970th Airborne Air Control Squadron

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970th Airborne Air Control Squadron
970th Airborne Air Control Squadron.jpg
970th Airborne Air Control Squadron Patch
Active 1 April 1941 – 1 November 1946
1 August 1951 – 1 January 1953
4 April 1966 – 31 July 1973
15 March 1996 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Airborne Command and Control
Part of Air Force Reserve Command
10th Air Force
513th Air Control Group
Garrison/HQ Tinker Air Force Base
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA w/ V Device
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm

The 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron (970 AACS) is part of the 513th Air Control Group at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. It operates the E-3 Sentry aircraft conducting airborne command and control missions.

History[edit]

Emblem: On a black disc bordered in yellow a white "Pugnacious Hare" outlined in black, wearing white boxing gloves marked with black and a red turtle-necked jersey with yellow band at neck and waist, standing in a fighting stance on a red aerial bomb bordered in yellow and white speed flashes and red and black fins. (Approved 29 April 1942)

Lineage[edit]

  • Constituted 29th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 22 November 1940
Activated on 1 April 1941[1]
Redesignated: 29th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 7 May 1942
Inactivated on 1 November 1946
  • Redesignated 130th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Medium, Photographic) on 24 July 1951
Activated on 1 August 1951
Redesignated: 130th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Medium) on 16 June 1952
Redesignated: 130th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) on 16 October 1952
Inactivated on 1 January 1953
  • Consolidated (19 September 1985) with the 360th Reconnaissance Squadron, which was constituted, and activated, on 4 April 1966
  • Organized on 8 April 1966. Redesignated 360th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron on 15 March 1967
Inactivated on 31 July 1973
Redesignated: 970th Airborne Warning and Control Squadron on 18 September 1985
Redesignated: 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron on 7 March 1996
  • Activated in the Reserve on 15 March 1996.

Assignments[edit]

Stations[edit]

Aircraft[edit]

Operational history[edit]

The squadron flew antisubmarine patrols in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean in defense of the Panama Canal during World War II. It conducted replacement training from 1943 to 1945 and 1951 to 1952. The 970th monitored and located enemy radio transmitters and conducted psychological warfare operations in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from 1966 to 1972. It has trained for and flown air control missions since March 1996.[5]

1941[edit]

The 29th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) was constituted and assigned to the Puerto Rican Department, pursuant to instructions contained in War Department letter, AG 320.2 (29 October 1940) -M (Ret.) M-C, dated 22 November 1940.

The Squadron was activated on 1 April 1941, at Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico per G.O. No. 10, Headquarters, Puerto Rican Department, dated 1 April 1941. They were assigned, along with the newly activated Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, and the 44th and the 45th bombardment squadrons (Medium), to the newly formed 40th Bombardment Group. At the time of its activation, the 29th Bombardment Squadron was located in what was known as "Tent City," which was as the name implies, a number of tents southeast of the old runway at Borinquen Field. The 29th left "Tent City" on 27 August 1941 and moved into new barracks across the runway. The elimination of mosquitoes, dust and dirt, rain and mud made things more pleasant for all members of the Squadron.

The 29th Bombardment Squadron, from the day of its inception, until the outbreak of war, flew routine training flights from Borinquen Field to bases located within the Continental Limits of the United States, in the Lesser Antilles and the North-Eastern coast of South America, and in other areas of the Caribbean, using Douglas B-18A type aircraft. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, they began flying combat anti-submarine patrols in B-18A type aircraft.

1943[edit]

Squadron X[edit]

A major replacement of 29th Squadron personnel took place in early 1943. Late in November 1942, the Commanding Officer of Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona unofficially activated by a Verbal Order nine flight crews for possible overseas assignment. On 1 March 1943, Special order #60 created the squadron officially and designated it as Squadron ‘X’.

Squadron "X" consisted of 320 enlisted men and 55 officers under the command of Captain Craig M. Yengst. The personnel of the squadron were, up to that date, part of the 60th Bombardment Squadron, a First Phase Training Unit. The three crews of the 60th had been "static", acting as training personnel, while the other six crews had just completed Third Phase Training. All nine crews had been checked out in the B-24 Liberator. Later, Captain Carl M. Cramer assumed command.

Preparing for Debarkation[edit]

Captain Richard W. Kline became Commanding Officer of the squadron that departed from Davis-Monthan Field on 3 March 1943 and arrived at Camp Harahan, New Orleans on 6 March 1943. The entire squadron remained at Camp Harahan until 13 March 1943. The time was spent in physical training and preparing squadron and personal equipment for overseas shipment.

Deployment Overseas[edit]

On 3 March 1943 the "Advance Party", consisting of four officers and S/Sgt. Melvin Naron proceeded to the USAT John L. Clem, where arrangements were made for the quartering and feeding of the squadron while at sea. The balance of the squadron embarked at Chalmette Slip, Jackson Barracks Area, on 22 March 1943. Twelve days later, on 3 April 1943, at about 1500 hours, the transport passed through the Submarine Net guarding the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal.

Arriving in Panama[edit]

The squadron disembarked at Colon, Canal Zone, and traveled across the Isthmus by train to Howard Field. After lunch the squadron went on to Anton by truck convoy. It was soon learned that "X" was to be known and designated as the 29th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) for the purpose of staging and orientation to the new area of operations.

On 1 March 1943, Squadron "X" proceeded to Aguadulce, Coclé, its first duty station, where it replaced the personnel assigned to the 29th Bombardment Squadron, taking over the latter organization's equipment and planes, and assuming its identity as the 29th Bombardment Squadron. The 29th Squadron was then transferred to the 6th Bombardment Group in May 1943.

The flying crew members of the "new" 29th were sent to the Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Rio Hato in the latter part of February and early March for transition in LB-30 Preproduction B-24s, B-17 Flying Fortress Model B's and E's, and B-24 Liberator model D's, as well as training in patrol procedures, et cetera. The subsequent four weeks were devoted to processing. This training would later prove to be of great value for the unit as a Patrol Squadron.

Deployment to the Galapagos Islands[edit]

On 12 May 1943, pursuant to Secret Movement Order #3, Annex "All, VI Bomber Command, 6th Air Force, the entire squadron , excepting three full combat crews, proceeded to Balboa, Canal Zone where they embarked on the U.S. Army Transport "Frederick C. Johnson" and headed for the Galapagos Islands. The three flight crews of Capt. Carver, Lt. Lange and Lt. Hansen flew to the "Rock" in B24D’s on 13 May 1943. The transport arrived at Seymour Bay, Galapagos Islands on 15 May 1943. This was to be the squadron’s first permanent station while in the 6th Air Force. The Rock, also called "Beta", was an airfield on Baltra Island.

On 14 May 1943 a new phase began for the squadron when Capt. Carver and his navigator joined Capt. P.A.Koening for an eight-hour patrol over the Pacific. These were the first two officers of the 29th Squadron to participate in a patrol. Capt. Koening was from the 45th Bombardment Squadron.

Flying Patrols[edit]

Starting on 16 May 1943, the 29th Bomb Squadron officers flew patrols carrying enlisted crew members from the 45th Bombardment Squadron. The first date the 29th took over all patrols with only their own combat crews aboard was on 23 May 1943. Capt. Carver, Capt. Bailey, Lt. Lange and Lt. Knight commanded the first four official patrols. These patrols were flown from the Galapagos Islands to Guatemala City and back. The 74th Bomb Squadron, stationed in Guatemala City would fly alternate routes with the 29th, each staying at the other’s base overnight.

On 8 June 1943, Maj. Harvey Hogan relieved Capt. Kline as Commanding officer of the 29th. Maj. Hogan, formerly an A-20 Havoc pilot quickly adapted himself to heavy bombardment and the B-24s. Capt. Kline remained with the squadron as A-3 until he was transferred to VI Bomber Command at a latter date.

On 8 July 1943, three planes and crews under the command of Capt. Bailey, Capt. Carver and Lt. Hansen were sent to Vernam Air Force Base, Jamaica. The purpose of this trip was to shadow the USS Yorktown (CV-10) and its escort of three destroyers. Recent enemy submarine activity in the area prompted this action for the protection of the ships. The ships were en route to the Canal. The first plane contacting the ships was commanded by Capt. carver and remained in the air for nine hours until relieved by Capt. Bailey. The three aircraft returned to Guatemala City on 11 July 1943.

On 24 July 1943 the Navy Squadron V.P.206 took over all combat patrols initiating from "Beta" (The Rock). The 29th took over the patrol duties on 25 August 1943 when the Navy was ordered to the Atlantic side.

On 1 August 1943, the squadron began taking the B-24s to Albrook Field for a re-modification of the stabilizer and completion of many T.O. requirements. Each plane required about three weeks in the Zone for these modifications. Both officers and enlisted men participated in helping the people at the Panama Air Depot and gained valuable experience and knowledge about the aircraft. This work was completed in about six weeks.

On 26 September 1943 the Air Medal was awarded to all crew members who had flown a total of at least 200 hours of combat patrol time. The award was based on meritorious achievement while participating in long range patrol flights over the Pacific and Caribbean approaches to the Panama Canal.

On 25 August 1943 Lt. Hansen and his crew left the Rock for San Antonio, Texas. The purpose of this trip was to have the latest and most up to date radar equipment installed in the aircraft. The average time for this installation was about 30 days and all of the squadron aircraft were equipped by 19 January 1944.

A Fatal Crash[edit]

The first fatal crash involving a 29th Bomb Squadron aircraft happened on 15 October 1943. A Navy PBY Catalina was reported as overdue on a flight in the area of Cocos Island on 14 October 1943. The next day three B-24s from the 29th were ordered-to the area to search for the missing plane. B-24 # 41-23799 was sent directly to Cocos Island, its specific mission being to survey the island for the possible crash of the missing PBY. At 1550 G.C.T., 15 October 1943 information was received that the PBY was down at sea, had been located, and was being shadowed. During the search B-24 #799 was not heard from after reporting in at 1500 G.C.T. A search was initiated on 16 October 1943 at 1230 G.C.T. using three Navy PBM Mariners and two B-24s. A life raft was sighted by one of the PBMs and also by a 29th B-24. No one was aboard the raft. There were as many as seventeen heavy bombers from various squadrons involved in the search.[6]

On 21 October 1943 the 29th was ordered to resume their normal patrol missions and leave the search activities to the Navy. On 23 October 1943, at 1500 G.C.T., Lt. W.R. Knight while on patrol deviated from his course to scan Cocos Island which had been "closed in" during the time of the search by the B-24s. Visibility was unlimited, and on passing over the island, wreckage was sighted, located near the crest of the highest peak on the west side of the island. The wreckage was about 100 feet below the crest of a spur ridge. VI B.C. was notified of the crash position. On 2 November 1943, after nine days of hard work, a ground rescue party reached the site of the crash. All crew members were killed in the crash. The crew consisted of the following men:

Name Position
1st Lt Lester R. Ackeberg Pilot
2d Lt Robert E. Moore Co-Pilot
2d Lt Owen F. Camp Bombardier
2d Lt Charles J. Sweeney Navigator
T/Sgt Francis X. Thanner Jr Crewman
S/Sgt Richard E. French Crewman
Sgt James C. Plemons Crewman
Sgt Glen F. Day Crewman
Sgt Herman E. Sherdon Crewman
Cpl Edward A. Kostrzewa Crewman

The entire crew of the downed B-24 were posthumously awarded the Soldiers Medal for their actions in searching for the downed PBY.

Command Post Exercises[edit]

About once a month a "C.P.X." had been called by the VI Bomber Command. These exercises, under full alert status, simulated actual combat interception problems. An alert was usually called for all bomber squadrons in the area. This involved interception by patrolling planes of friendly carriers or cruisers on their way to the Canal. As an example of such a mission, the following took place: On 22 November 1943, the 29th B.S. was fully alerted at 2020 G.C.T. A carrier was intercepted at 02-30’ south and 82-10’ west on a course of 360 degrees at 15 knots. Five B-24s from the squadron took off and landed at Salinas, Ecuador, the same evening, most of the mission being a night formation flight. 1st Lt. Roy H. Crow. squadron navigator, led the flight throughout the three-day period. The five B-24s under Maj. Harvey Hogan spent 23 November 1943 making simulated bombing runs on various ships in the group of Navy vessels.

Combat Action[edit]

On the afternoon of 24 November 1943 twelve planes of the squadron under the command of Maj. Hogan were again on a mission to find U.S. Navy ships in the area and make simulated attacks against them. The weather grew worse and they were ordered to David. The squadron was then ordered to Rio Hato and were briefed on information of enemy submarines on the Atlantic side which were responsible for sinking ships that day. Search patterns were laid out to be flown the following day, 25 November, Thanksgiving Day to seal all attempts of the submarines to escape the area. During the briefing, Lt. Sumnicht appeared with his crew and made the following announcement: They were on their one-ship search of the sinkings and damaged an enemy submarine at 11 10’N, 79 10’W. Lt. Arnold, the bombardier, said they had suddenly broken through a cloud layer to discover a surfaced submarine below them. It was dusk, and evidently the sub .commander had felt safe in surfacing. The sub immediately began to dive, and so did the B-24. Unfortunately the bomb bay doors would not open on the first run. The plane circled, (by this time the sub was just going under the surface) and dropped a pattern of six, six-hundred-fifty pound depth charges in front of the wake. Though not claiming to have sunk the U-boat, Lt. Sumnicht and Arnold stated that it must have certainly suffered damage. For the next few days all tracks of the search area were flown without a sign of the sub or further attacks. It was a grim sight to fly over one of the torpedoed freighters, awash amid-ship, and still, not sunk.

On 10 December 1943 the squadron resumed flying from one to four patrol lanes. The "Loop" plan, dating back to July 1943 was flown. The lanes were of a giant rectangular shape, all planes returning to the "Rock". The average patrol covered about 1100 miles and a flight time of 7 ½ – 8 hours. This patrol system was used until the Navy again took over patrol coverage on 4 February 1944.

1944[edit]

On 4 February 1944 thirty-three officers and men from the 29th were sent from the Galapagos Is. to Orlando, Florida to attend the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics.

Rescue Operation[edit]

During March 1944 the unit rescued a disabled seaman from a tanker off the coast of San Cristóbal Island. Capt. Walter H. Hunt, Flight Commander of the 29th B.S. and pilot of the B-24 that aided in the immediate rescue of the seaman filed the following report: On 21 March 1944, a tanker en route to the Galapagos, at a point about sixty miles east of San Cristobal island, radioed this base for aid. An emergency existed because of the sudden illness of one of the tanker's crew. The crash boat was sent out to intercept the tanker and take the sick man aboard and return to this base. At 1700 G.C.T. the boat had reached a point about forty miles from the probable position of the tanker. We took off in a B-24 to guide the boat to the tanker. After finding the crash boat, we flew the same course that it was sailing until we picked up the tanker on radar. We circled the tanker and headed back to the crash boat, directing them to take up a corrected heading. We then flew back to the tanker, and after many attempts, got the tanker to change course so that it was headed towards the crash boat. When the sick crewman had been taken aboard and the crash boat was under way for the Galapagos we returned to the base.

Eleanor Roosevelt Visits[edit]

On 31 March 1944, Eleanor Roosevelt arrived at the base. She was greeted by Lt. Robert K. Roberts and T/Sgt. Stanley Rudnich, the Mess officer and Mess Sgt. Given a partitioned metal tray, Mrs. Roosevelt helped herself to portions of crumb fried sea bass, string beans, pickled beets, apple pie and coffee. Seated at the hosts table were S/Sgt John May, Pvt. Bruno Vincris, Cpl. Alexander Gifford, T/Sgt. Walter Wright, Pfc. Arthur Mix and M/Sgt. Norman Smith who answered all questions asked by Mrs. Roosevelt. The evening of her arrival an informal reception in her honor was held at the Officers Club where she mixed with the officers and civilian workers. The next morning she visited Mess Hall #1 as the guest of Lt. Estaban Negrow and the Mess Sgt., S/Sgt. Frank Lopez. Given a G.I. mess kit and cup, she had coffee and toast. She freely mixed with the troops and her guest at the table were T/Sgt. Carlos Portocarico, Cpl. Marvin Kurtzman, Pfc. Harold Rivero, 1st. Sgt. William Villa, S/Sgt. Jose Mora, Sgt. William Freeman and Pvt. Jorge Farquet.

Move to Howard Field[edit]

On 3 April 1944, orders from Headquarters VI Bomber Command were received outlining the movement of all heavy bombardment squadrons in the command as follows:

  • 3d Bomb Squadron from David to Howard Field
  • 29th Bomb Squadron from Galapagos to Howard Field
  • 74th Bomb Squadron from Guatemala to Rio Hato
  • 397th Bomb Squadron from Rio Hato to Galapagos.

Special order #66 APO 662 dated 8 April 1944, issued the order of transfer for the 29th Bomb Squadron. Beginning 10 April, all of the Air Echelon plus key personnel, were ferried to Howard Field in B-24's. Capt. Wilkinson took charge of the advance party, which left by air several days earlier. Approximately 180 enlisted men sailed by boat the same week. By 16 April 1944 the entire squadron had moved to Howard Field. This move resulted in the morale of the troops reaching a new high.

Rescue of Major Ford[edit]

On 17 April 1944, Maj. Ford stationed at Howard Field, took off in a L-1 Vigilant for Cape Mala[7] to arrange for the payment of some of the personnel at remote sites. Late that afternoon he was not heard from and three B-24's of the 29th initiated a search covering the entire area south and west of Cape Mala with no success in locating the aircraft. The visibility was near zero. The following day, 18 April 1944 three more B-24's from the squadron searched further, this time to the south and east of Cape Mala with negative results. It turned out that Maj. Ford, with one passenger, was rescued by a boat shortly after a forced landing and taken to Nicaragua.

Mock Attack on the Canal[edit]

On 27 April 1944 all B-24's available from the squadrons assembled at Rio Hato. The mission was to stage a surprise attack on the locks of the Panama Canal the following morning. Flights of two and three planes were assigned various tracks. An element of surprise was enhanced by the aircraft approaching the locks from different directions with altitudes between 6,000 and 9,000 feet. Despite a 90% cloud cover over the locks and the Gatun Dam spillway the mission was considered successful, though dangerous, because of the poor flying conditions.

The Legion of Merit was awarded to T/Sgt. Elroy W. Arnold on 29 April 1944 for exceptional meritorious conduct in performance of his duties as Radar Operator and Technician on duty with the squadron while patrolling the approaches to the Canal Zone.

Milk Runs[edit]

Training within the squadron came to a temporary halt on 5 May 1944 when the 29th Bomb Squadron replaced the 20th Troop Carrier Squadron in the transportation of freight, mail, and passengers to all outlying bases in the Caribbean Area. The schedule ceased on 10 May 1944, began again and continued until 21 May 1944. B-24s from the squadron stopped at the following bases: San Juan, Aruba, Curaçao, Managua, San Jose, Guatemala City, Salinas, Talara, and the Galapagos Islands.

The following men were assigned to the squadron effective 21 May 1944: 2d Lt. James 0. Barrett, 2d Lt. Kenneth J. Bogart, 2nd Lt. Carl G. Beard Jr. and on 22 May 1944 2d Lts James Lindenmuth and Graydon P. Sheen. The above officers were rated "Unlimited Copilot" B-24D type aircraft.

More Mock Attacks[edit]

On two occasions, planes from the 74th, 3d, and 29th Bomb Squadrons made simulated attacks on the Canal. One of these flights, because of the weather, was flown at an altitude of 6,000 feet. The last attack, on 7 June 1944, came closer to actual combat conditions. B-24s from the squadrons assembled over Rio Hato climbed on course to David to an altitude of 20,000 feet. From there all planes, in formation, crossed the Isthmus to the Atlantic side, and through a 90% cloud cover, struck the Gatun Locks and the Madden Dam.

An extract from the squadron S-3 report for the month of June 1944 states Our combat crew training has been more diversified during the past period, an effort being made to train the crews in all phases with which they are required to be familiar with. The combat crews have spent three weeks flying patrols between San Jose, Guatemala and the Galapagos Islands.

U-Boat Alert[edit]

The arrival of submarines in the Caribbean area, and the torpedoing of three ships, resulted in the alerting of the 29th Bomb Squadron at 0900 GCT on 5 July 1944. The same morning, patrols by the 74th, 3rd, and the 29th were flown from France Field. Numerous disappearing radar contacts were encountered, giving proof to the theory that several submarines were covering the area from 400 to within 100 miles of the Canal. On 11 July 1944, an enemy submarine was sighted by a ship heading for the Canal at 10-OON 78-44W. Patrols were flown by the Navy around the "Hot Spot" the remainder of the day and throughout the evening. The B-24s continued the search the following day, 12 July 1944 without success. Under orders from VI Air Force, 9 July 1944, 6 B-24s were dispatched to Vernon Field, Jamaica to continue the anti submarine operations. Eight B-24s continued to patrol from Howard Field, four from Curaçao, N.W.I. and two from Francis Field. These patrols were flown daily until 17 July 1944 when the search was discontinued.

Mock Attack on the Nevada[edit]

A mock attack against a U.S. Navy force took place on 30 November 1944. Three planes from the 29 BS piloted by Lt.'s Smith, Jenkins, and Lange completed a successful mission against the naval force, which included the USS Nevada. The battleship USS Nevada (BB-36) was the largest and most well known ship in the naval force.

The 29th Bomb Squadron was transferred from Rio Hato to Howard Field on 8 December 1944. The movement was made by plane and motor transport. The remainder of the month was devoted to training, both flying and ground classes. The squadron also participated in three CPX missions during the month.

1945[edit]

On 1 and 2 January 1945, the squadron went on Practice Full Alert. Panamanian newspapers and news magazines from the U.S. indicated the alert was occasioned by unsettled Panamanian political conditions.

Mock Attack on the Shangri-La[edit]

On 22 January 1945, the 29th and the 3d Bombardment Squadrons engaged in a CPX mission, with the 3d in the lead. Radar of the lead plane was inoperative and a plane from the 29th established visual contact with the CV Shangri-La. The formation completed its bomb run without interception from carrier planes. Vertical photographs of the USS Shangri-La (CV-38) and its escort were taken.

On 27 January 1945, Major Don W. Bailey resumed command of the squadron after completing temporary duty in the U.S. On this same day the squadron returned from temporary station at Howard Field to its permanent station at Rio Hato. The move was made by truck and plane.

During January 1945, the officers strength was 61 and the enlisted strength decreased from 379 to 312. A total of 380 hours of training flying and 118 hours of operational flying were flown during the month.

On 6 February 1945, eight officers and twelve enlisted men, combat crew members, returned to the U.S. following replacement policy. They were replaced by eight officers and seven enlisted men from the 3rd Bomb Squadron on 7 February 1945.

Red Alert[edit]

On 23 February 1945, at 0145 hours the 29th Bomb Squadron was placed on a Full Red Alert indicating danger of air and ground attack. All personnel were at alert posts within 15 minutes or less. It was learned the following morning that the alert was called because of political activity in Panama. The alert was canceled at 1200 hours on 24 February 1945.

Quiet Times[edit]

During the month of February the strength of the squadron was 62 officers and the enlisted strength fell from 312 to 296. A total of 512 hours were flown, 478 hours of training and 34 hours of operational flying.

On 6 March 1945, the squadron participated in a "Search Light Mission" over the Canal Zone with seven aircraft. On 17 March 1945 forty five officers of the squadron participated in another of their series of Beer Ball games.

During March, the officer strength of the squadron increased from 62 to 64. There were 296 enlisted men on duty. A total of 687 hours were flown, 571 hours of training, 58 hours of operational, and 58 hours of "Other".

On 28 March 1945, the 29th Bomb Squadron was accorded battle participation credit for anti-submarine operations. Personnel eligible for this award can wear a bronze star on the American Campaign Medal. Award effective 24 November 1943.

Back to the Rock[edit]

In April 1945, the squadron was ordered to take station at the Galapagos Islands. On 26 April, an advance party of 2 officers and 20 enlisted men departed from Rio Hato. Following were 49 officers and 94 enlisted men who left Rio Hato at 0700 hours in 12 B-24s J's and L's and arrived at Seymour Island at 1300 hours on 30 April 1945. Five officers and 156 enlisted men left Balboa by ship to Seymour Island, also on 30 April 1945. The ship arrived at the Island on 3 May 1945.

During April 1945, the squadron flew 320 training hours and 123 hours of "other". Squadron morale was poor after the move, since about half of the squadron had previously served eleven months in the Galapagos Islands.

On 8 May 1945, Lt. Col. Don W. Bailey was released from assignment and transferred out of the squadron. Maj. Paul J. Quin assumed command of the squadron.

On 22 May 1945, two combat crews joined the squadron by transfer from the 3rd Bomb Squadron. The following men were members of these crews: Charles E. Meketa, pilot; James McKay, co-pilot; Alfred Dias, bombardier; Richard Capps, navigator, James Chandler, engineer; Ernest Gonzales, radio operator; Ralph Wren, arm. gunner; Ernest Drawdy, gunner; Paul Whiteman, gunner; Charles Withrow, gunner; George Olson, pilot; Henry Baldwin, copilot; John M. Brown, bombardier; Harry Rodgers, navigator; Guy Evans, engineer; James McFall, radio operator; George Lombardi, arm. gunner; Paul Crouse, gunner; Miles Sitterson, gunner.

Liberator Down[edit]

On 21 May 1945, a B-24L #44-41641 was reported missing at 00-55S-89-21W. The aircraft had taken off at 1435Z on a training flight in the local area. The ETA was 1705Z. The plane was last seen by another squadron plane in the area of San Cristóbal Island at about 1515Z and was not contacted thereafter. The squadron was alerted for a search at 170OZ. At 1740Z, the squadron requested Base Operations to attempt to get a radar fix on the missing plane if possible. At 1740Z the Navy Ground Radio Station was requested to guard 500 kc. At 1833Z, five 29 BS planes were sent out to search all islands in the Galapagos area except Culpepper and Wenmon. Three of the planes circled San Cristobal Island. A C-46 Commando arriving from the Zone assisted in the search which ended at dusk.

On 22 May 1945, the search continued from dawn to dusk. B-24s, a C-47 Skytrain and navy aircraft all were involved in the search. Four planes circled San Cristobal Island and at least two planes were in the vicinity all day.

On 23 May 1945, the search was resumed at dawn. Eight planes went to the outer limits of previous searches. At 1421Z, Capt. Wm. Knight, Operations Officer, took off in a North American O-47 to examine San Cristobal Island. At approximately 1450Z, oxygen bottles and one survivor were sighted at Bahia Rosa Blanca. The radio in the search plane was inoperative so Capt. Knight returned to the Base. Maj. Quinn returned to the area in a C-47, dropped supplies and equipment, and found another survivor about 1/4-mile from the first.

At 163OZ a Navy crash boat departed the base with Lt. Col. Johnson aboard and reached the area at approximately 2030Z'. The second survivor appeared to be badly injured so the crash boat was directed to him. The second survivor was Cpl. Richard A. Tremper. His injuries were serious so a Navy PBM was requested to come to the scene. Lt. Comdr. H.P. Gerdon, USN made a landing near a dangerous coast line, removed Cpl., Tremper and returned to the base. The first survivor was identified as Cpl. Walter S. Beebe.

On 24 May 1945, a ground party under the command of Capt. E.F. Herrington was sent to the scene to continue the search. Statements from the survivor able to talk said other survivors were highly unlikely. After further searching with no positive results, the search was terminated with the returned of the search party on 25 May 1945.

The following parts of the aircraft and equipment were found along the beach:

  • Nose wheel from the B-24
  • Rear door from bomb bay to waist
  • 8 Individual oxygen tanks
  • 3 Large oxygen tanks
  • Torn life vest
  • Half inflated life vest
  • Empty navigators kit
  • Headrest from pilots seat
  • 6 Ditching ribs
  • Parts of bomb bay, radar equipment, emergency water and ration box, and flight deck

Killed in the crash were the following airmen: Lt. Carl P. Haugen. pilot; Lt. Emerson Riffo. co-pilot; Lt. Theodore J. Stanford, navigator; S/Sgt. Raymond Olson, Cpl. Charles F. Glass, Cpl. Sam E. Edmondson.

Survivors were: Cpl. Walter S. Beebe and Cpl. Richard A. Tremper.

The squadron strength for May 1945 was 60 Officers and 294 Enlisted men. A total of 581 hours were flown during the month.

Late in the War[edit]

On 5 June 1945, all base personnel were ordered to wear neck ties after 1800 hours and all day on Sunday and holidays in compliance with Base and 6th Air Force directives. This order by the Base Commander Lt. Col. Johnson was not received with much enthusiasm by the troops of the squadron.

Starting in June 1945, the "Official History" was reduced to short one or two line items. No reason was given for this change. For June 1945 the squadron was manned by 60 Officers and 293 enlisted men. Total flying hours was 601 hours.

On 31 July 1945, the enlisted men of the squadron collected about $300 to purchase war bonds for the widow and baby daughter of one of the crash victims. The little girl was born on 21 July just one month after the crash.

On 11 July, the last of 3 B-24s assigned to the squadron arrived at the base. These were "M" models, painted black underneath and were in the very last group of B-24s made. These planes were produced by the Ford motor company.

B-24M
B-24M

Post War[edit]

The 15 and 16 August 1945 was designated as an official holiday commemorating the end of the war. On 17 August 1945 the squadron resumed normal duties. On 18 August 1945 the squadron received telegram concerning a missing B-17 in the Salinas, Ecuador area. The squadron was asked to send aircraft for search. Four B-24s were sent on 19 August and after two days search returned on the evening of 20 August. The B-17 was found by natives where it had crashed into a mountain. On 25 August 1945, Capt. Wilcox, Squadron Intelligence Officer, was requested by base to travel to Salinas and Quayaquil for the purpose of investigating Ecuadorian workers who were given jobs at this base.

On 29 August 1945, personnel of the squadron were individually asked if they cared to volunteer for further military duty in this area, another area, or if they wanted to be discharged as soon as possible. A very large majority agreed that they would prefer the discharge. On 30 August 1945, the morale is low for several reasons, including the requirement to sign for an additional six months in this area to be eligible for a furlough in the U.S. and because of strict mail censorship. During August 1945, a total of 768 hours were flown and the squadron was staffed by 58 officers and 300 enlisted men.

The Official Victory over Japan Day was set as 2 September 1945 but no official celebration was held on the base and very little signs of hilarity were observed. Mostly a keen interest in the progress of the occupation forces landing on Japan proper was observed. However, church attendance proved that all troops were thankful for the war's end. Base and squadron teams were involved in sporting events.

On 4 September 1945 censorship was lifted and morale rose. On 5 September 1945 morale continued to climb as a point system for discharge allows credit to 2 September 1945. On 11 September 1945 Captains Lange and Knight (Pilots) received orders for discharge (85 points 12 May 1945). On 22 September 1945 a total of 26 men were to report to the Zone for discharge (90 points 2 September 1945). Squadron planes will take them to the Zone. On 24 September 1945 the squadron troops were informed about re-enlistment possibilities in the Regular Army (Very little excitement from troops). On 25 September 1945 men over 35 receive orders for discharge. On 27 September 1945 the squadron was officially advised that it will move to Rio Hato within a few weeks. The air echelon was to move out on 2 October and ground echelon will remain to aid in preparing Base equipment for shipment to depots. On 30 September 1945 the 70-point men received orders to move out on 3 October 1945. The Engineering Section was hit severely—the Ordnance Section was completely wiped out. The squadron ceased functioning as an operating unit. The future status of the squadron was not definitely known. During September 1945 the squadron flew 533 hours and had 53 officers and 263 enlisted men on duty on 30 September 1945.

The Men Come Home[edit]

On 2 October 1945 Maj. Paul Quin, Commanding the 29th Bomb Squadron, released the following statement: Between crew rotation and point system discharges, all original 29 BS pilots have now left our organization. Flying officers showed considerable interest and ability in taking over certain ground jobs. Original squadron ground officers and men had become somewhat lax because of length of service in this area and lack of a definite workable rotation policy. Squadron on the job training (flying officers learning ground jobs) has saved much time and confusion in the emergency of the squadron movement along with continual loss of experienced personnel.

The air portion of the squadron began to move out on 2 October 1945 to take base at Rio Hato so the above was the last Official History written at the Galapagos Islands.

1946[edit]

The 29th converted from B-24s to B-17s. This occurred sometime in 1946. They were required to check-out in the brand new 17s and the pilots who flew them down flew the 29ths B-24s back to the States. The 29th crews were not too happy about not getting to fly their planes back. Instead the returned on the Liberty ship, S.S. General Blanchard (possibly the USS General H. B. Freeman (AP-143). Inactivation of the 29th took place effective 1 November 1946, [per G. 0. No. 24, Headquarters, Caribbean Air Command. For authority, see War Department letter, AG 322 (27 August 1946) AO-I-AFCOR (223e)-M, dated 9 September 1946.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Conaway, William. "29th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  2. ^ Conaway, William. "40th Bombardment Group (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  3. ^ Conaway, William. "6th Bombardment Group (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  4. ^ Conaway, William. "VI Bombardment Command History". Planes and Pilots Of World War Two. 
  5. ^ AFHRA 970 AACS Page
  6. ^ Conaway, William. "VI Bomber Command Aircraft Crashes". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  7. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Panama". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

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