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從多博杜拉到沖繩:第308轟炸聯隊的歷史(美國陸軍,第五航空隊),民國34年《Black Water Museum Collections | 黑水博物館館藏》

From Dobodura To Okinawa: History of 308th Bombardment Wing, 1945

從多博杜拉到沖繩:第308轟炸聯隊的歷史(美國陸軍,第5航空隊),民國34年《Black Water Museum Collections | 黑水博物館館藏》

From Dobodura To Okinawa: History of 308th Bombardment Wing, 1945 從多博杜拉到沖繩:第308轟炸聯隊的歷史(美國陸軍,第5航空隊),民國34年《Black Water Museum Collections | 黑水博物館館藏》
From Dobodura To Okinawa: History of 308th Bombardment Wing, 1945 從多博杜拉到沖繩:第308轟炸聯隊的歷史(美國陸軍,第5航空隊),民國34年《Black Water Museum Collections | 黑水博物館館藏》

IN the dark Pacific days of 1942, when the last free areas of the waters. of the Far East were. shaking before the on- slaught of the Japanese hordes, allied heroes stood as bright symbols of freedom at every scene. They were so few, and yet, to them we owe so much. For from their beginning there grew a force such as the World has never seen. Like giant storm, it grew in mas- siveness and intensity until it threatened the whole Japanese nation with complete anni- hilation. There was greatness in that growth, for these heroes of ours became teams of fighting men. Teams which went forth into battle as the individuals of such a tremendous scene. There were Infantry Divisions of great fame, Artillery Battalions equally brilliant, landing forces, Air Commands, and Naval Units dashing about the Pacific. Each must have its saga of glory, but there is one which you and I know, as the men who made the team. It is the story of our team which I ac- count that you may remember again the heart- aches and sorrows yet the greatness and the joy of our part in the Victory which we hope may bring much to the World.

In the dark days, though, which shortly preceded the birth of the 308th Bombardment Wing, all was darkness, and the fate of Aus- tralia itself, reprieved by the battles of the Coral Sea, Milne Bay, the Kokoda Trail, and the Bismarck Sea, still balanced precariously. In the autumn of 1942, plagued with the ob- stacles of vast distances, of adverse climate and terrain, of debilitating disease, and of a savage enemy, the little forces of the West battled for New Guinea. Had all of these odds been faced by well equipped ground, air, and naval forces, the struggle must still have been a bitter one. But to wage this uneven war against a prepared enemy with the pittance of strength allotted to the Pacific theater de- manded from general officer to private the quintessence of bravery, daring, and im- provisation and this for a defensive stand only. Only a few dared think in terms of the attack, but to these men we owe the birth of our great offensive.

Ít was obvious to the commanders who possessed the faith and courage to plan at a time so full of discouragement the framework for a long range counter-offensive, that novel applications of the basic principles of warfare would be demanded. Attacking frontally and individually the island and jungle fortresses of the enemy would quickly grind away their tiny forces of men and material. Instead, there was conceived a master plan of move- ment, of by-passing, and of new-style envel opment to employ in our favor the factor of distance, at once Japan's weakness as well as our own. This strategy called for the severing of enemy lines of communications, the sudden. concentration of small but powerful forces at vital spots along these supply routes, and the continued blockade of Japanese garrisons once they had been isolated. Just as a badly outweighed football team bases its attack up- on speed and precision, so did the coaches of the Allied military team build their own armed plays upon these two fundamentals. And for our own lightweight team of the Southwest Pacific great emphasis was placed upon air power, the forward pass of war.

The victories at Buna and Gona in November and December of 1942 were accomplished with valuable assistance from the small but slowly growing Fifth Air Force, but it was necessary for our aircraft based at Port Moresby to fly over peaks of the Owen Stanley Range towering to 12,000 feet, a dangerous task because of ever-treacherous weather. In January of 1943, however, an airbase was es tablished at Dobodura on the northeastern coastal area of New Guinea, a move which affected greatly both operational and com-mand functions. To maintain effective liaison with General Headquarters, with the Navy and with the Australian Imperial Forces, it was necessary for Lt. General George C. Kenney to continue the Headquarters of his Fifth Air Force at Brisbane, Australia. Advance head- quarters had early been established at Port Moresby with Maj. General E. C. Whitehead in command, and from here all operations had stemmed until the construction of the Dobo- dura airfield. This base eliminated the haz- ardous flight over the mountains and provided an operational site valuable for close support and shipping sweeps, but it was impracticable for its operations to be directed at long dis- tance from Port Moresby. In this situation Gen- eral Kenney developed his plan for an "Air Task Force." Always to be located at an ad- vanced base, it was to be a streamlined, pure- ly operational organization freed from all nag- ging administrative responsibilities to concen- trate its entire effort upon directing the air- power in support of a given operation. The new task force was to be skeletonized, consisting merely of a permanent core of direct- ing talent to which would be attached the com- bat and service units required for each oper- ation. After the completion of a major assign- ment these combat and service units could be returned to the operational control of their parent organizations, and the task force proper would go "out of operation" to rest and to prepare for its next campaign.

Such was the background for the activation of the "Buna Air Task Force" on 5 March, 1943, at Dobodura, Papua, under the command of Col. (now Brig. Gen.) Frederick Harrison Smith, Jr., of Washington, D. C. Staff and operations personnel supplied from the advance echelon of Fifth Air Force at Port Moresby arrived at Dobodura on this same date and established the organization's first camp on the bank of the Somboga River. Within two days the headquarters was in operation, troops were billeted, and the surrounding area was being plotted for incoming combat and service units. The first tower and base operations' building were located on the No. 4 (Horanda) strip, the 49th Fighter Group moved in and became the first tactical unit under the new task force's control.

Only the day before the activation of the new command there had been concluded the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. In this epic engagement lasting from 1-4 March, 1943, every flyable aircraft in New Guinea (178 of them) had been called into action to repel a strong Japanese convoy heading for Lae and Sala-mua with a full division of enemy soldiers and their equipment. At the end of the action the

entire naval force of three light cruisers, seven dstroyers and twelve merchant ships had been sunk, conversations with enemy naval officers following the surrender of Japan indicate that twenty-nine vessels were lost in this engage-ment, and all doubt concerning the efficacy of land based aircraft when pitted against naval vessels had been dispelled. The original plan had been to activate the new command on March first, but with the advance information on the enemy force, Colonel Smith and his

staff, Major Frank Coleman (now Lt. Col.) Operations, Captain Robert R. Herring (now Lt. Col.) Intelligence, and Captain Norman D. Klitnick (now Lt. Col.) Signal Communications. were held back to assist in the battle. Using for the first time, mass low-level attack against shipping, full realization of the tremendous striking power was graphically shown in this attack. Many future attacks by this head-quarters were based upon the lessons learned in the Bismarck Sea.

During the engagement the uncompleted airstrip at Dobodura was used for staging pur-poses to allow for two attacks by the aircraft in one day. The staging was made possible by the task forces service unit, Major Jerry Dun-kelberger (now Col.) and the 480th Service Squadron. With the tremendous effect of this battle and the opening of the new command, the offensive was under way.

Empowered to make and execute its own

on Mindoro Island, but several missions were sent by the 308th against the Japanese posi- tions in the mountains west of Fort Stotsen- burg. Virtually all of the ground support sup- plied by the 308th Bomb Wing, however, was rendered the I Corps and affiliated USAFIP and various querilla units in the area of North-central and Northern Luzon. The major- ity of these strikes began against prepared enemy positions in the high ground around Rosario to which the enemy had retreated following the initial landings. As the enemy slowly withdrew to his stronghold of Baguio, this summer capital of the Philippines became a prime target for all types of aircraft under our control. To the east, the 25th and 32nd Divisions had early been bogged down in sanguinary fighting as they attempted to force Balete Pass, gateway to the Cagayan Valley. For these two Divisions, and later for the re- lieving 37th Division, hundreds of close sup- port missions were also flown. Guerrilla tar- gets, as might be expected, were numerous and widespread but centered for the most part to the west of Cervantes and south to Man- kayan and in Northern Luzon along the Ca- gayan River which during most of the Luzon campaign served as the boundary between Jap-free territory on the west and Jap-con- trolled territory to the east. The Cagayan Val- ley itself was the storehouse for the enemy forces fighting in the mountains to its south and west, and thousands of sorties were dis- patched against supply dumps, barracks and other personnel areas, bridges, and miscellan- eous installations constructed or utilized by the enemy in the Valley.

Although fighter aircraft had previously been used for fire and glide bombing, notably at Biak Island, their chief duties had been to intercept enemy air attacks, to escort our own bomber aircraft in strikes on Jap installations, or to search out enemy planes in provocative fighter "sweeps". In the battle for Luzon, however, enemy aircraft were so rare as to rank as curiousities, and all fighter planes in this

operation were called upon to carry bombs to earn their keep. This enabled the 308th Bombardment Wing to have upon call in excess of 500 bomb carrying planes during most of the Luzon operation. The short distances from Lingayen strip to the ground support targets -between 50 and 200 miles-permitted fighter planes to be used against these objectives. and freed long range bombers for use against targets on Formosa and along the China Coast. That the desired result of bringing maximum fire power to bear against the enemy was realized is attested by over 15,000 tons of bombs and napalm expended by planes of our air task force from 17 January through 28 May, 1945, or a daily average in excess of 100 tons. A substantial portion of these totals went into the direct support of ground units. In strafing attacks, many of which followed the close support bombing of enemy positions, our planes also expended nearly eleven million. .50 calibre machine gun shells and over 86,000 twenty millimeter cannon shells.

For this type of bombing it was imperative that the Wing maintain effective liaison with Sixth Army, USAFIP, and guerrilla headquarters. Many of the targets were so close to our own lines that failure by pilots to recognize the exact target areas could easily result in heavy casualties among our own troops in stead of the enemy. Accordingly, detailed maps, photographs, and written instructions were supplied to combat groups prior to each mission, and the Support Air Party units (Air Force Officers attached to ground troops for the function of guiding or assisting planes by radio control in the location of their targets) were as completely informed regarding the composition bomb load, and time of arrival of the attack planes. Not only did this careful preparation save casualties on our own side. but it increased greatly the effectiveness of our own bombing. One of the most common methods employed in designating a target was to have our own artillery mark the area with white phosphorous or colored smoke shells. until the flight leader was positive of the tar- get. On several missions enemy batteries attempted to confuse our pilots by firing smoke shells simultaneously with those from our own guns, but this trickery was circumvented by having the pilot request a definite number of shells spaced at definite time intervals. Numerous commendatory messages were received from the ground forces during the course of the Luzon operation concerning the excellence of support bombardment and strafing accomplished by planes under our operational conirol and which followed the safeguards just described.

In addition to striking Japanese front line positions and communications and facilities in Northern Luzon, our task force planes carried the attack to the enemy's crown colony of Formosa on numerous fighter sweeps and bombing attacks, most of the latter being against the numerous industrial alcohol plants so important to the aviation fuel and high explosives industries. It has been estimated that over sixty percent of the alcohol capacity of Formosa was rendered inoperative by the attacks of our bomber planes during the period of the Luzon operation. The fighter sweeps were also productive, accounting for the definite destruction of sixty-eight planes, in the air, the probable destruction of twelve others, and the damaging of six more. Bomber and fighter aircraft under 308th control also de- stroyed forty-three planes on the ground, probably destroyed five, and damaged forty-four more.

In addition to these strikes, aircraft of the Wing smashed at Canton and Hong Kong, the storehouses of the Jap armies in South China, and isolated them as bases. An effective sweep was maintained day and night over the shipping routes and the rich prizes in the N.E.I. were at last completely shut off to conquering Japan.

Philippine constabulary and guerrilla forces benefited from the presence of our transport planes as well as from the aircraft which gave them front line support. These de- livery trucks of the air performed for our Allies. a variety of special delivery services including the carrying of food, ammunition, weap-ons, medical supplies, and various other items. Deliveries were made by landing upon emergency cargo parachutes, or, if they were strongly packed, by dropping them "free".

These were the outstanding activities directed by the 308th Bombardment Wing while it was based at Lingayen. When on 28 May the task force went out of operation to prepare for its next operation on Okinawa Island it could look back upon a series of definite accomplishments which had begun with the Japanese enemy firmly in control of Luzon Island and which had ended with the depleted enemy forces retreating to their last stronghold, the mountains, effectively cut off from what remained of their once widespread caches of food and supplies long since burned and battered by our bombers and our fighter planes.

When the advance echelon of the 308th Bombardment Wing reached Okinawa on 16 June, 1945, most of the enemy resistance had been overcome and work was progressing on a series of airdromes designed to support one of the greatest concentrations of airpower ever assembled. Organized resistance had officially ended before the remainder of the organiza- tion arrived on 25 June to assume control of a substantial number of planes which soon would be available for tactical work against enemy shipping, communications, personnel areas, fortifications, and airbases in the Jap- anese homeland. Within a week the camp area had been completed, an excellent headquarters building erected, and preparations made for operation proper.

From the outset the Okinawa operation was peculiar in many respects. From an or- ganizational aspect there was an unusual situation which existed by virtue of the 308th Bombardment Wing acting not only as the advance echelon of the 5th Air Force but of the Far Eastern Air Forces as well. All land based aircraft on the island base were thus brought under the operational control of the Wing. Aircraft of the Navy, Marines, Thirteenth Air Force, Seventh Air Force, and Fifth Air Force, comprised the force, operating from eight airdromes, which reached seven hundred sorties a day before the end of the War. Nightly reports were sent to the headquarters of General MacArthur, General Kenney, Gen- eral Spaatz, General Wedemeyer, Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Halsey. For a short time. this placed heavy demands upon operations personnel, but after the 7th Air Force had had an opportunity to establish itself this strain was relieved. Although the first mission was actually flown under our control by planes of the 35th Fighter Group on 28 June, our official period of operation did not begin until 3 July, and it was not until 13 July that three. more Fifth Air Force squadrons came under our control. With the exception of one photographic squadron and one fighter squadron, the remainder of our combat units were not added to the 308th control roster until 26-28 July.

For the fighter planes, sweeps and cover missions predominated,but with a steady in- crease in the enemy order of battle there was little opposition from enemy fighter aircraft, and the few missions conducted by the enemy. were night affairs usually directed against shipping. It is generally believed, and since confirmed, that the enemy during this period was following a strict policy of conservation to have available a maximum number of planes for use as suicidal units against our invasion forces. At any rate, our planes de- stroyed in the air only fourteen enemy air- craft of all types, probably destroyed two others, and damaged one other plane. Only three enemy planes were definitely destroyed on the ground, there were two "probables" reported, and one claim for damage was en- tered. More plentiful than aircraft were the merchant vessels upon which Japan relied for the major part of her transportation, and these were frequently used as targets of opportu nity by fighter planes with or without bombs. Seventy-eight vessels totalling 36,000 tons were destroyed from 3 July-6 August by fighter planes and 204 others estimated to weigh 129,000 tons were damaged. By this date the Tsushima Straits between Japan and Korea had been closed to enemy shipping. Japan was severed from her Empire. Bombs played a minor part in the fighter aircraft problem during the Okinawa operation, and planes under our control dropped only 151 tons of bombs and 59 tons of napalm.

For the remaining days of the War, units of the command attacked a wide variety of targets ranging from the major classifications of airdromes and shipping to railroad yards, industries, urban supply concentrations, bar-racks facilities, and miscellaneous military installations. The tonnage of bombs and napalm dropped amounted to 415 tons, during about ten days. Like their fighter brothers, the bombers had relatively good luck in hunting both merchant and naval vessels and sunk forty ships aggregating 73,400 tons and damaged twenty-two more having a combined tonnage. of 44,300. Only one real naval vessel, a destroyer escort, was sunk by planes of the command during the Okinawa operation, but the list of vessels damaged by the combined efforts of fighters and bombers included one battleship, one aircraft carrier, three "jeep" carriers, an escort carrier, one light cruiser, two destroyers, and one destroyer escort.

The end of the Okinawa operation for the 308th Bombardment Wing coincided almost exactly with the attack upon Hisoshima with the first atomic bomb, and our organization shared with the rest of the world, military and civilian alike, the amazement over its power for destruction. Thereafter most in the line of ordinary warfare was anticlimax, but we were still prepared to begin intensive training for our next operation in the event that the Jap anese should fail to surrender. With the rest. of the world the 308th Bombardment Wing waited for their fateful decision and experien- ced all of the thrills and discouragement oc- casioned by the first false peace rumor on the evening of 12 August. Standing figuratively on one leg, the organization waited patiently and accepted quietly the official ending of

the war when it finally came.

Plans had already been completed for the invasion of Japan, and again the 308th Bom- bardment Wing had its major role as an Air Task Force. We were to land with the I Corps on the right flank of the operation as the sup- porting air command. Following the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces an inspection was made of the beach areas of southern Kyushu to determine the extent of preparation. Severe shortages in ammunition, fuel and food were found; the Japanese could not plan a sustained operation. So they had planned a complete suicide of Kamikaze forces. Approx. imately 3,500 airplanes were to attack in waves of 500 every 30 minutes until expend- ed; following this, hundreds of suicide boats and human torpedoes were to attack. We would have lost many lives in the landing. under such an attack, but it would not have stopped the relentless advance of our forces.

With the acceptance of the surrender. terms on 15 August by Emperor Hirohito, one thought stood uppermost in the minds of all men of the Wing, to return home at last. All sat impatiently on Okinawa awaiting the for- mal signing of the Peace Tokyo. In a few days, however, we learned that our job was not yet complete. We were suddenly called the Fifth Air Task Force and designated as the occupation Air Command for Korea.

On 6 September, 1945, an advance eche- lon of Colonel William E. Dean, Chief of Staff, Lt. Colonel Robert R. Herring, Intelligence, and Lt. Gerdine arrived at Kinpo Airdrome with General Harris and his advance party. Following a welcome ceremony by the Japa- nese Military Governor and the Military Com- manders, the party was escorted to the cap- ital city of Seoul. Interrogations followed for two days, then on 9 September, General Hodge, U.S. Military Governor of Korea. accompanied by Admiral Kinkaid and General Hutchison accepted the formal surrender of the Japanese in the Government Palace. Additional personnel of the Wing came in and occupied the modern buildings of the Keijo Imperial University.

In the meantime, the veterans of the 308th Bombardment Wing were being sent home. More than half left from Okinawa prior to the move up, others would leave shortly. The War was over at long last.

This account of the accomplishments of the First Air Task Force is lacking in many ways. It does not picture the continuous bat- tle of supply which was fought by wing per- sonnel to keep their command in fighting trim; it does not portray the difficulties of signal communications, the building of a thriving community from jungle growths, the bad food. the swarms of mosquitoes and ants. the thou- sands of heartaches, which you endured as men of the 308th; nor does it picture the com- radeship formed under the threat of violent death, it does not portray the pride of success felt by each officer and man; the fun of leaves in Australia, the amusing associations with the natives about our bases, or the feeling of all men for their team. Instead it shall recall for you the actions and dates that you may re- member in years to come the scenes as they rolled about us and feel again the glory we knew.

The World smiles now in pride over the greatness of the Victory, but one day ahead the men and women of this Earth must learn to fear man-made power and submit to the sacrifices necessary for the control of such de- vices. I wonder how far we are from that great day of enlightenment? I feel confident that the men of the 308th will go forth as greater men for their experiences in a World which still has much to learn.


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