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U.S.A.A.F Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War

 

1st Combat Cargo Group

Formation, Training and Overseas Deployment

     In early April, 1944 men began reporting to Bowman Field in Louisville, as members of the 1st Combat Cargo Group. Here the men would learn that they would be flying the Douglas C-47A’s in the CBI (China-Burma-India Theater). While at Bowman Field a complete training program was developed, which was to refresh flying crews in all aviation techniques (these included aircraft operation. navigation, meteorology, instrument flight, and others) The ground support personnel were also sent to school to refresh their knowledge in all duties (these included among others, radio operation and repair, aircraft and engine maintenance and others). On April 15, 1944 the 1st Combat Cargo Group was officially activated.

     Each Squadron of the 1st Combat Cargo Group, (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Combat Cargo Squadrons) was assigned its own separate Airdrome Squadron, whose function was to perform all necessary ground operations (Cook, MPs, Mechanics, etc.)

     A major goal of the flight training program was to insure that each pilot would have an average of 160 hours as Pilot in command and to insure he was instrument rated. Hopefully, each Co-pilot would also be checked out as a first pilot prior to overseas embarkation.

     Training began, and was moving along with great results. There were few accidents and the moral of the men was high. Then on May 4 1944, the training schedule was handed setback by the unexpected demand that the group supply 50 pilots and 50 copilots, (my dad, William J. Bielauskas included), to the Bond Project , then forming at Morrison Field in West Palm Beach Florida. These 100 pilots and copilots would form the backbone of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group, which was hastily being organized for immediate overseas deployment. Training all but stopped for the 1st Group while transferring these 100 officers. Finally on May 9, 1944 the 100 officers and their equipment were flown to Bowman Field in eight 1st Combat Cargo Group C-47s and aircraft from the Glider Tow Detachment at Stout Field, Indianapolis. After the aircraft’s returned and the group was again up to assigned strength the training program resumed.

     The Groups training stressed the need for proficient at night flying, which was an added safety factor, since the Japanese limited most of their air activity to daylight flying. This procedure, not only added to the safety to the planes and their crews, but it would allow the planes to be made available for daytime maintenance. Importance was also stressed on good air-dropping techniques, short field, and soft field landings. Add to that, the crews were reminded that they would be flying in perhaps the worst weather conditions to be found on the face of the earth (the Asian Monsoons). This fact itself, lead to a very intensive instrument flight training program for the air crews, and it would later prove invaluable.

     The training continued until, finally on finally on August 1, 1944 the Group was considered finally ready for combat operations. Between August 3-5,1944 the Group proceeded to Baer Field, in Fort Wayne, Indiana and there was readied for overseas movement.

     The 1st Combat Cargo Groups one hundred C-47’s began the trip to India by flying first from Baer Field to Syracuse, New York, then to Dow Field in Bangor, Maine, and then over the Atlantic ocean to Gander Field, Newfoundland.  From Gander, the Group flew to Lagen Field in the Azores, and then to Marakech, French Morocco. Steadily flying in an easterly direction, they flew on to Cairo, Egypt, Abadan in Iran, and finally Karachi, India. From Karachi they then went to Agra, then Gaya, and finally, during the last week of August 1944, the four squadrons, plus group headquarters, arrived at Sylhet. From Karachi 13 of the Groups C-47s towed gliders full of lumber. These gliders were released over Asansal, close to Sylhet.

     During the trip to India there were only two minor incidents to the Groups 100 C-47’s that were making the trip. Both situations, due to the unusual causes of the accidents, are interesting.  (Map)

     While at Gander Field the crew chief in a C-47, accidentally fired a Very Pistol in the radio compartment of the airplane. Maj. John Christner, Group Executive Officer and pilot of the plane, saw that the fire was extinguished. The fumes and smoke were very strong and intense. The flight engineer, while attempting to ventilate the fuselage, pried loose the inner panel of the cargo door and damaged it. The plane stayed in Gander until August 30 1944, when a new door was flown in from Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

     A similar accident on plane #43-15919, was also result of an accidental discharge of another Very Pistol (Incident at Gander)

     The men of the 344th, 345th and 346th Airdrome Squadrons finally left Baer Field by troop train for Camp Anza, California on September 12, 1944. They then boarded the ‘USS A. E. Anderson’ and sailed via Melbourne, Australia, to Bombay, India where they finally landed on October 28, 1944. They continued on to Sylhet, India by train and steamboat.

    The 347th Airdrome Squadron finally left Baer Field on October 2, 1944 when they departed for their embarkation port in California. The 347th Airdrome Squadron traveled by a U.S. Navy vessel to Bombay, and finally they arrived at their final destination of Tulihal, India on December 4, 1944. Tulihal was located in the Imphal Valley, just eight miles south of Imphal, scene of fierce fighting earlier in the year. The 1st Combat Cargo Group was now ready to fight its war!


   This short History of the 1st Combat Cargo Group, no way tells the entire group history.  It's sole purpose is to give one an idea of what the Group endured during it's time during the Second World War.  For a more detailed report on the the Groups History, one needs to access the records of the 1st Combat Cargo Group and it's individual Squadrons at the            U.S. Air Force Historical Research Center at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL.  These records are available in microfilm.

Bill Bielauskas rev 4. 2/07/99

References:                                                                                                                                    

 IT BEGAN AT IMPHAL, The Combat Cargo StoryJohn G. Martin, DMV,  1988

The Great Snafu Fleet,  A WW II History of the 1st Combat Cargo Squadron,   M/Sgt. Gerald A. White, 1995

M/Sgt.DaveTarnowski, 328th Airlift Squadron, (AFRC) Niagara Falls NY  

S/Sgt. Herb Patton,  4th Combat Cargo Squadron, Combat Cargo Group

Cpl. John Van Lieu , 1st Combat Cargo Group, Headquarters   


Back to 1st Combat Cargo Group Page

Back to Combat Cargo Group Home Page


    I am looking for former members of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group,  1st, Combat Cargo Group, 2nd Combat Cargo Group and the 4th Combat Cargo Group.  In fact I would like to hear from anyone who flew over the Hump during WW II, or flew any Combat Cargo Missions at any time (Berlin Air-Lift, Korea, etc)

Please e-mail comment, suggestions, corrections,etc to: bill@comcar.org

Imphal, the Hump and Beyond  Copyright 1999, 2000 Bill Bielauskas  All rights reserved.

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Bill Bielauskas  10 Cayuga Trail, Wayne,  NJ.   07470-4406