August 10, 1944

Thursday

Saw the group name “3rd Attack”1 and realized there was an old friend there. Ken Buffington and I borrowed a 69th Squadron jeep, and took a ride down the road. The 3rd Group consists of A-20s2 and is named the Grim Reapers. It is stationed five miles east of here.

On the way, we stopped and inspected a wrecked Jap bomber. A Sally3. It has been pretty well stripped. Further down we took a look at a Jap photo reconnaissance ship, the Dinah, which is reported much faster than the P-38s. Its very streamlined, has a sharp nose, high rudder, two underslung engines. Is supposed to be the only one in captivity.4 The Japs lost over 350 planes on this invasion, plus a countless amount of new planes not yet enumerated. This loss must have been keenly felt by our erstwhile enemy.

They are continuing to decimate the Japs in the Aitape5 sector. 9,000 was the score of the past few days.

Found Willard “Ray” Johnson at the attack group theatre. Is looking well and is carrying his eleven months out here very well. The many infantry and artillery boys plus engineers who’ve served 30 months over here are repeating themselves. It’s certainly time they’re relieved, but none is yet in sight for them. Thank God, I’m an air corps6 man. No steaming, sweating jungles with their fever and filth. How very lucky I am. Ray is coming up here for a visit, and we will talk over old times.

Have been collecting Jap invasion coins, Australian and Dutch coins to make a bracelet for Bonnie. Not much of a present but do hope she’ll like it. Probably won’t send it home, but will take it with me when I go.

I pulled carpenter detail yesterday; hauling detail today. Very busy man as you can easily see. Warren, Cath7, Green, Holton and I have fixed our tent up. We have a crushed rock floor and a hanger from which is suspended our B4 bags8, raincoats and etc. Also built a table. Very simple but it was quite a job, as our tent was erected on a slope. We took shovels and leveled the ground.

Across the road from our area are two Jap ammo dumps containing bombs, shells, and mortar shells. Large dumps, both of them.

Walked over to the old Jap camp the other day. Lots of books lying around containing Jap writing. Plenty of saki wine bottles, empty and broken. Innumerable kinds of trash. Over the whole place is a smell of death. Horrible! No doubt because of bodies buried too shallowly.

Latest story out here consists of two characters. An American aviator, forced down, who met a nice looking Jap geisha girl. He tried to communicate with her but she couldn’t understand. Getting an inspiration, he took off his shirt baring a tattooed American flag. He put his finger on the flag and proudly said “American!” The Geisha girl in turn, took off her upper garments, displaying some interesting scenery. She placed her finger on each breast nipples and replied “Nipponese!” That seems kind of a cute joke, or we’d call a pun.

I can’t figure out how these animals get in my bed during the night. Always let my mosquito net down and tuck the sides in securely. Yesterday upon awakening, I had a big yellow spider for company. This morning, a large black flying ant shared my compartment with me. Beats the hell out of me where these come from. Don’t intend to stay up all night just to see either.

Saw the picture show, “Two Girls and Sailor” last night. It was just as good as you said it was, and I got quite a bang out of it, baby. But do I honestly express my emotions as childlike as the sailor did?

This is certainly a long rest that we’re having. Wonder when the rest of the boys are coming up and also when the field will be finished that we are going to be based at. We know the place is a virgin island. We’ll surely hate to leave Hollandia, its cool nights, and refreshing day time breezes. The climate is marvelous, much different from the rainy South Pacific Islands.

This long rest is surely agreeing with me, but it’s not getting me home any quicker, darn it. Am getting eager to refight the war, so let’s get on the beam air corps and get the job done!

Chow time, see you all later: W.

Notes & Commentary

1 The 3rd Attack Group was based at Sentani Airfield outside of Hollandia. It was located at the base of a peninsula wedged between the immense Lake Sentani and the sharply rising Mount Cyclops. A memorable and picturesque sight. Mount Cyclops rose to more than 7,000 feet from the nearby shore. John P. Henebry. The Grim Reapers at Work in the Pacific Theater, The Third Attack Group of the U.S. Fifth Air Force. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 2002. p 159.

2 The Douglas A-20 light attack bomber had a top speed of 339 mph at an altitude of 12,400 feet. Its service ceiling was 25,800 feet and it had a range of 1,090 miles. Its armament consisted of six .50 cal. machine gun in its nose and two in a dorsal turret. It carried a bomb load of 2,600 lbs. Francis K. Mason. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Major Aircraft of World War II. New York: Crescent Books, 1983. p 38.

3 The Mitsubishi K1-21 light/medium bomber was codenamed “Sally”. It had a top speed of 302 mph at an altitude of 15,485 feet. Its service ceiling was 32,810 feet and it had a range of 1,680 miles. Its armament consisted of one .50 cal. machine gun and three 7.7-mm machine guns. It carried a bomb load of 750 kg or 1,653 lbs. Francis K. Mason. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Major Aircraft of World War II. New York: Crescent Books, 1983. p 114.

4 Code named “Dinah”, the Mitsubishi Ki-46 reconnaissance aircraft had a top speed of 391 mph at an altitude of 19,685 feet. Its service ceiling was 34,450 feet and it had a range of 2,485 miles. It was armed with two 20-mm Ho-5 forward-firing cannons. The Lockheed P-38 Lightening had a top speed of 414 mph at an altitude of 25,000 feet. Its service ceiling was 44,000 feet and it had a range of 450 miles without drop tanks. Its armament consisted of one 20-mm cannon and four .50 cal. machine guns. Francis K. Mason. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Major Aircraft of World War II. New York: Crescent Books, 1983. pp 93 & 119.

The Dinah found at Hollandia was repaired by the 89th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Group and sent to U.S. for tests and evaluation.

Dinah found at Hollandia Photograph courtesy of 3rd Attack Group veterans

Dinah found at Hollandia
Photograph courtesy of 3rd Attack Group veterans and William Swain

Repaired Dinah Photograph courtesy of 3rd Attack Group veterans

Repaired Dinah
Photograph courtesy of 3rd Attack Group veterans and William Swain

5 Aitape, the site of several Japanese airfields, was located on the north coast of New Guinea about 95 miles northwest from Wewak and around 125 miles southwest of Hollandia. Allied forces landed there on April 22, 1944 in conjunction with the landings at Hollandia. The Aitape airfields were captured immediately captured. By April 25, four off shore islands were also controlled by Allied forces.

Within two days after the landing , Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) engineers had one of the Aitape airfields operational and an RAAF fighter squadron was operating out of it. The second airfield was handling bomber and cargo aircraft by the end of May, a month after the initial landing.

The Allied forces were soon confronted by Japanese forces sent from Wewak to retake Aitape and Japanese forces retreating from Hollandia. Aitape is situated on a coastal plain five to twelve miles deep crossed by numerous rivers and streams. The plain is bounded by mountainous foothills to the south and bordered by large coastal and inland swamps. The areas was the site of attacks and counter attacks until early August when the Japanese forces began withdrawing toward Wewak. The Japanese lost 8,000 men to combat and illness. Allied losses were 450 men killed in action and 2,550 wounded. Gordon L. Rottman. World War II Pacific Island Guide, a Geo-Military Study. Westport Press, CT: Greewood Press, 2002. pp 167-168.

6 The question has been asked: Army Air Corps or Army Air Force? There seem to be different answers to that question, but the one that is the most straight forward is provided by the Army Air Forces Historical Association. Was It the Air Corps or Army Air Forces in WW II? (http://www.aafha.org/aaf_or_aircorps.html : accessed 06 August 2014).

The Air Corps became the branch for Army aviation in 1926. A few years later, in 1935, General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force was created for operational aviation units. This arrangement existed in the period leading up to United States entry into WW II. There were two aviation organizations: the Air Corps managed materiel and training and GHQ Air Force had operational units.

The Army Air Forces (AAF) came into being on June 20, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor. As war approached, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall saw the need for a stronger role for Army aviation. Consequently they created the Army Air Forces with General H. H. (Hap) Arnold as its head.

Army Air Forces attained quasi autonomy in March 1942, a few months after the we entered the war. Acting under authority of the War Powers Act, Secretary Stimson approved a major War Department reorganization. Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces were made co-equal commands. Significantly, as Commanding General of the AAF, General Arnold became a member of the WW II Joint Chiefs of Staff along with the Army Chief of Staff (General Marshall), the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Ernest J. King), and President Roosevelt’s principal military adviser (Admiral William D. Leahy).

The AAF expanded rapidly. It initially had two subordinate organizations, the Air Corps for training and materiel and Air Force Combat Command (replacing GHQ Air Force) for operational forces. As the wartime build-up proceeded, more commands were added — Flying Training Command, Technical Training Command, Ferrying Command, the numbered air forces and so on.

In the course of wartime expansion and reorganization, the Air Corps ceased to be an operating organization. All elements of Army aviation were merged into the Army Air Forces. Although the Air Corps still legally existed as an Army branch, the position of Chief of the Air Corps was left vacant, and the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps was dissolved.

The Army Air Forces thus replaced the Air Corps as the Army aviation arm and — for practical purposes — became an autonomous service. All World War II Army aviation training and combat units were in the AAF. About 2.4 million men and women served in the AAF. Around 600,000 of these were members of other branches, such as Engineers, Ordnance and Quartermaster. (The official history published after the war is entitled The Army Air Forces in World War II.)

World War II Air Corps personnel had a strong sentimental attachment to their branch. The Air Corps had an aura about it that seemed to set it apart from other Army branches. Now, sixty years later, many WW II servicemen still proudly identify themselves as veterans of the Air Corps. However — although the Air Corps was their branch — they actually served and fought in the Army Air Forces!

In honoring Army aviation in WW II, the most appropriate and inclusive identification is Army Air Forces.

7 Horace J. Cathers, Jr.

8 The B4 bag was a canvas-sided, “two-suiter” travel/garment bag used by aircrews.

9 Two Girls and a Sailor was released in at the end of April 1944 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Starring Van Johnson, June Allyson, and Gloria DeHaven, it is a musical story of misplaced love. Performing in the movie were Jimmy Durante, Gracie Allen, Lena Horne, Harry James and His Music Makers and Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra. Two Girls and a Sailor (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037408/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt : accessed 09 August 2014)

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7 Responses to August 10, 1944

  1. gpcox says:

    Outstanding. You know I always enjoy the letters , but the amount of history applied to the letter is great. You always do an excellent job with the research.

    Like

    • a gray says:

      Thank you, gpcox. No one lives in a vacuum, and for me, the context in which the person lives is important. I had access to Wayne’s journal for over a decade, but I knew to do it right, some sense of what was going on around him would be necessary. Your support with all this is very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Pierre Lagacé says:

      Ditto

      Like

    • a gray says:

      Wayne sent letters to Bonnie almost everyday while he was overseas. At the same time, his journal entries read as letters. I’ve often wondered if his journal entries were warm ups for his letters. We will never know.

      Like

  2. Larry Huggins says:

    As I have said before all of the posts are terrific.
    And all of the comments on all of the posts add value.
    Thank you for including me.

    Like

    • a gray says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. Someone once said that the only thing new is history we don’t know. I would add that sometimes it comes in surprising packages. I hope you will encourage your friends to follow Wayne’s Journal.

      Like

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