This is what the 500th Bomb Squadron was doing in Jan., some 75 years ago:



January 1943: Initiation to field conditions took place at Columbia Army Air Base, SC in the bitter cold of this month. The 500th and the other 345th Group squadrons deployed to the pine woods behind the base hospital and set up a field camp complete with pup tents. The men heaped pine needles under their blankets for mattresses and camouflaged each tent with dead branches. The encampments were designed to simulate combat conditions and train the men to operate in them.

January 1944: Having completed its move from Port Moresby, the 500th (along with other 345th squadrons) settled into its new home at Dobodura on the north coast of New Guinea in quarters recently vacated by the 22nd Bomb Group. Sgt. William Murphy of the 500th set up an “open house” kitchen with sandwiches and coffee available at any hour of the day or night. Sgt. Murphy later transferred to a flight crew and was sorely missed for his “open House.” During this month many of the original flight crews, as well as many ground personnel, enjoyed leave in Sydney.

5-16 January, 1944: During this period, on an almost daily basis the 500th was busy with missions against enemy barges and supply dumps as far up the Japanese-held coast as Hansa Bay. Some targets were also hit along Borgen Bay, near Cape Gloucester.

24 January, 1944: On a major low-level attack, the 500th, together with other squadrons of the Group, caught nine Japanese “Zekes” and “Hamps” being refueled at Momote Airfield in the Admiralties. After the strike, the gas truck and three of the planes were destroyed, the remaining aircraft were damaged and at least 35 people lay dead on the airfield.

25 January, 1944: The 500th and other 345th Group squadrons, teamed up with the 38th Bomb Group and three squadrons of P-38s in a major strike against the Admiralties. Capt. Robert C. Van Ausdell led the bombers against shipping in the harbors surrounding Los Negros and along the eastern end of Manus Island. As the 500th exited its target area, AA gunners were waiting and virtually blasted Lt. Jack McLean’s B-25, DITTUM-DATTUM, out of the sky. As he was going down, McLean was seen waving to his squadron mates. The aircraft crashed on the eastern shore of Papitali Harbor with the loss of the entire six-member crew.

30 January, 1944: The 500th and the 501st attacked the Awar Airstrip and AA batteries in the Hansa Bay area.

1 January, 1945: True to its reputation, the 500th suffered the 345th Group’s first casualties of the new year when the B-25 piloted by 2/Lt. Roy E. Smith was hit by enemy ground fire on a mission over Negros, caught fire and exploded as it hit the ground. On this date also, the 500th’s Capt. John (“Cliff”) Hanna became the 345th Group’s Intelligence Officer. Hanna had been an ambulance driver in France during World War I and spent much of his leisure time documenting the history of the 500th squadron and 345th Group on film for movies that were eventually produced.

3 January, 1945: On a mission to Alicante Drome on Negros, Capt. Thomas A. Symington, Jr. took a hit in his B-25’s right engine and was forced to ditch the aircraft. His six-man crew was later rescued by a U.S. Navy Catalina.

6 January, 1945: On a mission to Fabrica Drome (Negros) 2/Lt. William P. Simpson’s B-25 was hit by enemy ground fire, causing him to make a ditching. The engineer and the radio operator were trapped inside the aircraft, which sank virtually moments after the ditching. Shortly thereafter, the remaining four crewmembers were rescued by a U.S. Navy Catalina.

7 January, 1945: In an all-out (together with other 345th Group squadrons and elements of the 417th and 312th Bomb Groups) mission to Clark Field, Capt. Max Mortensen led the 500th’s first flight, hitting the main runway complex, lacing a twin-engine bomber with his nose guns, then a pair of Japanese fighters and gun pits. He then dumped his parafrag bomb load on some box cars. Capt. Thomas R. Bazzel, leading the 500th’s second flight over the target blew the wing off a twin-engine bomber and damaged several more with his nose guns.

8 13 January, 1945: The 500th’s missions were aimed at supporting the landing at Lingayan, as well as attacking various railroad targets.

14-20 January, 1945: The 500th attacked Aparri Airdrome in Northern Luzon but its missions were limited by bad weather and an unusual number of its crewmembers who were in the hospital, more than at any other time during the war. During the latter part of this period, the 500th began to receive its new Model J-22 B-25s, with eight 50-caliber nose guns standard.

21-31 January, 1945: The poor single-engine performance of the new B-25 J-22s was emphasized on this date when 1/Lt. Lynn W. Daker lost an engine while skirting around a weather front, which had forced cancellation of the day’s mission. Despite all his efforts to lighten the B-25, Daker was unable to gain enough altitude for the return home. Consequently, he was forced to ditch the aircraft, costing the life of his engineer S/Sgt. Desire W. Chatigny, who sank to the bottom with the B-25. The remaining five surviving crewmembers were later rescued by a U.S. Navy Catalina.

January ended with an unremarkable strike against Bacalod Airstrip on Negros, amidst the Group’s feeling that the Japanese position on the Philippines was crumbling and that the capture of Manila could not be far away. This news seemed to justify the extremely heavy price paid for this progress by the 500th and the other 345th squadrons. A total of 61 Air Apaches personnel were lost during the month and 16 B-25s (an entire squadron) were lost during 30 combat missions.




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