PERFORMANCE OF B-25 AIRCRAFT OF THE 38TH BOMB GROUP DURING 18 MONTHS OF COMBAT IN NEW GUINEA.
Note: This document copied Verbatim from files in the National Archives by WJ English
HEADQUARTERS 38TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP (M) Office of the Statistical Control Officer APO 713, Unit 1
29 March 1944
Subject: Performance of B25 Aircraft of 38th Bomb Group During 18 Months of Combat in New Guinea.
TO: Director of Statistical Control Washington, D.C.
Thru Channels with AAF From 34
1. Early in August 1942 the 71" and 405th Bomb Squadrons, 380' Bomb Group took off from Hamilton Field, California on an X Mission to Australia. Thirty ¬seven planes reached Australia, the first B25's to be flown from the States by the same crews who were to fly them in combat. The purpose of this study is to show what happened to the planes, and to the men who flew them.
2. Roster of aircraft and disposition follows:
B-25D 41- 29692 "Torrid Tessie The Terror"-Still in use by the 417th Group
699 "White Russian"-Missing in Action, Lae, N.G. 11/27/42
700 "Annette"-In use as an administrative plane.
701 "Battlin Biffie"-Missing in action, Buna, N.G. 10/5/42
702 "Satan's Pet"-Crashed at Townsville, Australia. 11/2/42 during a training flight.
703 "Mississippi Rebel"- Crashed at Horn Island, Australia 10/10/42 during and enemy air raid.
704 "Torpedo Junction"-Crashed at Grafton, Australia, 8/14/42 out of fuel from New Caledonia.
707 "Sunsetter's Son"- Missing In Action, Buna, N.G. 12/1/42.
708 "Royal Flush"-Shot down at Lae, N.G., 1/8/43 while attacking enemy
710 "Pacific Prowler"-In use as an administrative plane.
724 "Bird Dog"-Crashed at Yule Island N.G. 11/2942 out of fuel in bad weather on return from mission.
727 "Twenty or Nothing"- In use as an administrative plane.
736 "Ye Olde Nance"-Burned in revetment after explosion, Port Moresby, N. G., 1/21/43
B-25C 41-12830 "Pistoff'-Crashed at Wanigela Mission, N.G. 1/8/43 after being badly shot up attacking enemy convoy at Lae, N.G.
889 "Yankee Vengeance"-Missing In Action, Port Moresby, N.G. to Townsville, Australia, 10/23/42. Wreckage of plane found north of Cairns, Australia, in February 1944
890 "Sunsetter"-Crashed at Charters Towers, Australia 9/24/42 while on a training flight.
893 "Werewolf'-In use as an administrative plane
895 "Grasscutter"-Still flying combat with this group. See paragraph3.
896 "Satans Sister"-Crashed at Evan's Head, Australia, 8/14/42 out of fuel on flight from New Caledonia.
897 "Bud and his Pogmasters"-Crashed at Grafton, Australia 8/14/42 out of fuel on flight from New Caledonia.
898 "Jersey Bouncer"-Crashed at Port Moresby, N.G. 1/16/43, while on a training flight.
899 "Filthy Lil"-Later renamed Hardships (after the song composed by members of this group). Stripped of guns, armor plate, turrets and used as administrative plane by the group after a long and useful combat life.
900 "Woodchopper"-Crashed at Oasino, Australia, 8/14/42, out of fuel on flight from New Caledonia.
901 "Stinky"-Crashed at Dobodura, N.G., 2/17/44, while on one engine, returning to home base on a non-combat flight after an extended stay at an advanced base where little maintenance was possible. At the time, 901 had well over 100 combat mission and had, at one time, flown back from Rabaul with only one elevator, the other having been shot off.
902 "Madame X"-Still in use by 5212 Recco Wing.
903 "Damn Yankee"-In use as an administrative plane.
904 "Half Pound Mary"-Crashed at Townsville, Australia, April 43 while undergoing overhaul at 4d' Air Depot.
905 "Tokyo Sleeper"-Still flying combat with this group. See paragraph 3.
906 "Eager Eagle"-Transferred and later crashed.
907 "Scat"-Missing in Action, Kokoda, 12/5/42 +
908 "Mavourneen"-Later re-named "The Scoto Kid"-still flying combat with this group.
909 "Black Barney"-Later re-named "The Sad Sack", and still later with new engines, had a line drawn through the"Sad"-in use as an administrative plane.
910 "Suicide's Flying Drunks"-Crashed at Horn Island, Australia, 9/25/42, during and enemy air raid.
911 "Per Diem"-Crashed at Port Moresby, N.G., 12/5/42, on return from mission to Buna with hydraulic system and one engine shot out.
938 “ Ole Cappy"-Still flying combat with this group. See paragraph " 3.
971 "Dirty Dora"-Still flying combat with the 345th group
998 "Tugboat Annie"-Transferred and later crashed.
3. Combat participation by the four original planes still flying combat with this Group:
894 107 Combat Missions-335.50 Combat Hours
905 131 Combat Missions-447.50 Combat Hours
908 95 Combat Missions-363.25 Combat Hours
938 116 Combat Missions-408.55 Combat Hours Each of these planes has well over 700 total airplane hours.
This valiant quartette has seen practically the whole war in New Guinea. The only actions any of them has missed was due to engine changes, maintenance, modification, or repairing of battle wounds. These planes flew medium altitude bombing missions from September 15, 1942 to May 1943, when they were sent to the 4t' Air Depot for modification. There the lower turret was removed and an auxiliary gas tank put in its place. There too, the nose section was modified and four fixed fifty caliber machine guns mounted plus two on each side, and thereupon became `Strafers'. And, a marvelous job they have done.
These planes have been flying combat here from the early days, when the available planes that the Fifth Air Force could send over a target could almost be counted on one hand. These planes have seen the war in New Guinea develop from the first frantic efforts to keep the Japs from taking Port Moresby to the present full flower of all our retaliation. The 38t` Bomb Group was the first medium Bomb Group to be permanently stationed in New Guinea, and these planes have been in New Guinea ever since, with the exception of short periods in Australia, largely for repairs.
Their activities started with the bombing of the then famous Wairopi Bridge and Soputa, and taking an active and almost daily participation in the Buna campaign. During October and November, 1942 these planes would often make single ship armed recco's
up the north coast of New Guinea, through the Vitiaz Straits to take a peek at Cape Gloucester, then down the south coast of New Britain as far as Gasmata. Then they would figuratively lift their skirts and head for home, for all this territory was strictly Japan's back yard at that time, and the dread Owen Stanley range with its clouds full of rocks still had to flown over.
In December 1942 the action was largely against Buna, and Buna was `hot'. There was a Jap gunner on the south side of the sea end of Buna strip that the boys all called `Buna Bob', and he sure was a pistol. Seldom would the planes return but what they would have holes distributed indiscriminately-souvenirs of Buna, gifts from `Buna Bob'. Once ship 901 came back with the nose fuse of a Jap 75 mm shell in the bomb bay. The ack ack had burst just as the bombs were dropped and the doors closed just in time to catch the fuse. On December 14th these planes and their crews really had a field day. The Japs tried to land a support parry for Buna up the coast at Mambare. In all a total of seven Group missions were flown that day and completely wiped out that landing party. The planes would land, the crews would rush off for a hearty meal of hard tack and water, while the ground crews were frantically refueling and reloading bombs and ammunition. Twenty-pound frag bombs were being carried, for the landing was being accomplished in barges, with supplies being floated ashore in cargo nets suspended from empty fuel drums. It was found that frags and strafing put the binger on the drums and nets, not to mention the barges. In the rush to reload one of the clusters of six became un-banded, and the pilot of ship 938, anxious not to miss the fun, had them tossed in loose in the back end. Upon reaching the target these loose bombs were dropped through the camera hatch, and one of them overturned a barge. In those days a crew of seven was carried and everybody but the pilot had a chance to toss out a bomb by hand. Upon return the pilot entered a complaint, requesting that hereafter frags should be bound in clusters of seven so that he could join in the party too.
In January 1943 the Buna campaign ended, whereupon the accent was placed on Lae, N.G. Lae, of course had been bombed by these planes before, but not with the steady punishment meted out to Buna. In January these planes assisted other in the Group in destroying 13 zeros and damaging ten others. Planes from this group so severely damaged at 6,000 ton freighter that the Japs beached her a few miles above Lae, where it is known even today as the Malahang Wreck. I imagine that if these battle scarred warriors could talk they would say that undoubtedly the toughest assignment they had ever had would be the Lae convoy of January 7th, 8th and 9th. The ack-ack was as thick as fleas on a hound dog. For three days they went out twice a day, came back to be patched up as well as possible, and go right out again, sometimes to see other planes shot down off their wings, or so badly damaged that they were lucky to be able to limp home.
February was fairly quiet, due to inclement weather, with the concentration of Lae when the rain and the clouds would permit. But in March it was to prove a different story. These planes all participated in the historic battle of the Bismarck Sea on the third. These planes, with others of this group destroyed or damaged 10 of Tojo's ships - destroyers, 5 freighters and a transport. A good time was had by all.
In April and May the emphasis shifted to New Britain where Gasmata and Cape Gloucester took the brunt of the punishment, along with sporadic raids all over New Guinea.
June was largely a month of close ground support and strafing, helping the Aussie troops occupy places in the Ramu Valley and blasting out Jap strongholds in the rugged mountain country around Salamaua. July, August and early September brought about the occupation of Lae and Salamaua after almost daily pounding, these planes being always in the thick of it. In August too, the extended attacks up the north coast began-Madang,Alexishaven, Hansa Bay and Wewak. These planes were among the first to drop parafrags on the planes lined up wingtip to wingtip on ------ and Dagua strips at Wewak. Twenty three zeros destroyed in the air, seven others damaged in addition to ninety-nine bombers destroyed on the ground and another dozen or so damaged. But it was not all a Sunday school party. Major Ralph Cheli went down earning a Congressional Medal of Honor. The group further shortened the enemy barge lines by the sinking of over fifty barges and small craft.
September 2nd saw the destruction of an entire convoy in Wewak Harbor, these planes helping to sink or damage seven ships in addition to knocking off nine zeros and damaging eleven others. It was here that old "Tokyo Sleeper" came back with a slash eighteen inches deep in the leading edge of one wing, a memo of an encounter with a radio antenna on what was soon to become an ex-freighter. It was here too that these planes encountered the first barrage balloons seen in this theatre. By this time destroying enemy planes on the ground was old hat, and the twenty-five thus in September were hardly worth mentioning. October saw the beginning of the pressure on Rabaul, with the additional fun of catching the Japs with their planes down at Vunakanaua and Tobera. It was at Tobera that ship 901 lost the elevator and also at Tobera that zeros warming up on the runway were strafed. Beautiful indeed are the pictures of hundreds upon hundreds of parafrags drifting down into the revetments at Vunakanaua, where a brand new group of enemy medium bombers was completely wiped out.
November 2nd saw the devastating raid on shipping in Simpson Harbor at Rabaul, leaving the shipping sunk and the town an inferno. Many pictures taken by the group and these planes have appeared in newspapers and national magazines back in the States, not to mention official publications such as Impact. And Wewak, Hansa Bay, Madang and Alexishaven were continuing to take punishment, but it was a tough month for us too, eight planes and 31 men killed or MIA. But not too large a price to pay for the damage done.
During the last month in 1943 the emphasis changed again. Americans were to make a landing on New Britain and again it was the story of steady bombing and strafing¬softening up- and, when the Marines had landed, to give them close ground support, often bombing and strafing within seventy yards of our own troops.
Arawe, Cape Gloucester, Borgen Bay, Rein Bay and Gasmata all received their just desserts. The New Year saw an almost daily hammering of the Madang area in support of Aussie troops. Commendations from the friendly ground forces became so numerous that a new file had to be started. But, January was also notable for the supply dropping missions to New Britain. A lone plane, with the bomb bay full of food and supplies would take off during the night and arrive over its destination at dawn, without fighter protection, and often within forty miles of Rabaul, to help keep our own and Aussie flyers alive and well after they had bailed out over the jungle.
In February it was the old, old tale laid in a new locale. This time the scene changed to the Admiralty Islands-pounding, softening up Momote and Lorengau dromes for the invasion. One day, however, there was a by-excursion, going after some enemy shipping off New Hanover Island, leaving Tojo with one less gunboat and one less freighter. And the devastating raid on Kavieng township on the 15th, when after leaving, and a hundred miles towards home, the location of Kavieng could still be seen by the huge billows of smoke and flame. On this raid, like many others, these planes flew on the treetops, dodging oil barrels, ammunition dumps, houses, and warehouse buildings that were exploding from the bombs from the planes immediately preceding.
And, winding up the eighteen months of combat, the first fifteen days in March. The landings on the Admiralty's, which necessitated bombing one side of the strip while our troops occupied the other side and dropping supplies of ammunition and hand grenades to the battle weary. And then began the daily and incessant pounding of Wewak. This led to something completely new-strafers , with no bombing equipment (nor space in the nose for the bombardier) flying on the wings of a medium bomber and dropping bombs when the leader drops his.
3. Combat Personnel Who Flew These Planes To Australia.
Of all the members of the combat crews who brought these planes over only eleven remain with the group at present. The Group Commander, two Group Operations Officers, two Squadron Commanders, one Squadron Operations Officer, Group Bombardier, Group Navigator, and two enlisted men both now grounded and section chiefs. Sixty one of the original bunch have been killed or are missing in action and seventeen have been killed or are missing in non-combat flight. A bakers dozen have been transferred to other units and one has died. All the others have returned to the States for rest and recuperation after a tough battle. By far the largest number of these men have well over fifty combat missions, many with well over two hundred hours of combat. On Congressional Medal, five Distinguished Service Crosses, a dozen Soldiers Medals, Silver Stars by the score and Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals by the bushel have been won, and well deserved they were by these men.
5. All in all a memorable period, but these old veterans, planes and men as well, continue like the postman their daily rounds, come Hell or high water. And, the boys new and old alike, like to fly four old Warriors. They are considered "lucky" ships. And, perhaps they are.
Earl W. Bender Capt. Air Corps Statistical Control Officer