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24th Pursuit Group (USAAF)

24th Pursuit Group (USAAF)


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24th Pursuit Group (USAAF)

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To

History

The 24th Pursuit Group was a fighter group that was destroyed during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, but that was kept on the official list of active organizations for the rest of the war.

The group was activated on the Philippines on 1 October 1941. It had three squadrons of its own, and two attached (the 21st and 34th, part of the 35th Pursuit Group, which was meant to be following behind), and flew a mix of Seversky P-35s and Curtiss P-40 Warhawks.

The group was based at Clark Field on Luzon when the Japanese attacked the Philippines on 8 December 1941. The 24th took to the air in an attempt to intercept the first wave of attacks, but failed to make contact. The Japanese then caught the group on the ground and inflicted heavy damage on it.

Despite this disaster the group's remaining aircraft continued to fight on. It contained the first USAAF air ace of the Second World War in Lt Boyd D 'Buzz' Wagner, one of the few pilots to be evacuated to Australia.

On 23 December the group took part in an all-out attack on Japanese forces landing at San Miguel Bay on Luzon. This consisted of twelve P-40s and six P-35s from the 24th, and caused some damage (although one P-35 was lost). On the following day all units received orders to evacuate to Bataan. The remnants of the group, soon down to only fifteen pilots, became known as the Bataan Field Flying Detachment and came under the direct control of Brig Gen Harold H George, commander of the Interceptor Command.

By the end of December most of the ground crews had joined infantry units. The remaining aircraft continued to fight on until their pilots were either killed or captured.

Unusually the group was neither reconstituted nor inactivated and instead remained on the official active list of organisations until 2 April 1946.

Books

1941-1942: Seversky P-35 and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Aircraft

Text

Timeline

16 August 1941Constituted as 24th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
1 October 1941Activated on Philippines
8 December 1941Suffers heavy losses when Japanese attack
2 April 1946Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col Orrin L Grover, 1 Oct 1941-Apr 1942.

Main Bases

Clark Field, Luzon: 1 Oct1941
Mariveles, Luzon: c.1 Jan-May 1942

Component Units

3rd: 1941-1946
17th: 1941-1946
20th: 1941-1946

21st and 34th Squadrons attached 1941

Assigned To

-


History [ edit | edit source ]

Organization [ edit | edit source ]

The Group was activated in the Philippine Islands on 1 October 1941, taking over the three pursuit squadrons (3d, 17th and 20th) of the inactivated 4th Composite Group. The group was equipped with Seversky P-35As and several models of Curtiss P-40s, this group comprised the only pursuit force in the Philippines in December 1941. Ώ]

During the month of October, 35 new pilots arrived from Randolph Field, Texas which brought the 24th up to full strength. These pilots were sent to Pursuit transition unit at Clark which trained them for combat duty. ΐ] In November 1941, the 24th was augmented by two attached squadrons (21st and 34th) which were sent from the 35th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field, California. Ώ] ΐ] Also in November, a number of additional P-40Es were sent to the Group, which equipped the 3d, 17th and 21st Squadrons. The 34th Pursuit Squadron was assigned P-35A, the remainder of the P-35s being sent to the Philippines Air Corps. Ώ]

Eve of war [ edit | edit source ]

Notice was received by the group on 15 November that due to the tense international situation between the United States and Japanese Empire, all pursuit aircraft on the flight line would be placed on alert 24 hours each day, be armed, fully fueled with pilots available on a 30 minute's notice. ΐ] During the period 30 November to 6 December all squadrons underwent intensive training in day and night enemy interception and air-to-air gunnery. Also training in escorting B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 19th Bombardment Group was undertaken. ΐ]

During the first days of December, on four consecutive nights (2d-6th) an unidentified aircraft was sighted over Clark Field at approximately 05:30. After the first sighting, instructions were given to force the aircraft to land or destroy it. On three succeeding nights it was impossible to make the interception, due to the inability to see the aircraft in the dark or the aircraft not getting close enough to be picked up by the ground searchlights. On the fifth morning all aircraft were kept on the ground and the anti-aircraft batteries were alerted for the interception however the aircraft was not located. During this same period, many other undetermined aircraft were tracked by Iba Radar. ΐ]

On the night of 7 December 1941, the 24th Pursuit Group status was reported to Far East Air Force as follows: ΐ]

  • 3d Pursuit Squadron at Iba Field, 18 P-40Es in commission
  • 17th Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field, 18 P-40Es in commission
  • 20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark Field, 18 P-40Es in commission
  • 21st Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field, had 18 P-40Bs in commission
  • 34th Pursuit Squadron at Del Carmen Field had 18 P-35As in commission

8 December 1941 [ edit | edit source ]

On 8 December at about 03:30 the commercial radio station at Clark Field intercepted a message from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii about the Japanese attack there. However the group was unable to verify this interception through official channels, no other action was taken other than notifying the Base Commander. However, all squadrons were put on alert. ΐ]

At about 04:00 the radar at Iba Field reported a formation of unidentified aircraft approximately 75 miles off the West Coast of Luzon heading towards Corregidor. The 3d Pursuit Squadron was dispatched to intercept the formation, but no planes were sighted and the squadron returned to Iba. However, the radar tracks showed the interception was successful and the unidentified aircraft swung off to the west out of the range of the Radar. It was believed that the 3d went underneath the formation. At 04:45 notification was received of a state of war between the United States and the Japanese Empire. ΐ]

21st Pursuit Squadron Curtiss P-40B Warhawks Clark Field, Field, Luzon, 1941

At approximately 09:30, a large formation of Japanese bombers was spotted over Lingayen Gulf reported heading towards Manila. The 20th Pursuit Squadron was immediately dispatched to intercept the formation over Roselas. The 17th Pursuit Squadron was ordered from Nichols Field to cover the airspace over Clark. Again, the interception was not successful, as the bombers turned to the northeast and attacked Baguio and Tagagarau then headed north off the radar. Both squadrons returned to their stations and were refuled and put back on alert. ΐ] Α]

Again at approximately 11:30 a large formation of bombers was reported over the China Sea heading towards Manila. The 3d was again dispatched to intercept the 17th was dispatched to cover Bataan and the 34th was placed on a standing patrol over Manila. Uncertainties of time and place, however, made it doubtful if the 3d would accomplish the interception. At 11:45 an unverified report was received of another bomber formation over Lingayen Gulf, heading south. The 20th was still being refuled and was unable to take of, so the 21st was ordered to cover Clark Field. At 12:15 the 20th completed refueling and was also ordered to cover Clark, At 12:20 54 Japanese bombers and an undetermined number of naval dive bombers attacked Clark Field. The 20th was in the process of taking off when the attack came. Only 4 squadron aircraft had cleared the runway, another five were destroyed on the ground while taking off. The remaining 5 planes were destroyed by a strafing attack after the bombardment. At the time of the attack on Clark Field, four squadrons of pursuit planes were in the air, but a complete breakdown of communications occurred when the communications center at Clark was destroyed by a bomb and little more than a dozen American aircraft met the Japanese attackers, none of which could climb to the altitude of the bombers ΐ] As a result, the 17th and 21st planes over Manila were not notified of the attack. The P-35s at Del Carmen Field took to the air after seeing the clouds of smoke over Clark Field, but were no match for the Japanese Zeros, which were much faster and more maneuverable. Although none were shot down, all were damaged and its use as a pursuit fighter ended. Α] Β]

Clark Field, the main air base on Luzon was devastated, and nearly half of Far East Air Force's aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and a third of the 24th Pursuit Group's aircraft lost in the attack. Clark Field was so heavily damaged it was essentially eliminated as an effective combat airfield. Α] Β]

The 3d Pursuit Squadron, which was dispatched to intercept a formation of planes over the China Sea failed to make the interception and was returning to its base at Iba. Iba, however was plotting an incoming formation and was transmitting the information to the Air Warning Center at Nielson Field. However, to a communications breakdown the 3d was unaware of the incoming formation and as they were circling Iba Field on their landing approach, 54 Japanese bombers and an unknown number of Naval dive bombers approached the field. The 3d broke the landing formation and attacked the incoming enemy aircraft. In the ensuing battle, one enemy bomber was shot down and a number of straffers were claimed to have been destroyed. The 3d lost 5 P-40s in the air. Although the 3d was unable to prevent to bombing of Iba Field, it did prevent the strafing of the ground station. After the Japanese raid, three additional P-40s were forced to crash land on the beaches after running out of fuel. The remainder of the squadron landed at the O'Donnell airport, but were forced to remain there until ammunition and gasoline were dispatched from Clark Field. Iba Field, however was completely destroyed by the enemy bombardment. Three other planes on the ground at Iba in hangars for maintenance were destroyed. ΐ]

December 1941 [ edit | edit source ]

Lt. Lloyd Stinson, 34th Pursuit Squadron Seversky P-35A in combat over the Philippines, 1941.

On 9 December shortly after midnight, telephonic communications were re-established with Headquarters, FEAF. Intelligence reported that an unidentified number of enemy aircraft were approaching from the north. A flight of six P-40s from the 17th Pursuit Squadron was dispatched from Del Carmen to intercept. However two of the aircraft were demolished on takeoff due to an accident. The remaining planes proceeded to Nichols Field but were unable to accomplish any interception of enemy aircraft in the dark. For the remainder of the day, the only activity was miscellaneous elements of Japanese ships patrolling and aircraft reconnoitering, and the night bombing of Nichols Field at 03:15. ΐ]

In order to try and bring some of the units up to strength, the P-40s of the 17th were transferred to Clark Field along with some P-40s from the 3d Pursuit Squadron which were moved from Iba Field. The remainder of the 3d was sent to Nichols Field to bring the 34th with its P-35s up to strength. ΐ]

On the night of the 10th, a Japanese invasion convoy was reported approaching Lingayen Bay. The 17th and 34th Pursuit Squadrons were readied to attack the convoy at daylight and furnish cover for some B-17s that were repaired and put back on the line at Clark to join in the attack. The B-17s took off with the 17th providing top cover during the attack. P-35s from the 34th failed to reach the objective due to their low speed, and only at the end of the attack did the 34th proceed to attack the convoy. Two P-35s were lost, one when the plane flew into a large explosion on a ship the aircraft attacked as the pilot was passing over it. ΐ] After the attack, both squadrons returned for re-fueling and re-arming and went back on alert. Later that morning at 11:15 a warning was received of large formations of Japanese aircraft approaching from the north. The 17th was dispatched to intercept the planes over Manila Bay, the 34th was sent over Manila to cover the port area. The 21st was sent for intercepton over the Bataan Penensula. Contact was made with the enemy aircraft by all three squadrons, an estimated 100+ Japanese aircraft with fighters escorting the bombers. The interceptors of the 24th were attacked by the escort Zeros and were unable to attack the bombers due to the large number of enemy fighter strength. Only two planes were able to attack the bombers, after they carried out their attacks. The other squadrons engaged in dog-fighting over Manila Bay until they were forced to land, out of gasoline. ΐ]

At the end of the 10th, Group fighter strength had been reduced to about 30 aircraft, with 8 being P-35s. Due to the depleted strength of the Group, orders were received from FEAF Headquarters that pursuit planes were not to be dispatched other than upon orders from Headquarters. The planes would be employed mainly as reconnaissance aircraft to replace the 2d Observation Squadron, which was made inoperable after being mostly destroyed on the ground. It's remaining planes being unarmed and sitting ducks if attacked. ΐ]

21st Pursuit Squadron P-40Bs being serviced at Clark Field, Luzon.

In the days that followed, the 24th flew patrol and reconnaissance missions in various areas. The 3d and 34th squadrons were combined to cover the southern part of Luzon. The 17th and 20th were used to cover the northern part of the Island. The 21st was non-operational. ΐ] However, occasional attacks were made in the course of these reconnaissance missions. Lt. Wagner, while performing a reconnaissance mission over Aparri, strafed the captured airport there and shot down four enemy aircraft in the area. The strafing also destroyed a number of aircraft on the ground. Lt Mahoney, on a reconnaissance mission over Legaspi, strafed the airport there and destroyed several enemy aircraft on the ground. He also destroyed the enemy radio station as well as a fuel dump. ΐ]

With no supplies or replacements available from the United States, ground crews, with little or no spares for repairing aircraft, used parts which were cannibalized from wrecks. Essentials, such as oil, was reused, with used oil being strained though makeshift filters, and tailwheel tires were stuffed with rags to keep them usable. The aircraft which were flying and engaging the Japanese seemed to have more bullethole patches on the fuselage than original skin. Α] Β] Γ]

On the morning of 23 December the Japanese made a landing in San Miguel Bay along the east cost of the Lingayen Gulf. All available aircraft of the 24th were loaded with fragmentation bombs and dispatched to attack the enemy landing. Twelve P-40s and six P-35s was the entire striking force of the Group. The attack was made with a loss of two of the P-35s which were shot down by anti-aircraft fire ΐ] and it proved sufficient to create confusion among enemy personnel in landing barges and around supply dumps ashore.

Spring 1942 [ edit | edit source ]

Captured Japanese photo of a 34th Pursuit Squadron P-35A sized at Orani Airfield by Japanese Forces, 1942

The ground combat situation on Luzon quickly became desperate when a second set of major landings occurred along the shore of Lamon Bay in southern Luzon. Α] Β] Γ] With the withdrawal from Clark Field on 20 December, the 24th used dispersed landing fields on Luzon, some little more than grass to carry on the fight. Japanese forces were rapidly advancing from both the north and south. MacArthur ordered all American and Philippine forces to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula and all FEAF aircraft to withdraw from Clark and Nichols Fields.

Field order #4, HQ Philippines Department on 10 January 1942 appointed the ground echelons of the 24th Pursuit Group as the 2d Infantry Regiment (Provisional) of the 71st Division. The unit was ordered to establish defenses on the beach of the peninsula. ΐ]

  • The ground echelon of the 3d Pursuit Squadron was moved from Nichols Field to Organi, then to the mouth of the Talan River where the men took up a position as ground troops on beach defense. ΐ]
  • The ground echelon of the 20th Pursuit Squadron, was moved to Pilar, and from there to the Mariveles cut-off on the Tanikan River, where they assumed the role of regimental reserves. ΐ]
  • The ground echelon of the of the 17th Pursuit Squadron was moved from Nichols Field and Manila to Pilar and from there to Kabobo point where the took up beach defenses. ΐ]
  • The ground echelon of the of the 21st Pursuit Squadron moved from Lububo to KM Post 184 where they went into position as regimental reserve. ΐ]
  • The ground echelon of the of the 34th Pursuit Squadron was moved from Del Carmen Field to Orani, and from there to Aglaloma Point where it went into position on beach defense. ΐ]

What was left of the group were based at temporary fields at Orani and Pilar in northern Bataan, and later withdrawn on 8 January to "Bataan Field," located several miles from the southern tip of the peninsula. Bataan field consisted of a dirt runway, hacked out of the jungle by Army engineers in early 1941 and lengthened after the FEAF was ordered into Bataan. However, it was well camouflaged. It was attacked and strafed daily by the Japanese, however no aircraft were lost on the ground as a result of the attacks. Bataan Field, along with airfields at Cabcaben and Mariveles were kept in operation for several months during the Battle of Bataan. The remaining pilots continued operations with the few planes that were left, cannibalizing aircraft wreckage to keep a few planes airborne in the early months of 1942. Α] Β] Γ]

After Bataan [ edit | edit source ]

With the surrender of the United States Army on Bataan, Philippines on 8 April 1942, the remaining air echelon of the 24th Pursuit Group withdrew to Mindanao Island and began operating from Del Monte Airfield with whatever aircraft were remaining. The last of the group's aircraft were captured or destroyed by enemy forces on or about 1 May 1942. With the collapse of organized United States resistance in the Philippines on 8 May 1942, a few surviving members of the squadron managed to escape from Mindanao to Australia where they were integrated into existing units. Α] Β] Γ]

The 24th Pursuit Group and its squadrons were never remanned after the battle. They were simply left on the active list of Fifth Air Force organizations throughout the war. The unit and its subordinate squadrons were inactivated on 2 April 1946. Over the years, the 3d, 20th and 17th Squadrons were re-activated by the United States Air Force and currently are on active duty. The 21st and 34th Squadrons, along with the 24th Group designation have never been. Ώ]

Lineage [ edit | edit source ]

Assignments [ edit | edit source ]

Stations and components [ edit | edit source ]

  • Headquarters and Ground Echelon:
    : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946 Δ]
    : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946 Δ]
    : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946 Δ]
    : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946 (Attached. Deployed from 35th Pursuit Group, Hamilton AAF, California) Δ]
    : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946 (Attached. Deployed from 35th Pursuit Group, Hamilton AAF, California) Δ]

.** Far East Air Force units were ordered moved to Bataan Airfield, along with airfields at Cabcaben and Mariveles, effective 8 January 1942 – c. 8 April 1942 Β] After the fall of Bataan, some aircraft and personnel managed to escape to Mindanao, and operate from Del Monte Airfield, c. 8 April – c. 1 May 1942 Β]

.** Unneeded Ground Echelon personnel were assigned to the 5th Interceptor Command and fought as a ground infantry unit during the Battle of Bataan 18 January – 8 April 1942 Β]

Aircraft [ edit | edit source ]

Note: 52 P-35As were shipped to the Philippines during 1941. Most ex-Swedish orders and arrived in the Philippines in Swedish instruments, markings, and technical orders. There were several accidents and write-offs before the war started. These were assigned to the 4th Composite Group 3d, 17th and 20th Pursuit Squadrons. 24 were transferred to the 34th Pursuit Squadron upon its arrival at Del Carmen Field on 1 November 1941 with the rest being transferred to the Philippine Army Air Corps. Γ]

There were a total of 107 Curtiss P-40s that were assigned to the 24th Pursuit Group, most being received after the transition from the 4th Composite Group. They were a mix of P-40Bs and P-40Es, mostly Es. Also, there were several P-40E-1s that were shipped to the Philippines that were still in crates at the Manila Air Depot on 8 December 1941. It is unknown whether or not these saw service against the Japanese. Γ]


24th Pursuit Group (USAAF) - History

By Sam McGowan

Common wisdom has long held that Japanese pilots and aircraft, particularly their fighters, were superior to the American, Australian, and British counterparts they faced in combat in the Philippines and Southeast Asia in the opening months of U.S. involvement in World War II.

While it is true that some Japanese fighters, particularly the famous Mitsubishi-built Zeros, had achieved considerable success in China, they were not actually superior airplanes. These Japanese fighters were highly maneuverable and had superior high-altitude performance because of their lighter weight, but U.S. Army Air Corps pilots in the Philippines quickly learned that American fighters could more than hold their own in combat when their best features were exploited.

One pilot who made use of his background in aeronautical engineering to completely master the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk was Lt. Col. Boyd David Wagner, commander of the 17th Pursuit Squadron based at Nichols Field near Manila. Wagner became America’s first ace since World War I.

“Buzz” the Pilot from Nanty Glo

Boyd Wagner was a Pennsylvanian who hailed from a small town with the rather unique name of Nanty Glo. He graduated from Nanty Glo High School in 1934 then enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh as an engineering student. His major was in aeronautical engineering, but he left his university studies to join the Army after three years. Even though he was not awarded a degree, his knowledge of aeronautical engineering far surpassed the typical fighter pilot’s of his day and led to his becoming America’s first World War II ace.

Upon completion of the aviation cadet program at Randolph Field, Texas, in 1938, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to a fighter squadron, reportedly the 27th Pursuit Squadron that was based at Selfridge Field, Michigan, not far from Detroit. Wagner quickly gained a reputation as an extremely skilled pilot and picked up the nickname “Buzz,” although there are conflicting accounts as to the reason for the nickname. At the time of his death, a Time magazine article quoted other pilots as saying he was so good he “could take the camouflage off the roof of a hangar.” Other sources attribute the nickname to his habit of “buzzing” unsuspecting aircraft—including commercial airliners—that he came across while out on training missions. Regardless, there is no doubt that Boyd Wagner was a highly accomplished pilot who could fly the wings off a fighter at both treetop level and higher altitudes.

Deploying to the Philippines

By December 1940, Wagner had transferred from the 27th Pursuit to the 17th Pursuit. And when the latter was assigned to the Philippines, Wagner went along. At the time, the squadron was equipped with Seversky P-35s and Boeing P-26s which, while they were first-line fighters of the day, were already obsolete when compared to combat aircraft being produced by the Germans and Japanese.

The arrival of the 17th Pursuit to the Army’s Philippines Department brought U.S. fighter strength up to three squadrons. All were assigned to the 4th Composite Group, which included a bomber squadron (flying antiquated Martin B-10s) and an observation squadron. In May 1941, six months after the 17th Pursuit arrived in Manila, the squadron’s commander, Major J.K. Gregg, took command of the 4th Composite Group. The new 17th Pursuit Squadron commander was none other than First Lieutenant Boyd D. Wagner.

Wagner assumed command of the squadron as all of its P-26s were being replaced with P-35s, which had been diverted to the Philippines from a planned sale to Sweden. As they were replaced, the P-26s went to the Philippines Air Force.

Boyd Wagner before assuming command of the 17th squadron.

Shortly after Wagner took command of the squadron, the 17th Pursuit was moved to the tiny airfield at Iba, a grass strip on the western beach of Luzon just west of the Zambales Mountains. The Air Corps had established a gunnery range in the mountains, and the 17th’s assignment at Iba was for gunnery practice. Iba was a remote location, and the airfield was primitive at best. Transportation between the field and the Army Air Corps fields at Clark and Manila was poor. The pilots discovered that their guns were largely defective because of improper installation and adjustment. Every gun in the squadron had to be removed from its mountings and adjusted, and the mountings repaired. Faulty gun installations and operation would plague the fighter force when war finally came.

Wagner’s assumption of command of the 17th Pursuit came as the United States was beginning to beef up the Philippines Department in response to Japanese aggression in China. Previously, the Philippines had been seen as a backwater command and had been essentially written off in U.S. military defense plans for the Pacific. But the rise of Japanese imperialism, particularly in China, caused President Franklin Roosevelt to reconsider U.S. options and to begin a military buildup in the Philippine Islands.

The plan was to establish a large bomber force consisting of Boeing B-17s and Consolidated B-24s, which were just entering the U.S. Air Corps inventory. They would serve as the main deterrent to Japanese aggression in the region, with several pursuit squadrons to serve as interceptors. A new pursuit command was established at Nielson Field with Colonel Harold George, who had recently arrived in Manila, as the commander.

The new importance of the Philippines led to the decision to equip the pursuit squadrons based there with the latest fighter plane, the Curtiss P-40. The first models began arriving in the islands in June and were given to the 20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark Field. Later models were already rolling off of the Curtiss production lines and were destined for the Philippines, but would not arrive until October.

In September, the 19th Bombardment Group transferred to the Philippines and took up residence at Clark Field. To make room for the B-17s, Wagner took his 17th Pursuit Squadron south to Nichols Field, where the squadron had previously been based.

A new organization, the 24th Pursuit Group, was activated to control the three pursuit squadrons. In October, the first complement of new P-40Es arrived and the 3rd and 17th Pursuit Squadrons began replacing their P-35s with the newer and more capable fighters. Two additional squadrons, the 21st and 34th Pursuit Squadrons, left California in early November by ship to join the 24th Pursuit Group. The 21st joined the 17th at Nichols Field and was commanded by First Lieutenant William E. Dyess. Since Dyess and Wagner were both members of the pilot training programs at Kelly and Randolph Fields at San Antonio, Texas, at about the same time, it is possible that they already knew each other. Regardless, they quickly became friends at Nichols.

A Shipment of P-40Es

On December 6, Colonel George met with the young pilots at Nichols Field and advised them of the impending conflict with Japan. It was a somber meeting. George pulled no punches with the young pilots as he outlined their situation. A communiqué had gone out from the White House through the War Department the previous week that warned General Douglas MacArthur, who was in command of U.S. forces in the Philippines, that war with Japan was imminent.

George knew that if war came his young pilots would be facing overwhelming odds. He advised that while their situation was not suicidal, it was nearly desperate because they would be facing an enemy with comparatively shorter supply lines and far superior numbers. Yet, even he did not imagine just how severe the situation was going to be. A shipment of new P-40Es that had arrived at the depot some time before had been assembled and were replacing the P-35s that the men of the 21st had been given temporarily upon their arrival, and operational fighter strength was at 70 airplanes.

George told the fighter pilots that they would be able to make a good showing. All of the pursuit squadrons were on full alert, and had been since the message from Washington reached Manila advising that war was imminent. Nearly every morning the two squadrons at Nichols were alerted, and the pilots had taken to sleeping by their airplanes. Several reports of unknown aircraft over or near the Philippines had come in, and pursuit planes had gone up in attempts at interception.

While the number of operational airplanes George reported was accurate, the total was actually misleading. Ed Dyess’s 21st Pursuit Squadron was just receiving its complement of new P-40Es, and none of the airplanes were truly combat-ready. Fresh from the factory, none of their engines had been broken in, or “slow-timed,” and their guns had to be bore-sighted.

Hearing Word from Pearl Harbor

Wagner’s squadron was operationally ready and would account for many of the Japanese aircraft that fell to American fighters during the opening days of the Pacific War.

The lieutenant led the first Air Corps attempted interception of the Japanese. Starting on December 2, a single unidentified airplane flew over Clark Field just before daybreak four nights in a row. No origin for the unidentified airplane could be found, and after it came over the second time on December 3, orders were given to intercept and force the airplane down. If the pilot committed any overt act, the airplane was to be shot down. On the night of December 4, Wagner took a flight of six P-40s from his squadron aloft, but their search was fruitless, largely because of the lack of an adequate air to ground communications system. A similar interception attempt by the 20th Pursuit Squadron the following night was also unsuccessful as the unidentified airplane again overflew Clark without being disturbed.

At 2:30 am on December 8, the pilots of the 17th and 21st Squadrons were alerted and told to man their airplanes. It was the sixth successive day that they had been alerted. After about 10 minutes they were told to stand down. At about 4:30 am the telephone in Ed Dyess’s orderly room rang, and he received the first word of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which had taken place about two and a half hours before. Wagner was no doubt notified at the same time.

In October, the first complement of new P-40Es arrived and the 3rd and 17th Pursuit Squadrons began replacing their P-35s with the newer and more capable fighters.

Word of the attack spread quickly through the quarters, and the pilots soon were back at their airplanes, and either gathered in groups on the flight line or tried to get more sleep on the wings of their fighters. At 8 am, Wagner was ordered to take his 17th Pursuit Squadron aloft and to set up an air cover over Clark Field. Wagner set up a patrol line just north of Clark near the town of Tarlac. The 20th Pursuit, which was based at Clark, had taken up a line farther north near the town of Rosales to defend against a formation of Japanese bombers that had been reported north of Luzon. The 19th Bombardment Group’s Boeing B-17s began taking off at 8 am to avoid being caught on the ground. Two of the 19th’s squadrons were no longer at Clark. They had moved south to Del Monte Field on Mindanao a few days before.

As it turned out, the approaching Japanese bombers turned and attacked Baguio, a mountain town on northern Luzon. Wagner led his men back to Clark, where they were refueled and ready to go by 11 am. At about 11:30 Wagner was ordered to take his squadron back into the air. A formation of enemy aircraft was reported to be headed toward Manila, so he was instructed to patrol over Manila Bay and the Bataan Peninsula.

Japan’s Opening Strikes

The first Japanese attack came on the airfield at Iba, where the only operational radar station in the Philippines was destroyed, and on Clark Field, where the destruction was severe. The B-17s had been recalled to refuel and re-arm for an attack on Formosa, and the 20th Pursuit’s P-40s were refueling after their unproductive mission that morning. The fighters were lined up in preparation to take off when Japanese bombs began falling on Clark. A few fighters on takeoff roll managed to get off the ground, but most of the P-40s were hit by shrapnel from exploding bombs.

A strafing attack by Japanese fighters destroyed or severely damaged all but three of the B-17s (all three of those, in turn, were destroyed in accidents caused by poor visibility over the next couple of days). The pursuit force fared far better than the bombers. Except for the ones that were on the ground at Clark when the attack came, only a handful fell victim to Japanese guns. Nevertheless, a number were lost due to engine failure or to crash landings.

Because of the 17th’s station well south of Clark, it was not involved in the hostilities on the opening day of the war. Late in the day, Wagner and Dyess were ordered to take their squadrons to Clark under the assumption that Nichols Field, which had been spared attack, would be the next target. As it turned out, the 17th ended up at Del Carmen, the secondary base, because the dust over Clark caused such a melee among the arriving 21st fighters that it was nearly dark by the time the last one landed. Only one 17th fighter landed at Clark and then only because the pilot’s radio had gone out and he had failed to get the word to divert to Del Carmen.

The order to reposition the two squadrons was timely—at about 3 am on December 9 Japanese bombers struck Nichols Field and caused considerable damage. As the Japanese bombers approached Manila, a flight of four P-40s was ordered into the air, but one crashed on takeoff and slid into another fighter, destroying them both. The other three patrolled over Manila but did not make contact with the Japanese attackers.

Engagement at Cavite

December 10, the third day of the war, was a red-letter day in the air battle for the Philippines. That morning the 17th Pursuit Squadron was assigned to fly top cover for a flight of B-17s sent to attack the Japanese invasion fleet, which had taken up station off of Vigan on Lingayen Gulf. Led by the 17th, the P-40s dropped down with a devastating strafing attack on the Japanese landing barges and effectively broke up the invasion, although the results were temporary.

That afternoon the 17th and 21st Squadrons were sent up against Japanese bombers escorted by fighters that attacked the naval base at Cavite. Although the Navy claimed later that no American fighters were present, they were there in force, but only a handful were able to penetrate the Japanese fighter screen and attack the bombers. Many of the P-40s had been launched almost an hour before the attack when Japanese aircraft attacked Del Carmen. They were hampered by having been aloft for some time before the action began, and even though they put on a good showing at the beginning of the air battle, they began running out of gasoline.

The pilots knew of their fuel problem before the battle but decided to attack and try to do as much damage as possible to the Japanese before their fuel ran out. An intense battle ensued, and the action was so fierce that none of the American pilots put in any claims for aircraft destroyed because they were unable to see what happened to airplanes they shot at. The action lasted for about 15 minutes before the P-40s began running out of gasoline and had to break off. Three P-40 pilots were killed, and at least eight others either crash landed or bailed out of airplanes that had run out of fuel. Every airplane was damaged, but most crashed due to empty fuel tanks.

The air battle had begun with about 40 P-40s. By the end of the day the force had been substantially reduced. The fighters that did manage to limp back to their bases had all suffered varying degrees of battle damage that required repair before the fighters could be returned to service.

Japanese landing parties had come ashore at Vigan and Aparri, which created a need for aerial reconnaissance. With the fighter force dwindling away, MacArthur’s headquarters decided that the remaining airplanes should be used for reconnaissance. That night an order came down through Far East Air Force headquarters that the interception would cease. The order was met with resentment among the fighter pilots, who felt that they were just getting the measure of the Japanese forces.

On the morning of December 11 (possibly December 12), Wagner took off from Clark Field on a solo reconnaissance flight to Aparri, on the northern coast of Luzon. Although no mention of his actions of the previous day is recorded, it is probable that he had achieved his first two kills during the melee near Cavite.

Wagner flew this mission above the clouds for more than 200 miles, navigating entirely by dead reckoning. When he estimated that he was about 10 minutes from his destination, he let down through the clouds on instruments. When he broke out, he found himself right over two Japanese destroyers, which opened up with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire.

Wagner dropped down to within a few feet of the waves and turned inland. As he realized he was near the airport at Aparri, he suddenly saw tracers zipping past him from above and behind. He looked back and saw two Zeros behind him and three more above him. He immediately pulled up into a steep chandelle into the sun and lost the two pursuers, then did a half-roll and came down on them from behind. They were close together, and he shot them both down almost immediately. He looked down and saw the enemy airport directly beneath him, so he made two strafing passes on the dozen or so fighters he saw on the field and destroyed at least five. As he pulled up from the second pass, he saw that the three fighters he had seen above him were diving toward him.

Japanese Zero loses control after suffering damage to the rear elevator.

By this time he had realized that the P-40 was considerably faster than the Zero, so he dropped his empty belly tank and shoved his throttle forward and quickly outdistanced the pursuing airplanes. His mission completed, he turned back toward Clark. The next day, a proud General Douglas MacArthur sent out a communiqué describing Wagner’s actions.

Victories at Cavite?

Wagner’s account of his victories, reported by some to be the first of many, sounds almost unbelievable when considering the awe with which so many writers have treated the Japanese fighter pilots in the early part of World War II. Until the invasions of the Philippines and Singapore, Japan’s finest had never fought modern first-line fighters or pilots with superior training. Its previous victories had been gained over China, against Chinese pilots with limited experience who were flying outdated airplanes.

While it is true that U.S. airpower in the Philippines had been severely depleted in the opening days of the war, the losses were due more to bad luck and bad timing than to the superior skill of the Japanese airmen.

Wagner was a superior and knowledgeable pilot who had quickly picked up on the weaknesses of the Japanese airmen and their aircraft, and he knew how to exploit them. P-40s were armed with six .50-caliber machine guns that could throw out a hail of lead. They caused the rather flimsy Japanese fighters to come apart if they were caught in the apex of fire. In the coming weeks and months, Wagner would prove time and time again that his first recorded kills were no fluke.

Wagner’s actions on December 11 were not his first. He and Ed Dyess were eating lunch at Clark Field after a morning mission on December 10 when they were alerted to take to the air. They took off in a cloud of dust that was so thick they could not see each other. When they broke out of the overcast, the two squadron commanders were astonished that they had climbed through the dust clouds with their wingtips only inches apart!

Dyess had problems with his guns and had to land at an outlying field on the way to Manila, but Wagner evidently continued on and no doubt was engaged in combat.

The events of December 10 are somewhat confusing, as some authors have reported that the P-40s did not shoot down any Japanese airplanes while others recorded that they did. Noted aviation author Martin Caidin claimed that the P-40s were unable to penetrate the enemy fighter screen and attack the bombers, but does not mention that the P-40s shot down several Japanese fighters. Walter Edmonds, on the other hand, stated that there was a tremendous air battle until the P-40s started running out of fuel and began disengaging, and that more Japanese aircraft were shot down than American. Apparently the 17th was heavily engaged in the action, so it may be that this was when Wagner actually got his first two kills, not on the December 11 mission as is commonly reported.

Heroism at Vigan

On December 16, Wagner was part of one of the most heroic missions of the war. Reconnaissance had revealed that Japanese aircraft were operating from an airfield just inland from the beach at Vigan, and Wagner’s squadron was given the mission of destroying them. He picked Lieutenants Russell Church and Allison Straus to go with him on the mission. The Americans had taken off before dawn and began their attack on the airfield in the light of the breaking day while the Japanese pilots were just rising from their night’s sleep. When they reached the vicinity of Vigan, Straus stayed aloft to keep watch for attacking aircraft, and Wagner went down with Church on his wing to strafe the airfield. Each fighter carried six 30-pound fragmentation bombs in addition to its six .50-caliber guns. Wagner counted 25 Japanese aircraft lined up alongside the landing strip. He made his first pass without taking a single hit, but Church was not so fortunate. Alerted by Wagner’s pass, every antiaircraft gun on the airfield concentrated on Church’s fighter and set it on fire just as he was beginning his dive. He could have pulled up and away from the target and gained altitude to bail out, but he elected to continue his run. He dove the burning airplane on the airstrip and dropped his bombs, then continued down the line in a strafing pass. He never altered his course, and the burning airplane continued on a straight line to crash in a flat field about a mile past the airfield.

Church’s heroic death struck a chord in Wagner: Even with heavy antiaircraft fire rising up from around the airfield, he nevertheless made five strafing passes.

A single Japanese fighter got airborne, but Wagner throttled back and let it pass him, then shot it out of the sky. When the fighter first took off, Wagner could not see it because it was below him, so he rolled his P-40 upside down to get a better view. When he saw the Japanese plane beneath him, he flipped upright and throttled back. It was an amazing piece of airmanship.

There is some question as to Straus’s actions, or whether he was even part of the mission. Although the 24th Pursuit Group records had him on the mission and taking part in the strafing, no mention is made of him in the recommendations for the Distinguished Service Crosses that were awarded to Wagner and Church. Church was reportedly recommended for the Medal of Honor, probably by Wagner since he was an eyewitness and the squadron commander, but the recommendation was evidently downgraded. The Japanese buried Church’s body with full military honors.

Curtiss P-40E taxiing to the runway.

Counting Kills

Several accounts show that Wagner became an ace with the shooting down of the lone fighter at Vigan. One source claims that he actually shot down four fighters over Aparri. However, Wagner himself made no such claim in an interview he later gave to Life magazine reporter Carl Maydans. He mentioned only the two that jumped him as he came over the shore after breaking out of the overcast.

Edmonds mentions only the two fighters over Aparri in his highly acclaimed work, They Fought with What They Had. The Air Force officially credits him with becoming an ace on December 17 (U.S. time, December 16 Philippine time). If he only shot down two fighters over Aparri, then he must have reported two victories the day before in the big melee over Manila, but was erroneously credited for four the following day. The 24th Pursuit Group’s records were written long after the fact and are not as accurate as they would have been had they been written at the time of the action.

Interestingly, not all of the fighter pilots who shot down Japanese aircraft were given credit for their kills. Ed Dyess, for example, is known to have shot down at least three Japanese aircraft but was never credited with any, probably because his squadron remained on Bataan, and the pilots became prisoners of war.

Leaving the Philippines

Sometime in December, Wagner was wounded. Details and even the exact date are not known, although the citation for the Purple Heart he was awarded shows that the incident took place on December 18. The 24th Pursuit Group history shows the date as being December 22. Wagner was certainly wounded during one of two attacks against the Japanese beachheads on Lingayen Gulf where they were making their main invasion.

Wagner was wounded when a 20mm shell burst on his canopy and showered him with pieces of Plexiglas. One piece entered his eye. He made it to safety, but the wound kept him out of the cockpit for some time.

Meanwhile, a few days before Christmas, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, the senior air officer in the U.S. Army, ordered the headquarters of the Far East Air Force out of the Philippines to Australia. The War Department was taking steps to carry out orders from President Roosevelt to effectively abandon the Philippines and establish a new Allied headquarters in Australia.

In late December Wagner and eight of his pilots were ordered out of Luzon to Australia, where they would form a new fighter squadron with the P-40s that had been diverted there.

The pilots of the 17th Pursuit Squadron were part of a contingent of combat pilots that Colonel Harold George sent to Australia. The first of the fighter pilots departed Neilson Field on December 31 a second group left two days later from Bataan on January 2, 1942. Wagner was one of the men who departed on the latter date. The transport flew across Bataan at treetop altitude to avoid detection by Japanese fighters and made its way to Mindanao where the pilots spent several days working on the worn-out transport. They eventually landed at an airfield in Borneo but were unable to continue the flight because the right engine failed completely. A Navy PBY Catalina flying boat was sent to pick them up and take them to Java. They eventually made their way on to Australia where they joined the seven pilots who had come out ahead of them.

Disaster at Java

Although Wagner had commanded the 17th Pursuit at Nichols Field, he was outranked by Captain Charles Sprague, who had formerly been a member of Colonel George’s staff at V Interceptor Command. It has been reported that when a new provisional pursuit squadron was formed with 17 (one of the fighters had been shipped without a rudder) of the 18 P-40s, Wagner and Sprague flipped a coin to see who would be in command.

Regardless of whether the legend is true, Sprague became commander of the newly organized 17th Pursuit Squadron. Sprague was authorized to pick any pilots he wished, except for Wagner, Captain Grant Mahoney, who was another Philippines legend, and two other pilots, all of whom were being held back by Far East Air Force to take command of new squadrons as they were organized. The pilots believed they were headed back to the Philippines, but when they reached Darwin, they learned that they were going to Java, where the Japanese had mounted an offensive.

Unfortunately, Sprague was lost in Java, as were all of the P-40s. They were turned over to the Dutch as it became apparent that the Japanese would prevail. A shipment of 32 P-40s that was on the way to Java aboard the old aircraft carrier USS Langley was also lost. Another shipment of 27 fighters reached Java on another ship but were still in their crates when the Allies abandoned the islands.

Director of Intercept for the Port Moresby Area

Wagner remained behind in Australia and, fortunately, missed the debacle in Java. He and four other pilots from the Philippines were placed in charge of training newly arriving pilots who came in from the States. He was put in command of the new 13th Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) but was soon moved to V Interceptor Command headquarters. After this assignment, Wagner was quickly promoted and by April was a lieutenant colonel. During that month, reorganization led to the establishment of the Army Air Forces as the air combat element of the Army, while the Air Corps remained as the training element. The pursuit designation was changed to fighter.

In late April 1942, Wagner took two squadrons from the 8th Fighter Group (flying Bell P-39 Airacobras) north to Port Moresby, New Guinea, to relieve the Australian P-40 squadrons that had been operating from there. Wagner’s new position was officially Director of Intercept for the Port Moresby area his promotion reportedly made him the youngest lieutenant colonel in the Army. As soon as the pilots entered combat they began racking up a remarkable record that made them one of the most successful units in Air Force history. As Wagner had done with the P-40, he thoroughly familiarized himself with the P-39 and knew it inside and out. Although it was not capable of high-altitude combat, he considered it to be an effective fighter against bombers up to 18,000 feet and against fighters at lower altitudes. The P-39 lacked in acceleration in comparison to the famed Zero, but it was actually faster in level flight and could pull away from the Japanese fighter after its initial burst of power.

Wagner’s leadership in New Guinea set the stage for the upcoming air war in the Southwest Pacific.

On the afternoon of April 30, shortly after they arrived in Port Moresby, Wagner led 13 P-39s on a strafing attack on the Japanese airfields at Lae and Salamaua. The results were spectacular, and in the brief air engagement that followed the P-39s shot down four Japanese Zeros. Three of the enemy aircraft were claimed by Wagner himself, which brought his total score to eight confirmed kills, a record that would stand for some time. Wagner evidently picked up another piece of Plexiglas in his eye, which ended his combat flying.

Over the next several months Wagner’s fighters proved more than equal to the task of defending Port Moresby even though they were flying an airplane that was considerably inferior to the Zero in overall performance. What the tiny P-39s lacked in performance, they made up for in rugged construction and survivability. Wagner ordered his men not to attempt to dogfight with the Japanese, but to use the P-39’s superior speed to advantage and to attack from higher altitude in a single diving pass at an enemy formation. Because they lacked the performance to climb to high altitudes, the P-39s often failed to intercept approaching Japanese bomber formations. Consequently, none of the P-39/P-400 pilots achieved ace status while flying Airacobras.

Even though their air-to-air combat record was less than spectacular, the P-39s wreaked a heavy toll on Japanese air power in New Guinea. Recognizing that an airplane destroyed on the ground is the same as one shot down in aerial combat, Wagner sent his fighters out on regular strafing attacks on the Japanese airfields around Lae. Losses in terms of equipment were heavy, but in terms of men they were light. In nearly every case when a P-39 or P-400 went down, the pilot survived. The 39th Fighter Squadron claimed 12 enemy aircraft for a loss of nine of its own, but lost only one pilot who bailed out at high speed and struck the tail of his airplane. All of the other pilots who were shot down managed to bail out of their planes or crash land and survive.

Wagner’s leadership in New Guinea set the stage for the upcoming air war in the Southwest Pacific. Experience gained by the young pilots in the underpowered P-39s and P-40s paid dividends when they transitioned into the high-performance Lockheed P-38 Lightning beginning in late 1942. Wagner’s own combat experience came to an end when he returned from Port Moresby in June.

An Eternal Legacy

Lieutenant General George C. Kenney arrived in Australia in late July to assume the role of MacArthur’s “air boss,” and one of his first actions was to relieve the Philippines veterans and send them back to the States for a well-deserved rest. Wagner protested the transfer and requested that he be allowed to remain in the theater and in combat, but his protests fell on deaf ears. Kenney realized that the Philippines veterans were worn out both physically and emotionally and considered them to be more of a liability than an asset. In Wagner’s case, Kenney recognized that the fighter pilot’s knowledge of the Japanese aircraft would be more beneficial back in the United States helping with the design of new fighters.

After his return to the States, Wagner was assigned as an engineering liaison officer to the Curtiss Aircraft plant in Buffalo, New York, where the company produced P-40s. Why he was assigned to a plant that was producing airplanes that were due to be replaced by newer types is unclear, although in 1942 the P-40 was still considered to be a top-of-the-line fighter.

In his new capacity Wagner flew P-40s around the country to fighter bases and talked to pilots about the airplane’s capabilities in combat. On November 29, 1942, Wagner took off from Eglin Field, Florida, for Maxwell Field at Montgomery, Alabama. He never reached his destination, and when no word was heard from him a search was initiated. Swampy conditions made the search difficult. Six weeks later, in January 1943, the crash site was finally located some 25 miles from his takeoff point at Eglin Field.

No determination of the cause of the crash was ever made public. The wreckage was found with the nose of the airplane buried deep in the ground, an indication that it was in a near vertical attitude when it crashed. The impact was so severe that only part of Wagner’s remains were recovered. The wreckage was left in the Florida swamps.

Although Wagner’s life came to an abrupt end, as did the lives of so many of the heroes of the early Pacific War, his legacy lives on. The 8th Fighter Group that he took to Port Moresby went on to become one of the most productive fighter groups of the war, as did the 35th Fighter Group that followed it. As the top-scoring ace of the early months of the war, his record was a standard that challenged the new pilots who came in to replace him. His name will always be associated with the early war in the Philippines, and Boyd D. Wagner will always be remembered as America’s first World War II ace.

Comments

I have read that the gasoline supply on the Philippines had been contaminated, ruining engines and performance. There was no speculation at to how or by whom this contamination took place.


24th Pursuit Group


Distinguished Unit Citations
Philippines, 7 December 1941 – 10 May 1942
Philippines, 8–12 December 1941
Philippines, 6 January – 8 March 1942

The 24th Pursuit Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was wiped out in the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42). The survivors fought as infantry during Battle of Bataan and after their surrender, were subjected to the Bataan Death March, although some did escape to Australia. The unit was never remanned or equipped. It was carried as an active unit until 2 April 1946.


Organization

The Group was activated in the Philippine Islands on 1 October 1941, taking over the three pursuit squadrons (3d, 17th and 20th) of the inactivated 4th Composite Group. The group was equipped with Seversky P-35As and several models of Curtiss P-40s, this group comprised the only pursuit force in the Philippines in December 1941. [1]

During the month of October, 35 new pilots arrived from Randolph Field, Texas which brought the 24th up to full strength. These pilots were sent to Pursuit transition unit at Clark which trained them for combat duty. [2] In November 1941, the 24th was augmented by two attached squadrons (21st and 34th) which were sent from the 35th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field, California. [1] [2] Also in November, a number of additional P-40Es were sent to the Group, which equipped the 3d, 17th and 21st Squadrons. The 34th Pursuit Squadron was assigned P-35A, the remainder of the P-35s being sent to the Philippines Air Corps. [1]

Eve of war

Notice was received by the group on 15 November that due to the tense international situation between the United States and Japanese Empire, all pursuit aircraft on the flight line would be placed on alert 24 hours each day, be armed, fully fueled with pilots available on a 30 minute's notice. [2] During the period 30 November to 6 December all squadrons underwent intensive training in day and night enemy interception and air-to-air gunnery. Also training in escorting B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 19th Bombardment Group was undertaken. [2]

During the first days of December, on four consecutive nights (2d-6th) an unidentified aircraft was sighted over Clark Field at approximately 05:30. After the first sighting, instructions were given to force the aircraft to land or destroy it. On three succeeding nights it was impossible to make the interception, due to the inability to see the aircraft in the dark or the aircraft not getting close enough to be picked up by the ground searchlights. On the fifth morning all aircraft were kept on the ground and the anti-aircraft batteries were alerted for the interception however the aircraft was not located. During this same period, many other undetermined aircraft were tracked by Iba Radar. [2]

On the night of 7 December 1941, the 24th Pursuit Group status was reported to Far East Air Force as follows: [2]

  • 3d Pursuit Squadron at Iba Field, 18 P-40Es in commission
  • 17th Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field, 18 P-40Es in commission
  • 20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark Field, 18 P-40Es in commission
  • 21st Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field, had 18 P-40Bs in commission
  • 34th Pursuit Squadron at Del Carmen Field had 18 P-35As in commission

8 December 1941

On 8 December at about 03:30 the commercial radio station at Clark Field intercepted a message from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii about the Japanese attack there. However the group was unable to verify this interception through official channels, no other action was taken other than notifying the Base Commander. However, all squadrons were put on alert. [2]

At about 04:00 the radar at Iba Field reported a formation of unidentified aircraft approximately 75 miles off the West Coast of Luzon heading towards Corregidor. The 3d Pursuit Squadron was dispatched to intercept the formation, but no planes were sighted and the squadron returned to Iba. However, the radar tracks showed the interception was successful and the unidentified aircraft swung off to the west out of the range of the Radar. It was believed that the 3d went underneath the formation. At 04:45 notification was received of a state of war between the United States and the Japanese Empire. [2]

At approximately 09:30, a large formation of Japanese bombers was spotted over Lingayen Gulf reported heading towards Manila. The 20th Pursuit Squadron was immediately dispatched to intercept the formation over Roselas. The 17th Pursuit Squadron was ordered from Nichols Field to cover the airspace over Clark. Again, the interception was not successful, as the bombers turned to the northeast and attacked Baguio and Tuguegarao then headed north off the radar. Both squadrons returned to their stations and were refueled and put back on alert. [2] [3]

Again at approximately 11:30 a large formation of bombers was reported over the China Sea heading towards Manila. The 3d was again dispatched to intercept the 17th was dispatched to cover Bataan and the 34th was placed on a standing patrol over Manila. Uncertainties of time and place, however, made it doubtful if the 3d would accomplish the interception. At 11:45 an unverified report was received of another bomber formation over Lingayen Gulf, heading south. The 20th was still being refuled and was unable to take of, so the 21st was ordered to cover Clark Field. At 12:15 the 20th completed refueling and was also ordered to cover Clark, At 12:20 54 Japanese bombers and an undetermined number of naval dive bombers attacked Clark Field. The 20th was in the process of taking off when the attack came. Only 4 squadron aircraft had cleared the runway, another five were destroyed on the ground while taking off. The remaining 5 planes were destroyed by a strafing attack after the bombardment. At the time of the attack on Clark Field, four squadrons of pursuit planes were in the air, but a complete breakdown of communications occurred when the communications center at Clark was destroyed by a bomb and little more than a dozen American aircraft met the Japanese attackers, none of which could climb to the altitude of the bombers [2] As a result, the 17th and 21st planes over Manila were not notified of the attack. The P-35s at Del Carmen Field took to the air after seeing the clouds of smoke over Clark Field, but were no match for the Japanese Zeros, which were much faster and more maneuverable. Although none were shot down, all were damaged and its use as a pursuit fighter ended. [3] [4]

Clark Field, the main air base on Luzon was devastated, and nearly half of Far East Air Force's aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and a third of the 24th Pursuit Group's aircraft lost in the attack. Clark Field was so heavily damaged it was essentially eliminated as an effective combat airfield. [3] [4]

The 3d Pursuit Squadron, which was dispatched to intercept a formation of planes over the China Sea failed to make the interception and was returning to its base at Iba. Iba, however was plotting an incoming formation and was transmitting the information to the Air Warning Center at Nielson Field. However, to a communications breakdown the 3d was unaware of the incoming formation and as they were circling Iba Field on their landing approach, 54 Japanese bombers and an unknown number of Naval dive bombers approached the field. The 3d broke the landing formation and attacked the incoming enemy aircraft. In the ensuing battle, one enemy bomber was shot down and a number of straffers were claimed to have been destroyed. The 3d lost 5 P-40s in the air. Although the 3d was unable to prevent to bombing of Iba Field, it did prevent the strafing of the ground station. After the Japanese raid, three additional P-40s were forced to crash land on the beaches after running out of fuel. The remainder of the squadron landed at the O'Donnell airport, but were forced to remain there until ammunition and gasoline were dispatched from Clark Field. Iba Field, however was completely destroyed by the enemy bombardment. Three other planes on the ground at Iba in hangars for maintenance were destroyed. [2]

December 1941

On 9 December shortly after midnight, telephonic communications were re-established with Headquarters, FEAF. Intelligence reported that an unidentified number of enemy aircraft were approaching from the north. A flight of six P-40s from the 17th Pursuit Squadron was dispatched from Del Carmen to intercept. However two of the aircraft were demolished on takeoff due to an accident. The remaining planes proceeded to Nichols Field but were unable to accomplish any interception of enemy aircraft in the dark. For the remainder of the day, the only activity was miscellaneous elements of Japanese ships patrolling and aircraft reconnoitering, and the night bombing of Nichols Field at 03:15. [2]

In order to try and bring some of the units up to strength, the P-40s of the 17th were transferred to Clark Field along with some P-40s from the 3d Pursuit Squadron which were moved from Iba Field. The remainder of the 3d was sent to Nichols Field to bring the 34th with its P-35s up to strength. [2]

On the night of the 10th, a Japanese invasion convoy was reported approaching Lingayen Bay. The 17th and 34th Pursuit Squadrons were readied to attack the convoy at daylight and furnish cover for some B-17s that were repaired and put back on the line at Clark to join in the attack. The B-17s took off with the 17th providing top cover during the attack. P-35s from the 34th failed to reach the objective due to their low speed, and only at the end of the attack did the 34th proceed to attack the convoy. Two P-35s were lost, one when the plane flew into a large explosion on a ship the aircraft attacked as the pilot was passing over it. [2] After the attack, both squadrons returned for re-fueling and re-arming and went back on alert. Later that morning at 11:15 a warning was received of large formations of Japanese aircraft approaching from the north. The 17th was dispatched to intercept the planes over Manila Bay, the 34th was sent over Manila to cover the port area. The 21st was sent for interception over the Bataan Peninsula. Contact was made with the enemy aircraft by all three squadrons, an estimated 100+ Japanese aircraft with fighters escorting the bombers. The interceptors of the 24th were attacked by the escort Zeros and were unable to attack the bombers due to the large number of enemy fighter strength. Only two planes were able to attack the bombers, after they carried out their attacks. The other squadrons engaged in dog-fighting over Manila Bay until they were forced to land, out of gasoline. [2]

At the end of the 10th, Group fighter strength had been reduced to about 30 aircraft, with 8 being P-35s. Due to the depleted strength of the Group, orders were received from FEAF Headquarters that pursuit planes were not to be dispatched other than upon orders from Headquarters. The planes would be employed mainly as reconnaissance aircraft to replace the 2d Observation Squadron, which was made inoperable after being mostly destroyed on the ground. Its remaining planes were unarmed and sitting ducks if attacked. [2]

In the days that followed, the 24th flew patrol and reconnaissance missions in various areas. The 3d and 34th squadrons were combined to cover the southern part of Luzon. The 17th and 20th were used to cover the northern part of the Island. The 21st was non-operational. [2] However, occasional attacks were made in the course of these reconnaissance missions. Lt. Wagner, while performing a reconnaissance mission over Aparri, strafed the captured airport there and shot down four enemy aircraft in the area. The strafing also destroyed a number of aircraft on the ground. Lt Mahoney, on a reconnaissance mission over Legaspi, strafed the airport there and destroyed several enemy aircraft on the ground. He also destroyed the enemy radio station as well as a fuel dump. [2]

With no supplies or replacements available from the United States, ground crews, with little or no spares for repairing aircraft, used parts which were cannibalized from wrecks. Essentials, such as oil, was reused, with used oil being strained though makeshift filters, and tailwheel tires were stuffed with rags to keep them usable. The aircraft which were flying and engaging the Japanese seemed to have more bullethole patches on the fuselage than original skin. [3] [4] [5]

On the morning of 23 December the Japanese made a landing in San Miguel Bay along the east cost of the Lingayen Gulf. All available aircraft of the 24th were loaded with fragmentation bombs and dispatched to attack the enemy landing. Twelve P-40s and six P-35s was the entire striking force of the Group. The attack was made with a loss of two of the P-35s which were shot down by anti-aircraft fire [2] and it proved sufficient to create confusion among enemy personnel in landing barges and around supply dumps ashore.

Spring 1942

The ground combat situation on Luzon quickly became desperate when a second set of major landings occurred along the shore of Lamon Bay in southern Luzon. [3] [4] [5] With the withdrawal from Clark Field on 20 December, the 24th used dispersed landing fields on Luzon, some little more than grass to carry on the fight. Japanese forces were rapidly advancing from both the north and south. MacArthur ordered all American and Philippine forces to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula and all FEAF aircraft to withdraw from Clark and Nichols Fields.

Field order #4, HQ Philippines Department on 10 January 1942 appointed the ground echelons of the 24th Pursuit Group as the 2d Infantry Regiment (Provisional) of the 71st Division. The unit was ordered to establish defenses on the beach of the peninsula. [2]

  • The ground echelon of the [2]
  • The ground echelon of the 20th Pursuit Squadron, was moved to Pilar, and from there to the Mariveles cut-off on the Tanikan River, where they assumed the role of regimental reserves. [2]
  • The ground echelon of the 17th Pursuit Squadron was moved from Nichols Field and Manila to Pilar and from there to Kabobo point where the took up beach defenses. [2]
  • The ground echelon of the 21st Pursuit Squadron moved from Lububo to KM Post 184 where they went into position as regimental reserve. [2]
  • The ground echelon of the 34th Pursuit Squadron was moved from Del Carmen Field to Orani, and from there to Aglaloma Point where it went into position on beach defense. [2]

What was left of the group were based at temporary fields at Orani and Pilar in northern Bataan, and later withdrawn on 8 January to "Bataan Field," located several miles from the southern tip of the peninsula. Bataan field consisted of a dirt runway, hacked out of the jungle by Army engineers in early 1941 and lengthened after the FEAF was ordered into Bataan. However, it was well camouflaged. It was attacked and strafed daily by the Japanese, however no aircraft were lost on the ground as a result of the attacks. Bataan Field, along with airfields at Cabcaben and Mariveles were kept in operation for several months during the Battle of Bataan. The remaining pilots continued operations with the few planes that were left, cannibalizing aircraft wreckage to keep a few planes airborne in the early months of 1942. [3] [4] [5]


24th Pursuit Group (USAAF) - History

HQ 24th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) transfers from Clark Field to Mariveles, Luzon, Philippine Islands. The ground echelon of the 14th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), transfers from Clark Field, Luzon to Bugo, Mindanao, Island. The air echelon is operating from Singosari, Java with B-17's. The air echelon of the 93d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 19th Bombardment Group (Heavy), transfers from Batchelor Field, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia to Singosari, Java with B-17's. The ground echelon is still on Luzon and Mindanao Islands in the Philippines.

The Japanese occupy Manila and Cavite naval base.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill announce the creation of a unified command in the SW Pacific, with General Sir Archibald P. Wavell as supreme commander of American, British, Dutch, and Australian (ABDA) forces in that area.

Fighters from Bataan Peninsula, Luzon Island, attempt the interception of a bombing raid on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. The fighters, failing to intercept until the enemy airplanes are over the target, have little effect on the raid. Several fighters depart for Mindanao Island following the mission. The 21st Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), 35th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), transfers from Lubao to Bataan Peninsula, Luzon, Philippine Islands with P-40's.

B-17's from Malang, Java stage through Samarinda, Borneo during the night of 4/5 January and attack shipping in Davao Bay on Mindanao Island, Philippine Islands. US Forces in Australia (USFIA), which controls FEAF, is redesignated US Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), and Major General George H Brett assumes command. The ground echelons of the 17th and 91st Bombardment Squadrons (Light), 27th Bombardment Group (Light), transfer from Limay to Bataan Peninsula, Luzon, Philippine Islands. The air echelons are operating from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia with A-24's.

B-17's, flying out of Kendari, Celebes Island, strike shipping in Davao Bay, Mindanao, Philippine Islands.

In the Philippine Islands, fighter units complete a movement (begun 24 December 41) from various bases on Luzon Island to Bataan Peninsula on Luzon Island.

B-17's, out of Malang, Java, attack Japanese landing forces on Tarakan Island off Borneo.

The air echelons of the 9th and 11th Bombardment Squadrons (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), arrive at Singosari, Java from the US with B-17's the air echelon of the 22d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) arrives at Singosari from the Territory of Hawaii. The ground echelons are at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Wednesday 14 January 1942

HQ Far East Air Force and HQ V Bomber Command transfer from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia to Java.

B-17's, flying out of Palembang, Sumatra, attack Sungei Patani Airfield, Malaysia.

On Celebes Island, B-17's from Malang, Java, staging through Kendari, hit Langoan Airfield and ships in Menado Bay.

B-17's, flying out of Malang, Java, attack shipping at Jolo Island in the Philippine Islands. The air echelon of the 9th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), transfers from Singosari to Jogjakarta, Java with B-17's. The ground echelon is at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The air echelons of the 11th and 22d Bombardment Squadrons (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), transfer from Singosari to Jogjakarta, Java with B-17's the ground echelons transfer from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia to Jogjakarta.

Major General George H. Brett, Commanding General US Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), halts ferrying of aircraft from India to the Netherlands East Indies. The USAAF has been sending heavy bombers to Java by way of Africa and India, but the Japanese are able to inflict prohibitive losses on USAAF aircraft on the last stops of the route by interception from newly acquired airfields near Java.

From this date through 3 Feb, B-17's launch at least 15 missions out of Malang, Java against shipping moving through Makassar Strait between Borneo and Celebes Island. 4 missions abort due to bad weather, 6 end with negative results, and the remaining 5 suffer heavy losses but sink 4 ships.

The first USAAF pursuit squadron in Java, the 17th Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) under Major Charles A. Sprague, arrives with 13 P-40's flown from Australia.

Fighters from Bataan, Luzon Island bomb and strafe Nichols and Nielson Fields on Luzon Island during the night of 26/27 January, inflicting considerable damage on aircraft and fuel storage.


Wednesday 28 January 1942

B-17's from Malang, Java and Palembang, Sumatra attack airfields at Kendari on Celebes Island and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

B-17's, striking out of Palembang, Sumatra, hit Kuantan airfield in Malaysia scoring numerous hits on runways and hangars.


1st Special Operations Wing

The 1st Special Operations Wing (1 SOW) at Hurlburt Field, Florida is one of three United States Air Force active duty Special Operations wings and falls under the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

The 1st Special Operations Wing is a successor organization of the 16th Pursuit Group, one of the 15 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II.

Heraldry

The unit's current emblem was approved on 6 June 1963.

The 16th Pursuit Group's emblem was approved in 1934. It has four lightning bolts—representing the four assigned squadrons—depicting destruction from the sky.

History

16th Pursuit Group

The beginnings of the 1st Special Operations Wing can be traced to the authorization by the Army Air Service of the 16th Pursuit Group on 24 March 1923 as part of the United States Army Panama Department at Albrook Field, Canal Zone. The unit, however, was not activated until 1 December 1932. The 16th Pursuit Group spent its entire existence in the defense of the Panama Canal. The Group was progressively redesignated, in keeping with the changes sweeping through the Army Air Corps, becoming first the 16th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) in 1939 and finally the 16th Fighter Group in 1942. It was disbanded in the Canal Zone on 1 November 1943.

Although subordinate squadrons assigned to the Group changed over the years the Group headquarters remained at Albrook Field throughout its existence. Squadrons assigned were:

As the U.S. prepared for World War II in 1940–1941, the 16th Pursuit Group, as of 1939 could count only 22 Curtiss P-36A Hawks on hand as of 1939, although these were the best fighter aircraft to be had at the time (in addition, Group Headquarters had two Northrop A-17's and two North American BC-1's). Additionally, as of February 1939 the Group was shown on Order of Battle documents with 10 Douglas B-18's, but these belonged to its 44th Reconnaissance and 74th Attack Squadrons, which were assigned to the Group at the time (the 44th Recon Squadron changed its status from "Assigned" to "Attached" on 1 February 1940, and finally being transferred entirely to the 9th Bomb Group 20 November, to whom it was also attached).

In June 1941, relief for the P-36A's arrived in the form of 6 Curtiss P-40B's and 64 P-40C's, although, though these were split between the 16th and 32nd Pursuit Groups (the 16th got 32 P-40C's). These new aircraft arrived not a moment too soon, because as of April and May 1941 not fewer than 17 of the Groups P-36A's were either unserviceable or awaiting deposition due to either a lack of parts or as a result of the hard use they had endured during the intense training program then ongoing. With the arrival of the P-40s, morale improved dramatically, and the Group headquarters added a rare Sikorsky OA-8 to its roster for rescue and communications duties, and had lost one of its A-17's and one BC-1 by August, at which time all remaining P-36A's were transferred to the newly formed 32d Pursuit Group.

As of the outbreak of war in December 1941, the Group had 20 serviceable P-40C's (plus five others awaiting disposition and three unserviceable – two from the 24th Pursuit Squadron and one from the headquarters squadron (HHS), 41-13498) but 10 new P-40E's had arrived, although one of these was promptly crashed. One other P-40C didn't have a prop, and all elements of the Group were dispersed at Albrook Field.

By mid-January 1942, it was found expedient to send a detachment of the Headquarters to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico to liaise with the VI Interceptor Command headquartered there, and detachments of six P-40C's were also quickly moved to Atkinson Field, British Guiana and Zandery Field, Dutch Guiana, to provide local air defense for the other elements stationed at those remote bases for Ferrying Command. Besides these, the Group had 23 P-40C's, eight P-40E's and 14 of its former P-36A's back at Albrook.

As of mid-February 1942, the Group elements still stationed at Albrook had the following aircraft on hand but only had 11 pilots between them of whom only seven had more than one year experience on pursuit aircraft (the numbers in parenthesis indicate the number of each type operational):

  • Curtiss P-40C = 19 (15)
  • Curtiss P-40E = 8 (6)
  • Curtiss P-36A = 9 (7)
  • North American BC-1 = 1 (1)

As the squadrons of the group moved through their various deployments from the start of the war on, the group headquarters became less and less important in day-to-day operations and, finally, on 17 January 1943, the Group Headquarters was moved from Albrook to La Joya Auxiliary Airdrome No. 2 to attempt to get the men assigned at Group back into the midst of "field" operations that were being endured by the subordinate squadrons.

In actuality, the Group was disbanded on 31 October 1943, at which time the HHS still had a solitary Curtiss P-36A assigned. The Command and Control responsibilities of the surviving former Squadrons of the Group then came under the umbrella of the XXVI Fighter Command.

1st Air Commando Group

The next unit in the lineage of the 1 SOW is the 1st Air Commando Group, which inherited the history and lineage of the 16th Fighter Group.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, amidst the Quebec Conference in August 1943, was impressed by Brigadier Orde Wingate's account of what could be accomplished in Burma with proper air support. [3] To comply with Roosevelt's proposed air support for British long range penetration operations in Burma, the United States Army Air Forces created the 5318th Air Unit to support the Chindits. In March 1944, they were designated the 1st Air Commando Group by USAAF Commander General Hap Arnold. Arnold chose Colonel John R. Alison and Colonel Philip Cochran as co-commanders of the unit. [4]

Alison was a veteran flight instructor of P-40 aircraft, and gained renown as a pilot with Major David Lee "Tex" Hill's 75th Fighter Squadron, part of Col Robert Lee Scott, Jr.'s 23d Fighter Group, the USAAF successor of the AVG's famed Flying Tigers in the China-Burma-India Theater. General Claire Lee Chennault lobbied to Arnold, who knew Alison from service at Langley Field, suggesting Alison be given the new command. Cochran was a decorated P-40 veteran pilot from the North African Campaign noted for his unconventional aerial tactics. [5]

As a result, the 5318th Provisional Air Unit was formed in India in late 1943. As a miscellaneous unit, the group was comprised until September 1944 of operational sections (rather than units): bomber fighter light-plane (and helicopter) transport glider and light-cargo. The 1st Air Commando Group consisted of a squadron of 30 A-model P-51 Mustangs led by Lt. Col. Grattan M. "Grant" Mahony, a squadron of 12 B-25H bombers led by Lt. Col. Robert T. Smith, 13 C-47 air transports led by Major William T. Cherry, Jr., 225 Waco CG-4A military gliders led by Captain William H. Taylor, Jr., and 100 L-1 and L-5 Sentinel liaison aircraft led by Major Andrew Rebori and Lt. Col. Clinton B. Gaty. [6] The group tested the United States' first use of a helicopter in combat, six Sikorsky R-4s led by Lt. Col. Clinton B. Gaty, in May 1944. [7]

A tragic accident occurred where 2 CG-4 gliders towed by one of the unit's Skytrains collided killing several American and British Chindits. The commander of the British unit, Lt. Col. D.C Herring restored confidence in the Americans who were worried whether the Chindits would trust them to fly them on operations by sending the Air Commandos a message that became the unit's motto

Please be assured that that we will go with your boys any place, any time, anywhere. [8]

The unit was redesignated the 1st Air Commando Group on 25 March 1944. It provided fighter cover, bomb striking power, and air transport services for the Chindits (Wingate's Raiders), fighting behind enemy lines in Burma. Operations included airdrop and landing of troops, food, and equipment evacuation of casualties and attacks against enemy airfields and lines of communication.

The 1ACG started receiving better-performing P-51B Mustangs in April 1944. They converted from P-51 Mustang to D-Model P-47 Thunderbolt fighters by September 1945. [9] The unit eliminated its B-25 Mitchell bomber section in May 1944. [ citation needed ]

In September 1944, after the original unit was consolidated with the headquarters component of the new establishment (also called 1st Air Commando Group), the sections were replaced by a troop carrier squadron, two fighter squadrons, and three liaison squadrons. The group continued performing supply, evacuation, and liaison services for allied forces in Burma until the end of the war, including the movement of Chinese troops from Burma to China in December 1944. It also attacked bridges, railroads, airfields, barges, oil wells, and troop positions in Burma and escorted bombers to Burmese targets, including Rangoon. Switched back to P-51 Mustangs (D-models) in January 1945. Left Burma in October and inactivated in New Jersey in November 1945.

On 15 March 1945, 40 P-51D Mustangs armed with drop tanks attacked Don Muang airfield, which harbored little more than 100 Japanese aircraft. At 1:30 PM (1330 military time), the Mustangs strafed every aircraft in sight, and destroyed at least 50% of the aircraft there. More Japanese aircraft that managed to takeoff were shot down and destroyed. On 9 April 1945, a second attack was launched with 33 Mustangs total. Anti-Aircraft fire was heavy, and three Mustangs were shot down.

During their brief (less than two-year) combat operations in the China Burma India Theater, the 1ACG accomplished a number of "firsts." Their first joint operation with the Chindits--Operation Thursday—was the first invasion of enemy territory solely by air, and set the precedent for the glider landings of Operation Overlord associated with the Normandy Landings on D-Day. They also used helicopters in combat for the first time, executing the first combat medical evacuations. They pioneered the use of air-to-ground rockets. These firsts and others had a lasting effect on how air operations would directly support ground operations. [10]

Vietnam

In April 1961 General Curtis Lemay directed HQ Tactical Air Command to organize and equip a unit to train USAF personnel in World War II–type aircraft and equipment ready surplus World War II-era aircraft for transfer, as required, to friendly governments provide to foreign air force personnel in the operation and maintenance of these planes develop/improve: weapons, tactics, and techniques.

In response to Lemay's directive, on 14 April 1961 Tactical Air Command activated the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The unit had an authorized strength of 124 officers and 228 enlisted men. The 4400th CCTS consisted of World War II aircraft: 16 C-47 transports, eight B-26 bombers, and eight T-28 fighters. The declared mission of the unit would be to train indigenous air forces in counterinsurgency and conduct air operations. The 4400th CCTS acquired the logistics code name "Jungle Jim," a moniker that rapidly became the nickname of the unit.

As the military conditions in South Vietnam continued to deteriorate, United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara actively began to consider dispatching United States military forces to test the utility of counterinsurgency techniques in Southeast Asia. In response, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay pointed out that the 4400th was operationally ready and could serve as an Air Force contingent for that force.

On 11 October 1961, President John F. Kennedy directed, in NSAM 104, that the Defense Secretary "introduce the Air Force 'Jungle Jim' Squadron into South Vietnam for the initial purpose of training Vietnamese forces." The 4400th was to proceed as a training mission and not for combat at the present time. "Jungle Jim" was a code name and nickname of the original 4400th CCTS and Air Commandos. Members wore an Australian-type green fatigue slouch hat in the style Johnny Weissmuller wore in the Jungle Jim films. [11]

The mission was to be covert. The commandos were to maintain a low profile in-country and avoid the press. The aircraft were painted with Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF) insignia, and all pilots wore plain flight suits minus all insignia and name tags that could identify them as Americans. They also sanitized their wallets and did not carry Geneva Convention cards. [ citation needed ] Those Air Commandos who served with the Raven Forward Air Controllers in the Secret War in Laos from 1966 to 1974 would continue this sanitized routine during their service there. [12] [13]

Elevated to group level as 4440th Combat Crew Training Group, 20 March 1962. The provisional TAC group was replaced by AFCON 1st Air Commando Wing in Apr 1962 and assumed air commando operations and training responsibility. Trained United States and RVNAF aircrews in the United States and South Vietnam in unconventional warfare, counter-insurgency, psychological warfare, and civic actions throughout the Vietnam War.

From the 1970s

Between 11 January and 30 June 1974, the USAF Special Operations Force and 1st Special Operations Wing merged their operations, and on 1 July 1974, concurrent with its redesignation as the 834th Tactical Composite Wing, the wing assumed responsibility for operating the USAF Air Ground Operations School, which trained personnel in concepts, doctrine, tactics, and procedures of joint and combined operations until 1 February 1978, and the USAF Special Operations School, which trained selected American and allied personnel in special operations, until March 1983.

Elements of the wing participated in the Operation Eagle Claw attempt in April 1980 to rescue U.S. hostages held in Tehran, Iran. Thereafter, continued to work closely with multi-service special operations forces to develop combat tactics for numerous types of aircraft and conduct combat crew training for USAF and foreign aircrews. Conducted numerous disaster relief search and rescue medical evacuation and humanitarian support missions.

A notable rescue operation they participated in was the rescue of tourists from the roof of their 26 story hotel during the 1980 MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas. Part of the unit was participating in the yearly Exercise Red Flag at Nellis AFB when the call came from local authorities that several hundred people were trapped on the roof of the enflamed MGM. It took several local and military helicopters several hours flying in dangerous conditions to rescue as many people as they could, only being able to take about twenty people per trip. [14]

Supported drug interdiction efforts in a coordinated program involving multiple US and foreign agencies, 1983–1985. Conducted airdrop and airlift of troops and equipment psychological operations, close air support, reconnaissance, search and rescue, and attacks against enemy airfields and lines of communications in support of the rescue of US nationals in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), October to November 1983, and the restoration of democracy in Panama (Operation Just Cause), December 1989 to January 1990.

Beginning in August 1990, the wing deployed personnel and equipment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Storm. These forces carried out combat search and rescue, unconventional warfare, and direct strike missions during the war, including suppression of Iraqi forces during the Battle of Khafji, January 1991.

Deployed personnel and equipment worldwide, performing combat search and rescue, and supporting contingencies, humanitarian relief, and exercises that included Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Kuwait, and Central America. Elements of the wing deployed to participate in Operation Provide Comfort in Iraq, 1991 to 1996 and Operation Deny Flight, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1993 to 1995.

It supported Operation Deliberate Force/Joint Endeavor, August to September 1995 and 14 to 20 December 1996, flying combat missions and attacking targets critical to Bosnian-Serb Army operations. Wing elements participated in operations Northern and Southern Watch in 1997 and again participated in combat operations in Desert Thunder, February to June 1998 and Desert Fox, 17 to 21 December 1998. It assumed an additional mission, supporting the Aerospace Expeditionary Forces in February 2000.

In 2001 and 2002 the wing deployed elements to Afghanistan and Iraq and fought in other "war on terror" operations.

Units in March 2015

  • 1st Special Operations Group:
    • 1st Special Operations Group, Det 1
    • 1st Special Operations Support Squadron
    • 4th Special Operations Squadron, AC-130U Spooky Gunship
    • 8th Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey
    • 15th Special Operations Squadron, MC-130H Combat Talon II
    • 23rd Special Operations Weather Squadron
    • 34th Special Operations Squadron, U-28A , U-28A
    • 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group:

    - 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron - 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron - 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron - 901st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

    - 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron - 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron - 1st Special Operations Contracting Squadron - 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron - 1st Special Operations Force Support Squadron - 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron

    - 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron - 1st Special Operations Medical Support Squadron - 1st Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Squadron - 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron

    Overview in the late 2010s

    The wing's core missions include aerospace surface interface, agile combat support, combat aviation advisory operations, information operations, personnel recovery/recovery operations, precision aerospace fires, psychological operations dissemination, specialized aerospace mobility and specialized aerial refueling.

    The 1st SOW also serves as a pivotal component of AFSOC's ability to provide and conduct special operations missions ranging from precision application of firepower to infiltration, exfiltration, resupply and refueling of special operations force operational elements. In addition, the 1st SOW brings distinctive intelligence capabilities to the fight, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance contributions, predictive analysis, and targeting expertise to joint special operations forces and combat search and rescue operations.

    The wing's motto of "Keeping the Air Commando promise to provide reliable, precise Air Force special operations air power. Any Time, Any Place," has repeatedly shown to be true since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. MH-53 Pave Lows responded almost immediately to support relief efforts in New York City and Washington, D.C.

    Since the United States invasion of Afghanistan began in October 2001, the wing's aircraft have flown more than 25,000 combat sorties, amassing more than 75,000 combat hours. The wing has also deployed more than 8,500 personnel to 16 geographic locations around the world. The continued high operations tempo of the 1st SOW truly put the Air Commandos assigned here at the "tip of the spear."

    The following units and aircraft are assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing as of April 2020: [15]


    History

    Lineage

    Assignments

    Stations and components

    • Headquarters and Ground Echelon:
      : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946
    • : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946
      : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946
      : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946 (Attached. Deployed from 35th Pursuit Group, Hamilton AAF, California)
      : 1 October 1941 – 2 April 1946 (Attached. Deployed from 35th Pursuit Group, Hamilton AAF, California)
    • Air echelon of group operated from Bataan Airfield, along with airfields at Cabcaben and Mariveles c. 25 December 1941 – c. 8 April 1942
    • Ground echelon fought as infantry unit on Bataan 18 January – 8 April 1942
    • Air echelon of group operated from: Del Monte Airfield, Mindanao, c. 8 April – c. 1 May 1942

    Aircraft

    Operational history

    The Group was activated in the Philippine Islands on 1 October 1941. Augmented by two attached squadrons (21st and 34th) and equipped with Seversky P-35s and Curtiss P-40s, this group comprised the entire pursuit force in the Philippines in December 1941 (80 P-40s 40 P-35s).

    After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States military in the Philippines was given a reprieve of about nine and a half hours due to bad weather over Formosa. When enemy aircraft were first reported to be approaching Luzon on the morning of 8 December (local time), the 24th group attempted to intercept but failed because radar and visual sighting facilities were inadequate.

    However when the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service struck the American airfields on Luzon the group's planes either had landed for refueling or had run so low on fuel that they could not fight and were largely caught on the ground. Iba Field, a training base on Luzon's west coast, about ninety miles north of Manila was almost completely obliterated with considerable losses of personnel and aircraft of the 3d Pursuit Squadron, plus the destruction of one of the two operational RADAR units in the country. Almost simultaneously, Clark Field, the main air base on Luzon was devastated with nearly half of Fifth Air Force's combat aircraft destroyed on the ground, and most of the 24th Pursuit Group's aircraft destroyed in the attack. Clark Field was so heavily damaged it was essentially eliminated as an effective combat airfield. Four pursuit pilots ere killed as they courageously attempted to take off from Clark during the air raid, as were several from Iba who were landing after finishing their patrol and were caught in the Japanese attack. A complete breakdown of communications occurred and barley more than a dozen American aircraft met the Japanese attackers

    In addition to the catastrophe at Clark and Iba Fields, the planes of the 17th Pursuit Squadron and two of the three flights of the 21st Squadron were patrolling over Manila Bay at the time of the attack, but inexplicably were not ordered into action. The P-35s at Del Carmen Field took to the air after seeing the clouds of smoke over nearby Clark Field, but were blown out of the sky by the Japanese Zeros, which were much faster and more maneuverable.

    More bad weather delayed additional attacks until 10 December however the fighting strength of the 24th Group was reduced to about one-third of its strength. The second major Japanese air attack were focused on Nichols Field and the Naval facilities at Cavite. With only a few minutes notice of the attack, the remaining 24th pursuit pilots prepared to meet the enemy formations. However, the standing patrols being flown had left those planes in the air low on fuel and others were in northern Luzon engaged in a dogfight with Zeros attempting to attack Del Carmen. The planes on alert took off to attempt interception however before they could reach the altitude of the attacking Japanese bombers, they were swarmed on by Zeros. Dogfights broke out across the sky and although outnumbered nearly three to one, the 24th pilots did well, downing more Japanese aircraft than they lost. However as they ran out of fuel, they had to break off and land wherever they could find a field. By the end of the day, the fighting strength of the 24th Pursuit Group consisted of twenty-two P-40s and eight P-35s

    In the days that followed, the group's strength declined rapidly, but the 24th flew some patrol and reconnaissance missions, engaging the enemy in the air, and attacked enemy airfields and shipping. Fifth Air Force Headquarters was faced with the fact that their depleted force would be driven to extinction by attrition. The P-40s were able to meet the Zeros on equal terms but it lacked the maneuverability of the lighter Japanese plane. In the ensuing days, the Japanese never appeared with less than 30 Zeros, and the Americans never met them with more than six P-40's. Often, the pilots of the 24th PG attacked with two, sometimes four-plane elements.

    With no supplies or replacements available from the United States, ground crews, with little or no spares for repairing aircraft, used parts which were cannibalized from wrecks. Essentials, such as oil, was reused, with used oil being strained though makeshift filters, and tailwheel tires were stuffed with rags to keep them usable. The aircraft which were flying and engaging the Japanese seemed to have more bullethole patches on the fuselage than original skin.

    By the time of the main Japanese invasion of Luzon along the east coast of Lingayen Gulf on 23 December, combat attrition had cut down the 24th's striking power to a total of twelve P-40's and six P-35's, but they proved sufficient to create confusion among enemy personnel in landing barges and around supply dumps ashore. The ground combat situation on Luzon quickly became desperate when a second set of major landings occurred along the shore of Lamon Bay in southern Luzon. The combat strength of the 24th had become so small that except for the few pilots required to fly these planes and the men necessary for their maintenance the surviving personnel of the group were designated as the 2d Infantry Regiment (Provisional), of the 71st Infantry division and ordered into ground combat. As an infantry unit, the men were engaged in beach defense of the Bataan peninsula.

    With the withdrawal from Clark Field on 20 December, the 24th used dispersed landing fields on Luzon, some little more than grass to carry on the fight. Japanese forces were rapidly advancing from both the north and south. MacArthur ordered all American and Philippine forces to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula and all Fifth Air Force aircraft to withdraw from Clark and Nichols Fields. What was left of the group were based at temporary fields at Orant and Pilar in northern Bataan, and later withdrawn on 8 January to Bataan Field, located several miles from the southern tip of the peninsula. Bataan field consisted of a dirt runway, hacked out of the jungle by Army engineers. However, it was well camouflaged. It was attacked and strafed daily by the Japanese, however no aircraft were lost on the ground as a result of the attacks. Bataan Field, along with airfields at Cabcaben and Mariveles were kept in operation for several months during the Battle of Bataan.

    The remaining pilots continued operations with the few planes that were left, cannibalizing aircraft wreckage to keep a few planes airborne in the early months of 1942. With the surrender of the United States Army on Bataan, Philippines on 8 April 1942, the remaining air echelon of the 24th Pursuit Group withdrew to Mindanao Island and began operating from Del Monte Airfield with whatever aircraft were remaining. The last of the group's aircraft were captured or destroyed by enemy forces on or about 1 May 1942. With the collapse of organized United States resistance in the Philippines on 8 May 1942, a few surviving members of the squadron managed to escape from Mindanao to Australia where they were integrated into existing units.

    The 24th Pursuit Group and its squadrons were never remanned after the battle. They were simply left on the active list of Fifth Air Force organizations throughout the war. The unit and its subordinate squadrons were inactivated on 2 April 1946.


    24th Pursuit Group (USAAF) - History

    U.S. Military Personnel that Served in WWII

    Last Name Beginning With (K)

    For information on any of the names listed below, submit your request to [email protected]

    For information about this Research Database, click here.

    For information about the World War II History Center, click here.

    Kabat, Herbert USS Duncan 726

    Kacyainski, Edward Signal Company, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kading, E. M. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kaegi, Leroy 47th Bomb Group 419

    Kaempfer, William P. 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division 115

    Kagel, Jerome 8th Air Force 765

    Kahn, Abraham F Company, 32nd Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division 208

    Kahn, G. Mason Wake Island Detachment 352

    Kahoe, Joseph A Company, 761st Tank Battalion 402

    Kaiser, Charles 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kaiser, Fritz 10th Mountain Division 535

    Kaiser, James L. 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kajawa, George C Company, 81st Reconnaissance Battalion 831

    Kalen, John A Company, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division 152

    Kallis, Milton 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kalmanir, Tom "Cricket" US Army Air Corps 666

    Kaminsky 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kampfer, Fred G Company, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kanable, Pauleen J. Nurse 893

    Kanaras, Chris B Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kanaya, Jimmie 3rd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Kandarian, Mark M. USS Sterett 726

    Kane, Harry US Army Air Corps 453

    Kane, John R. "Killer" 98th Bomb Group 737

    Kane, Matthew W. 3rd Armored Division 557

    Kane, Robert J. B Battery, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, 101st Airborne D. 383

    Kane, Robert L. 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kane, William US Navy (pilot) 469

    Kapchinske, Ralph C Company, 130th Infantry Regiment, 33rd Infantry Division 184

    Kaplan, Mark H Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kanses, Edmund S. 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division 208

    Kaplan, Arthur 94th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kaplan, Murray 94th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kappel, Carl H Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kappler, Frank 10th Mountain Division 535

    Karabinos, Steve 101st Airborne Division 383

    Karam, Carl Emil, Jr. USS North Carolina 810

    Karbel, Howard W. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Karboski, Stanley 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kardos, Michael B Company, 612th Tank Destroyer Battalion 90

    Kardos, Nicholas US Navy 419

    Karetka, Peter E. USS Hughes 605

    Kargas, Alvin H. 101st Airborne Division 383

    Karhan, A.V. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Karkos, Don USS Rapaden 619

    Karnap, Bernard A Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Karstens, Gordon E. USS Sterett 726

    Kartus, Charles 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kashino, Shiro I Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Kashiwagi, Ichigi K Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Kass, Gerald USS North Carolina 810

    Kastel, Edward 94th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Katayama, Robert F Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Katinsky, Andrew 17th Airborne Division 893

    Katsarsky, Slaftcho "Joe" 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment 18

    Kattleman, Ed 34th Infantry Division 419

    Katula, Stanley 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division 594

    Katz, M. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Katzen, Murray A. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Katzenstein, William 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kavanaugh, George 2052 D Engineer (Aviation) Fire Fighter Platoon 893

    Kavanaugh, Marvin L. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kawaguchi, Tom 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Kazura, Charles 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kean, William B. First Army 403 557 727

    Keany Scouting Squadron Six, USS Enterprise 361

    Kearby, Neel 348th Fighter Group 116 754

    Kearfott, Benjamin A Company, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division 24

    Keator, Randall D. 20th Pursuit Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group 8th Fighter Squadron, 362 443 850

    Keberdle, Robert C. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kee 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Keeby, Joseph 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Keefe, Fred A. USS Sterett 726

    Keefer, John 91st Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Keefer, W. R. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Keegan, Christopher H Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Keegan, John E. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Keenan, Jim E Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Keener, Vance 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Keeney, Arleigh W. 1107th Engineer Group 893

    Keenum, Luther G. USS Sterett 726

    Keep, Henry B. H Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Keerans, Charles L. Jr. "Bull" 101st Airborne Division 82nd Airborne Division 317 482 893

    Kegelman, Charles C. 15th Bomb Squadron 283

    Kegut B Company, 746th Tank Battalion 375

    Kehler Jr., Fred Twentieth Air Force 544

    Keith, Brian US Marine Air Corps 465

    Keith, Herbert P. C Company, 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Keith, Walter E. Army Air Force 893

    Kellam, Francis Caesar Augustus 82nd Airborne Division 893

    Kellam, Frederick 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kellar, John E Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kellar, Samuel, Jr. 500th Squadron, 345th Bomb Group, Fifth Air Force 173

    Keller, Brian A Company, 254th Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division 76

    Keller, Harold US Marines 401

    Keller, Jerry E. U.S. Army 920

    Keller, John B. 40th Group 765

    Keller, R. C. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kelley, Bruce A. USS Sterett 726

    Kelley, Carl F. C Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kelley, Charles B. 'D' Company, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division 557 727

    Kelley, Jack USS Tennessee 519

    Kelley, John P. USS Sterett 726

    Kelley, Peter L. 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kelley, Robert M. 91st Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kellog B Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kelly D Company, 103rd Medical Battalion, 28th Infantry Division 508

    Kelly, Charles E. "Commando" L Company, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division 50

    Kelly, Colin US Air Force 765

    Kelly, G. W. USS Sterett 726

    Kelly, Harold 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kelly, Irving B Company, 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division 127

    Kelly, James E Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kelly, John A. VPB-34, Navy Patrol Squadron 173

    Kelly, Laurence B. 494th Bombardment Group (Kelly's Cobras) 765

    Kelly, Louis J. F Company, 272nd Infantry Regiment, 69th Infantry Division 200

    Kelly, Robert P. USS Sterett 726

    Kelly, Thomas P., Jr. 589th Field Artillery Battalion 557

    Kelly, Vincent L Company, 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division 72

    Kelsey, Ben US Army Air Corps, Lieutenant 589

    Kelsey, Harmon S. 333rd Field Artillery Battalion 557

    Kemsley, A.N. US Army, Australia 532

    Kemp, Harold A Company, 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division 557

    Kemp, William T. 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group 12

    Kempf, George 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kempton, William B. 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division 557

    Kenan, Thomas A. 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division 557

    Kendall, T. C. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kenewell, Jack USS Goodhue 759

    Kennedy, Alan I Company, 130th Infantry Regiment, 33rd Infantry Division 184

    Kennedy, Ed 558th Bomb Squadron, 387th Bomb Group 422

    Kennedy, Elmer Division Artillery, 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kennedy, George Third Army 465

    Kennedy, Harold Q. 93rd Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kennedy, James F. 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kennedy, Jesse W. C Company, 292nd Engineer Combat Battalion 887

    Kennedy, John 366th Fighter Group 12

    Kennedy, John B Company, 612th Tank Destroyer Battalion 90

    Kennedy, John J. 352nd Fighter Group 353

    Kennedy, John Jay US Army 419

    Kennedy, Marvin USS Wahoo 251

    Kennedy, William C. A Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kennelly, Martin US Army 419

    Kenner, Harold Army Air Force 893

    Kennerly, Dan 10th Mountain Division 785

    Kenney, George Churchill Fifth Air Force 173 249 271 290 314 338 345 443 528

    Kenny, W. B. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kensler, George W. USS Sterett 726

    Kent, Jack C Battery, 400th Armored Field Artillery Battalion 557

    Kent, Louis R. 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kenyon, Kenneth 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Keough, Vernon Charles No. 609 Squadron No. 71 Squadron, Royal Air Force 242 736

    Keohnen, S. J. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kepner, William E. VIII Fighter Command 7 757 765

    Kerchner, George 2nd Ranger Battalion 53 384

    Kerecman, Michael 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kernan, Alvin VT-2, USS Enterprise 245 754

    Kern, Lloyd POW, Stalag 17B 380

    Kern, William B. 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division 540

    Kerns, Bill Marine Air Corps 171

    Kero, William E. 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482 893

    Kerr, Baine 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division 753

    Kerrigan, William J. HQ Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kershaw, Theodore G. Army Air Force 893

    Kerwin, James E. 2nd Battalion, 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division 208

    Kessel, John H. 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kessing, Oliver O. US Navy 171

    Kessler, Charles B Company, 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion 831

    Kessler, Charles B Company, 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Ketner, D. M. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Ketzer, Steve 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Key, James N. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Keyes, Geoffrey II Corps Seventh Army 51 372 382 454 594 831

    Keyes, Geoffrey 2nd Armored Division 727

    Keyser, Ed 500 th Bomb Group, 73 rd Bomb Wing 599

    Kibbey, Charles A. 91st Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kidd, Isaac C. US Navy 517 519 737

    Kiddy Sergeant, 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion 831

    Kieler, Varian US Army Air Force, Philippines 362

    Kielor, Edward 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion 484

    Kieltyka, Al C Company, 70th Tank Battalion 375

    Kiehna, Earl USS Sterett 726

    Kienly, Joseph A Company, 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion 482

    Kiernan, James A. A Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kierstead, James G Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kiland, Ingolf Norman Navy 928

    Kilbourn C Company, 602nd Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Kilburn, Charles S. 11th Armored Division 344 402 557

    Kiley, John W. H Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kilham, R. A. USS Sterett 726

    Kill, Louis E. D Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Killmer, George C Company, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Kilmon, Charles A. USS Sterett 726

    Kilpatrick, MacGregor "Mac" Fighter Squadron 5, USS Franklin 186 469

    Kilroy, Larry H Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kim, Young Oak 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Kimball, A. H. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kimberley, A. W. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kimbrell, Gordon US Army 382

    Kimes, Ira Marine Air Group 22 605928

    Kimmel, Husband E. Commander-in-Chief, US Navy 317 340 361 485 519 565 737

    Kimmey, Norman US Army 419

    Kimmich 21st Fighter Group 217

    Kincade, Doyal 680th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 17th Airborne Division 893

    Kincaid, Thomas C. Seventh Fleet 48 58 114 151 340 343 345 447 461

    565 575 584 726 754 765 785

    Kindred, J. T. 10th Mountain Division 785

    Kindred, R. L. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kindsvater, Daniel U.S. Army 920

    Kiney, Jim 65th Infantry Division 422 518

    King A Company, 741st Tank Battalion 375

    King, Cecil L. USS Sterett 726

    King, Edward Major General, Bataan defense force 614 615

    King, Ernest B Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    King, Ernest J. Chief of Naval Operations 154 209 253 301 345 419 448 453 469

    480 525 565 575 606 737 753 754

    King, Francis 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division 858

    King, Gordon E. 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division 383

    King, Harold W. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    King, Harrison 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    King, James H. Jr. D Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    King, John K Company, 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division 403

    King, John H., Jr. 212th Marine Fighter Squadron 928

    King, Norm 94th Bomb Group 346

    King, Ralph H Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    King, Richard C Troop, 18th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 557

    King, Roy 761st Tank Battalion 402

    King, Roy D Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    King, William 91st Bomb Group (Heavy) 265

    King, William J. 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kingman, Allen F. 2nd Armored Division 727

    Kingsley, Harold A Company, 761st Tank Battalion 402

    Kingston, David 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kinnaird, Eugene F. Jr. Army Air Force 893

    Kinnard, Harry W. O. 101st Airborne Division 91 100 337 383 557 893

    Kinnard 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment 255

    Kinney, Crawford D. 93rd Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kinney, Gordon W. US Army Air Force 366

    Kinnison, Henry L. Jr. K Force, 5307th Composite Unit 593

    Kinsey, Paul S. C Company, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kinspel, Arthur W. USS Pillsbury 448

    Kintberger, Lawrence S. USS Hoel 48 151

    Kinzer, Oliver B Company, 59th (Training?) Regiment 755

    Kinzler, Robert HQ Company, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division 517

    Kiorpes, C. A. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kirby, W. Sergeant, 3rd Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Div. 594

    Kirk 743rd Tank Battalion 375

    Kirk, John C Company, 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Kirk, Terence North China Marines 458

    Kirkpatrick, John E. N/A 810

    Kirkpatrick, Merrell R. 94th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kirkpatrick, Thomas L. USS Arizona 486

    Kirkpatrick, William S. 313th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kirla, John A. 357th Fighter Group 103

    Kirtland, Elmer J. 498th Squadron, 345th Bomb Group, Fifth Air Force 173

    Kiscadden, Lee C Company, 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Kiser, Hugh A Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kish, John D Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kiss, Alexander J. 94th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kissane, Joseph M. G Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kisters, Gerry B Troop, 91st Reconnaissance Squadron 831

    Kitchell, William J. Third Fleet 171 565

    Kitchin, William W. 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kitt, William 761st Tank Battalion 402

    Kitterman, Melvin 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kitzler, Robert USS Cloues 604

    Kizer, Clifton H. 94th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kjeldseth, Clarion J. 44th Engineer Combat Battalion 557

    Kjell, Clifford HQ Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st 383

    Klakamp, Dale H. 7th Engineer Battalion, 5th Infantry Division 406

    Klann, Ted 101st Airborne Division 383

    Klass, Fr. USS North Carolina 810

    Klatt, Richard US Marines 185

    Klebanski, Walter 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Klefman, Gordon C Company, 1st Ranger Battalion 243 839

    Klein, Ed HQ Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne D. 482

    Klein, Richard I Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Klein, Robert E. 82nd Airborne Division 893

    Klemperer, Werner US Army 465

    Klepacki, A. B. USS Sterett 726

    Klimek, Bronislaus K (Bud) 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Klimiewicz, Wallace USS Franklin 186

    Klinck, Earl F. 3rd Battalion, 423rd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division 557

    Kline, Wilbur J. (Bill) 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Klineberger, Joe USS North Carolina 810

    Klingenhagen, Declan F. 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division 374

    Klinger, David 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division 383

    Klingman, Robert L. VMF-312 765

    Klosky, Simon P., III USS Sterett 726

    Klug, Elmer L Company, 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division 557

    Knabe, N. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Knapp, Elwin C. USS Sterett 726

    Knapp, Gordon USS North Carolina 810

    Knapp, John J. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Knapp, Oscar C. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Knecht, Albert B Battery, 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kness, Lester E. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kness, Marvin E. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Knickerbocker, William 81st Troop Carrier Squadron 383

    Knight, George 273rd Infantry Regiment, 69th Infantry Division 200

    Knight, Harry US Army Ground Forces Observer 831

    Knight, James E. 12th Air Support Command 419

    Knight, Whit C Company, 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Knobbs, William 34th Infantry Division 419

    Knobloch, Richard A. Doolittle's Raiders 737

    Knorr, J. E. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Knott, Gerald D. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Knowling, Edward J. 384th Bomb Group 737

    Knowlton, Steve 10th Mountain Division 535

    Knox, Forrest A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion 398

    Knox, John K. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Knudsen, Alvin R. Army Air Force 893

    Knudsen, Richard 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division 893

    Knutson, Clarence H. G Company, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kobierski, Henry Julian USS North Carolina 810

    Koch A Battery, 872nd Field Artillery Battalion, 66th Infantry Division 814

    Koch, Howard 10th Mountain Division 785

    Koch, Oscar W. Intelligence Officer for General Patton, Third Army 402 557

    Kochanek, Frank S. B Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kochenburg, Charles M. USS Sterett 726

    Kochenour, Ken C Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kocourek, Charles 101st Airborne Division 383

    Koenig, Ernest L. 101st Airborne Division 383

    Koestar, Charles A. US Army 586

    Koewler, Albert B Company, 59th (Training?) Regiment 755

    Kogut, Michael "Mike" H Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kohler, Lorenz 10th Mountain Division 785

    Kohls, Carl W. 101st Airborne Division 92 893

    Koke 21st Fighter Group 217

    Kokko, Paul A. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kolb, Julius A. Army Air Force 893

    Kolf 743rd Tank Battalion 375

    Koller, Lawrence H Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kolterman, Robert J. G Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Komar, Stephen "The Russian" Merrill's Marauders 593

    Kometani, Katsumi 100th Infantry Battalion 578

    Konar, Albert V. 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Konop, Matt F. C. 2nd Infantry Division 557

    Konrad, E. G. USS Hornet 113

    Konzal, Thomas F. USS Sterett 726

    Koon, Lewis Fulmer 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division 384

    Koons, Franklin M. 1st Ranger Battalion 243 839

    Kopanda, George 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kopcsak, Peter K. 602nd Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Koper, Robert 100th Bombardment Group 765

    Koper, Steve B Battery, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, 101st Airborne D. 383

    Koplovitz, Irving 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kopp, William G. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Koproski, L. J. USS Sterett 726

    Koprowski, Harry 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kopveiler, Eugene N. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Korba USS North Carolina 810

    Korecki, Eddie I Company, 334th Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division 557

    Koritz, Lester 28th Infantry Division 557

    Kormylo, Joseph D Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Korrison, David D Company, 743rd Tank Battalion 375

    Kortas, Harry A. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kortkamp, Al. 440th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kos, George A. D Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kosalko, John P. USS Sterett 726

    Koskimaki, George E. Signal Company, 101st Airborne Division 383 893

    Kosloski, "Ski" USS North Carolina 810

    Kosowsky, Nicholas A Company, 40th Tank Battalion, 7th Armored Division 107

    Koss, Clifford W. USS Sterett 726

    Koss, Stanley D Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kossler, Herman J. USS Cavalla 204 240 754

    Kossman, William C. H Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kost, Albert F Company, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kost, Mike D Company, 103rd Medical Battalion, 28th Infantry Division 612

    Kostiak, William L. 437th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kotlarz, Stanley W. D Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kotzebu, Albert "Buck" First Army 132

    Kotzebu, Albert L. G Company, 273rd Infantry Regiment, 69th Infantry Division 289

    Kouns, Charles W. 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kovaks, Steve 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kozak, Jacob J. USS Sterett 726

    Koze, Reynolds C Company, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kozelek, Leonard J. Scouting Squadron Six, USS Enterprise 361

    Kozlowski, Michael L. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kozlowski, Frank J. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kraatz Lieutenant, 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 831

    Kracke, John L. 32nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 557

    Kraeger, Vernon G Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kraetsch, Richard E. USS Sterett 726

    Kraft, Albert M. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Krahel, W. W. USS Sterett 726

    Kralj, Stephan B Company, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kramar, Stefan HQ Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kramer, Alwin D. Translation and Dissemination Section, US Navy 330

    Kramer, Herman F. 66th Infantry Division 373

    Kramer, Howard J. USS Sterett 726

    Kramer, Leonard A Company, 85th Engineer Heavy Pontoon Battalion 662

    Krammer, Isador 69th Infantry Division 29th Infantry Division 455

    Kraska, Bronislaw A Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne 383

    Krause, Edward "Cannonball" 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne 384 397 482 893

    Krebs, Frank K. (X?) 440th Troop Carrier Group 482 844 893

    Kreider, C. D. 101st Airborne Division 383

    Kreilick, Kenneth L. USS Sterett 726

    Kress, Albert E. USS Sterett 726

    Kress, H. W. 3rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 914

    Kretzer, Steve 1st Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Krewsky, Steve C Company, 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Kreyssler, John D. Army Air Force 893

    Kribs, Kenneth 703rd Bomb Squadron, 445th Bomb Group 490

    Kriger, H. H. USS Sterett 726

    Kriss, Robert L. 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division 557

    Krobarth, Harlan U.S. Army 920

    Kroeger B Company, 741st Tank Battalion 375

    Kroeger, E. J. Scouting Squadron Six, USS Enterprise 361

    Kroener, Stanley B Company, 59th (Training?) Regiment 755

    Kroener, Walter 505th Regimental Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Krohn, Frank D Company, 193rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Div. 96

    Krombholtz, Arnold E. C Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Krompasky, Joseph W. G Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kron, Walter D Battery, 81st Anti-aircraft & Anti-tank Battalion, 101st Airborne D. 383

    Kroos, Arthur C. 82nd Airborne Division 893

    Krueger, Donald B Troop, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron 831

    Krueger, Howard R. F Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 38 482

    Krueger, Walter Sixth Army 150 155 184 293 488 528 765 893 727

    Kruithof, Vernon F. USS Sterett 726

    Krupinski, Ray I Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Krznarich, Paul 29th Infantry Division 403

    Kubale, Lawrence W. 435th Troop Carrier Group 383

    Kubilius, Victor B Company, 59th (Training?) Regiment 755

    Kubota, Sadaichi I Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Kuchnert, Max 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division 419

    Kudla, Robert USS Sterett 726

    Kuehl, Delbert 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division 482

    Kugawa Sergeant, D Company, 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion 831

    Kuharek, John D. 393rd Squadron, 509th Composite Group 191

    Kuhl, Charles H. 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division 372

    Kuhl, Howard V. 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kuhn, Henry 17th Airborne Division 893

    Kuhn, Jack 2nd Ranger Battalion 476

    Kuhn, Karl D Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kuhn, Wesley US Marines 401

    Kukich, Louis USS Sterett 726

    Kula, Matthew A. USS Sterett 726

    Kulju, Harold HQ Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd 482

    Kulp, Nancy US Navy WAVES 465

    Kumler, Lyle K. H Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kunau, Thomas W. 439th troop Carrier Group 893

    Kunkle, Ronald 1st Ranger Battalion 839

    Kuntz, Irving F Company, 318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division 93

    Kurelik, Ed E Company, 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division 401

    Kuriger, William E. 439th Troop Carrier Group 893

    Kuroda, Robert H Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 578

    Kurowski, Stephen B Company, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion 382

    Kurtenbach, Kenneth POW, Stalag 17B 380

    Kurtz, Jim B Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kurtz, Michael 1st Infantry Division 384

    Kurtz, Robert L. "Lester" A Company, 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion 482

    Kuryllo, Barnard J. USS Sterett 726

    Kurzawski, William J. H Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Div. 482

    Kuschick, Stanley 10th Mountain Division 785

    Kushner, John A Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Div. 383

    Kushnir, Frank 110th Infantry Regiment 88

    Kutak, Frank A Company, 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division 95


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