I have always viewed my father as my hero for many reasons. I respect his devotion to his loved ones, his professional career in education, as my own personal role model and for his combat record during World War II. I have never met another man with more integrity with his spoken word. During my youth he instilled a sense of duty and patriotism in his seven children. His three sons have served in active duty units in the army, two are retired United States Air Force, I myself served in Naval Aviation.
Whenever someone would ask my father what he did during the war, he would tell them. But he never seemed to dwell on it. What he did was an important part of his life, but it was only 1 portion. I did not start to appreciate his battle record until I arrived in the Philippine Islands in 1978 onboard the Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. During one port visit, I managed to visit my brother who was stationed at Clark Air Force Base that was a very short drive from my port of call, Subic Bay.
My brother and I spoke about what it must have been like for our Dad during the war. I didn’t know it at the time, but he flew from an air field near Subic Bay. He also completed his combat tour by flying 48 combat missions. He flew combat missions as a B-25 radio / gunner against Japanese targets in the Philippines, Formosa and also French Indochina.
Up to now, I’ve only been able to find two books that correctly describe in sharp detail what the 345th Bomb Group did in the South Pacific. 1 book was written by one of the combat pilots, Peppy Blount. My wife managed to discover this book on eBay and it was my favorite Christmas gift. I tried to locate the publication,”We Band of Brothers”, but without success, but she managed to find it and I have since loaned it to my Dad. Another book was written by Lawrence J Hickey,”Warpath across the Pacific”. Mr. Hickey spent many years of detailed research and the book is truly outstanding.
I met one of my Dad’s combat friends who served with him. The thing that stunned me is how small my Dad was on what he experienced. Their B-25 bombers flew low level strafing and skip bombing runs with the B-25 twin engine medium bomber. The aircraft had their bombardier compartment removed in the nose and it was replaced by fixed .50 caliber machine guns. All of their missions were flown at extreme low elevation. My Dad’s job was delegated as a B-25 radio operator / gunner. The bombs had delayed fuses in order to reduce damage to their aircraft. Some aircraft would return with dents from bombs which bounced back hitting the underbody of the airplane. Additionally, they could carry four 500lb bombs .
My Dad was grounded for a single mission and his crew was shot down near Clark Air Force Base. His crew survived the crash, but they were not able to escape due to their injuries. The only crewmember to return alive was that the man who replaced him for the mission. The rest were murdered by Japanese troops who killed them immediately. After Dad finished his combat missions, he returned to the USA. The previous crew he flew with were shot down and killed a short time later.
I have often wondered why the 345th Bomb Group had so little press coverage after the war. It was a really common practice for battle war correspondents to fly combat missions for documentary purposes. I honestly believe that one of the reasons was due to the loss of aircraft shot down as soon as the war correspondents flew with them in combat. A total of eight war correspondents / photographers were murdered on combat flights.
In 26 months of combat, the 345th flew 58,562 combat hours on 9120 attack sorties, dropped over 58,000 bombs with a total weight of 6340 heaps, and fired over 12.5 million rounds of ammunition. Intelligence credited their unit with sinking 260 enemy vessels, totaling nearly 190,000 tons, and damaging 275 others. It was also awarded credit for ruining 260 Japanese airplanes on the ground and another 107 in aerial combat. Its units won Distinguished Unit Citations for four missions and the Group was awarded the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. This record cost the Air Apaches, 712 dead from all causes, including 580 killed on flights, and 177 aircraft.
I took my parents to an air show at Langley Air Force Base several years ago and they enjoyed the show. But when we passed an A-10 ground attack airplane on static display, we could not help notice how the A-10 and B-25 had a similar function in combat. They fly within gun range at low elevation to strafe enemy targets.
In conclusion, I hope this article will give you a little insight to the assignment that was assigned to the 345th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force during World War II. I hope you enjoyed this report. My parents do not have internet access, but I will print this out and send it via the mail. I’m sure they will enjoy it. If you like the guide, please pass it along to your friends and have a wonderful day!