ushered in enlisted promotions, so the last day of the month saw Captain Leighton H. Stevens received his Majority. The event was duly celebrated by both officers and enlisted men. Earlier in the month on the 13th of June, 1st Lt. Randall L. Hilbig obtained his Captaincy which filled the operations T/O up to full strength.


    Narrative History
    July 1944

    The month of July brought forth a number of changes in Headquarters personnel as well as a “boost” in rank for both officers and enlisted men. Chaplain Wilbur J. McDaniel was relieved from assignment and transferred to the 11th Service Group, APO 923 per par 6, S.O. #34, FEAF, 18 July 1944. On the same day Chaplain Brunson C. Wallace was assigned to the Group per par 9, S.O. 208, Hq. VFC from a signal unit at an advance base.
    Captain Cantafio was relieved from assigned to the Group as Assistant S-3 from the 341st Fighter Squadron and 1st Lt. Harry W. Hunter was assigned as Special Service Officer (Education and Information) per par 5, S.O. #203, Hq. VFC dated 21 July 1944. 1st Lts. Altamont J. Cornwell and Paul L. Foster were promoted to Captain per S.O. 181, USAFFE, 1 July 1944 and S.O. 185, USAFFE dated 5 July 1944. 2nd Lt. James B. Taylor became a 1st. Lt. Per USAFFE G.O. 204, 25 July 1944. One enlisted man received a Technical Sergeant Stripes and another, a Private first class.
    Flying activities during the month were very limited with no opposition encountered and only routine patrols, escorts and strafing missions “on the docket”. “Colonel” Charles A. Lindbergh flew one of the planes of this group during the latter part of the month. The “ground forces” found life especially dull with only the “paper work” going full blast. Operations reported a change in the CZ/CM Zone, effective 21 June 1944 and the necessary corrections were made in the individual records of the group pilots with a few CM hours being lost by all.
    The intelligence section reported difficulty in obtaining enough colored pencils to keep up with the rapid advance of the Russian, American and British troops across their maps. This was a very gratifying situation however. Changes were made in the bombing and strafing lines and the pilots were thoroughly briefed each day.
    G.O. 396, Hq. VAF , quotes radio XR 5695, FEAF 12 July 1944 as activating the 460th Fighter Squadron. This squadron will become a 4th Squadron of the 348th Fighter Group. The new squadron was formerly an Airdrome squadron and so very few transfers from the Group were necessary to fill vacancies outside of flying personnel. S.O. #209 Hq. VFC dated 27 July 1944 transferred 3 officers of the 340th, 5 officers of the 341st and 5 officers of the 342nd Fighter Squadrons to the 460th Fighter Squadron to act as a “flying cadre”. Captain William D. Dunham was relieved as 342nd Commanding Officer and appointed C.O. of the new unit. The place of activation was Nadzab and the unit is expected to remain there for at least 60 days so that it may work itself into a smoothly running squadron.
    The Chaplain reported a great increase in attendance at all services--Catholic and Protestant, with figures of 185 being recorded as an average attendance at the latter services. The use of the 1st Fighter Control Chapel was obtain late in the month and will make a more extensive religious program available. A group library was started in the Chaplain’s office and the turnover is reported to be good.
    Captain Cornwell returned form TD with Fifth Air Force Service Command Pratt and Whitney School and brought with him a great deal of useful and necessary data regarding handling, maintenance and overhaul of P-47 type aircraft.
    The motor vehicles were thoroughly checked and put in as good condition as ingenuity and effort could bring about. The salt water and moisture tends to increase the maintenance problems. Two 1000 gallon water tanks were procured which will be very useful in maintaining an adequate water supply.
    Major Lloyd N. (M?) Johnson was awarded a Bronze Star Medal per G.O. 98 FEAF, 25 July 1944 for, “heroic achievement in connection with Military operations against the enemy at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, on 18 May 1944”.
    A letter of commendation addressed to all Air Force Unit Commanders from Hq. 5 AF was received during the month commenting on the admirable work done on Noemfoor Island. Other letters of commendations are also appended to this report covering the operations of:
    Hollandia and Tadji.
    Hollandia - Maffin Bay - Biak.
    Enemy task forces off Biak.
    Wadke and Biak.
    Wrecked aircraft at Hollandia and Tadji.
    Momote, Lorengan and Seeadler Harbor.
    Attached hereto are the Combat Evaluation Reports for all the units of this organization from the time they left the states to the present.
     
  18. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    History
    (August 1944)

    A good many new faces were seen around group Headquarters as the month of August progressed and by the same token many old familiar countenances were “among those missing”.
    Captain Cantafio assistant Medical Officer, was transferred to AC unassigned per par 5, S.O. 65, Headquarters 348th Fighter Group dated 1 August 1944. Major Johnson, APO 927. 1st Lt. Whitney was relieved as Assistant S-2 and assigned to the 460th Fighter Squadron as S-2 per paragraph 10, S.O. 227, VFC dated 14 August 1944. On the same order M/Sgt McKinney, Sgt. Helmuth, Cpl. Rubin and Pfc. Matzko were reassigned to the 460th Fighter Squadron as a basic cadre in the armament, S-2 and S-3 sections respectively.
    Major Hykes, Group S-4 was transferred to APO 713 Unit #1 per paragraph 6, S.O. 224, FAF dated 11 August, with Lt. Geary becoming Group S-4.
    1st Lt. Ford (MAC) was transferred to a Signal Warning Batallion per paragraph 9, S.O. 227, VFC dated 14 August 1944, being relieved by 1st Lt. Stanley W. Breyfogle, (MAC) who was assigned per paragraph 4, S.O. 70 Headquarters 348th Fighter Group dated 22 August 1944.
    Major Oksala Group S-3 was placed on D.S. at APO 929 as composite Fighter Group Commander - later to be assigned as such.
    1st Lt. George A. Hart (Ord) was assigned to Headquarters 348th Fighter Squadron per paragraph 7, S.O. 68 Headquarters 348th Fighter Group dated 15 August 1944, with 1st Lt. Guyman (Ord) taking his place in the Squadron. This move was affected in lieu of Captain Bothun’s impending departure for the United States. T/Sgt. Martin (Ord) was the first member of the Group to be sent home under the rotation plan-- an event causing much wishful thinking about the “old country”. One enlisted man was brought up from the 341st Fighter Squadron to replace him in the Ordnance department.
    2nd Lt. Taylor received his silver bars per paragraph 1 S.O. 5, USAFFE, dated 25 July 1944--a well earned reward for the efficient function of the personnel section of the Group. Lt. Taylor was on leave at the time and was rather disgusted that he hadn’t heard it in time to celebrate the event in “civilization”. Three new Sgts. and three new Cpls. Were “made” by S.O. 65, Headquarters 348th Fighter Group, dated 1 August 1944.
    Relief from New Guinea boredom was provided for 3 officers and 3 enlisted men during the month, while 3 officers and 1 enlisted man returned from the “Land down under” greatly refreshed and invigorated.
    An advance detail of four officers and six enlisted men left about the 20th for APO 704 with the main body of men moving oto the LST’s on the 23rd of the month - arriving at Noemfoor Island on the 26th of August 1944. The move was accomplished amidst the usual deluge but went off without a hitch.
    A very enjoyable two days were spent on shipboard with the excellent coast-guard food being well received. The ship’s officers did much to make our short visit pleasant. The move was notable in that it was the first entirely wheel-borne move and was therefore accomplished with practically no loss of or damage to equipment. The new camp site was very muddy but promised to develop into a very suitable spot.
    Colonel Robert R. Rowland left for a well deserved 60 day leave in the United States about the middle of the month per letter USAFFE, letter dated 25 July 1944, “Leave of Absence” file 210.711. Rumor has it that wedding bells may ring for “me and my gal” before he rejoins the unit. Lt. Colonel Charles H. MacDonald, formerly Commanding Officer of the 340th Fighter Squadron returned to the states on the same order in a blaze of glory, having shot down his 12th and 13th Nip planes over Palau on a foraging mission with “Colonel” Lindbergh.
    Thirteen pilots were sent home because of combat fatigue but their places were immediately filled by newly assigned pilots. As of August 1st 54% of the pilots of the group had flown over 400 combat hours and many had been overseas fifteen months.
    Operational activity was confined to strafing and glide-bombing of personnel and supplies in the area east of the Waintoe River and on the Southeast side of the Sarmi peninsula. Many gas and oil dumps were set afire and a known 63 Nip casualties were counted after attacks on the Cape D’Urville and Metimedam Creek areas. The Nips were all heading west and appeared to be fully equipped. Certain areas were restricted to strafing and glide bombing on the 27 of July, including the portion of New Guinea lying between 132* east to the 133* 30’ parallels respectively. The line was changed on the 8th of August to embrace all areas between 131*-30’ east to 133* parallels respectively and 15,000 yards inland. The Schouten Island group and Japan Islands were likewise in the “prohibited zone”.
    No enemy planes were sighted or shot down in aerial combat nor were any planes destroyed on the ground during the month of August. Enemy shipping did not feel the weight of the Thunderbolt attacks as the former appeared to be notably absent. However the Group was not inactive by any means--being assigned the duty of harassing Nip concentrations on Biak Island and Noemfoor Islands; Manakweri - Utarom; Jefman - Utaran and Sarmi areas and expending 8 #250 and 314 #500 bombs as well as firing 199,721 rounds of .50 cal. Ammunition, while flying 1,959 combat hours in 939 sorties. These routine missions prevented the group from engaging in more fruitful “research”.
    The effectiveness of the 5th Air Force “strikes” was very evident as the intelligence reports which showed a precipitous withdrawal of the Japanese airforce from New Guinea, the Halamahara and Celebes Islands, and Palau. The following data reveals the trend:

    ---------------------------------------------ENEMY AIRCRAFT DESTROYED
    - - - - - - - - - - - - ---------AMBROM-CELEBES - PALAU - HALAMAHARA ------------------------------------
    As of August 1, 1944 - ----------329 ------------------ 192 ---------- 81

    As of August 29, 1944 - -------- 164 ------------------ 31 ----------- 5

    The average number of pilots present was 37, while the average assigned was 48. The monthly overall average of hourly gas consumption comes to 85.5 gallons and at the same time the Pratt and Whitney engines devoured 6.2 quarts of oil.
     
  19. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    History of the 348th Fighter Group
    September 1944
    Chapter XI
    The month of September saw a considerable shuffling of the Group personnel with men being transferred to other units; re-assigned within the group; transferred to hospitals; and few fortunate individuals, being returned to the Unites States. The following tabulation indicates the gains and losses for the month:

    _____________________GAINS____________________________

    2nd Lt. Robert N. Barnett assigned per par 2, S.O. 245, VFC, 1 September 1944 as assistant Group S-2.
    1st Lt. George M. Sanford assigned to headquarters from the 341st Fighter Squadron per par 9, S.O. 74, 348th Fighter Group, dated 15 September 1944 as Group Armament officer.
    Captain James L. Rea was assigned to headquarters from the 341st Fighter Squadron per par 6, S.O. 76, 348th Fighter Group, dated 22 September 1944, as assistant S-3. Captains William R. Bennett and Gerald L. Woodruff 340th Fighter Squadron were assigned to headquarters as assistant S-3 officers as per par 5 S.O. 79, 348th Fighter Group , dated 26 September 1944.
    Captain Clinton R. Kinard was assigned to headquarters per par 10 S.O. 80, 348th Fighter Group, dated 26 September 1944 as Group Adjutant. Major Stevens, former Group Adjutant, moved up to Group Executive Officer on the same order.
    Major John T. Moore was assigned to headquarters as Deputy Group Commander as of the 24th of May, 1944 per par 9 S.O. 80, 348th Fighter Group, dated 28 September 1944.
    S/Sgt. Donald F. Wilcox was assigned to headquarters per par 10, S.O. 74 from the 342nd Fighter Squadron dated 15 September 1944 as S-4 clerk.
    Sgt. Elmer J. DeHoff (Ord) was assigned to headquarters from the 342nd Fighter Squadron per par 2 S.O. 72, 348th Fighter Group dated 3 Sept. 1944.
    Sgt. Richard C. Grab was assigned to headquarters per USAFFE Reg. 5025 as S-1 Clerk.
    Pvt. Clayton G. Starling was assigned to headquarters per par 9, S.O. 72, 348th Fighter Group dated 5 September 1944, as S-2 Clerk.
    Pvt. Delmar W. Reha was assigned to headquarters per par 1, S.O. 78, 348th Fighter Group dated 25 September 1944 as S-2 Clerk.
    S/Sgt. Warren E. Brickley, Sgt. Joshep G. Luther, Pvt. Pat Swearington, Sgt. C. O. Barnes and Cpl. Robert J. Lola were assigned to headquarters per par 3, S.O. 80, 348th Fighter Group dated 28 Sseptember 1944 for reassignment to the squadrons.

    ____________________ LOSSES_____________________________

    Pfc. Peterson (Med) was transferred to the 341st Fighter Squadron.
    Cpl. Pebbles, Special Service assistant was transferred to the 60th General Hospital per par 4, S.O. 72, 348th Fighter Group dated 3 Sept 1944.
    M/Sgt. McKinney, (Armament) was assigned to the 460th Fighter Squadron and relieved from attached to headquarters 348th Fighter group.
    T/Sgt. Dietrich (Ord) was transferred to Rotation Detachment, Base “F” per par 2 S.O. 256, V Fighter Command dated 12 Sept. 1944.
    Captain Elmer M. Bothum (Ord) and 1st Lt. Roy M. Russell (Armament) were transferred to Rotation Detachment, Base “F” per par 2 & 3, S.O. 256, V Fighter Command dated 12 September 1944.
    Captain James L. Rea and Lt. Colonel Gallagher were transferred to the 267th Replacement Company per par 10, S.O. 267, V Fighter Command dated 23 September 1944.
    1st Lt. Spaulding (assistant Group Communications Officer) was placed on D.S. with the 460th Fighter Squadron to supervise the setting up of the communications section.
    1st Lt. Geary became “Captain Geary” on the 16 September 1944 per par 1, S.O. 257, USAFFE.
    Cpl. Ewick received a third stripe for his diligent efforts in S-1 while Pfc’s Brown and McKean, S-4 and S-3 clerks respectively were searching for Corporal stripes to adorn their shirts. Pvt. Moidel stepped out of the recruit ranks by adding “First Class” to his former rank. Unfortunately it was found necessary to reduce men to the grade of private for cause during the month.
    1st Lt. George Hart (ord) was appointed group transportation officer vice Captain Geary relieved in compliance with a directive from higher Hdqrs.
    The leave and furlough schedule showed only one headquarters enlisted man and no headquarters officers “taking Off” for rest and relaxation while two headquarters enlisted men and one officer returned from the “land down under”.
    The newly activated 460th Fighter Squadron was assigned to the group as the fourth squadron and arrived at Noemfoor to join the group on the 3rd of September 1944. This unit bids to be a distinct asset to the group and under Captain Dunham’s inspired leadership has set our to be the “outstanding squadron”.
    An acute overcrowding of the combined Headquarters-341st mess hall became evident during the month and after a staff consultation, it was decided to erect a Headquarters mess-emporium. However, no sooner was the building completed than the 460th Fighter Squadron arrived in the area, minus a mess hall and took over the structure. The situation was relieved somewhat by increasing the number of tables and rushing additional eating utensils from Australia.
    The Chaplain announced the completion of the chapel during the waning days of the month and conducted a dedicatory service on the last Sunday of September.
    The capacity of the 210 seat building proved to be much too small for the crowd attending that and subsequent services. Most of the manual labor was performed by the local natives themselves the product of Christian missionary efforts. A choir was started under the baton of Chaplain Wallace and promises to develop into an outstanding musical group.
    September ushered in a month of great advances in the SWPA--notably the twin amphibious landings on Palua Islands in the Mariana Island group and on Moratad Island in the Halmahara Island group. While the group didn’t have a direct part to play in these landings it contributed greatly to the success of the operations by pinning down enemy fighter opposition and destroying supply and communications lines on surrounding island bases. In particular, the Kaoe airdrome in the Halmahara group was completely neutralized by the glide-bombing Thunderbolts. It was in this operation that one of the 340th Fighter Squadron pilots was shot down by intensive A/A. The 460th Fighter Squadron flew on the first P-47 mission over Rabaul on New Britain without meeting any aerial opposition. Further strikes were made at Langgcer airdrome in Kai Islands; Waren Airdrome on Dutch New Guinea 80 miles south of Manokwari; Galela strip in the North-west Halmaharas. Amahai and Boela airstrips on the South-west and North-east Ceram respectively and the Orai river area 24 miles North-west of Wakde Island.
    A new phase of bombing technique was developed by the 342nd Fighter Squadron when a flight of Thunderbolts bombed the Orai river area led by an L-4 which “spotted” the target with a smoke shell and corrected the aim of the diving P-47’s. Various other tactics were tried to improve bombing accuracy such as altitude, speed and angle of approach.
    The group received enough of the P-47D-23 series to completely equip three squadrons. Experimentation aimed at conserving fuel continued apace by reducing power setting and controlling prop pitches. The new electrical bomb release proved to be a great improvement over the old mechanical type and probably accounted for the 79% bomb-hit average chalked up by the group for the month. A cross-feed in the wing fuel tanks was developed and found to be of considerable aid in keeping the aircraft at a constant “trim”. External tanks not equipped with this pressure feed were found to malfunction above 21,000 feet.
    The Special Service section reported an increasing interest in sports and various other sundry activities. Intermural teams were formed in all the Squadrons and a healthy interest has been aroused. The 340th Squadron in particular, is engaged whole-heartily in setting up a program involving the majority of the unit.
    The Information and Education section has been instrumental in disseminating news regularly and in sponsoring various programs over the Public address system.
    The Group could not count for any additional Nips shot down in aerial combat nor any Nips killed in strafing attacks but did feel that a substantial contribution had been made to the forwarding of the war effort in the SWPA during the month.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
     
  20. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    History of the 348th Fighter Group
    October 1944

    On the surface of things routine seemed to mark predominantly the affairs of the 348th in the first weeks of October. Yet beneath the drowsy regularity which might have seemed apparent to the casual observer who watched its operations there stirred in the outfit an undercurrent of those less obvious but nevertheless intense expenditures of energy which mark a period of careful and efficient planning and preparation.
    Preparation for what? To review a moment, it was clear to every soldier in the Pacific at that time in early October that the greatest chapter in the history of the Japanese war which was the New Guinea campaign was from all strategic considerations completed. There were only footnotes to be added. Now every eye turned to the North. No person had to be told specifically the exact when and how of the coming Philippine campaign. He knew almost instinctively that it was imminent. MacArthur’s avowed intention had always been to return to Manila the moment the supply of men and material sufficient for the move was at hand. The enemy’s aerial picket positions in the Pacific Islands had been taken and turned into powerful battering rams which were directed at the Philippine vitals. The big black arrows in the sketch maps of Time and Newsweek pointed themselves, no matter whence their sources, to Luzon, or the Visayans, or the mountainous expanses of the southerly Mindanao.
    The 348th sat in Noemfoor in the early days of October thinking and planning and training, looking ahead to an operation which it knew would dwarf anything it had known before. Lights burned late in the Group operations and Intelligence Offices. Major Banks then deputy commander of the group and Commanding in the absence of Colonel Rowland, Captain Ivey and all the squadron commanders and operations officers in whose hands lay responsibility for success in things to come, sat in the commanding officer’s tent many an evening and pondered problems. Experience in New Guinea was standing them in good stead as questions arose. “What were the essential techniques which must be perfected?”. “What would be the nature of the first few days and weeks operation?”. “What supplies were absolutely essential?”. “Who could be left behind, what could be left behind, of only a skeleton organization could go in the first move?”. “Were the air echelons in the group carefully segregated as to men and material and prepared to move on very short notice?”. There were many young and inexperienced pilots newly acquired from the training skies of America via the combat replacement training center in Port Moresby. How much could they be depended upon to know? How much must they be taught? Scarcely one of them had ever flown in actual combat and here they were about to step into more of it than even the old timers had previously known. No chances could be taken concerning these boys. It was fairly clear that operations in the Philippines would make demands upon every potentiality of the Thunderbolt. There would be an abundance of visible bombing targets where results could be assessed. There would certainly be extensive action against enemy shipping and barge traffic. There might be close ground support. And above all there would surely be swarms of Japanese fighters and bombers pounding relentlessly at our shipping and beachheads. They must be attacked in the air and destroyed. That every pilot know and understand each of these probabilities and how to meet it as it became reality was a matter of deepest concern to those in command and through the nature of the routine missions which took off and landed at Noemfoor, plus practice missions arranged for this very purpose the necessary knowledge was imparted.
    Day after day the green boys from the states took off with five hundred pound bombs and wing tanks and flew southwest across Dutch New Guinea and the Ceram Sea to the island of Ceram itself where they dropped their loads on enemy air strips and installations at Boela, Haroekoe, Amahai, Piroe Village and other bases. As the month progressed, glide bombing and long distance flying were getting to be a familiar pattern. Mastery of this technique was assured.
    One day Major Banks was speaking to his operations officers on the phone and telling them that tomorrow there would be a practice interception of B-24’s by one of the squadrons. And so it followed. For several days such missions were run with all squadrons participating and during the alert hours on the line and over the bridge games in the evenings there was a constant flow of wing talk, hot argument as to why and why not to make this or that pass from this or that altitude and bearing from the bomber formations. And thus another technique was fairly learned, insurance for success was accumulating and October was reaching its prime.
    The biggest and most important aspect of training as fighter pilots consider things, was yet to be accomplished. The new pilots must have an idea of what goes on when Zekes and Oscars and the like are encountered in the skies. The Japanese in New Guinea during October could not be depended upon to furnish their share of planes and personnel to insure a measure of experience for the 348th pilots. Major Banks was forced to improvisations. Aussie P-40’s were playing about the skies over Noemfoor and Gellvink Bay during those days and arrangements were made for them to play with the Thunderbolts for the mutual benefit of all concerned. Risking an insult to P-40 pilots and their planes, generally it might be noted that the P-40 seemed to be the closest approximation to anything the Japanese has available at the time. They were fast, peppy, and maneuverable. For several days the operations clerks and intelligence personnel, the armament boys and the crew chiefs, stood around on the ground and squinted up into the tropical sun, watching the Thunderbolts and Warhawks dive, turn, and pull great white streamers across the blue.
    At the end of the month the pilots of the 348th were well versed by experience in bombing, strafing and long range fighter navigation. They had simulated attacks on bomber formations, and had learned the advantages and disadvantages of flying their Thunderbolts in combat with smaller, slower but more maneuverable planes. They were ready now and eager for any eventuality. They looked forward to the supreme test of the thoroughness of their training with impatience.
    Meanwhile as October progressed there was much to do on the ground. Each department had its problems and its men to solve them. Supply as always in the plans and preparations phases which punctuated the progress of military events, was uppermost in the minds of those who had concern for the various departments. Major Miller of the Intelligence sent his maps and charts sergeant to Owi Island to see and acquire what could be had. Supply Sergeants traveled the long air route to Nadzab and Finschhafen, sometimes on their own, sometimes on the Group’s C-47 transport that was then busy hauling vital supplies from various depots on New Guinea to Noemfoor. Clothing and equipment sergeants went back and forth between their supply tents and the Quartermaster. And at the end of the month, large stocks of clothes and rations, an array of new gas masks, the Intelligence clerks folding and putting away stacks of maps and literature, a few extra films cached away in the Special Service tent, all reflected the successful and various efforts of the men of the group during the last full month at Noemfoor. These efforts were not to be belittled, for New Guinea in those days was no cornucopia of supply by any stretch of the imagination.
    Still, with all this, October was comparatively speaking, a slow month. There was plenty of time for non-essentials, as considered from the military point of view.
    The movie theatre was frequently and amply filled, stretching its capacity to its very limits, those limits dictated by the acuteness of hearing and sharpness of sight of the khaki clad spectators rather than by an architectural boundaries. Sometimes the theatre was very large, sometimes very small, depending on the condition of the projector and amplifier--but it was always filled.
    Chaplain Wallace was a small man, but Noemfoor gave him a highly successful opportunity to fill a large place in the life of the soldier community. A small attractive chapel appeared and congregations also appeared to completely fill it. A score of voices, some good and some not so good, blended to form a choir whose repertoire, considering the locality, was amazing. There was nothing evangelical in the chaplain’s preaching with the rapidly developing effect that members of the more conservative religious elements which had apparently consisted of the vast majority of the soldiers, turned out in droves, each one now safe from the embarrassment of being admonished, to publicly acknowledge the fact he was a sinner. Just how anyone could have been a good, consistent sinner on Noemfoor would have been a moot question anyhow.
    Baseball, like other forms of diversion with the exception of a very few, has its ups and downs in any cross section of American society--even when that cross section happens to be one transplanted to an isle of the southern seas. In October the national sport was the deepest extra curricular concern of every man. The spirit of competition haunted every tent in camp. Squadron arrayed itself against squadron, department against department, in a series of good naturedly contentious encounters on the diamond. The 340th squadron led the group in initiative even though the 460th took the pennant. It was the former squadron which first built the diamond and started the bat swinging. The series only stopped when early in the following month more immediate preparations had to be made to move.
    In the evenings the 340th squadron sponsored a series of boxing matches which lured several glove artists into the ring. The battles were more exhausting than they were bloody, but the presence of large crowds of cheering spectators attested to their entertainment value.
    Thus more than ever before in their service overseas the men learned the value to themselves of participant recreation. This newly acquired art would certainly serve them well in coming campaigns and coming periods of relative relaxation. They had learned the only real answer to boredom.
    No group of men can be long immune from misfortune of one kind or another, and the 348th was not without its normal share. Calculated in the price of gaining the high state of training which the organization enjoyed at the end of the month was the loss of three pilots.
    Major John T. Moore of Group Headquarters flew his last flight on the 8th of October. Flying in bad weather over Ceram Island, he attempted to let down through low cloud cover in search of an assigned bombing target and was not heard from again.
    Two squadrons of the Group suffered losses. 2nd Lieutenant Warren H. Howland, a new man with excellent potentialities, was reported missing in action on 9 October. He was a member of the 340th Squadron.
    To the 342nd the lost of 1st Lt. Malcom Rand on the 24th of the month was not easily reconcilable. His reputation as a pilot and reliable personality was enviable throughout the group. He was shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire after completing a bombing run over Babo, Dutch New Guinea.
    On the 20th of October the invasion of Leyte began and during the final days of the month the Group worked calmly and efficiently to make last minute adjustments in immediate preparation for the all important move it now knew must soon be made. However there was no confusion and no lack of confidence. Training and planning had played their proper roles and the organization could look forward to November and a new campaign with a healthy enthusiasm.

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