Activated in early 1943 as a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber squadron, it trained under the Second Air Force. It deployed to England in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) during July 1943, where it was assigned to VIII Bomber Command as a strategic bombardment unit. It participated in the air offensive over Nazi Germany and Occupied Europe until the German surrender in May 1945. Its personnel demobilized in England and returned to the United States; the squadron was reassigned to the Second Air Force and was programmed to be re-equipped with B-29 Superfortresses for deployment to the Pacific Theater. The Japanese capitulation led to the units’ inactivation in August 1945, as it was neither manned or equipped.
The 62d Fighter Squadron was activated as the 62d Pursuit Squadron, one of the original three squadrons of the 56th Pursuit Group at Army Air Base Savannah, Georgia, on 15 January 1941. The squadron immediately began training for its wartime missions under III Fighter Command, rapidly transitioning through the Seversky P-35, Curtiss P-36, Bell P-39 Airacobra, and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk aircraft. On 7 December 1941, the 62d stepped up to defend the Northeastern United States from anticipated enemy air attack while it converted to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and prepared to deploy overseas, operating under the I Fighter Command, New York Fighter Wing in the early months of 1942.
It was redesignated 62d Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942, and deployed to RAF Kings Cliffe, England on 9 January 1943. It was declared operationally ready two months later and flew its first combat missions 13 April. The squadron was given fuselage code “LM” and operated from several RAF stations during the war, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt as an VIII Fighter Command bomber-escort unit for Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and beginning in 1944 for Consolidated B-24 Liberators attacking enemy targets in Occupied Europe. After the end of the war in Europe, the squadron was inactivated on 18 October 1945.
VPB-44 was a Patrol Bombing Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 44 (VP-44) on 3 June 1941, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 44 (VPB-44) on 1 October 1944 and disestablished on 20 June 1945.
3 June 1941: VP-44 was established at NAS San Diego, California, under the operational control of PatWing-1, as a seaplane squadron flying the PBY-5A Catalina. Ground and flight training was conducted at San Diego.
December 1941 – March 1942: VP-44 received advanced operational training at NAS Alameda, California, from 14 December 1941 until the squadron began preparations for its trans-Pacific flight to Hawaii at the end of March 1942. While at Alameda, the squadron came under the operational control of PatWing-6.
26 March 1942: VP-44 flew its trans-Pacific to NAS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, coming under the operational control of PatWing-2. Operational and combat training was conducted in conjunction with patrols over the waters off Oahu.
22 May – June 1942: VP-44 transferred to Midway Island to provide combat patrols, joining Catalinas from VPs 14, 23, 24, 51, 72 and 91. There were 32 PBY-5 and 5A aircraft at Midway awaiting the arrival of the Japanese due to decoded intercepts detailing their plans to attack Midway Island. The aircraft were split into two groups—one operating with 22 aircraft from Sand Island, the other with 10 aircraft operating from Eastern Island. Sector searches were flown out to 700 miles (1,100 km) from Midway commencing at 04:15 each morning. The squadrons were handicapped at this stage of the war by the lack of radar on the aircraft. On 3 June, Ensign Jewell H. Reid and his crew were the first to spot the Japanese task force approaching Midway. On the night of 3–4 June, four squadron aircraft conducted an attack with obsolete Mark 13 torpedoes on a portion of the Japanese task force, causing damage to the Japanese tanker Akebono Maru. On 6 June, Lieutenant (jg) R. S. Whitman and his crew were attacked by three Japanese floatplanes and forced down. Whitman and ACRM C. Adams were killed in the attack. The aircraft was successfully ditched by the copilot, Ensign L. H. Camp, who then died of his wounds. AMM1c Virgil R. Marsh remained in the burning Catalina while his crew exited the sinking aircraft, holding off the attacking Japanese aircraft. The survivors were picked up later that day. The squadron returned to Pearl Harbor on 9 June. The other squadrons remained at Midway through the 25th conducting SAR missions for dive-bomber aircrews shot down during the Battle for Midway.
9 June – September 1942: VP-44 continued its patrols from NAS Pearl Harbor over the waters of Oahu, with a detachment at Johnston Atoll. On 26 September, the Pearl Harbor section of the squadron, including the headquarters staff, relocated to the recently completed NAS Kaneohe Bay facility. Two VP-44 aircraft were transferred to other squadrons reducing the complement to 10 aircraft.
21 December 1942: VP-44 turned in its 10 PBY-5A aircraft in return for 12 PBY-5 Catalinas. These aircraft were then equipped with twin 30-caliber guns and Mark IX gunsights.
22 December 1942 – May 1943: The squadron received orders to deploy to the combat zone at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, under the operational control of FAW-1. A detachment of two aircraft was sent to Halavo Seaplane Base, Florida Islands, for Dumbo (air-sea rescue) searches only. Many of the missions flown from Halavo went deep into enemy territory. For those flights fighter escorts often accompanied the Catalinas. While based at Espiritu Santo during the months of February and March 1943 the squadron carried numerous Dumbo missions and transported equipment and personnel during the Solomon Islands campaign. In May 1943, the squadron received two aircraft from VP-72, increasing the complement of Catalinas to 14 PBY-5s. Attacks on the Catalinas during this period were frequent. No less than 12 attacks by Kawanishi H6K Mavis flying boats and Mitsubishi G3M Nell bombers were recorded on squadron aircraft, but with no losses.
26 June 1943: VP-44 was relieved for return to NAS Kaneohe Bay and then on to the U.S. By 20 July 1943 VP-44 had arrived at NAS San Diego, coming under the operational control of FAW-14. All hands were given orders and home leave.
29 September 1943 – February 1944: VP-44 was reformed at NAS San Diego and conducted training in preparation for its second tour in the combat zone. Unlike the other Black Cat squadrons in the South Pacific, VP-44 was designated as such from the start. Its aircraft came from the factory with a flat-black finish instead of Navy blue, as was the normal practice. Training was completed in January 1944 and the squadron conducted its trans-Pacific flight to NAS Kaneohe Bay. It was discovered that the new amphibious PBY-5A with wheels did not have the range of its predecessor the PBY-5, and could not fly all the way to Hawaii with its wheels attached. The squadron found some PV-1 drop tanks at San Diego that they were able to fit to the wings of the Catalinas that gave them the range needed to make it to Hawaii. This then became standard procedure for the squadrons that followed. From 18 January to 13 February, the squadron departed NAS San Diego in pairs bound for NAS Kaneohe Bay.
1 February 1944: The squadron remained at NAS Kaneohe Bay, under the operational control of FAW-2, for five weeks of intensive training with emphasis on Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) techniques.
11 March 1944: VP-44 was deployed to Luganville Airfield on Espiritu Santo, under the operational control of FAW-1. A detachment of aircraft was maintained for convoy coverage at Nausori. ASW training resumed at Luganville Airfield, with the addition of two new technical aids: the Sonobuoy and a searchlight with 80 million candlepower. Anti-shipping searches, ASW patrols and rescue missions were the primary missions at both locations.
15 June 1944: VP-44 moved to Green Island, only 150 miles (240 km) from the enemy stronghold of Rabaul. A PATSU was available for maintenance of squadron aircraft and the berthing and feeding of unit personnel. Patrol missions involved flying daily search sectors extending in a northerly direction to within 200 miles (320 km) of Truk. ASW operations were discontinued. Patrol missions ceased after 18 August when the primary mission of the squadron was changed to keeping 17 nearby enemy airfields neutralized and to prevent shipping at night from getting to the bypassed Japanese garrisons. Nightly Black Cat raids were conducted and the squadron maintained standby aircraft for ASW and Dumbo missions during the day. Nightly hunts were usually coordinated with one of the PT boat squadrons stationed on Green Island. The Cats would spot the target at night with their radar, then illuminate the scene for the PT boats. Both would then join in on the kill. Attacks were usually made with 4 500-pound ANM-64 bombs and 40 20-pound fragmentation bombs. On one nighttime mission over Rabaul, an enemy floatplane fighter attacked Lieutenant Lloyd Garrison and his crew. In the ensuing combat they managed to shoot down the fighter. Upon return, the jubilant crew was informed that confirmation was needed before credit could be authorized. Undaunted, the crew returned early the next morning and took pictures in broad daylight of the smoking wreckage still floating in the bay at Rabaul. They were duly given credit for the deed.
4 September – December 1944: VP-44 operational control was changed from FAW-1 to FAW-2. By this stage of the war, Japanese resistance had been broken and Rabaul neutralized. It was the squadron’s job to see that 17 enemy airfields were regularly bombed to prevent their use and to intercept resupply ships and barges attempting to reinforce Japanese troops on Bougainville and New Ireland. A detachment of three aircraft was maintained for a few months at Torokina Airfield on Bougainville for Dumbo work with Marine air units. This group was nearly overrun during a Banzai charge by the last remaining Japanese troops on Bougainville in December 1944.
1 December 1944: VPB-44 operational control was shifted from FAW-2 to Commander Air Seventh Fleet (ComAir7thFlt). Six squadron aircraft were utilized for passenger and mail runs between Hollandia, New Guinea and Leyte, Philippines. The squadron also conducted resupply for the Australian Coastwatchers, flying to such remote islands as Pinipel, Feni, Nuguria, Lehir and Ontong Java.
January – February 1945: The squadron remained based primarily on Green Island, with one aircraft at Hollandia and two at the Seaplane Base Repair Base #1 on Manus Island. Black Cat missions were officially terminated on 10 February with the complete neutralization of Rabaul and the primary mission of the squadron shifted to Dumbo work.
March 1945: A three-aircraft detachment was located at Manus and a two-aircraft detachment at Emirau Island for Dumbo work. The squadron at Green Island was primarily assigned air freight, ASW standby and Dumbo missions.
11 April 1945: VPB-44 was relieved by VPB-53 for return to the United States. The squadron arrived at NAS Kaneohe Bay on 21 April and boarded USS Cape Esperance for return to San Diego, Calif. Upon arrival on 1 May, the squadron was given orders reassigning all personnel.
20 June 1945: VPB-44 was disestablished at NAS San Diego
The squadron was established in late 1943 as the 869th Bombardment Squadron at El Paso Army Air Base, Texas, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombardment squadron that was one of the original operational squadrons of the 497th Bombardment Group. The squadron’s initial cadre was drawn from the 491st Bombardment Group.
In December the squadron moved on paper to Clovis Army Air Field, New Mexico. At Clovis, the squadron began to man its air echelon by January 1944. The 869th drew heavily on aircrews of the 480th Antisubmarine Group who were returning to the United States from duty in England and Africa to fill out its crews. Aircrew training at Clovis was limited to ground training, although some flying in Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator aircraft assigned to the 73d Bombardment Wing was accomplished. Key personnel trained with the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida.
In April 1944, the squadron’s air and ground echelons united at Pratt Army Air Field. Here the 869th finally received newly manufactured Boeing B-29 Superfortresses the following month, although it continued to fly B-17s due to continuing engine problems with the B-29s. In May the United States Army Air Forces reorganized its very heavy bombardment units. The 872d Bombardment Squadron and support units of the 497th group were inactivated and their personnel absorbed into the 869th and the remaining squadrons of the group.
Crew of the 869th Bomb Squadron B-29 42-24592 “Little Gem”
The 869th deployed to the Pacific Theater of Operations, with the ground echelon sailing 30 July on the SS Fairisle, passing through Honolulu and Eniwetok before arriving at Saipan on 20 September. Upon arrival the squadron’s personnel were engaged in construction. By mid-October most personnel were able to move into Quonset huts from the tents that they were assigned on their arrival. The aircrews began departing from Kansas on 6 October, ferrying their aircraft to Saipan via a 6500 nautical mile route, with the last B-29 arriving on 30 October. At Saipan the unit became part of the XXI Bomber Command at Isely Field.
The squadron began operations on 28 October 1944 with a night attack against the submarine pens at Truk Islands and attacks against Iwo Jima in early November. The squadron took part in the first attack on Japan by AAF planes based in the Marianas. On 24 November 1944 Major Robert Morgan, the squadron commander, led the first mission of XXI Bomber Command to bomb Japan, with wing commander Brigadier Gen. Emmett O’Donnell, Jr. as co-pilot. 110 aircraft of the 73rd Bombardment Wing bombed Tokyo during this mission. Major Morgan and his crew had flown a solo mission on 10 November using radio countermeasures equipment to obtain information on the disposition of Japanese early warning and gun control radars. The 869th flew missions against strategic objectives in Japan, originally in daylight and from high altitude. It was also tasked with “Weather Strike” missions which were single ship flights flown nightly to obtain weather information for target areas in Japan whilst making incendiary attacks on various targets.
The squadron received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for a mission on 27 January 1945. Although weather conditions prevented the group from bombing its primary objective, the unescorted B-29’s withstood severe enemy attacks to strike an alternate target, the industrial area of Hamamatsu. It was awarded a second DUC for attacking strategic centers in Japan during July and August 1945. The squadron assisted the assault on Okinawa in April 1945 by bombing enemy airfields to reduce air attacks against the invasion force. Beginning on 19 March and continuing until the end of the war, the squadron ran incendiary raids against Japan, flying at night and at low altitude to bomb area targets. The unit released propaganda leaflets over the Japanese home islands, continuing strategic bombing raids and incendiary attacks until the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
After V-J Day, the 869th dropped supplies to Allied prisoners. In November 1945 the unit returned to the United States where it was initially assigned to Continental Air Forces’s Fourth Air Force at March Field, California. In January 1945, the 869th became part of Third Air Force at MacDill Field, Florida. In March 1946 CAF became Strategic Air Command (SAC), and the squadron was one of SAC’s first bombardment squadrons. Demobilization, however, was in full swing and the squadron turned in its aircraft and was inactivated on 31 March.
The 61st Fighter Squadron was constituted as the 61st Pursuit Squadron as part of the 56th Pursuit Group at Savannah, Georgia, on 15 January 1941. The squadron immediately began training for its wartime missions under III Fighter Command, rapidly transitioning through the Seversky P-35, Curtiss P-36 Hawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk aircraft. On 7 December 1941, the 61st stepped up to defend the Southeastern United States from anticipated enemy air attack while it converted to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft and prepared to deploy overseas. In November 1942, P-47 Thunderbolt dive test pilots achieved 725 mph, faster than the speed of sound.
It was redesignated 61st Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942, and deployed to RAF Kings Cliffe (AAF-367), England on 9 January 1943. It was declared operationally ready two months later and flew its first combat missions 13 April. The squadron was given fuselage code “HV” and operated from several RAF stations during the war, flying the P-47C Thunderbolt as an VIII Fighter Command bomber-escort unit initially for B-17 Flying Fortresses and beginning in 1944 for B-24 Liberators attacking enemy targets in Occupied Europe. From 1943 to 1945, the 61st produced 19 aces, the highest of any squadron in Europe, destroying 248 aircraft in the air and 67.5 aircraft on the ground. In 1944, it was recognized as the first fighter squadron in the European theater to score over 100 victories. After the end of the war in Europe, the squadron demobilized in England, and was inactivated as an administrative unit on 18 October 1945.
During the Korean War, the First Marine Division met the enemy at Chosin mountain reservoir in subfreezing temperatures. Out of ammunition, Marines called in for 60mm mortar ammo; code name “Tootsie Rolls.” The radio operator did not have the code sheets that would tell him what a “Tootsie Roll” was, but knew the request was urgent; so he called in the order. Soon, pallets of Tootsie Roll candies parachuted from the sky to the First Marine Division! While they were not ammunition, this candy from the sky provided well needed nourishment for the troops. They also learned they could use warmed Tootsie Rolls to plug bullet holes, sealing them as they refroze.
Over two weeks of incessant fighting, the 15,000-man division suffered 3,000 killed in action, 6,000 wounded and thousands of severe frostbite cases. But they accomplished their goal and destroyed several Chinese divisions in the process. Many credited their very survival to Tootsie Rolls. Surviving Marines called themselves “The Chosin Few.”