HISTORICAL DATA

NARRATIVE HISTORY

Documents

of

16th BOMBARDMENT GROUP, (VH)

(315 BOMBARDMENT WING (VH))

XXI BOMBER COMMAND

20TH AIR FORCE

PERIOD: 1 MARCH to 31 MAY 1945


Frontispiece

a) 14 April 1945, at Northwest Field

b) Negative

c) Negative

d) Negative

e) 14 April 1945 :   36 Officers, 683 EM.
   31 May 1945  :   76 Officers, 735 EM.

f) 14 April 1945 :   No aircraft.
   31 May 1945  :   3 B-29s.

g) Negative


CONTENTS
I. Movement Overseas 3
II. Personnel 5
III. Operations 7
IV. Maintenance and Living Conditions 8
V. Construction 9
VI. Morale 10
VII. Photographs 13
VIII. List of Documents 18
IX. Documents 19

THE HISTORY

     MOVEMENT OVERSEAS

      The principle task of the 16th Bomb Group during the four month period coverd by this chapter was the movement overseas to its present base on Northwest Field at Guam1. The organization was split into two parts--the air echelon and the ground echelon--for the purposes of the movement.

      Preparations began early in February as the various section heads split their personnel into two parts. The task was complicated by several last minute changes in key personnel.

     THE GROUND ECHELON

      The ground echelon, under the command of Major Robert C. Hopsak, left Fairmont Army Air Field on March 7th in three troop trains2. They arrived at Fort Lawton, the staging area for the Seattle Port of Embarkation, three days later. The trip proceeded smoothly and there were no unusual incidents.

      At Fort Lawton, the personnel went through a rigourous processing. Every item of equipment was carefully checked and all records were examined to determine the fitness of the men for overseas service.

      On March 17th, the group was assembled and loaded on the S.S. Exchange, a troop ship which was formerly used in the Mediterranean tobacco trade. Other organizations on this vessel were the ground echelons of the 315th Bombardment Wing Headquarters and the 501st Bomb Group.

      The S.S. Exchange left the port without escort early in the afternoon and proceded to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. For the first few days the weather was stormy and a large majority of the men were seasick, some of them to an extent requiring hospitalization. But the balance of the trip was calm and

-3-

uneventful.

      For five days the Exchange lay at anchor in Pearl Harbor while a convoy formed for the next leg of the journey. The men were unable to go ashore except for one brief exercise period on a dock but recreation was provided in the form of nightly movies and one performance by a troupe of native dancers.

      On the 29th of March, the Exchange left for Eniwetok in a large convoy guarded by three destroyer escorts. The destination was reached without incident, despite rumors of a submarine attack which originated when one of the escorts dropped back to investigate suspicious objects picked up in its detection equipment.

      The last stage of the voyage was performed without convoy but with a destroyer escort. The trip from Eniwetok to Guam required four days.

      The Exchange anchored at Sumay on Guam on the 14th of April and the organization debarked in landing craft and proceeded by motor convoy to Northwest Field located almost at the tip of the island. Total construction performed on the field by that date consisted of clearing some underbrush, grading land for an air strip and erection of two latrines.

     AIR ECHELON

      The air echelon remaining at Fairmont Army Air Field was forced to curtail its administrative activities drastically and to reorganize its maintenance and training personnel. Its movement overseas was timed to cover a longer period.

      One advance plane--"Ellie Barbara and Her Orphans"--commanded by Captain Ralph W. Howard left Fairmont for the staging area at Kearney, Nebraska on 11 April 1945. Four days later, the crew proceeded to the airport of em-

-4-

barkation, Mather Field, California, and on the 19th of April began their journey overseas3. They stopped at Oahu and Kwajalein and arrived at Guam on the 26th of April. As Northwest Field was not ready for operation, the crew was temporarily attached to the 314th Bombardment Wing VH station at North Field, Guam4. They were scheduled for a series of missions involving radar scope photography with the APQ-7.

      For the purposes of overseas movement, the air echelon had been subdivided into two sections -- one to proceed overseas by "Flyaway" B-29s and the other to be carried by Air Transport Command. The next "Flyaway" planes to reach Guam arrived on the 27th of May, having started their overseas journey from Mather Field, California5. They stopped at Oahu and Kwajalein during the trip.

      The first plane of this group to land on Guam was commanded by Captain Bernard J. Malloy and carried as passengers, Colonel Samuel C. Gurney Jr., Major Richard W. Kline, and Major John S. Gillespie, Assistant Group Operations Officer. They landed on North Field as the Northwest Field was still incomplete.

PERSONNEL

     CHANGES IN KEY PERSONNEL

      Just prior to the departure of the ground echelon for overseas, a series

-5-

of important changes were made in the key personnel of the group. The highest ranking officer involved was Lieutenant Colonel Karl L. Springer who was relieved of his position as Group Executive Officer on March 6th7.

      Colonel Gurney explained that the change had been contemplated for a considerable period of time. He said it was based upon the fact that Colonel Springer's undoubted abilities were keyed primarily to a staff rather than a command position.

      The duties of Group Executive Officer, he pointed out, included command functions. Therefore, it was felt by all concerned that Colonel Springer's transfer to a staff position at the McCook Army Air Field, McCook, Nebraska, was advisable.

      Colonel Springer was replaced by Major Robert C. Hopsak8, who had fomerly held the position of Group Adjutant. First Lieutenant George R. Rittenhouse was assigned to the Adjutant's job.9

      Another important transfer which took place on March 1 was a change of commanding officers for the 15th Squadron. Major William J. Garland, who had commanded the squadron since the formation of the group, had long desired to serve in the European theatre of operations and arrangements were finally made to grant his wish.10

      Major Richard W. Kline, who had served as Group Air Inspector, left the position to assume command of the 15th Squadron. 11 He was replaced in his former capacity by Major Richard W. Lavin,12 who had been Assistant Group Operations Officer.

      Another change in key personnel was the substitution of 1st Lt. Louis E. De Laney for 1st Lt. James B. Dicklow as Group Personal Equipment Officer.13 Lt. Dicklow was transferred to the 15th Squadron.

-6-

OPERATIONS

     PRELIMINARY MISSIONS

      During this period, the 16th Bombardment Group did not take part in any bombing missons. But the "Ellie Barbara and Her Orphans" was busily engaged in obtaining radar scope photographs for later use by 315th Bombardment Wing and in collecting information for the air echelon still in the United States.14

      The first mission was performed on May 5-6 and was flown over the Kawasaki Aircraft Plant, North of Nagoya, on the main island of Japan. The only enemy opposition was a battery of searchlights centered upon the plane as it left the island. There was no flak but one Jap aircraft, presumably a night Jap fighter, trailed Captain Howard's crew for a distance of one hundred miles out from the land. Because of bad weather crew members were unable to see the aircraft but picked it up on the APG-15.

      Five other missions were flown during the month of May convering targets at Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo, Yokohama, and the Tamoshina area. Colonel Gurney accompanied the crew on a mission on the 31st of May over the Mitsubishi Aircraft Plant at Tamoshina.

      The crew managed to secure radar scope photographs varying from good to excellent. There was no opposition from enemy aircraft on any of the missions, most of which were flown at 15,000 feet, but meager and inaccurate flak was encountered occasionally.

      There were no other operational missions flown during the period covered by this chapter.

-7-

MAINTENANCE AND LIVING CONDITIONS

     NORTHWEST FIELD

      When the ground echelon arrived at Northwest Field on April 14th, there were practically no living facilities available. Two latrines had been constructed by Army engineers but all other work had centered on the flight strip.

      For several days the group slept on the ground and the officers for two nights did not even have pup tents available. There were no bathing or washing facilities and everything had to be improvised.

      A decontamination truck was diverted to the task of carrying water for bathing and a series of small carriers were pressed into the task of bringing drinking water from a point ten miles away. Soakage pits were dug and washing facilities hastily constructed and a standard procedure for purifying water was established.15

      Captain Barney Malbin, the gound echelon flight surgeon, instituted a series of stringent rules for sanitation.16 He explained that the greatest dangers were skin infection and day biting mosquitoes which carried dengue fever.17 It was found necessary to prohibit the men from constructing private washing facilities which lead to stagnant pools of water--an ideal breeding place for mosquitoes.

      The success of the sanitation measure can be judged from the fact that only two cases of dengue fever had been observed by the 31st of May.

      A combination of factors lead to wide spread diarrhea which was at first attributed to over indulgence in milk from the numerous coconuts in

-8-

the area. But Captain Malbin later said that he believed an epidemic of intestinal influenza had been brought to Guam by another group.

      Within a week three man tents were erected, cots were issued and the men were brought off the ground. Many constructed floors for their tents out of scrap lumber from packing crates and other sources.

      Insects were a major source of annoyance and huge rats which live in the trees on Guam were extremely disturbing. Many of these animals left their former homes to take up residence under the tent floors when trees were banded with metal.

     TROPICAL CONDITIONS

      Almost all equipment used by the organization was found to deteriorate rapidly on the island unless it received special care. Orders were issued requiring that all leather be treated with dubbin and dried in the sun as often as possible. Weapons, it was learned would have to be cleaned frequently and bathed in thick coats of oil to prevent rust.

      The preservation of food was another major problem and the mess hall was unable to server fresh meat until it obtained refrigeration equipment. For a period of two weeks the group lived entirely on Ration C.

      There were few maintenance problems in the ordinary sense of the word as the ground echelon was engaged in the elementary task of attempting to obtain some degree of comfort in a jungle clearing on Guam. The only machinery which required considerable care was the vehicular equipment.

CONSTRUCTION

     QUARTERS

      It was decided that the group would be responsbile for the construction of its own quarters. Therefore, under a wing directive18, building crews were

-9-

selected and placed under the control of Captain Grimes, Executive Officer of the 16th Squadon, Lt. Robert C. Andrews, Ordance Officer of the 15th Squadron, and Lt. Dicklow.

      These crews started the erection of prefabricated barracks and a "Belt line system" of work was devised. After the first few days, the men involved became skilled in this type of work and the barracks went up at the rate of approximately three a day.

      1st Lt. John H. Allen, Communication Officer of the 15th Squadron, wired the area and with the aid of an electric generator managed to keep lights in the squadron streets during the early part of the nights. Current was also provided for an outdoor motion picture theatre.

      A temporary mess hall with portable field ranges was set up on a hill overlooking the entire area. Tables were built and a series of wash lines established so the men could keep their mess gear clean. The officers' mess was later set up under the roots of a large Banyan tree.

MORALE

     MOVEMENT OVERSEAS

      The morale of enlisted men in the 16th Group was adversely affected by circumstances surrounding the overseas movement. Censorship of mail on the S.S. Exchange revealed an extreme bitterness concerning privileges granted to officers during the trip.

      This situation did not improve after the organization had landed on Guam but instead was heightened by the exigencies of life in a new and unimproved area. Unfortunately, there were few recreation facilities which could

-10-

be offered as a diversion.

      An outdoor theatre was constructed as soon as possible but the only pictures obtainable were old and had been seen in the past by a majority of the men. It was impossible to obtain adequate post exchange facilities for a considerable time.

      Due to the lack of refrigeraton, the rationed beer was served warm and it was impossible for the Special Service Office to obtain candy or soft drinks. Eventually, however, Captain Hymanson, the Special Service Officer, was able to obtain a Quonset hut to be used as a post exchange and island authorities released a stock to him sufficiently large to enable the men to buy a few of the necessities of life.

      Another factor which lowered morale was the necessity of constructing living quarters hurriedly. This forced the men to work long hours in a climate to which they were not accustomed and left them in a state of perpetual fatigue.

      Every possible method was employed to improve the morale situation. Chaplain Gannon constructed a chapel using a squad tent and religious services were scheduled.

      Mr. James S. Adams, Red Cross Field director, attached to the group, distributed matches, stationary, and reading material. There was no other source from which these items could be obtained.

      As soon as possible, ground was levelled and volley ball courts and baseball diamonds were set up. But the work schedule lasted so late that there were few daylight hours in which these sports could be enjoyed.

-11-

      The morale situation greatly improved as more facilities became available. One of the greatest factors was the assignment to the group of a permanent APO number which assured greater regularity in the delivery of mail. Delivery of mail was irregular under the temporary APO number which had been assigned at Fort Lawton for the overseas movement.

     INFORMATION AND EDUCATION

      Second Lieutenant Bertrand F. Eason was assigned the duties of Group Information and Education Officer on 3 May.19 He set into motion an off-duty program for the officers and enlisted men of the group.

      One of his principal duties was organizing the V-E day program to celebrate the collapse of Germany. This program included addresses by Major Hopsak, and Chaplain Gannon, and a showing of the Army film "Two Down and One to Go."20

-12-

Editorial Notes:

Several photos are included in the history, but have not yet been reproduced for inclusion on this web page.

There also exists several pages of documents, that have yet to be transcribed. This data consists of special orders, memorandum, report forms and copies of TWX messages. This will take a long time to transcibe and I wanted to focus on transcription of the unit history first. Hopefully, my fingers will be able to stand this.


Content 2005, Larry Miller
September 20, 2005