The Thirteenth Air Force
HENDERSON FIELD had been won in the violent air, sea, and land battles which had occurred in the hectic days of October and November. There would be more fighting on Guadalcanal, more battles at sea in the Slot, many more in the air, too, but henceforth there would be far less doubt as to the outcome. In October and November there had been little margin for error or miscalculation. The race had been far too close for comfort. But now from November forward, the Allied potential began to show under the energetic leadership of Admiral Halsey; men, ships, guns, and planes reached Guadalcanal in numbers sufficient to provide a modest margin of safety.
Review of the Record
When the smoke had cleared away and the pressure had eased somewhat, the men who sent the planes on their missions took stock of their weapons. By the end of November, General Harmon's heavy bombers had been in operation four full months. They had gone out from Espiritu Santo almost daily, staging through Guadalcanal as often as possible, and now their commanders and aircrews had gathered sufficient operational data to permit an assessment of their achievements and an analysis of the employment of heavy bombardment aviation in the theater. Of 610 of all types of Japanese planes contacted, B-17 gunners had claimed twenty-one aircraft destroyed and fifty-seven damaged. On the debit side, twenty-one bombers had been lost while executing their missions, but more than half this number could be attributed to operational losses. No more than six could be recorded as combat losses, excluding the three additional planes which were badly damaged by
naval gunfire while parked on Henderson Field. Altogether these aircraft had carried down with them a total of 101 officers and men of the 5th and 11th Groups, of which number a third could be charged to operational causes rather than to combat with the enemy.1Pilots, crews, and commanders had learned many lessons during the first sixteen weeks of continuous operations. There was complete confidence in the B-17 as a combat weapon; antiaircraft fire repeatedly had hurt the bombers, and so had the 7.7-mm. machine guns and 20-mm. cannon of the Japanese Zeros, but the toughness of the B-17 had enabled most of the planes to return to their bases. They were highly durable and pilots respected them. That this toughness would be needed was evident from a marked improvement in enemy fighter tactics since the initial contacts in July and August. Zero pilots always fought more aggressively over their own bases, and it was believed that fresh pilots with considerable experience were reaching the Solomons from other fronts.2 Certainly, the B-17 crews were having trouble in meeting effectively the frontal attack so often employed by the Zero pilots. To combat this menace General Harmon had requested, as early as 31 August, modification of all 11th Group B-17's after the pattern completed on one of his heavy bombers by the Cheyenne Modification Center. This operation involved the installation of two .50-cal. nose guns and another in the radio compartment, together with new mounts for the waist guns and larger waist ammunition boxes to provide flexible feed. Initial experience with these improvements had shown a material contribution to the defense of the B-17 against frontal attack, but the field of fire still remained badly restricted and it was doubted that anything short of a nose turret would solve the problem.3
Colonel Saunders in his own analysis cited the toughness and aggressiveness of the fighter unit encountered over Buin, where enemy fighters seemed much more difficult to shoot down, indicating the presence of armor in the planes. He granted the need for a nose power turret and for installation of armor plate in the entire nose compartment. Had his B-17's been so equipped, several bombardiers and navigators would not have been killed, but beyond this, his observations of operations and enemy tactics in the South Pacific indicated that the time had come for a radical change in the design of heavy bombers. The B-17, he felt, had been developed to the extreme limit, and now a completely new aircraft should be built.4 Nevertheless, only two aircraft were known to have been lost to enemy fighters, one on 24 September
Japanese Airstrip, Lunga Point, 7 August 1942
THE PRIZE OF GUADALCANAL
Henderson Field, August 1944
Wards (8-Mile) Drome
over Buin and the other on 18 November after a running fight of seventy miles. Thus far, and in most cases, formations of three or more B-17's had proved sufficiently strong to prevent serious damage at the hands of enemy fighters.If the record of the heavy bombers against enemy aircraft was outstanding, the statistics turned in by Saunders' aircrews indicated quite a different performance against enemy ships. Since 31 July a total of 1,163 surface craft of all types had been contacted, of which 60 were attacked with a total of 828 bombs. Of this number, the pilots claimed 4 sunk and 15 damaged, exclusive of 9 others believed damaged as a result of close misses.5 General Harmon had presented to Admiral Halsey on 22 October a statistical analysis of the effect of search activities upon the striking power of the B-17's, concluding that on a basis of eight planes flying daily search missions, each of eleven hours' duration, approximately 78 per cent of the group's total effort was devoted to reconnaissance work. The remaining 22 per cent of flying time was available for strike missions. Harmon conceded that this view of the problem was somewhat academic, but nevertheless he believed it emphasized the necessity for preserving the offensive effort of the bombers. He accordingly had recommended that no more than 25 per cent of the heavy bomber effort should be expended thereafter on reconnaissance, that a careful survey be made of all equipment and its employment in order to secure a reduction of the current figure, and that Hudsons be placed in service to supplement the search effort of the PBY's and B-17's. As for targets, he recommended that the heavy bombers be concentrated upon important objectives lying beyond the range of other types of aircraft, or in force upon vital surface objectives at all ranges. But the planes should not be assigned definite strike missions against small detachments of cruisers and destroyers at long range because of the improbability of obtaining hits on such highly maneuverable targets, except by employment of more planes than the target was worth.6
On 20 November, Harmon submitted to COMSOPAC another extensive analysis of the difficulties confronting Colonel Saunders. He had discovered that the attacks by B-17's against the convoy on the 14th had resulted in no more than 1.1 per cent direct hits, which he viewed as less than a distinguished performance. The action of the following day had yielded a better score, since 12.5 per cent of the bombs dropped were hits, but the record was weakened somewhat in view of
the fact that the hits had been made in part upon a beached transport or on a vessel lying motionless upon the surface of the sea. Of all bombs dropped against maneuvering enemy surface craft during the early months of the campaign, slightly less than 1 per cent was classified as hits, although the inclusion of those listed as probable hits would bring the figure up to 2.5 per cent.7Colonel Saunders was fully aware of his chief's reaction to the results thus far obtained. Early in November, Harmon had advised the 11th Group commander of the necessity of inflicting more damage upon the enemy if "we are to justify the type and volume of effort we are putting into our B-17 operations for long range strike against enemy surface objectives."8 He did not urge a prodigal expenditure of planes and crews, but in view of the remarkably light loss sustained from enemy fire, the planes must be prepared to bomb from dangerously low altitudes. It was a pressing matter. Vital enemy land installations at this stage of the war lay beyond the reach of any considerable bombing force, and it was only through his seaborne tentacles that the enemy could be hurt seriously. General Harmon was not prepared to accept the doctrine of skip bombing with 4-second fuzes, but he did feel that Saunders should be ready to employ the B-17's in this manner if the emergency should warrant action which might be sacrificial in nature.9 Harmon offered his suggestion in a spirit of objective examination, in the hope that he and Saunders might advance the effectiveness of the air weapon against the Japanese. The tremendous handicaps under which the heavy bombers had operated from Espiritu Santo received full recognition, and Harmon assured Saunders that he had exerted his utmost effort to develop a suitable airfield on Guadalcanal.10
Back in Washington, General Arnold had observed closely bomber operations in the South Pacific and he, too, was perturbed over the failure to strike in strength at surface targets during the great convoy action of mid-November, even though he expressed pride in the general performance of the heavy bombers.11
The limitations which had contributed to the low score of the bombers were more apparent to the Army's airmen than to the theater commander, Admiral Halsey. Practically all targets had been at maximum range and the majority of them lay in excess of that range, thereby necessitating a reduction in the bomb load carried by the B-17's. Furthermore, the extreme length of the missions, coupled with frequent necessity for exhaustive search by striking forces to locate targets, necessarily
induced crew fatigue and strain, which in turn exerted an unfortunate effect upon bombing accuracy. In Harmon's view, as he explained to Admiral Halsey, the power of bombardment stood in inverse ratio to the distance to the target.12In the Solomons operations, always it was the maneuverable surface craft which defied the bombardiers. Few of the latter had entered the area with much experience against this type of objective, and only rarely was it possible to assign specific targets to the aircrews in advance of the mission.13 Even the choice of bomb load was sharply curtailed. During the first three months of operations there were only two fuze selections available-instantaneous and 1/10-second delay--of which the former was preferred because it would penetrate the water only some fifteen feet prior to detonation, thereby creating a mining effect in the case of near misses.14 Perhaps most serious of all the problems was the tactical employment of the heavy bombers, a factor dictated by forces quite beyond the control either of General Harmon or the 11th Group commander. Colonel Saunders had gone out from Hawaii with bombing plans based upon attacks by nine planes-three flights of three planes each. Yet in practice he found that it was quite impossible to apply this technique; not enough planes could be put into the air to produce a pattern of nine bombers, nor were the experienced flight leaders available who could have effected perfect timing. Over and above the heavy claims upon his resources for search operations, the airdrome facilities at Espiritu Santo simply would not permit takeoffs in sufficient force-there were no circulating taxiways and there was no traffic control. Three months had passed before sufficient lumber arrived to permit erection of a control tower that extended up above the coconut trees. For these several reasons the air commanders felt reasonably satisfied if they could put six bombers together in the air.15
It was pointed out to COMSOPAC that even in November clearance of twelve B-17's from Espiritu's bomber strip consumed one hour, while landing the same flight cost an additional hour and a half if it should return after dark, and obviously all this time must be deducted from the maximum flying time--and therefore range--of the formation.16 It is of interest to note that shortly before the Battle of Midway, Maj. Gen. Robert C. Richardson in Hawaii informed the Chief of Staff that in order to achieve a mathematical probability of 7 per cent hits on a maneuvering Japanese carrier under ideal conditions and from
14,000 feet, a minimum force of eighteen to twenty bombers per carrier would be necessary. Anything less would produce only the most meager results.17 But it was not Colonel Saunders' lot to have twenty B-17's per carrier. He revised his bombing plan to a 5-plane Vee, and the results were what might have been expected. In the period 31 July to 15 November, only six formations went over their targets with more than six aircraft, and as late as 18 November nine or more bombers never had bombed simultaneously a single surface vessel steaming at high speed. General Harmon advised Halsey not to expect high scores from such small flights, stressing his belief that a minimum of nine planes should be employed and confessing that the results obtained thus far were "disappointingly low."18If the score was low, operating conditions had contributed to it, and General Harmon wished his critics to bear this in mind; he had no desire to see his figures interpreted as a blanket indictment of high-level bombardment. He was willing both to indicate the limitations of the B-17 and to stress its potentialities when properly employed. It was a bomber capable of driving its way through heavy fighter opposition to a fixed objective such as the air installations at Bulta Passage, but against maneuvering targets the lesson was obvious-the plane must be used only in numbers sufficient to produce a pattern which would cover the possible maneuvering area of the vessel under attack. Perhaps this was an expensive employment in terms of hits per bomb released, but nevertheless worth while against important naval objectives. And despite the low number of hits there was evidence that the Japanese naval commanders did not relish contact with the bombers; Harmon stressed the fact that since 24 August no carrier had approached within a 500-mile radius of Espiritu. If only Guadalcanal had been operable for B-17's and B-26's during the past sixty days, General Harmon believed that the enemy would have encountered serious interference with his construction efforts at Buin and Bulta and with his invasion fleet based in the Faisi-Tonolei area. Once these bombers could move into Guadalcanal, the reduction of enemy naval and air bases at Buin and Tonolei might begin, but until such a time arrived, heavy and medium bombardment would be unable to throw full weight into the task of defeating the enemy.19
Harmon reviewed all these problems for General Arnold a few days later. He praised the 11th Group, believing that it had been of inestimable value in limiting enemy naval action despite its rather slim box
score. He believed, too, that Halsey was cognizant--as McCain was of the difficulties the bombers faced, and he decried the current sniping at high-level bombing. The B-17 had proved itself against fixed objectives; granted that it was less effective against surface targets under way, nevertheless it would be premature to pass judgment on the bomber's suitability for attack upon this type of objective. For his chief he listed some of the factors which had contributed to the low scores achieved by the bombers in the South Pacific: "COW pasture fields, lack of maintenance and relief combat crews, adverse weather, inaccurate intelligence reports, no opportunity for training due to shortages of fuel, engines and operational necessity, inadequate maintenance of bomb sights and instruments, occasional operational misdirection, and always extreme ranges." Such were the formidable obstacles complicating Colonel Saunders' operation of the 11th Group, but there were others to be considered, i.e., the enemy's elusiveness, his knowledge of effective B-I 7 range, and his well-known propensity to use adverse weather conditions to his own advantage. Although Harmon did not regard the results to date as entirely satisfactory, he felt that they provided an indication of what could be achieved from adequate bases against targets within range of fully loaded aircraft.20Part of the difficulty besetting Saunders lay in the virtues of the B-17, rather than in any deficiencies. It was most irksome for the local air commanders to watch their heavy bombardment crews devoting so much time and energy to reconnaissance activity, yet no other aircraft on hand could press home an effective search in the face of air opposition. The obligation varied from week to week. On occasion it had been necessary to send up as many as nine search planes simultaneously. In the early days these planes were not permitted to carry bombs, but their crews begged for them in order to strike at the ships moving down the Slot, and in response to these pleas the B-17's were given a half load of four 500-pounders. Henceforth, with full radio compartment tanks it was possible to maintain a complete search pattern and at the same time to carry something for the bombardier.21 By the end of November, strike missions had been curtailed, but four search planes were running each day up from Espiritu to cover the area east of the Solomons, while two others now went northwest from Guadalcanal for a distance of 400 miles. Below Bougainville these two parted, one passing up each side of the island, but both planes flew as far north as Buka. Over the Shortland area the B-17's could expect both flak and fighter
opposition; the former was often quite substantial and the fighter unit now based near Buin was very aggressive.22Harmon urged Halsey to employ Hudsons to supplement the PBY's and B-17's, and that he move the Hudsons forward to Guadalcanal at the earliest opportunity.23 Yet, there remained the inescapable fact that no plane available could match the B-17 for long-distance sea search. Originally, it had been assumed that the PBY's would carry the burden of patrol missions-this at least was their designed function-but the great vulnerability of the Catalina rendered it less reliable than the B-17; if it approached an enemy carrier it could not maintain the contact, and often it could not even establish contact. Enemy radar would reveal the presence of the PBY, whereupon the air combat patrol would destroy the lumbering flying boat before it could sight the Japanese task force. In contrast, on the afternoon of 12 November a B-17 sighted a carrier 350 miles north of Guadalcanal and maintained the contact for two hours, during which time it shot down six Zeros before returning to its base.24
It was not surprising that COMAIRSOPAC valued highly the ability of the heavy bombers to search the area stretching 800 miles northwest of Espiritu Santo. These planes could stay in the air and trade blow for blow. Admiral Fitch credited the B-17's with a significant share in the success of the last two major battles, and Colonel Saunders felt considerable pride in their work, even though searching was less spectacular than the strike missions.25 Regardless of the outstanding performance of the B-17's in this direction, it represented a serious diversion from the available striking power and created a most unsatisfactory situation in the eyes of the air commanders, who agreed that heavy bombardment requirements for the South Pacific should rest on the assumption that B-17's constituted primarily a striking force and not tools for reconnaissance. Air search properly should be carried out by patrol planes, or by shore-based reconnaissance aircraft and float planes; not only would this lighten the burden upon the bombers but it would relieve the congestion of the airdromes.
In Washington, General Arnold was reluctant to accept what he believed to be a misdirection of his offensive strength. Seriously disturbed by Harmon's reports, he undertook to persuade Admiral King to throw more of the South Pacific's sixty-eight PBY's (an estimate later revised downward to fifty-two) into reconnaissance.26 Arnold reviewed for King the problems facing local commanders of the B-17's,
urging the further use of the Navy's Catalinas. He admitted the limited nature of results achieved by the Army's land-based bombers in the recent air-sea actions but pointed to the extenuating circumstances. Because failure to employ mass strength could not be attributed to lack of familiarity on the part of the theater commander with the basic principles of air employment, Arnold concluded that three factors had and were interfering with proper utilization of heavy bombardment.Of foremost importance was the dissipation of striking force aircraft and crews as a consequence of routine patrol missions; fuller exploitation of PBY's, under conditions of acceptable risk, would substantially augment the availability of the B-17's.27 Arnold admitted the justification for an occasional diversion of bombers and their combat crews to reconnaissance missions, but such a diversion should be necessary only if the presence of enemy fighters was anticipated. He reminded Admiral King of a factor too often overlooked: that successful performance of high-altitude precision bombing missions might reasonably be expected only if equipment functioned perfectly, and if the crews were in excellent physical condition and at the peak of their technical proficiency. Without adequate rest, without sustained practice in bombing technique, something less than successful performance might be anticipated. Secondly, General Arnold pointed to the inadequacy of base facilities, and specifically to the delays in the program for improving the airfields at Espiritu Santo and Efate. Finally, he pointed to the lack of aviation fuel on Guadalcanal, which prevented the staging of strike missions through Henderson Field against the concentrations of shipping at Buin and Faisi. But fundamentally, it was a fuller utilization of the PBY's for routine patrol missions that would release the land-based bombers for their proper function.28
This effort on the part of General Arnold to secure proper employment of the B-17's did not bring immediate relief, and out in the South Pacific General Harmon continued to press the point with Admiral Fitch.29 Arnold's air planners assumed a more detached and long-term view of the whole question: to them there never would be enough bombers at any time during the war to justify indiscriminate use of these offensive weapons for "diversionary" purposes.30
Perhaps not. Perhaps the employment of B-17's on search missions was of a diversionary nature; but the information brought back by the aircrews was absolutely vital to the theater commander and could have been obtained in no other way. Coast watchers were able to observe
enemy movements on shore, and they recorded the arrival and departure of Japanese shipping, but only the B-17's could cling to contacts made with powerful task forces at sea, as they had so ably demonstrated during the great actions of November.31 So the bombers continued their searches. The burden would be lightened in time, but not until 1943 when the PB4Y's (Navy B-24's) arrived in the theater, and not until it was discovered that the P-38 served as an excellent search plane for the daylight run over Rabaul.32
A New Air Force
Meanwhile, what could be done to increase the effectiveness of the air effort? General Harmon saw slight hope for improvement under existing circumstances-only by personal and constant contact with operations could he insure that missions would be planned and executed in conformance with proper AAF doctrine. There was need for a competent staff which understood the various categories of Army aircraft, led by an air commander intimately aware of the capabilities and limitations of his forces. In short, Harmon argued for recapture by the AAF of operational control, which he came to regard as "the heart and soul and guts of the whole business." General Harmon was not a man to complain, but he argued that "no one can build up a force, train it, dispose it and supply it and be held responsible for its operational effectiveness without some direct contact and influence on its operational control."33 The command structure of the South Pacific was at fault, for it had made him partially responsible for whatever deficiencies the B-17's might turn up, without adding the operational control necessary to remedy the errors.The solution, as Harmon assessed the situation, was to push hard for the authorization of a South Pacific air force. Already he had outlined a plan for General Arnold; now on 29 November he submitted to the Chief of Staff his recommendations for authorization of a new Army air force, expressing his inability, arising from the command structure, to insure preparedness, proper distribution, and effective employment of the Army air forces assigned to his area and for which he was responsible.34 Harmon proposed that the new force be designated a part of his own organization, the U.S. Army Forces, South Pacific, and that Brig. Gen. Nathan F. Twining be named commander, as the best qualified officer available. He suggested, too, that the new air force should include a bomber and a fighter command whose leaders would be selected from officers already in the South Pacific.
The proposal had no intention of capsizing the accepted principle of unity of command, nor could it aim at gaining for the AAF full operational control of its own aircraft, But Harmon did ask for a closer coordination with COMAIRSOPAC in drawing up plans for operational employment, for general supervision of all air activities exclusive of a few administrative agencies, and for distribution of air units and forces according to the plan of operational employment as determined by COMAIRSOPAC, in addition to control of all training activities and regular command inspection to determine the status of training and to insure the proper execution of combat missions. Beyond these tasks the new air force commander should serve in an advisory capacity to COMAIRSOPAC in the preparation of plans and issuance of orders, and as an intermediate agency in the chain of command for operational employment as determined by COMSOPAC.35 If these objectives could be attained, Harmon believed they would aid in eliminating the Navy's continued practice of dealing directly with subordinate AAF units, thus permitting the new air force to achieve genuine unity of command.There was reason enough to cause Army air commanders in the South Pacific to seek the establishment of an autonomous air force. Since all air operations, regardless of service, were under the direct control of COMAIRSOPAC, General Harmon exercised no operational control over the AAF units and no formal air organization existed. Both combat and service units were under the commanders of the various island bases, who controlled training functions as well as the defenses of the particular base. Such an arrangement inevitably led to numerous difficulties, but one of the most critical was that of supply; because Harmon lacked advance information on future movements of units, neither he nor his air staff were in any position to know what supplies would be required for forward areas.36
By early December, General Harmon was most anxious to further the development of his plan for the new air force, urging the Chief of Air Staff to push it along. Much could be achieved with an air force working closely with Admiral Fitch, he believed, even though full operational control was lacking; under existing conditions he found "too little imagination being exercised in the employment of our Air Force."37 Fortunately for Harmon, the Chief of Staff wasted little time in debate. On 5 December, General Marshall sent out a dispatch informing COMGENSOPAC that the AAF units in the South Pacific now were designated the Thirteenth Air Force.38 No details had as yet
been elaborated, and in fact Washington had not yet received General Harmon's own outline of 30 November. But at least the first step had been taken toward creation of a new Army air force for the South Pacific theater. Once before-early in June-a similar plan had arisen, one based on a separate air force for the "Five Islands" of Canton, Christmas, the Fijis, New CaIedonia, and Tongatabu, but the idea had never matured.39 Only the experience gained from active operations against the enemy had brought home to all concerned the necessity for such an organization. General Harmon reported that both Halsey and Fitch were sympathetic to the idea, and that he would establish Twining's headquarters on Espiritu Santo immediately adjacent to Admiral Fitch, who was moving ashore. Thus, there should be an improvement in the employment of aircraft as a result of the opportunity for joint planning and supervision of activities.40Little time was lost in preparing the ground for the new air force. Constitution of headquarters and headquarters squadrons for the Thirteenth Air Force, XIII Bomber Command, and XIII Fighter Command occurred on 14 December 1942, and General Harmon was so informed on the following day.41 Personnel for the force, at least most of it, would have to come from units in the field, but Harmon anticipated no real problem in this respect. Responsibilities of both bomber and fighter command would necessarily be restricted because of the wide dispersion of air units and their position on the various island bases. As opportunities arose for increased operational control, he would call for appropriate augmentation.42 Even before the new air force could be activated, Harmon was deep in the process of reorganizing the units under his command, which were then operating under earlier and inadequate tables of organization.43 His pleas were recognized, General Marshall granted the necessary authority, and Harmon prepared for the activation orders soon to come.44
With his eye focused upon global requirements as well as upon the South Pacific, Marshall found it advisable to modify downward some of Harmon's original suggestions. Headquarters of the XIII Fighter and XIII Bomber Commands must be limited to bare cadre strength, Harmon could not requisition equipment for them until the situation warranted and until the War Department granted its approval, nor could he borrow similar personnel from his USAFISPA force with the expectation that replacements would be forthcoming. However, the restrictions were sweetened with the admission that a change in the
tactical situation might necessitate a standard air force organization in the South Pacific.45It was obvious that these paper preliminaries had cleared the way for a field air force, albeit a bare-boned force. All its personnel must come from sources already under control of Harmon, who was enjoined from requesting fresh replacements, a restriction which undoubtedly served to hold the area's air commitment down to levels agreed upon by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But a happy solution for the Joint Chiefs did not necessarily indicate a similar one for Harmon, who now faced a major problem in his efforts to provide the commanders and personnel necessary to fight and maintain the Thirteenth Air Force. By the end of December, Harmon noted rapid progress in the construction of office and housing facilities for General Twining up on Espiritu Santo, immediately adjacent to Admiral Fitch's headquarters.46 But the question was not one of facilities only, and very quickly Harmon was obliged to report that his hard pressed organization no longer could furnish additional officers to fill the needs of the Thirteenth Air Force, the I and II Island Air Commands, as well as a number of service units scattered over the South Pacific. He appealed for help, Operations Division in Washington investigated, and on 13 May, General Marshall reversed his original intention, directing that Harmon be permitted to requisition fillers and replacements for his source units. This action would help, to be sure, but meanwhile the new air force had launched its career on a very spare basis.47
On 13 January 1943, General Harmon activated the Thirteenth Air Force and General Twining, as the new air force commander, established his headquarters on Espiritu Santo. The new bomber commander was Col. Harlan T. McCormick, fighter command went to Col. Dean C. Strother, and the new chief of staff was Col. Glen C. Jamison, who had served as G-3 at USAFISPA since July 1942.48 These men worked with an organization far more potent on paper than in actuality; in truth no real air force yet existed. Much of the administrative and supply service of the Thirteenth would remain with USAFISPA for some time to come because of the absence of an air service command, and only gradually would the new air force be able to assume the position of a self-sustaining unit. The conditions surrounding its birth were not wholly unfamiliar to military organizations, but to the men directly concerned they seemed a bit more stringent. With no authorization for basic equipment or for anything else, they did what military men usually do in similar circumstances: they
borrowed, they begged, or they stole what was needed to establish their headquarters and get under way.49What this youngest air force might accomplish was not at all clear, since its establishment in no way altered the basic pattern of operational control of aircraft in the South Pacific. This remained, as before, with COMAIRSOPAC. General Harmon stressed the fact that the Thirteenth Air Force was distinctly a part of his command and that he must retain direct responsibility for and control of all matters affecting administration, supply, movement, and training, together with the right to insist upon observance of sound principles, doctrines, and techniques of employment.50 Legally, he could do all these things, but one vital item remained quite beyond either his reach or that of General Twining-operational control. For the immediate future the Thirteenth's control over its own operations must remain upon an advisory basis, dependent in large measure upon the relations between General Twining and Admiral Fitch.
Supply and Operating Conditions
The South Pacific combat units had lacked more than operational control. Throughout the Guadalcanal campaign they operated without benefit of an air service command within the theater. Facing Harmon after his assumption of command in July 1942 was a twofold supply and service problem. First and most important, there was the necessity for moving materiel to the theater and placing it on shore; secondly, there was the question of what to do with the boxes and crates, once they arrived on the docks at Noumea. The first difficulty was eased somewhat when initial operations indicated that Hawaii should be substituted for San Francisco as a more advantageous supply point for air force supplies.51 To be sure, because of the ever-present shortage of shipping, this shift covered only items that might be shipped from Hawaii by air.52 And selection of a proper source of supply provided only a partial solution. More difficult was the task of moving supplies out to the island bases and carrying them ashore. While it was obvious to all that an acute shipping shortage prevailed, it was somewhat less apparent that wise counsel always directed the shipping that was available. Port facilities at Noumea were highly inadequate; and with the usual perversity of war, at the very time the transport burden was extremely heavy there arose the necessity for a vast amount of feverish construction of wharves, docks, loading and storage
facilities, and connecting roads.53 It was not uncommon to find twenty to thirty cargo vessels lying in the harbor and at times the number rose to seventy or eighty; moreover, some of them lay at anchor more than three months before they could move alongside a dock. Up at Espiritu and Guadalcanal conditions were even more primitive and remained so long after improvements appeared at Noumea; it was reported that at Espiritu Santo some vessels lay in Segond Channel over three months before they could be touched.54Part of the trouble lay in improper scheduling. It was estimated, for example, that Noumea could discharge twenty-four vessels per month when properly spaced, yet twice that number were dispatched without regard for schedule. Accordingly, during the month of November there were instances when twenty-three cargo vessels were waiting to load or unload, and this accounted at least in part for the many overdue shipments of AAF supplies.55 Investigation of the situation placed responsibility for these conditions with the Naval Transportation Service and Naval Operating Force, and after the case had been carried to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a directive was finally issued placing the responsibility for unloading vessels in the Army's Transportation Corps, a practice which prevailed in other ports.56
Meanwhile, additional difficulties continued to crop up. Vessels arrived with heavy deck loads whose weight surpassed the capacity of the unloading gear; some radar units, for example, exceeded twenty tons per package, yet the ships' cargo booms could handle nothing beyond seven tons. In the absence of unloading cranes at Espiritu, the vessel would swing at anchor in Segond Channel many weeks with its vital cargo on deck or stowed away in the hold. It was this type of practice which led to serious shortages of B-17 engines badly needed by the 11th Group.57
Fortunately, at Noumea it was possible to deliver fighter aircraft already assembled except for the wings, which were attached at near-by Magenta Field. From this small strip the P-39's and P-38's were flown to Tontouta in order to avoid the slow haul by truck over thirty-odd miles of hilly country.58 Paradoxically, it was even simpler to land completely assembled fighters at Espiritu than at Noumea. At Pallii Kula Bay there were cranes capable of handling the P-39's, P-40's, and P-38's, and the dock lay only 200 yards from the airfield, to which it was linked by a satisfactory airstrip. But despite the fact that all types of assembled fighters could be set ashore at Pallikula, General Harmon
recommended that the planes normally be handled at Noumea because of the central location and better maintenance facilities.59All these physical difficulties slowly smoothed out, permitting COMGENSOPAC by the end of November 1942 to anticipate definite improvement in fuel and airdrome facilities on Guadalcanal. In marked contrast to his earlier experiences in the area, Harmon could advise General Arnold of his satisfaction with the service forces then reaching him; they were the product of a long campaign to secure an adequate body of service personnel to maintain his planes and shops.60 Even prior to his departure from Washington Harmon had placed a request for an air depot group capable of performing fourth echelon repair, assuming that without such a unit a substantial portion of his air strength would remain out of commission. He knew that he could not depend upon facilities in Australia in face of the shipping shortage.61 Although General Harmon quite promptly obtained authorization for his requested units, including the 13th Air Depot Group and two air service groups, the 6th for New Caledonia and the 29th for Fiji, a long wait lay ahead. By October there still were no facilities in the South Pacific for fourth echelon repair; major repair work had to be sent over to Australia. Even as late as November, Brig. Gen. Robert G. Breene, commanding general of Services of Supply, USAFISPA, was advised to send all engines requiring complete overhaul either to the Hawaiian or the Sacramento Air Depot, and this awkward system would necessarily prevail until the arrival of the 13 th Air Depot Group.62
This painful lack of engineering and air base groups plagued General Harmon throughout the critical months of the Guadalcanal campaign and it was perfectly apparent to the many visitors to his theater. Both Generals Emmons and Arnold personally observed the improvisation forced upon the South Pacific commander-improvisation which so often is the subject of postwar praise but which can chew up time and manpower in prodigious amounts. Often combat troops were compelled to perform a very large amount of construction and noncombat work, activity for which they were neither trained nor equipped and which properly should have been done by air base groups.63 But despite the evidence of need, it seemed very difficult for Harmon to speed the shipment of his service units. At one point the promised 13th Air Depot Group was threatened by OPD with diversion to Townsville in Australia, on the grounds that there it would be located near the center of operations in the South and Southwest
Pacific, and thus could serve both areas.64 Harmon again marshaled his arguments, citing the terrible shortage of shipping which made it highly desirable to place the repair depot on New Caledonia, and this time he gained his point. OPD informed the South Pacific commander that the 13th Air Depot Group would sail early in November, accompanied by the two service groups, each of which was capable of supporting two combat groups. Thus, after many weeks of preparation the 13th Air Depot Group, plus the 6th and 29th Service Groups, sailed from San Francisco on 3 November and reached Noumea on the 22d.65Harmon was ready for them but he had altered his plans for their employment. The 29th Service Group would go to Espiritu Santo rather than to Fiji, for which he planned to form a special unit from the two service groups. This was a move which violated organizational unity, but General Harmon had discovered very early that the nature of island warfare had prevented rigid maintenance of unit integrity either of combat or of service organizations located on the widely scattered bases. As a general rule of thumb, many small units met his needs better than fewer large ones, a factor which forced him to plan to break up the service squadrons and shift their fragments from point to point as needed. He lacked ground service units to provide for the needs of combat squadrons which had been separated from their own ground echelons; already the experience of the 11th Group and of the 67th Fighter Squadron on Guadalcanal, where combat crews performed their own service work. indicated that something less than full efficiency would result. For this reason Harmon urgently requested six of the special airdrome squadrons then being trained to maintain combat squadrons based on airdromes distant from their parent organizations.66 Unfortunately the need ran in advance of the solution. The new units could not reach him prior to April 1943, and meanwhile he would have to fill the gap with the personnel of the one depot and two service groups which had arrived in the theater in November.67 One lesson was obvious. South Pacific air warfare could not be waged by adherence to the rule book.
The service units taking station on New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo were destined to replace the primitive supply system which had prevailed since February 1942. Facing the 13th Air Depot Group were mountains of repairable aircraft supplies of all types, including engines, accessories, tires, propellers, and hundreds of other items, many of which might have been placed in service had their presence
been known, and which now were pilcd in pyramidal tents or lay in the open exposed to the elements.68 Very quickly the warehouses sprang up, shelves and bins were installed and inventories compiled for the benefit of the using units.69Of vital importance to the repair program was the 13th Depot's engineering department, which had arrived on 26 November with full expectation of an extensive program of engine overhead. By 15 January, personnel were ready and the shops were erected, but the necessary parts and equipment had failed to arrive.70 Some cleaning vats had turned up, but no boiler for them. Not a single engine stand for any engine was yet available, nor was there any demagnetizing equipment, nor any cylinder hones.71 Most disturbing was the knowledge that many of the missing items even then were stowed away in the holds of vessels swinging at anchor in the harbor of Noumea. Still more exasperating was the fact that the vessel might already have been there for a month or more, but because Air Corps parts lacked the necessary priority they could not be moved ashore. Further to complicate the problem, no lists of equipment shortages could be submitted until the ships were unloaded and cargoes checked; ships' manifests merely indicated so many boxes of machinery, and hence failed to inform supply personnel as to particular items.72
The inevitable consequence of a policy which placed lower priority upon spare equipment was to force aircraft to operate unsupported by spare parts. Ships arriving in Noumea with aircraft as deck cargo quickly moved alongside the dock to discharge their planes, since these carried a high priority. But immediately after removal of the deck load, the vessel was pulled back out into the harbor without discharging its cargo of "machinery," there to remain many weeks while fighters and bombers went into combat minus the support of spare engines and parts.
If many of these difficulties seemed nearly insuperable at the time, it is possible to note steady improvement despite the vexations. Here it was a case of personal intervention by General Breene on behalf of some squadron's ordnance supply officer; there it was a case of guarding against short-stopping--that is, the disappearance of items stripped from aircraft en route to the combat area.73 But with improvement in the general supply system, depredations and needless wastage diminished. Repair machinery finally arrived and by early May 1943 newly overhauled engines were leaving the test blocks of the 13th Air Depot
Group. Small service detachments went out from New Caledonia to Efate, Espiritu, back to Fiji, on up to Guadalcanal; and by July, six AAF supply stations were in operation and furnishing local issue for the several island bases.74There were still shortages--many of them--and each new advance would raise fresh ones. One which had long disturbed the air commanders was the absence of the so-called dinghy radio sets; equipped with balloons and kites, these compact senders were designed for use in rubber rafts when aircraft were forced down at sea. They were badly needed. By November, when Harmon placed his request for 100, they could have been used in at least eight rescues since August 1942, yet nearly three months later only thirty-six sets had arrived. The critical value of these items was highlighted by the disappearance at sea of General Twining and his crew of fourteen on 27 January between Henderson Field and Espiritu. Although there was a happy ending six days later, the rescue of the entire crew was not the result of radio contact; Twining's rubber rafts carried no radios. After this event, action came rapidly and 100 sets moved out early in February.75 Such was the rough pattern of supply operations in the early days of the air campaign of the South Pacific. By the spring of 1943, Harmon and Twining could handle most of their repair needs locally and were able to leapfrog forward as new bases were acquired by Army and Marine troops.
Throughout the first four months of the Guadalcanal campaign it had been impossible to carry out anything like a sustained offensive against enemy positions in the central and northern Solomons. Not until late November was there any assurance that fuel and supplies could reach Henderson Field with regularity or that heavy bombers would not be destroyed on the ground during one of the regular nightly shellings. Then, with the defeat of the enemy in the series of naval, air, and ground actions in October and November, Japanese commanders lost their freedom of action in the lower Solomons. General Harmon now could concentrate upon increasing the intensity of long-range operations out of Guadalcanal.76Early in December, the island was reasonably secure. U.S. forces held a beachhead running some seventeen miles north and south, extending inland to a depth varying from three to four miles. Henderson
Field, now converted to a bomber strip, was in good condition, 6,000 feet in length, well protected by automatic weapons and supported by two fighter strips. One, lying just to the east, was a muddy affair in rainy weather--and there was much rain--but the new strip across the Lunga River to the west of Henderson was a great improvement. It was constructed of coral for the most part and it was nearly ready for operations.77 Despite these improvements air operations on Guadalcanal continued to labor under the handicap of constant observation by the Japanese, who were in a strong position around Mt. Austen, a series of hills dominating Henderson Field from the upper Matanikau River. From this vantage point the Japanese could report the movement of aircraft from all three airfields. Already in November, Harmon had foreseen the necessity of taking over the Mt. Austen area and had proposed it to General Vandegrift, but the Marine commander's responsibility came to an end on 9 December. On this day command of the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area passed to General Patch of the Americal Division, who henceforth would direct the offensive.78The work of the First Marine Division on Guadalcanal was over. As this worn division withdrew from the island during December, it left behind under Army control the 2d and 8th Marine Regiments, together with artillery battalions of the 10th and 11th Marines. But the bulk of the ground combat forces consisted of the Americal Division, whose 164th and 182d Regiments already had pushed along the coast until by 24 November they had reached a position immediately south of Point Cruz. Beyond this point they did not advance until a general offensive could be prepared, following the arrival of reinforcements.79 Throughout these preliminary operations the P-39's continually hammered at enemy ground positions and troops all along the coast, flying on some days as many as eleven missions.80
December was a month of preparation. From Hawaii came the fresh 25th Division and from New Zealand the 6th Marine Regiment, and by 4 January General Patch had three divisions. The two Army divisions were joined in the XIV Corps, to which the Second Marine Division was attached.81 Meanwhile, the Japanese worked the Tokyo Express overtime. After the disaster of mid-November, the enemy seemed to have consigned his forces in the lower Solomons to outright extinction, but on 24 November search pilots reported substantial numbers of destroyers and cargo vessels in the harbor at Buin, and subsequent sightings raised these figures.82 Obviously there was in the
offing another desperate attempt to push down the Slot and save Guadalcanal. The try came on the last day of the month, only to be beaten back by a U.S. Navy task force in the Battle of Tassafaronga. U.S. losses were severe, as were those of the enemy, but the Express continued to operate with considerable freedom of action, frequently slipping past the air screen to put troops ashore at Kokumbona, at Doma Cove, or in the vicinity of Cape Esperance.83Admiral Halsey was aware of the difficulties facing the forces on Guadalcanal, and in the latter part of December he directed Harmon to take necessary action for elimination of all Japanese forces from the island. Proceeding to Guadalcanal, Harmon approved of General Patch's plan to send his Americal Division, together with some units of the Second Marine Division, westward along the north coast of the island, while the 25th Division was to carry out an enveloping movement to the south and westward of the Japanese forces.84
All this was rather a large order, involving three steps. First was the reduction of Mt. Austen. Secondly, the enemy must be driven west of Kokumbona, thereby preventing him from using artillery against the airstrips. And finally, it would be necessary to block the trail that crossed the island from Kokumbona south to Beaufort Bay, thus preventing the escape of enemy troops trapped east of the Poha River.85
On 17 December the preliminaries to the final phase of the Guadalcanal campaign were opened by the 13 2d Infantry, which attacked the Mt. Austen positions. Shortly after the opening round, elements of the two Army divisions and of the Second Marine Division joined in the task of driving the Japanese off Mt. Austen. Much of the terrain was nearly impassable, and as often as possible the enemy had organized the ground in such a way that it was necessary to deliver the attacks upward, Resistance was bitter; often the strongpoints fell only after violent hand-to-hand combat.86
Throughout the early stages of the offensive the AAF participated directly in the battle. Now on the island were detachments from the 339th, 70th, 12th, and 68th Fighter Squadrons, all operating under the control of Brig. Gen. Francis P. Mulcahy, USMC, who had come up with the forward echelon of the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing on 26 December.87 The burden of much of this work fell upon the P-39's, which had proved themselves well in their close cooperation with the Marines and now were to carry on with the two Army divisions.88 During the preliminary stages of the offensive, P-39's and Marine
SBD's struck regularly at the enemy's bivouac areas and supply dumps around Kokumbona, causing Marine intelligence officers to log the work of the AAF planes as "P-39's harassed the enemy all day."89 But on D-day the P-39's did more. With each plane carrying one 500-pound bomb, they teamed with SBD's, each of which held three depth bombs, and thus equipped, they helped to prepare the way for the successful infantry attack upon the hills of Mt. Austen. In this difficult ground assault, the AAF fighters attempted to isolate the area by cutting off the Japanese from their coastal supply points, breaking up reinforcements moving through the jungle, and by destroying munition dumps. Down on the beach at Kokumbona two P-39's strafed troops early on 13 January, five more hit Visale later in the day, and as often as targets appeared the strafers were out to strike them down. On the 14th they flew all day long, this time carrying improvised gasoline bombs, and two days later the B-26's from Espiritu were called in to lend their weight against Tassafaronga?90One unforeseen problem arose in the attempt to supply the troops around Mt. Austen, particularly in the sector held by the 35th Infantry of the 25th Division. Both the 1st and 2d Battalions met powerful resistance, and their extended supply lines outran the capacity of some 300 native carriers. The temporary solution lay in calling upon the B-17's from Henderson Field for unorthodox assistance; for three days the burden of furnishing rations, water, and ammunition was thrown upon the bombers. Cargo parachutes were improvised to the extent of the local supply, but some drops were made simply by wrapping the items in canvas or burlap and heaving them out. The loss rate was excessively high.91
To be sure, the scale of these operations was exceedingly modest when measured by the standards of other theaters; here the total for a day's delivery did not exceed 8,000 pounds, but small and inefficient as they were, these efforts helped to keep alive a battalion of hard pressed troops until the ground supply lines could be reopened on 17 January.92 Under the blows of artillery, hand-to-hand combat, and depth bombs dropped by P-39's and SBD's, the pockets of enemy resistance slowly collapsed, so that by 23 January the 25th Division had driven up the coast to take Kokumbona and the Poha River valley as well. Thus the enemy had lost control of the nearest good landing beach west of the airstrips. With the beach went the artillery positions and the guns which were a constant menace to Henderson
Field and to the ground troops in the Mt. Austen area. Lost, too, were the enemy's supply routes to the south and east which led to the Matanikau, then on around to Henderson Field; gone were the main radio station, the principal ammunition dumps, and the painfully gathered stores of materiel.93The final phase of the offensive consisted of a pursuit of the enemy along the northwest coast of the island toward Cape Esperance, a procedure ordered by General Patch on 25 January and complicated-for the enemy-by the landing of a U.S. battalion at Verahui, about seven miles southwest of Cape Esperance. Now there could be no retreat. Both American forces made rapid progress, and by 8 February, General Harmon could submit to Washington the happy report that his opponents were on the run.94
So they were. The enemy was learning the full weight of the phrase "isolation of the battlefield," as he retreated up the coast past the skeletons of the vessels intended to bring in his reinforcements. To be sure, Halsey recognized that it had not been possible completely to seal off Guadalcanal from the enemy's supply depots extending up the Solomon chain. But the measure of achievement in this direction was in large part the product of the growing air strength upon the island. As soon as the supply lines into Guadalcanal had been secured in November, it became possible not only to defend the airfield more effectively but to mount an increasing number of B-17 strikes against enemy shipping points on Bougainville. No longer was long-range air activity limited to sporadic and weak raids; henceforth Japanese air bases and cargo carriers would feel the presence of heavy bombers, of B-26's, and of a growing number of SBD's and TBF's.
The enemy did not supinely accept all this without a countereffort. He too was racing to solidify his holdings throughout the Solomons, and he had selected New Georgia as a major block to Guadalcanal. By late November his supply ships were sighted off Munda, on the southwest point of New Georgia, and almost simultaneously he developed Rekata, on Santa Isabel Island, as an advanced reconnaissance base.95 Both points became frequent targets in December and January, but Munda offered the prime example of Japanese persistence in the face of almost daily bombing by all types of aircraft from Guadalcanal. Here the P-39 pilots, strafing from an altitude of fifty feet on 6 December, found trucks, steam rollers, carts, and ample evidence of two strips under construction, strips whose completion was made
almost impossible by the constant hammering from the air.96 In the month of December alone, B-17's of the 5th and 11th Groups, now operating under a joint headquarters, struck Munda twenty-one times, although they moved out against the Bougainville strips and harbors whenever the searchers' reports indicated profitable targets. And in retaliation for the incessant night work of "Washing Machine Charlie," the enemy's nightly disturber of th‘e peace on Guadalcanal, the B-17's began to operate over Kahili and Munda during the early morning hours in an attempt to harass Japanese flying personnel.97By the end of December the Japanese were strongly entrenched in the central Solomons. To the north Buka showed increased activity; in the Buin area of Bougainville the 2,200-foot strip on Ballale Island appeared to be surfaced, and at Kahili the airstrip was enlarged and strengthened, probably to accommodate two-engine bombers.98 But always it was Munda which caused the Guadalcanal air commanders their chief concern. The place was of great importance to the enemy. Its coral construction indicated rapid repair, and lying only 196 miles from Henderson, it was close to the extreme range of SBD's operating from Guadalcanal. If only it could be developed, Zero fighters could cover the movement of surface craft down to the lower Solomons and hold off the devastating air attacks upon the Tokyo Express.99 But Munda was never to fulfil its mission, despite all the heavy sacrifices. Any type of combat plane could hit it from the Lunga strips, and hit it they did, both by day and by night. B-17's and PBY's would hang over Munda for three or four hours on a night mission, dropping one or two 100-pound bombs every quarter-hour to harass the defenders, alternating with mortar shells and with beer bottles, which added their eerie wail as they fell. By day strafers would hit the field, but never so profitably as on the morning of 24 December, when P-39's, F4F's, and SBD's caught some two dozen Zeros attempting to take off. Total claims ran to twenty-four enemy fighters destroyed on the ground or in the air; whatever the actual score may have been, every attacker returned unhurt.100
The Japanese retaliated as best they could. Small patrols occasionally threatened to leak through the defense lines to destroy aircraft standing on Henderson and the fighter strips, but more serious by far was the constant annoyance of Washing Machine Charlie. For months, small raids by enemy planes at night had caused much annoyance to troops and air personnel on Guadalcanal. Pilots rapidly felt the
loss of sleep, and even though enemy bombing was never very accurate--and some of the missiles were bottles--nevertheless the mental hazard was constant. Furthermore, the increase in exposure to malaria during the dark hours in the foxholes offered a constant threat to the combat efficiency of all personnel.101 To check Charlie's depredations a request for a flight of night fighters went in to Washington, but these--Detachment B of the 6th Night Fighter Squadron-would not arrive from Hawaii until the last day of February, and even then the unit's P-70's proved no match for the enemy.102 Meanwhile night defense of Guadalcanal was provided by searchlights, antiaircraft, and fighter searchlight teams. Very rarely did the defending fighters have the success achieved by Capt. John W. Mitchell, whose P-38 sent an enemy bomber flaming into the sea before dawn on 29 January.103 The solution to the night fighter problem lay well in the future.When General Harmon went up to Guadalcanal at the end of December, he found conditions much improved, at least insofar as they concerned air activities. The fighter pilots impressed him, and the P-38's were giving excellent service with a minimum of maintenance difficulties; in fact, of all planes then operating, he singled out the P-38 for special praise. It provided cover for bombers, performed excellently as a reconnaissance plane, and Harmon admired its potentialities as a second bomber. Very soon he would have 41--he could easily use 100. He found the airstrips on Guadalcanal coming along at a good pace, and soon there would be a second bomber strip down at Koli Point.104 All this was most heartening, yet operations from Guadalcanal still fell far below ideal. Weather conditions were extremely severe, imposing a heavy strain upon all flying personnel. Strikes were executed under low ceilings with limited visibility and amid driving rain squalls; and pilots landed or took off during the hours of darkness whenever the need arose. Some fighter pilots on escort duty were averaging five or six hours' flight each day, and when Charlie prevented opportunity for sleep and rest each night, the rate of physical exhaustion was high.105 There were other obstacles to smooth operations, one of the most pressing being provision of adequate fighter escort for the bombers. This affected the operations of the B-26's, which came up to Guadalcanal with the 69th Bombardment Squadron (M) on the afternoon of 31 December. Only the P-38 could stay with the B-26 to the bomber's full range, yet this fighter operated at a most serious disadvantage when forced into combat at the B-26 altitude, or even lower. In strikes
against Kahili and the Buin area P-38's could furnish high cover to the target, while P-40's, held fifty miles short of Buin, could cover withdrawal of the bombers, but no fighter then available could escort B-17's to Rabaul. This development could occur only after seizure of more advanced bases.106Throughout the campaign Harmon had to watch his aircrews carry on without adequate replacements, and he made a special plea for some relief for his bomber crews. Observing the squadrons of the 11th and 5th Groups, he found them tired, almost too tired to carry on, and he could give them no reasonable assurance that there would be any relief. "To them there appears no end-just on and on till the Jap gets them."107 The best that he could do was to send the crews on an occasional rest trip to Auckland, but the lack of air transport did not permit even this on a regular basis.
Much had been asked of these pioneer aircrews and they had given much. Some of them back in September had flown as many as seventeen consecutive days on missions which averaged eleven to thirteen hours each, and many had gone to bed hungry after flying combat missions all day. Flight surgeons recognized their fatigue, but were forced to close their eyes to the physical condition of pilots and crewmen.108 Harmon did what he could to call for relief, and General Arnold initiated a modest replacement program, but by 8 January there remained in the 11th Group only nineteen of its original thirty-five crews, and Harmon doubted that the scheduled flow of eight new crews per month would save the group.109 By February, arrangements for relief had matured. The new 307th Bombardment Group (H) would move south from Oahu with its B-24's, the 5th Group would remain with Harmon, and the 11th would return to Hawaii for reconstitution as a B-24 group. All this was over the vigorous protest of General Emmons, who was reluctant to denude Hawaii of his remaining heavy bomber squadrons, but in view of the critical condition of the 11th Group, the risk to Hawaii was accepted. By 4 February Admiral Nimitz had ordered the first fifteen B-24's south.110 And so the 11th Group drew its South Pacific tour to a close. It carried on through February, then early in March its aircraft passed to the 5th Group. Finally, on 28 March, all remaining personnel embarked on the President Polk, reaching Oahu on 8 April after an absence of nine months, Henceforth its affairs were those of the Seventh Air Force and the Central Pacific.111
A happy solution to the problem of the exhausted 11th Group was not enough; General Harmon badly needed help in other directions as well. Not only were his planes and personnel carrying a heavy burden but the flow of aircraft to his theater had fallen well below the total allotted to the South Pacific by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.112 The agreement with the Navy had committed to the South Pacific a total of 72 heavy bombers, 57 mediums, and 150 fighters, all of which were to reach the theater by 1 January 1943. But by the end of 1942 actual replacements stood far behind this schedule in medium and heavy bombers, although shipment of fighter aircraft had more than met the minimum designated in the original agreement.113 This gap between plan and performance had its dangers. OPD called General Arnold's attention to the fact that it exposed the War Department to criticism by the Navy, and at the same time Harmon sent in his own plea for help, pointing out that as of 2 January he had in commission no more than twenty-five B-17's' of which twelve had been sent off to Port Moresby for operations against Rabaul under General Kenney. Moreover, many of his heavy bombers were too old and war-worn to carry on much longer.114 Halsey, too, joined in the struggle for more planes, hoping to put them on the expanded Guadalcanal fields, but Arnold doubted the need. Acting upon his suggestion, AAF Headquarters surveyed the order of battle in the South and Southwest Pacific and came up with a total of 405 Japanese aircraft opposing 959 Allied planes, a number which seemed to provide a substantial margin of preponderance.*115Statistical proof of Allied superiority did little to relieve the strain upon General Harmon's men and equipment. He needed planes. He soon had them. Arnold agreed to bolster the medium bomber situation, and in response to his orders the 390th and 75th Bombardment Squadrons (M), together with the 42d Bombardment Group (M), were withdrawn from the Western Defense Command. These units were on their way south by March, bringing with them new B-25's
*With reference to these figures on the order of battle, General Kenney has commented that the figures used for Japanese strength were restricted to combat types depending upon an LOC which permitted their replacement and reinforcement within from twenty-four to forty-eight hours. On the other hand, figures for Allied strength included transports and other noncombat types in forward areas, planes committed to such tasks as antisubmarine patrol in rear areas, and aircraft undergoing overhaul or modification in depots. Hence, he has estimated that the actual number available in forward airdromes was seldom over one-third the strength advertised by Washington, while losses had to be replaced by planes sent out from the United States.
now destined to replace all B-26's in the Pacific. They would join the veteran 69th and 70th Squadrons, permitting Twining to operate a full medium group.116All along the line there was general improvement, even though Harmon still regarded the flow of replacements as meeting only the barest minimum needs. And in the case of one plane, the P-38, he simply could not get enough of them.117 But both Twining and Harmon now could see light ahead, and they knew that AAF Headquarters was aware of their difficulties and deficiencies.118
On the afternoon of 9 February organized enemy resistance came to an end on Guadalcanal; except for cleaning up isolated bands of Japanese, division commanders now could rest their men.119 A fresh division, the 43d, took over the burden of advance up the Solomons, landing without opposition on Banika Island in the Russells on 21 February. Construction of a fighter strip followed immediately and by 15 April this new strip, only sixty-five miles north of Henderson Field, was ready for operation in the defense of Guadalcanal and the assault upon Munda.120 Although the ground forces could relax temporarily, the air forces could not. Their campaign continued to gather momentum as the search planes revealed feverish enemy activity in the northern Solomons. Everywhere there were more antiaircraft installations, searchlights, and most dangerous of all, many more fighters.121 Throughout February every type of combat plane on Guadalcanal continued to hammer at Munda, where enemy capacity for punishment seemed phenomenal. But over all these operations the AAF exercised only limited control, despite activation of the Thirteenth Air Force.
Instead, there was developing on Guadalcanal a peculiar hybrid control organization stemming from the "Senior Naval Aviator" on the island. On 26 December 1942, General Mulcahy, of the Marines, had assumed this rank, exercising direct operational control not only over the Second Marine Aircraft Wing but also over all other aircraft on Guadalcanal regardless of service.122 Apparently this initial arrangement proved unsatisfactory; on 1 February, General Mulcahy assigned to the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 12 the additional duty of fighter commander, a position held by the latter till 25 July. The fighter commander was charged with operational control of all Army, Navy, Marine, and New Zealand fighter squadrons based on Guadalcanal and later on the Russells.123 A further step in the
growth of the unique air organization occurred on 16 February when Rear Adm. Charles P. Mason assumed command of all aircraft on the island. Known as Air Command, Solomons, the unit soon acquired the abbreviated title of COMAIRSOLS. It rested initially upon the old 2d Marine Aircraft Wing but later it developed a more independent structure, including on its staff representatives of all three services.124 This was the command unit which now sent heavy bombers up to Bougainville and the astonishing mixture of planes against Munda. With increasing frequency the services were pooled so that AAF fighters flew alongside TBF's, SBD's, the New Zealand P-40's, and the Marines' Wildcats and Corsairs. The task of welding this conglomerate air force into a smoothly functioning organization was not an easy one nor was it achieved at once, but no problem proved insoluble and COMAIRSOLS represents a notable achievement in interservice cooperation.By the end of February, AAF units had been engaged in the Solomons for slightly more than seven months. The pioneer period was drawing to an end-what were its lessons? Whatever was accomplished must be judged in the light of two major factors: at no time did the AAF exercise operational control over its own aircraft, and at no time were the air and ground personnel able to escape the damaging effects of combat amid primitive conditions.
For the first factor there is a ready explanation. The South Pacific was a Navy theater; admirals commanded both its air and surface forces, regardless of parent service of the units involved. As often as necessary General Harmon attempted to advise and guide the naval commanders with respect to the proper operation of AAF aircraft, and from Admiral Halsey he secured excellent cooperation.125 There were AAF representatives on Halsey's staff, while others were affiliated with the nascent organization of COMAIRSOLS, but never was there operational autonomy for the AAF units and never did they possess any control over the supply lines which kept them alive.
In the second case, there arose the simple problem of keeping physically fit amid the primitive conditions of the forward areas. Malaria was the primary scourge, but much more than malaria lowered the efficiency of fighter pilots and ground crews on Guadalcanal during the early months of the campaign. On Henderson there were the shellings, the nightly bombings by Charlie, and the limited food supply. With little rest at night--or none at all--and with physical comforts
nonexistent, pilot fatigue was all out of proportion; here men flew in combat who under normal conditions would have been grounded.lZG The Navy pilots who had been sent ashore on Guadalcanal from their carriers understood better, perhaps, than anyone else, the full effect of the hardships upon combat efficiency; the carriers afforded them ample rest, but Guadalcanal did not. They estimated a maximum tour of three weeks on the island, but the early tours ran to six or more weeks, with damaging effects upon flight personnel.127A large portion of the AAF's record in the early campaign for the Solomons is a series of pleas for reinforcements, all of them urgent and some of them mingled with a note of desperation. There was nothing unique in this. Commanders in every theater clamored for more men and materiel, as they had in earlier wars. But in the South Pacific the margin was painfully slim. Air commanders in the field faced the enemy and thought in terms of their immediate problem. Their counterparts in Washington were interested no less in the theater, yet they could not forget that the South Pacific was but one of many theaters, each with its role to fill in the global strategy, and all pleading for planes and aircrews. There were not enough of either to go around.
Within the framework of the above limiting factors, it is possible to conclude that the heavy bombers could not halt the Japanese advance in the South Pacific. Here were no strategic targets in the European sense; the enemy's centers of production lay far beyond reach of any bomber based upon Guadalcanal. Here nearly all targets were tactical. And furthermore, those possessing the highest tactical priority--surface craft--were precisely the ones which the heavies proved unable to hit with any reasonable degree of consistency, as Colonel Saunders had quickly discovered. This should not imply that the B-17,s failed to hit ships from moderately high altitudes. They did hit them, but at such an expenditure of effort and with such a large percentage of error that the enemy could afford to absorb all such losses and continue his advance.
The reasons for this already have been stated in part. Had the B-17's operated from reasonably permanent bases well supplied with materiel and training facilities, it is highly probable that they would have emerged with more impressive scores; yet no weapon can be assessed accurately by its performance under parade-ground conditions. Island warfare in the early South Pacific campaign permitted the realization of none of these ideal conditions. Island bases were not ready in time
to permit mass attack, even had the aircraft been available; that is to say, the theater itself could not physically support the number of planes necessary to assure fatal hits on enemy convoys.What did halt the Japanese in the crisis? The answer lies in the record of all the services. General Kenney's bombers hindered them at the focal point of Rabaul and occasionally at Buin. The Navy's cruisers and battleships shattered their heavy escorts and drove them away from "Sleepless Lagoon" at night. The epic defense and subsequent offensive operations of the Marines and Army ground forces broke the assaults of those enemy units which reached Guadalcanal. Fighters of all services joined to inflict crushing losses upon Japanese fighters and bombers assaulting Guadalcanal, and as often as fuel supplies permitted, the 11th and 5th Groups struck at the surface craft anchored in the Bougainville harbors. But once the cargo ships and transports began to move down the Slot toward Guadalcanal, the burden of air defense was thrown upon the short-range TBD's and SBD's of the Navy and Marines. Local AAF commanders then stood In the awkward position of having to provide fighter cover with their P-39's for the dive bomber which, as the A-24, AAF Headquarters had judged unsuitable for the South Pacific. Yet the dive bomber, despite its vulnerability, proved to be a deadly weapon against all types of ships within zoo miles of Henderson, and it is reasonable to assume that the AAF crews could have made an equally brilliant contribution to the defense of Guadalcanal had they flown their own A-24 dive bombers.
By February, Guadalcanal was safe. Men and machines of all services had been strained to the breaking point to make it so, succeeding only by the narrowest of margins. In all the months of the campaign the AAF had been forced to play a secondary role; the requirements of global war had designated this as a minor theater, while under local command structure the AAF was a minor service. With fresh forces on the way and with increased facilities on Guadalcanal, there was hope that Army air would fill a more vital role.128
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)
Notes to Chapter 3:
1. Hq. 11th Bomb. Gp., Information on Operations in the Solomon Islands from 31 July to 30 November 1942, 3 Dec. 1942 (hereinafter cited as 11th Gp. Opns., July-Nov. 1942). These figures from the group's report are somewhat at variance with those given by General Saunders in his interviews.2. Actually, the new pilots coming in were army pilots whose experience level was regarded by the Rabaul navy men as low. (USSBS Intr. 495, Capt. T. Ohmae, 6 Dec. 1945, p. 4.)
3. CM-IN-12005 (8-31-42), Harmon to Arnold, 170, 31 Aug. 1942; CM-OUT-2626 (9-8-42), AFASC to Harmon, 1280, 7 Sept. 1942; CM-OUT-3287 (9-10-42), AFASC to Necal, 1294, 9 Sept. 1942.
4. Incl. 1 (memo for CG's of all Air Forces from AFIBI, 21 Nov. 1942). extract from ltr. of 11th Bomb. Gp. comdr. to AAFHQ, n.d. This letter was written after the mission of 16 November. Saunders believed installation of the Bendix chin turret would prove effective against frontal attack; the turret permitted fire over 160° azimuth, 50° depress, and 30° elevation. (R&R, Arnold to Echols, Operations of the 11th Bomb. Gp., 17 Dec. 1942.) On 27 January, General Stratemeyer explained to Saunders, then home in Aberdeen, South Dakota, that improvements were being made, but "We are always building tomorrow's planes today--today's planes yesterday." (Incl. [R&R, Arnold to Stratemeyer, 17 Dec. 19421, ltr., Stratemeyer to Saunders, 27 Jan. 1943.)
5. 11th Gp. Opns., July-Nov. 1942.
6. Incl. (R&R, Arnold to Eubank, 18 Nov. 1942), ltr., Harmon to COMSOPAC, 22 Oct. 1942.
7. Ltr., Harmon to Halsey, 20 Nov. 1942.
8. Ltr., Harmon to Saunders, 6 Nov. 1942.
11. CM-OUT-5079 (11-16-42), Arnold to Harmon, Rane 2063. 16 Nov. 1942; ltr. Stratemeyer to Harmon, 4 Dec. 1942; CM-OUT-6456 (11-20-42), Arnold to Harmon, Rane 2107, 20 Nov. 1942.
12. Ltr., Harmon to Halsey, 20 Nov. 1942.
13. Interview with Brig. Gen. L. G. Saunders, 14 Apr. 1943. The only targets for which the planes were specifically loaded were the ships in the Buin-Tonolei area.
14. Ibid. The normal loading was a 500-pound bomb with instantaneous fuze. There was a need for time fuzes with varied delay--5 minutes up to 72 hours--for employment against enemy landing strips. The Marines at Guadalcanal found that their SBD's, carrying a 1,000-pound bomb fitted with a 1-second delay fuze, sent these bombs completely through transports.
16. Ltr., Harmon to Halsey, 20 Nov. 1942. Completion of Bomber Strip No. 2 on Espiritu, anticipated in about ten days, obviously would relieve this congestion.
17. Report No. 2, Hawaii, by Maj. Gen. Robert C. Richardson to WDCSA, 1 June 1942.
18. Saunders interview; CM-IN-9647 (11-22-42). Harmon to Arnold, n.n., 22 Nov. 1942. Actually, through 18 November there were only five missions in which nine or more bombers were dispatched against moving targets. (Ltr., Harmon to Halsey, 20 Nov. 1942.)
19. 19. Ltr., Harmon to Halsey, 20 Nov. 1942.
20. 20. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 25 Nov. 1942.
21. Saunders interview.
22. Ltr., Lt. Corcoran Thom to Maj. Frank O. Brown, 7 Dec. 1942.
23. Ltr., Harmon to COMSOPAC, 22 Oct. 1942. The first squadron of New Zealand Hudsons arrived at Guadalcanal on 26 November 1942, thereby relieving the Marines' SBD's from much of their search responsibility. (MAG-14 War Diary, 16 Oct.-16 Dec. 1942.)
24. Interview with Capt. M.B. Gardner, USN, 13 Jan. 1943.
25. Extract from ltr., Saunders to AAFHQ, n.d. Apparently this letter was written shortly after 15 November.
26. Memo for King from Arnold, 2 Dec. 1942.
29. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 16 Dec. 1942.
30. Comment by Operational Plans, 30 Jan. 1943 (R&R, AC/AS A-3 to AC/AS A-2, 19 Jan. 1943). This is a draft of the reply to Harmon's letter of 31 December 1942.
31. On 14 November, Capt. James E. Joham sighted two large enemy task forces, and in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire and fighter opposition, he identified all surface vessels composing the forces. This B-17 destroyed three enemy fighters, possibly two more, and reached its base with its tail surfaces all shot away. Two days earlier Lt. Mario Sesso had made a carrier contact 350 miles north of Guadalcanal and maintained it for two hours, shooting down six zeros in the action before returning safely. (History, 98th Bomb. Sq.; Foster B. Hailey, Pacific Battle Line [New York, 19441, p. 277; Lt. S.S. Savage, USNR, B-17 Performance, 19 Nov. 1942.)
32. Interview with Gen. Harmon and Gen. Twining, 31 Mar. 1943.
33. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 25 Nov. 1942.
34. Ibid.; ltr., Harmon to C/S Air Forces SOPAC, 29 Nov. 1942.
35. CM-IN-12983 (11-30-42), Harmon to Arnold, 1544, 30 Nov. 1942; ltr., Harmon to C/S, 29 Nov. 1942.
36. Interview with Brig. Gen. G.C. Jamison and Col. Brooke Allen, 13 Sept. 1943. General Jamison was a member of the USAFISPA staff; Colonel Allen commanded the 5th Bombardment Group (H).
37. Ltr., Harmon to Stratemeyer, 6 Dec. 1942.
38. CM-OUT-2160 (12-7-42), Marshall to Harmon, Rane 2292, 5 Dec. 1942.
39. R&R, AFROM to AFTSI thru AFMSC, 9 June 1942.
40. CM-IN-6223 (12-15-42), Harmon to Arnold, nn., 14 Dec. 1942.
41. CM-OUT-5243 (12-15-42), Arnold to CGSPA, 2397, 15 Dec. 1942. This was authorized by AG 320.2 (12-11-42) OB-I-AF-M. IA Dec. 1942. (Ltr., TAG to CGSPA; 4 Jan. 1943, AG 320.2 [12-31-42] OB-I-E.)
42. Ltr., TAG to CGSPA, 4 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-10498 (12-24-42), Harmon to Arnold, 252, 23 Dec. 1942.
43. CM-OUT-7940 (12-23-42), Arnold (AFDPU) to CGSPA, Rane 2511, 23 Dec. 1942.
44. CM-OUT-1661 (1-5-43), Marshall to Harmon, Rane 2679, 5 Jan. 1943; CM-OUT-2445 (1-7-43), Marshall to Harmon, Rane 2719, 7 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-2657 (1-6- 43), Harmon to Arnold, 1003, 4 Jan. 1943; ltr., TAG to CGSPA, 4 Jan. 1943, AG 320.2 (12-31-42) OB-I-H. The orders left Washington on 5 January 1943.
45. Ltr., TAG to CGSPA, 4 Jan. 1943; memo for TAG, CGAAF, CGSOS from Gen. Handy, AC/S, 31 Dec. 1942.
46. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 31 Dec. 1942.
47. CM-IN-3371 (1-8-43), Harmon to Handy, 131, 7 Jan. 1943; CM-OUT-3187 (1-9-43), Marshall to Harmon, Rane 2753, 9 Jan. 1943; memo for TAG from Brig. Gcn. J. E. Null, Actg. AC/S, 13 May 1943; msg., TAG to CGSPA, 19 May 1943.
48. CM-IN-7560 (1-17-431, COMGENSOPAC to AGWAR, 1864, 15 Jan. 1943; Lt. Gen. M. F. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific, p. 15.
49. Jamison and Allen interview.
50. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific, p. 16.
51. Ltr., Marshall to Harmon, 7 July 1942.
52. CM-OUT-5607 (12-16-42), AFADS to CGHD, 1892, 16 Dec. 1942; CM-OUT-1808 (2-6-43), Transportation Corps (Somervell) to CGHD, 2681, 5 Feb. 1943.
53. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific.
54. Ltr., Maj. C.E. Brooks and Francis E. Kraft to CGASC, 13 Feb. 1943. These two men were sent out from the AAF Air Service Command and reported at Tontouta on 3 February 1943. Their report, cited as Brooks and Kraft Report, is a detailed and valuable survey of supply problems in the South Pacific. (R&R, AC/AS A-4 to AFRBS, Transportation Div., 6 Jan. 1943; interview with Lt. Jonathan Poriss, 13 June 1943.) Lt. Poriss reached Efate on 2 August 1942 with the 482d Ordnance Company and subsequently was assigned to the 42d Bombardment Squadron (H) as ordnance officer.
55. R&R, AC/AS A-4 to AFRBS, Transportation Div., 6 Jan. 1941, and comment 2 by Transportation Div., 13 Jan. 1943.
57. Interview with Col. Rodieck, 14 Dec. 1942. It was later reported that at one time seventy-five engines were on a ship which was at Noumea waiting to unload a part of her cargo at that point. After three weeks' delay in unloading, it still was impossible either to unload at Noumea or to move the vessel up to Espiritu for delivery oft he engines. (Interview with Maj. De Forest Van Slyck, 20 Mar. 1943.)
58. History, 67th Fighter Sq.; Brooks and Kraft Rpt. 5; CM-IN-3532 (11-8-42), Harmon to Arnold, 1151, 8 Nov. 1942. The original P-400 planes of the 67th Fighter Squadron were carried by truck from Noumea over the hills to Tontouta.
59. CM-IN-3532 (11-8-42), Harmon to Arnold, 1151, 8 Nov. 1942.
60. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 25 Nov. 1942.
61. Memo for C/S from Actg. ACIAS A-4, 11 July 1942; ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 21 July 1942.
62. R&R, AFDAS to AFADS, 17 July 1942; R&R, AFDPU to AFAEP, AFACT, to AFADS, 25 Aug. 1942; R&R, AFASC-O to AFADS, 25 Aug. 1942; 1st ind. (basic unknown), Hq. ASC to CGAAF, 13 Oct. 1943; CM-OUT-664 (11-3-42), AFASC to Breene, 16, 2 Nov. 1942.
63. Ltr., Emmons to Marshall, 17 Sept. 1942; R&R, Arnold to Stratemeyer, 6 Oct. 1942.
64. CM-OUT-02691 (10-9-42), AFADS to CG Necal, 1639, 8 Oct. 1942; CM-OUT-08391 (10-24-42), OPD to Harmon, 1814, 24 Oct. 1942.
65. CM-IN-11059 (10-26-42), Harmon to Arnold, 806, 26 Oct. 1942; CM-OUT-08993 (10-27-42), OPD to COMGENSOPAC, 1844, 26 Oct. 1942; CM-OUT-04579 (10-14-42), OPD to CGHD, 691, 14 Oct. 1942; CM-OUT-1114 (11-4-42), AFADS to Harmon, 1928, 4 Nov. 1942; ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 25 Nov. 1942. The units did not disembark until two to four days later.
66. CM-OUT-08747 (10-26-42), AFRBS to Harmon, 1827, 26 Oct. 1942; CM-IN-10011 (11-23-42), Harmon to Arnold, 1442, 23 Nov. 1942.
67. CM-OUT-3158 (1-9-43), Marshall to Harmon, Rane 2750, 9 Jan. 1943.
68. Brooks and Kraft Rpt. 5.
69. Incl. 12 (History, 13th Air Depot Gp.), Information Concerning Depot Supply, 13th Air Depot, AAF, 7 July 1943; History, 13th Depot Supply Sq.; Brooks and Kraft Rpt. 5.
70. Incl. 13 (History, 13th Air Depot Gp.), Information Concerning Thirteenth Depot Engineering Department, 2 July 1943.
71. Brooks and Kraft Rpt. 5.
73. Poriss interview.
74. Incls. 12 and 13, as cited above, n. 69 and 70; History, Hq. 38th Service Sq.
75. CM-IN-8010 (11-19-42), Harmon to AFTSC, 137, 18 Nov. 1942; CM-OUT-6395 (11-20-42), AFTSC to Harmon, 2105, 19 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-555 (2-2-43), Burnett to Marshall, 3019, 1 Feb. 1941; CM-IN-3139 (1-6-43), Harmon to AFTSC, 3643, 6 Feb. 1943; CM-OUT-2958 (2-9-43). AFTSC to CGSPA, Rane 3183, 9 Feb. 1943.
76. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 25 Nov. 1942.
77. The strip under construction at Aola Bay had been abandoned because of the presence of swamp land. (Capt. Charles W. Hedges, Special A-2 Rpt. to CG VII Fighter Comd., 2 Dec. 1942.)
78. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific; Hq. Americal Div. GO 2F, 9 Dec. 1943; CM-IN-4198 (12-10-42), Harmon to Marshall, 1759, 10 Dec. 1942.
80. COMAIRSOPAC Intel. Bull. 20-2 1 Nov., 1-2 Dec. 1942; CM-IN-10693 (11-25-42), Harmon to Marshall, 1493, 24 Nov. 1942.
82. ONI, Battle of Tassafaronga, 30 Nov. 1942, pp. 1-2. The report for 23 November indicated only two cargo vessels in the Buin area, whereas the following day's report mounted to at least nine DD's and seven cargo vessels. (CM-IN-10395 [11-24-42], Harmon to Marshall, 1478, 24 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-10693 [II-25-42], Harmon to Marshall, 1493, 24 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-I 1432 [11-27-42], Harmon to Marshall, 1515, 26 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-12527 [11-29-42], Harmon to Marshall, 1569, 29 Nov. 1942.)
83. Battle of Tassafaronga, pp. 20-21; Detailed Account of Tokyo Express, 18 Nov. 1942-9 Feb. 1943, n.d.; Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific.
84. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific.
85. Narrative of Opns., Americal Div. at Guadalcanal.
87. 2d Marine Aircraft Wing War Diary, 26 Dec. 1942, in USMC Hist. Div. (hereinafter cited as MAW-2 War Diary).
88. All pilots of the 67th Fighter Squadron had been sent back to New Caledonia by 22 December. They did not reenter combat on Guadalcanal until 29 January. (History, 67th Fighter Sq.) The first complete AAF squadron to base on Guadalcanal was the 68th, whose final detachments came in on 8 December. (History, 68th Fighter Sq.)
89. MAW-2 War Diary, 29 Dec. 1942, 3-4 Jan. 1943.
90. Maj. Frank O. Brown, Report on Activities in South Pacific Area; CM-IN-5408 (1-12-43), Harmon to Marshall, 1531, 11 Jan. 1943; MAW-2 War Diary, 10 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-5489 (1-12-43), Harmon to Marshall, 1653, 13 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-6410 (1-14-43), Harmon to Marshall, 1799, 14 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-7439 (1-16-43). Harmon to Marshall, 1953, 16 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-8117 (I-18-43), Harmon to Marshall, 2029, 17 Jan. 1943.
91. Opns. of the 25th Inf. Div. on Guadalcanal; Brown, Report on Activities in SPA; CM-IN-6410 (1-14-43), Harmon to Marshall, 1799, 14 Jan. 1943; History, 42d Bomb. Sq.
92. History, 42d Bomb Sq.; CM-IN-6410 (1-14-43), Harmon to Marshall, 1799, 14 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-7439 (I-16-43), Harmon to Marshall, 1953, 16 Jan. 1943; Brown, Report on Activities in SPA; MAW-2 War Diary, 17 Jan. 1943.
93. Opns. of the 25th Inf. Div. on Guadalcanal; Miller, Guadalcanal, pp. 327-32. General Harmon reported capture of Kokumbona as of 24 January. (CM-IN-11714 [1-25-43], Harmon to Marshall, 2643, 25 Jan. 1943.)
94. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific; Narrative of Opns., Americal Div. at Guadalcanal; CM-IN-4845 (2-10-43), Harmon to Marshall, 3881, 9 Feb. 1943.
95. COMAIRSOPAC Intel. Bull., 23 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-12527 (11-29-42), Harmon to Marshall, 1569, 29 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-9736 (2-19-43), COMGENSOPAC to Strong, 4370, 16 Feb. 1943.
96. Joint Hq. 5th and 11th Bomb. Gps. Periodic Intel. Rpt., 1-31 Dec. 1942; Hq. 1st Marine Div. Daily Intel. Sums., 7 Nov.-7 Dec. 1942; CM-IN-4038 (12-10-42), Harmon to Marshall, 1770, 8 Dec. 1942.
97. History, 11th Bomb. Gp.; Joint Hq. 5th and 11th Bomb. Gps., Periodic Intel. Rpt., 1-31 Dec. 1942; CM-IN-5462 (1213-42), Harmon to Marshall, 1829, 11 Dec. 1942; History, 98th Bomb. Sq.
98. Joint Hq. 5th and 11th Bomb. Gps. Periodic Intel. Rpt., 1-31 Dec. 1942.
100. Americal Div. G-3 Journal file, 17 Dec. 1942-6 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-11057 (1226-42), Harmon to Marshall, 477, 25 Dec. 1942.
101. History, 339th Ftr. Sq.; interview with Lt. J.A. Lynch, 12 Feb. 1943. Lieutenant Lynch was on Guadalcanal from 1 December 1942 to 28January 1943 as a member of the 68th Fighter Squadron. (Americal Div. G-3 Journal file, 17-24 Dec. 1942; Capt. Charles W. Hedges, Special A-2 Rpt. to CG VII Ftr. Comd., 26 Jan. 1943.)
102. Americal Div. G-3 Journal file, 17-24 Dec. 1942; ltr., Col. Wentworth Goss, DC/S 7th AF to Arnold, 10 Jan. 1943; memo for Stratemeyer from Saville, Dir. of Air Defense, 5 Feb. 1943; History, Det. B, 6th Night Ftr. Sq.
103. History, 339th Ftr. Sq.; Hq. USAFISPA G-2 Periodic Rpt. 2, 24-31 Jan. 1943.
104. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 31 Dec. 1942 (P.S. dtd. 2 Jan. 1943).
105. Hedges Special A-2 Rpt., 26 Jan. 1943.
106. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 16 Dec. 1942; History, 69th Bomb. Sq.; naval communication in Americal Div. G-3 Journal file, 30 Dec. 1942-6 Jan. 1943.
107. Memo for Hanley from Harmon, 8 Dec. 1942; Lt. Col. Frederick J. Freese, Jr., MC, Status Report on Medical Department Officers in Thirteenth Air Force and in Other AAF Units in SPA, as of 9 April 1943 (hereinafter cited as Freese Rpt.). Colonel Freese was assistant air surgeon at USAFISPA before he became air surgeon at the Thirteenth Air Force.
108. The air surgeon of the Thirteenth Air Force estimated that of the entire 11th Group less than ten flying officers could pass the standard AAF "64" physical examination. (Capt. E. T. Keller, MC, Report on Solomon Island Tour of Duty, 28 May, 1943; Freese Rpt.)
109. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 31 Dec. 1942; memo for Stratemeyer from Arnold, 31 Dec. 1942; CM-OUT-7252 (12-21-42), AFRDB to Harmon, 2482, 20 Dec. 1942; CM-IN-2970 (1-7-43), Harmon to Arnold, 1217, 7 Jan. 1943. The flight surgeon stated that anything short of immediate relief for the 11th Group would leave over half the flying officers of the group unfit for further useful service. (Freese Rpt.)
110. Ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 17 Dec. 1942; CM-OUT-7252 (12-21-42), AFRDB to Harmon, 2482, 20 Dec. 1942; Growth of Heavy and Medium Bombardment Units in the Seventh Air Force, 7 Dec. 1941-31 AUg. 1944.
111. History, 11th Bomb. Gp. In recognition of its work in the South Pacific, the group was awarded a Presidential Citation on 23 January 1943. (Incl. 8 [History, 98th Bomb. Sq.], WDGO 4, 23 Jan. 1943.)
112. Memo for CGAAF from Handy, AC/S OPD, 31 Dec. 1942. The basic agreement had been reached on 22 October 1942.
113. Ltr., Arnold to Harmon, 7 Dec. 1942. Total unit strength was to remain the same by 1 April 1943 except that the number of fighters would rise to 200. The lag in shipment is shown by this table:
30 Dec. 1942
HB 70 47 MB 52 26 Fighters 150 158
114. Ibid.; ltr., Harmon to Arnold, 31 Dec. 1942.
115. R&R, Arnold to Anderson, 7 Dec. 1942, with incl., msg., COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 046459 NCR 4115, 6 Dec. 1942, and comment 2, Anderson to Arnold, 9 Jan. 1943.
116. Memo for C/AS from Col. Robert W. Harper, 14 Jan. 1943; History, 69th Bomb. Sq.; CM-OUT-7752 (2-21-43), Marshall to Harmon, Rane 3393, 20 Feb. 1943; comment 2 (R&R, AAG to AC/AS A-3, 20 Feb. 1943), AC/AS A-3 to AAG, 22 Feb. 1943; ltr., TAG to CGSWPA and SOPAC, 26 Feb. 1943, AG 320.2 (2-2443) OB-I-AFDPU-M. The 105 officers and 568 enlisted men of the new units debarked from the Maui at Noumea on 16 April 1943. (History, 42d Bomb. Gp.; History, 390th Bomb. Sq.)
117. CM-IN-7637 (2-15-43), Harmon to Stratemeyer, 4423, 15 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-7645 (2-15-43), Harmon to Arnold, 4422, 15 Feb. 1942.
118. Ltr., Stratemeyer to Harmon, 6 Feb. 1943.
119. CM-IN-4918 (2-10-43), Harmon to Marshall, 3922, 10 Feb. 1943; Americal Div. G-3 Journal, 6-14 Feb. 1943; Narrative of Opns., Americal Div. at Guadalcanal, 28 May 1943; Opns. of the 25th Inf. Div. on Guadalcanal, 17 Dec. 1942-5 Feb. 1943.
120. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific; Maj. Gen. John H. Hester, Report of Occupation of the Russell Islands, 8 June 1943. The Russell strip was built by the 3id Seabee Battalion, aided by personnel of the 116th Engineer Battalion.
121. Hq. USAFISPA G-2 Periodic Rpt. 5, 13-20 Feb. 1943; Development of Jap Fields in the Solomons Area, 15 Dec. 1942-15 Feb. 1943, cited in U.S. Pacific Fleet, SOPACFOR Air Combat Intel., 21-27 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-12514 (2-25-43), Harmon to Marshall, 4998, 24 Feb. 1943.
122. MAW-2 War Diary, 26 Dec. 1942. General Mulcahey replaced Brig. Gen. L. E. Woods, USMC.
123. Incl. (MAG-12 War Diary), Record of Events, Fighter Command, Guadalcanal, 1 Feb.-25 July 1943.
124. MAW-2 War Diary, 16 Feb. 1943. At the time of activation of COMAIRSOLS, composition of the air command was as follows: AAF--69th Bomb. Sq.; dets. of 12th, 44th, 67th, 68th, 70th, and 339th Ftr. Sqs., 5th, 1Ith, and 307th Bomb. Gps. (H), and 17th Photo Recon. Sq.; US. Navy--Forward Echelon (Hq.); 2d Marine Aircraft Wing; Hq. Sq.-14; Service Sq.-14; VMSB-131, 144, and 234, VMF-123, VS 4D-14, VCS Recon. 3 (RNZAF); VF-72, Patron 12 and 51, VTB-11, 12, and 16. (MAW-2 War Diary, 17 Feb. 1943.)
125. Harmon, The Army in the South Pacific.
126. Keller, Report on Solomon Island Tour of Duty; Freese Rpt.
127. Gardner interview; interview with Lt. Comdr. Leroy C. Simpler, USN, 26 Feb. 1943. Commander Simpler was on Guadalcanal from 13 September to 17 November 1942. When evacuated, all surviving pilots of Marine Aircraft Group 23 were incapable of rehabilitation in the South Pacific and were returned to the United States. (Ltr., Brig. Gen. Roy S. Geiger, CG MAW-1 to COMSOPAC, 15 Jan. 1943.)
128. Vice Adm. Shigeru Fukudome paid high tribute to the effectiveness of B-17 search operations, stating under interrogation by a U.S. naval officer that the heavy bombers disrupted Japanese communications in the Solomons even more than did Allied submarines. (USSBS Intr. 503, Pt. 3, Vice Adm. S. Fukudome, 9 Jan. 1945, p. 44.)
Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation