At 6:00, we crawled out of bed, ate breakfast, went to our ships, fused and loaded twelve 100 lbs in our bomb bay. At 9:00, we took off1, climbed to 10,000 feet and flew a mission after a coast gun at Friendly Howe Plantation (Kahili airdrome).2 We saw one burst of flak.
Mission successful, we headed for Stirling. Hit such rough weather we expected to bail out so put on our chutes. We weathered the storm and landed at home, 11:30 a.m. A 2 oz. shot of whiskey, chow, a much needed shower and we hit that blessed sack.
Think we’re going to spearhead our division somewhere and soon. Who knows besides God and the high command.
Today’s mission entitles me to the Air Medal!
Notes & Commentary
1 Having gotten to bed at 2:30 a.m., they took off from Torokina Airfield after 3½ hours of sleep.
2 Although hampered by bad weather, 15 B-25s attacked a coastal gun on Cape Friendship, Bougainville Island. “Sunday, 7 May 1944, South Pacific Area (Thirteenth Air Force)”, Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces May 1944. database (http://paul.rutgers.edu/~mcgrew/wwii/usaf/html/May.44.html : accessed 04 May 1944.)
The 42nd Bombardment Group (M) reported . . .
May 7 – Fifteen Mitchells dropped 157 centuries instantaneous on coast guns at Cape Friendship (SE Bougainville). A 5/10 cumulus undercast obscured the results of the bombing.
Periodic Activities Summary, 1 May 1944 – 31 May 1944, Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 1 June 1944, microfilm B0131, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1618.
Interesting that Wayne says that he is already earning his first Air Medal. I don’t doubt this possibility, if this is what he had been told at the time, but it runs counter to my understanding of the Air Medal award criteria as practiced by the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Force in the South Pacific. According to this document, “Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal Criteria in the Army Air Forces in World War II,” by Barry L. Spink, Archivist, Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), which can be viewed here: http://www.afhra.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130506-008.pdf , the Thirteenth Air Force used the criteria of 100 combat hours (pp. 46-47) for each award. And it wasn’t just 100 hours in the air, but 100 hours of flight beyond a certain line drawn on a map.
Reading this document on the award criteria is fascinating, as the criteria varied widely from numbered air force to numbered air force, and even from month to month, as the combat conditions varied. While the ETO and MTO generally recognized 5 combat missions for each award, that wasn’t consistent even in those numbered air forces.
My uncle, Roy Anderson, who was a pliot in the same bomb group and squadrons as Wayne, but didn’t start his combat flying until mid-June 1944, only received two air medals for his entire tour. His combat summary indicates 290 combat flight hours, which would be consistent with his two awards only (as he was ten hours shy of the third 100 hours). And according to his award citation for the first medal, it took from June 19 to October 25, 1944, to accumulate those first hundred hours.
It may be that Wayne was either going by the five-mission criteria, or that was indeed the practice in the Thirteenth Air Force earlier in 1944. There is also a “loop-hole” so-to-speak in the general criteria for the award in that it can be awarded for any meritorious service, which many numbered air forces and other commanders used early on to give out more awards than maybe appropriate. This variation in awards across the numbered air forces caused major friction during the war.
When I saw Wayne’s entry regarding having earned the Air Medal, I too wondered how that could be. His combat mission on May 7 was his fifth. As you did, I consulted Barry Spink’s Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal Criteria in the Army Air Forces in World War II, and as you were, I was amazed at the often-confusing criteria applied across the numbered air forces for the award of this medal.
Wayne’s “Enlisted Record and Report of Separation Honorable Discharge”, WD AGO Forn 53-55, lists “Air Medal with 4 bronze OLC” among his decorations and citations. While in the South Pacific he is reported to have flown 63 combat missions.
I have no idea why Wayne thought, on May 7, that he had earned an Air Medal after only five combat missions. He had friends, though, serving on B-25s in the ETO and MTO. I can only suspect he or other members of his aircrew thought the same criteria applied in the South Pacific. I am sure they were disappointed.