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Pacific Paratrooper reboot…..

Smitty reclining in fron, on the far right, with the HQ Company/187th Regiment/11th Airborne

Pacific Paratrooper will now only publish one post per week.

I first started this website to honor my father and his HQ Co./187th/11th Airborne Division and that is what we intend on doing once again.  Smitty never said, “I did this” or “I did that,”  it was always – “The 11th did IT!”

From the beginning, Everett A. Smith (AKA: Smitty), will be re-introduced, his entrance into WWII, the letters he wrote home and the world that surrounded them at the time.

The Farewell Salutes will continue,  as will the Military Humor columns.  If there is someone you wish to honor in the Salutes, don’t hesitate to give me similar information as you see for others.

1943 11th Airborne yearbook

As a member of the 11th Airborne Association (Member # 4511) myself, I am privy to their newsletter, “The Voice of the Angels,”  and I will be using quotes and stories from that publication.  Matt Underwood, Editor Emeritus, JoAnn, Editor, and the officers of the Association have been of great assistance to me and I thank them very much for their help.

This website is ever changing and being updated, because further knowledge is always being learned.  Smitty told me and many others, “I try to learn something every day.  When I stop, Please, close the lid.”  I have never forgotten that motto to live by and I sincerely hope you all do the same.

Please, DO continue to share what stories you know and/or a link to data you’ve uncovered and put them in the comments.  I am afraid no emails will be opened.  If you are not a blogger, you can Follow by clicking the Follow button in the top right-hand corner of each post.

11th A/B shoulder patch

I thank you all for your contributions in the past and hope you will continue to do so.  If you are new to this site – WELCOME!!  We have a wonderful group of people participating here – join them.

Please remember that these countries, in the following posts, were in a horrendous war and NOTHING written or quoted here is with the intent to disparage any people or nations.  And, I have tried to limit the amount of gory details without shading the facts.  I hope I succeed.

As always – Click on images to enlarge them.

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Military Humor –

Some definitions you may want to keep in mind:

ARMY – a body of men assembled to rectify the mistakes of the diplomats

Critical Terrain: Terrain that if not secured, grabbed, taken or camped out on — you are screwed.

DRAFT BOARD – the world’s largest travel agency

MILITARY EXPERT – one who tells you what will happen next week – and then explains why it didn’t

NEW GUINEA SALUTE – waving the hand over the mess kit to ward off the flies

PACIFIST – a person who fights with everybody BUT the enemy

Pound The Crap Out Of: Somewhere between disrupt and destroy and slightly more than neutralize.

Technique: A noun, used in the phrase: “That’s one technique.” Translated – That’s a really screwed up way to execute this operation and you will probably kill your entire unit. But if you want to do it that way – go ahead.”

WAR – a time that starts off paying old scores and ends up by paying new debts

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Arens – Lansing, MI; US Army, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart

Charles “Stu” Bachmann – Bertrand, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, SSgt., B-17 tailgunner

Rosewarne Memorial, courtesy of Destinations Journey

Alvin Cawthon – Tucumcari, NM; US Army, WWII / National Guard (Ret. 42 y.)

Elbert Edwards – Southaven, MS; US Army, WWII, 1st Lt.

Juan Gutierrez – USA; US Army, WWII, PTO, 200th Coast Artillery Regiment, Bataan March, POW, KIA (Luzon, P.I.)

Eddie Hrivnak – Lakewood, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, frogman

David Mottoli – Lawrence, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 25th Fighter Squadron / Grumman (Ret.)

Don Newman – South Bend, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 pilot instructor

George Samson – McGee’s Mills, PA; US Coast Guard, WWII

John Toppi Sr. – Providence, RI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Warwick

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WWII poster

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Aviation Trails

 

Structure of the USAAC – Airforces

The structure of the American Air Force is complex and confusing. Much of it was formed hurriedly during the Second World War, but elements can be traced back as far as the First World War. At its peak, there were almost 2.5 million people employed within its scope both within the United States and overseas in one of the many theatres of operation.

At the start of the Second World War, there were 4 air forces, (designated by district), which were then renumbered 1 – 4 in early 1941. These stayed based within the U.S. covering the West Coast and some training operations on the East Coast and in the southern U.S. The newly established forces were then formed for overseas service. The Fifth, Seventh, Tenth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Twentieth covering the Pacific / Asia campaigns; the Eighth, Ninth, Twelfth and Fifteenth, the European / African / Middle East Theatre; the Sixth covering Panama and finally the Eleventh covering Alaska. During the period 7th December 1941 to 2nd September 1945, there were 16 …..

To read the original post…….

Before the Journey Begins

A well researched blog, I know you all will be interested!

Stanley Hall's Diary

This is a most precious page in Flight Sergeant W.S. Hall’s log book. There is everything I need on it to find out when and where some photos were taken.W S Hall Service Record
Rongotai N.Z. 24-8-1940 to 2-9-1942 (2 years and 9 days)

W S Hall black album page 19 600dpi

W S Hall black album page 19 group picture 1942

ITW Rotorua N.Z. 3-9-1942 to 15-10-1942 (I.T.W. is Initial Training Wing) (42 days)

EFTS Harewood N.Z 16-10-1942 to 1-1-1943 (E.F.T.S. is Elementary Flying Training School) (77 days)

SFTS Woodbourne N.Z 2-1-1943 to 7-5-1943 (S.F.T.S. is Special Flying Training School) (125 days)

No. 12 P.R.C. Brighton, England 8-7-1943 to 14-9-1943 (P.R.C. is Personnel Reception Centre) (69 days)

Flats Brighton City

Residential District Brighton

No. 6 PAFU Little Rissington, Glos 15-9-1943 to 7-2-1944 (P.A.F.U. is Pilots Advanced Flying Unit) (145 days)

Little Rissington 2 600dpi.jpg

Little Rissington 1  600dpi.jpg

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No. 5 PDC Blackpool, Lancs 8-2-1944 to 19-2-1944 (No. 5 Personnel Despatch Centre) (11 days)

No. 1 ME. A.P. C. Jerusalem 8-3-1944 to 14-4-1944 (A.P.C. – Armament Practice Camp) (37 days)

76 O.T.U. Aqir 15-4-1944 to 16-7-1944…

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Ordnance – L-4 Grasshopper in the Pacific

The “L’series liaison aircraft in US army service were often known as “grasshoppers.” These aircraft served with artillery and outfits spotting targets and giving commanders real time information on enemy positions. They also served in Liaison Squadrons, such as the 25th Liaison Squadron which earned fame in the Pacific Theater with their “Guinea Short Lines” aircraft.

L-4 Grasshopper, Piper Cub

Primarily to serve at elimination training bases in World War II the Navy acquired 230 Piper NE-1s , basically similar to the Army L-4s with Continental 0-170 engines. Twenty NE-2s were similar.

deHavilland WWI

As war spread around the world at the beginning of the 1940s, the U.S. military, dominated by old soldiers who expected to fight the next war exactly as they fought the last one, had to be convinced that the requirements for certain weapons needed to be redefined. An example was the Army’s observation airplanes, latter-day versions of the World War I, the deHavilland DH-4.

A two place tandem cockpit, dual-control, modified J-3 civilian light plane built by Piper Aircraft Corporation, Lock Haven, PA. Military models were designated the L-4B, L-4H, L-4J. This lightweight aircraft was among the most useful tactical aircraft of WWII. Dubbed “Grasshoppers” for their ability to fly into and out of small spaces, this military adaptation of the famous Piper J-3 Cub became the center of the toughest inter service turf fights of the war. General George S. Patton, Jr. played a major role in their introduction, a fact often overlooked in light of his other major accomplishments.

The L-4 had a fabric-covered frame with wooden spar, metal-rib wings, a metal-tube fuselage, and a metal-tube empennage. Its fixed landing gear used “rubber-band” bungee cord shock absorbers and had hydraulic brakes and no flaps.

Grasshopper pilots flew dangerous missions over enemy territory without any armor.

The aircrafts flight instruments included an airspeed indicator, and altimeter, compass, and simple turn-and-bank indicator. It was equipped with a two-way radio, powered by a wind-driven generator.

All of the little L-birds land like feathers, but the L-4 is the easiest and softest to land. Put 10 knots of wind on the nose, and all of them seem to come to a halt before gently touching down.

The L-4 retained the metal ribs of the Cub, so only the spar is made of wood. The ribs, however, are trusses of T-sections formed of thin aluminum riveted and screwed together. If poorly treated, these rib trusses are easily damaged and attract corrosion in the corners.

 

A: Cables or struts braced the Piper L4 tailplanes and wings. These allowed the necessary strength to be built in without resorting to a heavy structure. Rough field operations exert a lot of stress on airframes.  B: Mounted semi-exposed, the Continental flat-four engine powered the majority of more than 5000 Piper L-4s delivered to the Army, Several J-4 Cubs owned by civilians were pressed into service.  C: Structurally. the Piper L-4 was quite simple and had a fabric-covered wooden framework. The wing had no slats or flaps, but was equipped with large, long-span ailerons, Internally the wing was braced with wire.  D: For solo flights the L4 Grasshopper pilot sat in the rear seat, which had a full set of controls but was normally used by the observer. The Grasshopper was also equipped with a map table and the radio fit varied between models.

 

In Florida, the Civil Air Patrol had a Piper Cub patrolling at a low altitude along the Palm Beach coast (as many other cities had) and on one occasion, the 55-year-old pilot swooped down for a closer look at something he felt was unusual and he was fired on – it was a German submarine. The plane received enough damage to force him to return to the airfield. This is probably the only American plane downed by enemy fire in the continental U.S. history.

While some of the men were confined to fighting up in the mountains, the division’s newspaper called the Static Line, used a piper cub plane to drop bundles of the publication down to the men.  This was the only news of the outside world that the troopers could receive.  One day, a roll of the papers was dropped with a note attached addressing it: “To the girls, with the compliments of Art Mosley and Jack Keil, Phone Glider 3.”  It was discovered later that the WAC camp received the roll meant for the 11th airborne.

21 December 1944, General Swing and Col. Quandt flew to Manarawat in cub planes.  Upon landing, the general was said to look “as muddy as a dog-faced private.”  (Swing would often be in the thick of things and this description of him was common.)  He slept that night in the camp’s only nipa hut, which ended up being destroyed the next day.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Angel Balcarcel – Canton, OH; US Navy, WWII

Arthur H. Bishop – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment

Mare Island Cemetery

Jimmy Coy – Columbia, MO; US Army, 1st Gulf War, 3rd Group/Army Special Forces, Medical surgeon, Colonel (Ret. 25 y.)

Wayne DeHaven Sr. – Roseville, MN; US Army, WWII, 17th Airborne Division

Richard Fry – Hudson, OH; US Air Force  / NASA (Ret. 30 y.)

Georgina Grey – Bristol, ENG; Royal British Navy, WWII, aircraft maintenance

Jessica Mitchell – Topeka, KS; US Army, DSgt., 68E Dental Specialist

David Michaud – Denver, CO; USMC  /  Denver Police Chief

Joseph Papallo (101) – Meriden, CT; US Army, WWII

Doris (White) Ryan – Como, MS; Civilian, WWII, Memphis Army Dept.

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Ordnance Spitfire in the Pacific War

Australia’s highest scoring fighter pilot of WWII, Clive ‘Killer’ Caldwell, helps push his Spitfire CR-C JL394 out of camouflage, Aug. 1943

The Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Indian Air Force and the RAF also used Spitfires against Japanese forces in the Pacific theater. The first Spitfires in the Far East were two photo-reconnaissance (PR IV) aircraft which operated from airfields in India from October 1942.

Clive Caldwell

Japanese raids on Northern Australia hastened the formation in late 1942 of No. 1 Wing RAAF comprising No. 54 RAF Squadron No. 452 Squadron RAAF, and No. 457 Squadron RAAF under the command of  Clive Caldwell. The wing arrived at Darwin in February 1943, and saw constant action until September. The Mk Vc versions received by the RAAF proved unreliable and, initially at least, had a relatively high loss rate. This was due to several factors, including pilot inexperience, engine over-speed due to the loss of oil from the propeller speed reduction unit (a problem resolved by the use of a heavier grade of oil), and the practice of draining glycol coolant before shipment, resulting in internal corrosion of the Merlin engines.

Another factor in the initial high attrition rate was the relatively short endurance of the Spitfire, most of the sorties were, flown over the wide expanse of ocean between Australia, New Guinea and Timor. Even when fitted with drop tanks the Spitfires could not afford to fly too far from base without the danger of running out of fuel over water. As a result, when an incoming raid was detected, the Spitfires were forced to climb as fast as possible in an attempt to get into a favorable position.

RCAF Spitfire 411 Squadron

In the prevailing hot, humid climate this meant that the Merlin engines were often overheating even before combat was joined. The Spitfires were fitted with the Vokes tropical filters which reduced performance: in an attempt to increase performance the filters on several Spitfires were removed and replaced by the standard non-tropicalized air intake and lower engine cowlings which had been manufactured by the base workshops. The experiment proved to be a failure and the Spitfires were quickly refitted with the tropical filters.

Many of the Australian and British airmen who flew in 1 Wing were experienced combat veterans, some of whom who had flown P-40s with the Desert Air Force in North Africa, while others had flown Spitfires over Europe. They were used to being able to outmaneuver opposing fighters and were shocked to discover that the Zeros they were now flying against were able to outmaneuver the Spitfire.

Raid on Darwin (May 2, 1943)

Strength

Japanese                Australians and British

27 Zeros                33 spitfires

25 Bombers

Aircraft lost

6-10                    14

That was just one raid.. For almost two years beginning Feb 1942 the airspace over North West Australia was routinely penetrated by Japanese raids, about 70 in total.

Spitfires in Darwin

By mid-1943 the heavy losses imposed on the Japanese Navy in the Solomon Islands campaign and in New Guinea meant that the JNAF could not keep up its attacks on northern Australia. Other units equipped with the Spitfires in the SW Pacific Area included No. 79 Squadron, No. 85 Squadron RAAF, No. 458 Squadron RAF and No. 459 Squadron RAF.

In the SE Asia, the first Spitfire Vcs reached three squadrons on the India-Burma front in November 1943. Spitfire pilots met Japanese for the first time on Boxing Day, 1943. A pair of Spitfires piloted by Flying Officer Geoffrey William Andrews and Flight Sergeant Harry B. Chatfield attacked a formation of Japanese planes over Chittagong.  Andrews destroyed a fighter and a bomber, damaging a second, while Chatfield shot down another two. On the last day of 1943, Royal Australian Air Force Spitfires destroyed eleven Japanese bombers and three fighters. Churchill complimented the Australian Squadron for their “brilliant exploit”.

Pilots trudge thru the mud at the advanced airbase in Burma after sorties with the Japanese.

Spitfires ensured that the Allies gained and held air superiority during the battles of Kohima and Imphal from early to mid 1944, in which the Japanese attempt to destroy the British 14th Army and invade India was also defeated. By 1945, when the Allies launched offensives into Burma, the Japanese were unable to challenge the Allies’ air supremacy. Spitfires took part in the last major pitched battle of the war involving the Western allies – No. 607 Squadron and No. 273 Squadron flying the MKVIII armed with 500 pound bombs helped destroy a Japan breakout attempt at Sittang Bend in July and early August 1945.

This post  was the suggestion of Dan Antion.

Resources: Pacific Spitfires.com; History Exchange; Wiki; Aviation Profiles.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Atterson – Clark Range, TN; US Army, Japanese Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

Howard E. Cook Jr, – W. Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, pilot

Courtesy of John @ https://lvphotoblog.com/

Frank ‘Slick’ Dercher – Kansas City, KS; US Navy, WWII, USS California

Patricia Felton – Queensland, NZ; RNZ Navy # 46253, WREN, WWII

James Garrison – Johnston, IA; US Army, WWII, PTO, 24th Division, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Clyde Hymel – Garyville, LA; USMC, WWII, PO, Silver Star

Millard “Smoke” Lea – Union City, IN; US Army, Korea, 101st Airborne Division

Robert Malone – Alexandria, VA; US Army, WWII

Paul Niloff – Sherbrooke, CAN, RC Army, WWII, Medical Corps

Ralph Peavy – Liberty, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Chuck Yeager – Myra, WV; US Army Air Corps, WWII, mechanic / pilot / test pilot / Vietnam, BGeneral (Ret. 34 y.), Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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Ordnance Mitchell B-25, the Ultimate Strafer

Running a gantlet of flak and enemy fighters on September 2, 1943, North American B-25Ds of the 405th Bomb Squadron employ tactics devised by Major Paul “Pappy” Gunn in an attack on Japanese transports in New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor. “Tokyo Sleeper” by: Jack Fellows

Pappy Gunn didn’t develop the skip-bombing technique. It was first used in battle by B-17s on October 23, 1942 (tail end of Chapter 4 in Ken’s Men, Vol. I). The B-25 was certainly better suited for the job and Pappy Gunn and Jack Fox were the ones to modify the B-25 to make it work. Major Edward Larner deserves a lot of credit for convincing his squadron’s crews that they could pull off the technique in battle after they watched his crew successfully use it on a ship during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

Searching on the internet, one can locate more stories containing the B-25 Mitchell bomber than most any other.  During the Second World War, the high adaptability of the B-25 Mitchell Bomber–named in honor of the pioneer of U.S. military aviation, Brigadier General William L. Mitchell–paid off as it served extensively in missions including both high and low altitude bombing, tree-top level strafing, anti-shipping, supply, photo reconnaissance, and other support.

B-25 Mitchell schematic.

Production of this twin-engine medium bomber commenced in late 1939 by North American Aviation, following a requirement from the U. S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) for a high-altitude medium bomber. By the end of the war, about 9,816 Mitchells were manufactured, with several variants.

Generally, the Mitchell bomber weighed 19,850 pounds when empty, had a maximum take-off weight of 35,000 pounds, and was built to hold a crew of six comprising the pilot and co-pilot, a navigator who doubled as a bombardier, a turret gunner who also served as an engineer, and a radioman who performed duties as a waist and tail gunner.

North American Aviation factory workers mounting an engine on a B-25 bomber, Inglewood, California, United States, 1942.

It was powered by two Wright R-2600 Cyclone 14 radial engines which dissipated about 3,400 hp, and performed with a top speed of 272 mph at 13,000 feet, although it was most effective at a speed of 230 mph.

Anywhere from 12-18 12.7mm machine guns, a T13E1 cannon, and 3,000 pounds of bombs comprised its armament. It had a 1,984-lb ventral shackle and racks, capable of holding a Mark 13 Torpedo and eight 127mm rockets for ground attacks, respectively.

The B-25 performed in all the theaters of the Second World War and was mainly used by the United States Army Air Force, Royal Air Force, Soviet Air Force, and the United States Marine Corps.

North American’s plant in Kansas City, Kan., October 1942. As the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor approached, American industry was growing and flexing its muscles. Photo from the Office of War Information, Library of Congress.

Mitchell bombers participated in campaigns in the Solomon Islands, Aleutian Islands, Papua New Guinea, and New Britain, among others. Owing to the tropical nature of the environment, mid-level bombing was less efficient, and thus the B-25s were adapted to serve as low-altitude attack bombers.

During the Southwest Pacific campaigns, the B-25 enormously contributed to Allied victories as the 5th Air Force devastated the Japanese forces through skip-bombing attacks on ships and Japanese airfields.

In the China-Burma-India theater of the war, B-25s were widely used for interdiction, close air support, and battlefield isolation.

The B-25’s extraordinary capabilities as a bomber were first brought to the limelight following their performance in the Tokyo Raid of 18 April 1942, in which the hitherto impregnable home islands of Japan were attacked.

Armorer cleaning the bore of a 75mm cannon mounted in a B-25G Mitchell bomber of the 820th Bomb Squadron, Tarawa, Gilbert Islands; March-April 1944.

In a military sense, the Doolittle Raid was a failure. The small task force of which he and his crews were the centerpiece was detected while Hornet was still 150 miles short of the intended takeoff point. The B-25s were launched on a contingency plan to save the carrier– to clear the flight deck so its fighters could be positioned for launch to defend against attack.

Doolittle and the Navy had agreed to sacrifice the bombers in the event the task force was detected by the Japanese. With the task force having been spotted, the mission had been compromised and the airplanes were sent out with the crews knowing it was unlikely that they would reach China.  They did reach their targets and east wind helped to bring most of the men home.

The power of the B-25 strafers was demonstrated to the world in early March 1943, when the 3rd Attack Group delivered the knockout blow to a 14-ship Japanese convoy that was sitting just outside Lae Harbor during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. A low-level strafing and skip-bombing attack by 12 modified B-25s and a dozen A-20s left every single transport and most of their escorts either sinking or badly damaged. Naval historian Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison referred to the attack as “the most devastating attack of the war by airplanes against ships.”

From the radio operator’s position in a USMC PBJ Mitchell, Japanese POW 2Lt Minoru Wada looks for landmarks to find the Japanese 100th Infantry Division headquarters complex, 9 August 1945, Mindanao, Philippines.

Beginning with the sale of B-25s to the Dutch, North American produced thousands of Mitchell’s for other nations. Considering that the Fifth Air Force was originally headquartered in Australia, it was only natural that the Royal Australian Air Force would operate B-25s of its own. A little-known fact of World War II in the Pacific is that when the 90th Bombardment Squadron was first equipped with B-25s, there were not enough American pilots and gunners to man them. To fill the gap, several RAAF airmen volunteered to fly with American pilots. Most of the co-pilots and many of the gunners in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea were Australian.

Their sturdiness and ease of maintenance under primitive environmental conditions were characteristics that aided the durability of the B-25s during the war. By the end of the war, they had completed more than 300 missions.

This post was suggested by Dan Antion @ No Facilities.

Resources used: National Interest; Air History on line; Boeing; History.com and pacific War Encyclopedia and the IHRA.

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Current News –  7 December 2020, Pearl Harbor Day

For Pacific Paratrooper’s past posts for this date: Videos with a different view

Kimmel and Short

Pearl Harbor Remembered

WWII After WWII’s series

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Military Humor –

“I’ll get onto it in a minute. Everything is so darn steady.”
From November 14, 1942

“One thing I can’t understand about this sentry business. Can you imagine anybody answering ‘Foe’?”
From December 6, 1941

WWII humor from the Saturday Evening Post magazine.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Adams – Fairfield, CT; US Army, WWII, ETO

Orville Cox – Des Moines, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Alfred Dawson (103) – Bailieboro, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, ETO, radar

Stephen Gudek Sr. – Dracut, MA; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Chief Petty Officer (Ret. 20 y.)

Keith Hobson – Chico, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

John Lappin – Washington D.C.; US Army, WWII /  FBI

Betty Murray – Salisbury, MD; Civilian, WWII, military uniform seamstress

Harold F. Trapp – LaPorte, IN; US Navy, WWII, Fire Controlman 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

William H. Trapp – LaPorte, IN; US Navy, WWII, Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Carl Zumbano – Venice, FL; US Navy, WWII, SeaBees

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Ordnance P-38 Lightning

P-38 in the Pacific

Perhaps Colonel Ben Kelsey, a P-38 test pilot, summed up the war bird’s legacy best of all. “(That) comfortable old cluck,” he said, “would fly like hell, fight like a wasp upstairs, and land like a butterfly.”

The P-38 was the most successful USAAF fighter in the Pacific War. It served with four separate air forces, spread out from Australia to Alaska. The most successful American Ace of the Second World War, Major Richard Bong, scored all 40 of his victories flying the P-38 Lightning over the Pacific.

P-38

The 11th Air Force was allocated the task of defending the Aleutian Islands, in the far north of the Pacific. There the extra reliability provided by the twin engines of the P-38 was essential, with missions being flown over long distances and in poor weather. The first P-38 victories of the war fell to pilots of the 11th Air Force. On 4 August 1942 two Kawanishi flying boats were claimed by Lt. Kenneth Ambrose and Lt. Stanley Long of the 54th Fighter Squadron. The Aleutian islands did not retain their importance, and by the middle of 1943 the 11th was something of a backwater.

The 7th Air Force covered the Central Pacific. Its P-38s saw little combat, but flew endless hours of patrols over waters whose importance ended with the battle of Midway. The only exception was the 531st FS, which joined the force escorting bombers attacking Truk and Iwo Jima.

Cactus Air Force w/ P-38, by Jack Fellows

The two main uses of the P-38 in the Pacific were the 5th and 13th Air Forces. The 5th Air Force had been formed in Australia during 1942, and was soon active over Papua. The 13th was activated at the start of 1943, in the South Pacific. Its first HQ was on Espiritu Santo (now part of Vanuatu), in the New Hebrides. Its early duties took its aircraft into the Solomon Islands, and most famously onto Guadalcanal. As the war developed the areas of operations of the two air forces slowly came together, until on 15 June 1944 they were combined as part of the Far East Air Forces.

The 13th Air Force contained two P-38 Fighter Groups, the 18th and the 347th. In November 1942 aircraft from the 339th FS of the 347th FG were sent to Guadalcanal. They also operated against Japanese island bases in the Solomon Islands. They came together with the 5th Air Force during the Allied advance west along Papua and New Guinea, eventually taking over responsibility for neutralizing Rabaul.

SeaBees with a P-38

The 5th Air Force was the biggest user of the P-38, with four fighter groups (8th, 35th, 49th and 475th). During 1943 and the first part of 1944 they were engaged in the campaigns in Papua and New Guinea, first helping to repel the Japanese attempts to capture Port Moresby, and then in the long counter-attack that eventually pushed the Japanese off most of the island. They also had early responsibility for the campaign to neutralize the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul.

The P-38 was the primary American fighter during the invasion of the Philippines. It was able to operate from bases too primitive for the P-51D Mustang, which was thus unable to play a significant role in the early fighting in the Philippines. It would be P-38 units that were first to move back onto the Philippines, where they played a crucial role in destroying the Japanese air force on the islands.

P-38 Lightning, by Jack Fellows

The P-38 could generally out-climb and out-dive any Japanese fighters (other than the Kawasaki Ki-61 “Tony”, which was better armed and heavier than most Japanese fighters). It could not out-turn or out-maneuver the more nimble Japanese fighters, so successful American pilots learnt not to try. A formation of P-38s flown well could cope with just about any Japanese aircraft.

The P-38 was popular amongst American pilots for other reasons. Many pilots of single-engine aircraft learned to dread flying over the sea – if the engine failed over land, at least you could bail out and walk away, even if it was into captivity, but that option was not available hundreds of miles out to sea. In contrast, in a twin-engine P-38 a single engine failure posed only a minor problem, generally only delaying its return to a friendly base.

The Lightning was involved in the single most famous fighter mission of the Second World War. On 18 April 1943 a flight of P-38s from the 339th Fighter Squadron, based on Guadalcanal, flew a long range mission to intercept an aircraft carrying Admiral Yamamoto. His itinerary on a morale boasting tour of Japanese bases had been intercepted, and the code broken four days earlier. It was decided to make an attempt to intercept his aircraft. However, in order to prevent the Japanese realizing that their codes had been broken, the intercepting units had to fly a winding 400 mile route, making it look like the attack on Yamamoto’s aircraft had been a chance encounter. Only the P-38 had the range to carry out this long range mission. Yamamoto’s aircraft was successfully found and shot down, and the Admiral killed. The long range P-38 had inflicted a telling blow on Japanese morale.

This post was suggested by Will Pennington

Resources: Lockheed Martin; History of War; “P-38 Lightning Aces of the Pacific and CBI” by John Stanaway; air wing media and vbader.com

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Tomi Curry – Gary, IN; US Army Reserves

Thomas S. Dennison – Saskatchewan, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

Michael Goodboe – USA; US Navy SEAL, Middle East, Silver Star, 4 Bronze Stars / CIA paramilitary, KIA (Somalia)

Charlie Hare – Wheeling, WV; US Army, Korea, Co. F/187th RCT

Kelliann Leli – Palin, NJ; US Air Force, UAE, Captain, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Medic

Frank Macon – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII

James Russell – Lake Worth, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co/187/11th Airborne Division

Clayton E. Stoess (102) – Crestwood, KY; US Navy, WWII, Lt.

Walter A. Suberg (100) – Glenview, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, pilot

W. Robert Trounson – CA; US Army / Civilian, Stars & Stripes Chief Editor (Pacific)

Ordnance P-47 Thunderbolt in the Pacific

WWII painting, P-47 Thunderbolt

The P-47 Thunderbolt was not generally welcomed in the Pacific theatre. It was seen as too clumsy to compete with the very agile Japanese fighters and it did not have the range for operations over the vast expanses of the Pacific. Worse, the P-47 was best at the high altitudes at which American bombers operated over Europe.  However, in Japan most combat occurred below 20,000 feet, where the P-47 was at its least maneuverable.

Despite these problems, General George C. Kenney, commander of the 5th Air Force in the SW Pacific, was determined to acquire as many aircraft as possible for his command.  The Lockheed P-38 Lighting was popular with American pilots in the Pacific, but not available in sufficient numbers.

The U.S. Navy escort carrier USS Barnes (ACV-20) underway in the Pacific Ocean on 1 July 1943, transporting U.S. Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft.

Fortunately for Kenney, the first Thunderbolt unit to reach him was the 348th Fighter Group,  commanded by Col. Neel Kearby.  He was very enthusiastic about the P-47, and had put some thought into the best way to take advantage of the big fighter. One of its strengths was a very high speed in the dive.   He had put some thought into the best way to take advantage of the big fighter. One of its strengths was its very high speed in the dive. Kearby decided to take advantage of that.

IMG_1747

WO Russell Precians, UAAF, with the RAF in Burma, from Trove archives Sent from Garrulous Gwendoline

Immediately after taking off,  his P-47s would climb to a high altitude.  At that height they would head towards their target, normally a Japanese base. Once close to the base they would dive into the attack. By the time they reached the target, they would be travelling at very high speed. Having made their attack, they would then use that high speed to climb back to high altitude before the Japanese could react.

Newly arrived USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolts lined up in a maintenance area at Agana Airfield, Guam, Marianas Islands on 28 March 1945.

These tactics would have been familiar to many British pilots of the Battle of Britain, having been used by pilots of the Messerschmitt Bf 109, who would reach high altitude over France, then swoop down on British fighters climbing to attack German bombers.  They were particularly effective in the SW Pacific.  Between August and December 1943 the 348th Fighter Group claimed over 150 victories while losing only 8 pilots. Kearby himself would become the highest scoring American P-47 Ace of the SW Pacific, with 22 confirmed kills.

Japanese Ki-43 War Thunder

The weak low level performance and limited maneuverability of the Thunderbolt was still a weakness.  Kearby himself was killed on 6 March 1944 during a fighter sweep over Wewak, when he stayed at low level to confirm a probably kill and was caught by a Ki-43.

The P-47 was never popular amongst pilots who were used to the P-38 Lighting, although many were forced to fly it in early in 1944.  The P-38 units had suffered relatively heavy losses in the fighting over Rabaul in November 1943, and P-38s were still in short supply. However, during 1944 the P-47 was slowly phased out in the SW Pacific. Suitable targets on New Guinea were in increasingly short supply. Those units that had converted from the P-38 were often able to convert back during the year. Early in 1945 even the 348th would move away from the Thunderbolt, moving onto the Merlin powered P-51D Mustang.  By the end of the war the only Thunderbolt unit remaining in the Fifth Air Force was the 58th Fighter Group, a ground attack unit.

P-47 design

In mid-1944 the 7th Air Force finally received the Thunderbolt and the Mustang. This was just in time for them to take part in the invasion of Saipan, flying onto the island in June 1944.  On Saipan the P-47 saw action in the ground attack role.

The capture of Iwo Jima and then Okinawa finally allowed the 7th’s Thunderbolts to see air to air combat. The two islands were used as bases during the increasingly heavy strategic bombing campaign over Japan.  Both Thunderbolt and Mustang units saw service in the high altitude bomber escort role at which the Thunderbolt excelled. The same period saw the arrival of the long range P-47N, which had a range of close to 2,000 miles with drop tanks.

P-47 firing its M2 machine guns during night gunnery

In terms of victories gained, the Thunderbolt’s best moment in the Central Pacific came in late May 1945. Kamikaze attacks were threatening Allied shipping around Okinawa, and so the 318th Fighter Group was allowed to fly fighter sweeps over southern Japan, with the aim of intercepting potential Kamikaze aircraft far from their targets.  In 2 sweeps, on 25 and 28 May, the Thunderbolts claimed nearly 40 victories.

The career of the P-47 Thunderbolt in the Pacific is a good example of how important it was for the pilot to adjust their tactics to their aircraft. If a Thunderbolt pilot allowed himself to be dragged into a low level dogfight then they were in serious trouble.

Mexican P-47D Thunderbolt over the Philippines.

Nicknamed as the “Jug” due to its silhouette looking like a milk jug,( some say it was named Jug, short for juggernaut )  Apart from US service, the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft saw action as part of the British RAF, the French Air Force, Soviet Air Force and also as part of the contingent of pilots hailing from Brazil and Mexico who also participated as part of the Allied war effort.

RAF Thunderbolt Mk.II readying for a sortie over Burma. January 1945

The idea for this post came from Teagan Riordain Geneviene.

Research from: the Smithsonian Museum; Pacific Encyclopedia; History of War and War History on line.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Elizabeth Brook – Galeburg, IL; US Navy WAVES, WWII, Lt.

Ethel Calabakas — Port Arthur, CAN; RC Army, WWII

John Hill – Webster, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, PT-boats

Michael Kormos Jr. – Wilkes Barre, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 406th Squadron

Cleveland Lemon Jr. – Baton Rouge, LA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Charles M. Lentz – Independence, MO; US Navy, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret. 22 y.)

Terrance B. Salazar – San Antonio, TX; US Army, Spc., 82nd Airborne Division

James A. Scott – Aiken, SC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Frederick Trader – Oriska, ND; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 2nd Lt., bombardier/navigator

Raymond R. Veckruise – Gary, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Eye-witness Account

Jack Wilde, WWII

Jack Wilde woke up covered in blood. The gore gushed down his leg. His head pounded.

The second lieutenant had been hunched over in the cramped tail section of the B-25, so he didn’t really know what had happened.

He remembered the plane banking and suddenly starting to climb. Moments later he’d heard branches hitting the port tail wing. “I thought to myself, ‘Boy, that’s something to write home about,’ ” he recalled years later. “And about that time, it really was something to write home about because we hit the top of the mountain.”

Jack Wilde had found himself flying over the New Guinea jungle in January 1945 because his infantry division was part of the Allied forces leapfrogging across the Dutch East Indies toward Japan.

Intelligence had come in indicating that Japanese detachments were working their way toward the U.S. base at Sansapor, so commanders ordered an aerial reconnaissance to determine where exactly the enemy was.

Wilde headed for the B-25 along with the six other officers involved in the mission, he changed his mind. He turned to Lt. Tom Coghlan, who was seeing the group off.

“How about lending me that .45 of yours,” he said. “I’ll give it back to you after the ride is over.”

Coghlan handed over the gun and shoulder holster.

The plane had been in the air only about five minutes — flying low in a river canyon — when it made the rapid, steep ascent. A moment later the plane shook, throwing Wilde forward. The last thing he remembered was the Plexiglass over the tail gun shattering.

B-25G Mitchell

When Wilde regained consciousness, he realized he had a smattering of cuts on his face, but the real problem was his right leg. There were two deep punctures behind the kneecap, with blood pouring out. He tried to move the leg, sending a blast of pain shuddering through his body.

He climbed out of the mangled B-25 Mitchell and surveyed it. A wing was gone. The nose had been smashed into a disk. One of the engines sat on the ground nearby, still buzzing.

He found the other men in the wreckage. All dead.

The 22-year-old lieutenant didn’t have time to wonder how in the world he had managed to survive the crash. He didn’t even have time to be afraid. But the horrible scene would stay with him the rest of his life.

Turning away from the smoking debris that day, Lt. Jack Wilde took stock. He had on him 10 cigarettes, a lighter — and that .45 automatic, with seven rounds of ammunition.

That would have to be enough. He had to get moving. He figured that, with the noise the B-25 made while going down, any Japanese soldiers in the vicinity would be heading toward the area.

example of New Guinea jungle.

He was confident he could stay alive in the New Guinea jungle. He’d seen proof that it was possible.

The American lieutenant now oriented himself in the jungle as best he could and headed off. At first his damaged leg was so bad he had to drag himself on his belly. He was actually about 10 miles west of his destination.

The first night he found a big rock to hide behind. Rain poured down relentlessly through the darkness. His leg throbbed; he could feel blood still bubbling out of the wound. For the first time, the thought crossed his mind that he might die.

On his third day in the New Guinea jungle, Lt. Jack Wilde came upon a river that offered a series of violent waterfalls and rapids, with sheer cliffs on both sides rising between 50- and 100-feet high.

He sure liked the idea of letting that river carry him along, but he recognized that it was a foolish thought.  “I knew that in my condition I wasn’t able to survive that waterfall and what was going on in that river, because it was going down the mountainside at a hell of a clip,” he recalled.

But he also knew that walking wasn’t working out. When he came upon a large piece of balsa wood, he found himself thinking, “If that thing would float, I could just hang on and ride that waterfall out.”

He didn’t let himself consider it too hard: he jumped in the water, holding the balsa wood tight. Over the falls he went.  In the pool below the waterfall, the buoyant block of wood pulled him to the surface. He gasped for air, elated.

“That piece of wood and I were friends for two days,” he said.

There was just one problem: he was sometimes riding the rapids right past the enemy along the banks.

So when he saw that he was coming up on open areas where soldiers might be, he would slow down his progress, “find a brushy part and crawl out like an alligator and observe everything from a camouflage position and then sneak my way through the brush to the next place where I had to swim.”

He managed to avoid the Japanese, but more challenges remained. This included the fruitless search for food — and an encounter with a large wild boar that appeared intent on attack.

“I couldn’t shoot him, of course, because that would give me away,” he said. “Finally, I resorted to animal behavior, baring my teeth and like that.”  The boar, perhaps bemused, eventually wandered off.

Jack Wilde

Finally, after five full days in the jungle with nothing to eat, Wilde reached the mouth of the river — and found, “to my absolute horror,” a series of sturdy Japanese pillboxes blocking the crossing he needed to make.

“Well, there are times in life when you just have to accept that things are not the way you want them,” he said when relating his adventure 50 years later. “So I pulled back the slide on the automatic and made sure there was a shell in the chamber and took it off safe and put it in my right hand and thought to myself, ‘Well, fellas, here we come.’ ”

He eased his way along the fortifications and peeked in, one by one. He breathed: the pillboxes had been abandoned. But his relief didn’t last long. After he crossed the river and began to push through the brush, he spotted soldiers moving carefully along the edge of the beach.

His luck once again held. As he headed toward the men, staying low, he realized it wasn’t the enemy. It was a patrol from his 167th infantry.

He moved onto the beach, took off his hat and started waving it. He now realized he was going to survive this ordeal. That he might have a long life after all. And he did.

Wilde’s fellow soldiers carried him to a forward outpost, and from there they sent him by boat to the main base.

“When I came ashore, who was standing there but Lt. Coghlan,” Wilde said. “I handed him his pistol and holster and said, ‘Thank you.’ ”

He hadn’t needed to use it, he pointed out, but “I was sure glad I had it.”

In a letter home a few days later, Jack Wilde wrote that the base doctors “seem to think it remarkable that I could walk out — but I was damn hungry.”

Jack Wilde passed away in 2011 at the age of 89.

©2020 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Roger C. Butts – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, WWII, Cook 2nd Class # 1144738, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Ralph Cole – Huntsville, AL; US Army, WWII / NASA, electric engineer

By: Howard Brodie

Warren D’Alesandro – Staten Island, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, B-24 flight engineer

Raymond Hawes – Providence, RI; US Army, Japanese Occupation

Howard D. Hodges – Washington, NC; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 1st Class, USS West Virginia, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Joyce Matthews – St. Petersburg, FL; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

J. Lee Ogburn (102) – Atlanta, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 pilot, 14th Air Force

Carrie Roberts – Pearsall, TX; Civilian, WWII, built bomb sights

Richard Smith (102) – Guy Mills, PA; US Navy, WWII, Lt. Commander, pilot

Joseph Zaleski – New Britain, CT; US Navy, WWII

Pacific War in art – 1944

As promised, here is an example of other works of art for the following year of the Pacific War…

USMC in the Marshall Islands, 31 Jan 1944, by: James V. Griffin

 

Truk Island, Carolinas, by: Frank Lemon

 

RNZAF, May 1944 with Corsairs

 

Saipan Jun-july 1944, by: Robert Benney

 

War Weary, by: Jack Fellows

 

Guam, July-Aug. by: Howard Gerard

 

Peleliu Invaded, Sept. 1944, By: Tom Lea

 

Avengers of the Philippines, by: John D. Shaw

November 14, 1944 . . . As smoldering enemy ships mark a trail to Manila Bay, Avengers and Hellcats of Air Group 51 overfly the isle of Corregidor on their return to the carrier U.S.S. San Jacinto.

With the misty mountains of Bataan standing as a silent sentinel, Naval LT (JG) George H.W. Bush pilots his TBM in one of his last combat missions of WWII. The valor of Bush’s group in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and in the strikes on Manila Bay helped pave the way for MacArthur’s campaign to liberate the Philippines

 

Kamikazes in the Philippines, by Usaburo Ibara

 

Japanese paratroopers, Leyte, by Tsuruto Goro

Some 750 men, mainly from the 2nd Raiding Brigade, of this group were assigned to attack American air bases on Luzon and Leyte in the night. They were flown in Ki-57 transports, but most of the aircraft were shot down. Some 300 commandos managed to land in the Burauen area on Leyte.

The paratroopers of the 11th A/B, including Gen. Joseph Swing and Smitty, found themselves fighting Japanese parachutists who had landed near the San Pablo airstrip. The Japanese were wiped out in a 5-day engagement. In a continuous series of combat actions, Japanese resistance was reduced on Leyte by the end of December 1944.

Resources:

IHRA: for their blog and their books and prints

Jack Fellows website

Barse Miller –

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-WWII/index.htm

Frank Lemon lithograph – 

https://www.ursusbooks.com/pages/books/162620/frank-lemon/long-a-pacific-mystery-the-secret-naval-base-at-truk-is-hit-by-avengers-february-1944-a-gallery-of-air

James V. Griffin – 

https://www.jamesgriffinillustration.com/works

Robert Benney

https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/art/artists/the-art-of-robert-benney.html

Tom Lea

1000 Yard Stare by: Tom Lea

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_C._Lea_III

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Bruce Bacon Sr. – Toledo, OH; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

Roy Brumbaugh – Platte, SD; US Army, German Occupation + Middle East, 11th Airborne Division

Margaret Fletcher – Woodland, CA; Civilian, Civil Air Patrol, pilot

John G. Herring – Copperhill, TN; US Army

Joseph Kelly – New Canaan, CT; US Army, WWII, ETO, Forward Observer

Mary LaPlante (100) – Kansas City, MO; US Navy WAVE, WWII, encryptor

Jack Martin – Greensboro, NC; US Army, Korea, 77th Special Forces (Green Berets)

John Morrison (101) – Moose Jaw, CAN; RC Army, WWII, 1st Survey Regiment

Gerard Simpson – Staten Island, NY; US Army, Vietnam, 82nd + 101st Airborne Divisions, Purple Heart

Bill Wingett – Salem, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Co. E/506/101st Airborne Division, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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