Imphal, The Hump and Beyond
U.S.A.A.F. Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War
6th Combat Cargo Squadron, 2nd Combat Cargo Group
6th Combat Cargo Squadron History
by Capt. John J. Johnson, 6th CCS Intelligence Office
| Sometimes in May 1944, various hotshots,
peashooters, truck drivers, football players, baseball players, poker players, bridge
sharks, etc. began to assemble at the Syracuse Army Air Base, Syracuse, New York.
They wended their way to the pearl of the Adirondacks, the gem of the Finger Lakes
district under orders of the United States Army Air Force. From these grew the 6th
Combat Cargo Squadron. The Squadron made a deep imprint on the surrounding towns,
villages, and particularly the city of Syracuse. Expeditions and missions to the
Rainbow Room, Travel Room, Marine Room, Turf and Clover Clubs testified to the fact that
any mission would be undertaken by the 6th Combat Cargo Squadron.
Commanded by quiet Ted Tatum, with Bob Arnold (God rest
his soul) as Operations Officer,
the boys of the 6th CCS were soon showing the natives of Syracuse what the Blue
Nose Whale could do. While it is true that one certain officer was unable to return
to the base after takeoff without buzzing the town of Fulton, others showed the unique
ability for night flying by demonstrating how low it was possible to fly over the
Archibald Stadium during the Syracuse-Cornell Football game at night without crashing.
These intrepid pilots so clearly demonstrated their at night flying that Colonel
Bell and the 2nd Combat Cargo Group staff did not have to strain their eyes to
read the buzz numbers on the airplanes. Of course this was upsetting to the Colonel,
and he demonstrated his disapproval by making complaint in the form of court martial.
Fortunately all were acquitted except one, who was forced to add the Treasury of
the United States in the form of a few hard-earned bucks. With October 1944, rolling
around tension increase as did anticipation of the flight overseas.
On leaving Syracuse Air Base the 6th CC Squadron flew to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where after a few days of touch football, investigations into the culture of Fort Wayne, and with new equipment, the Squadron took off for Amarillo, Texas, where a quiet evening was spent.
From Amarillo the Squadron flew to Fairfield-Suison, situated between Sacramento and San Francisco, with the very busy suburb known as Vacaville, in sunny California. Due to weather conditions the Squadron remained at the base for approximately seven (7) days. Excursions were made into the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco.
After briefings, medical examinations, execution of wills, etc., the Squadron finally took off one night shortly before midnight, flying our way westward over the Golden Gate, and headed for John Rogers Field, Oahu. (Special Orders #66 & Special Orders#300) Twas quite a trip. The plane in which I flew was piloted by 1st Lt. Walter R. Fink and 2nd Lt. Gerald N. Honn, and finally after 14 hours and 35 minutes of flying the welcome sight of Diamond Head appeared and we landed at John Rogers Field. Fortunately all the planes of the Squadron arrived, although for a time some thought they might have to ditch. Headwinds increased the difficulty, and some arrived with very little gas.
After a few days we took off for Christmas Island, where we stayed over night. We headed to Canton Island, with another overnight stay. At this point some of our planes flew to the Fiji Islands, New Caledonia and then on to Townsville, Australia. Others flew to Tarawa and Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. At this point we came into contact with the Armys toughest Commandos, the ATC. Our gracious brothers-in-arms attempted to restrain us from having beer at their Officer Club, stating it was only for ATC personnel. This situation was cleared by advising them that legally we were flying under ATC orders and under their control, and therefore refreshments were obtained. From Guadalcanal, we flew on to Townsville, Australia, where we had our first contact with Aussie beer and bugs and flies.
The trip from Townsville to the Markham Valley, Nadzab, New Guinea, was uneventful. Here we parked for approximately two weeks and felt the real heat of the tropics. Our first sampling of bully beef left a very unfavorable impression on all. The Squadron then made flights from Nadzab to Finschaffen, Lae and Townsville. Shortly before Thanksgiving of 1944 we left the dust and heat and flies of the Markham Valley behind us and flew to Biak, one of the Schouten Islands of the Dutch East Indies. This was to be our operations base for a few months. Here in this pearl of the Pacific, with its hot days and cool nights we had our first contact with the No. 1 entertainment of the Pacific, to wit; Tokyo Rose.
The 6th Combat Cargo Squadron moved into action smoothly, with flights up and down the New Guinea coast, to the Manus Islands, New Caledonia, Hollandia, Sansipor and finally came the Morotia gas run. Fanatical Japanese pilots had suicide dived their planes on the gasoline tankers supplying newly won Mindoro Air Base in the Philippines, thus blocking the possibility of attack by our bombers on the Island of Luzon for lack of fuel. Gasoline had to be flown in at once, and 2nd Combat Cargo Group had its first real test. Most of our planes flew to Morotia Island in the Molluccas, some three hours flying time from our base on Biak. The real job started. Japanese bombers from nearby in the Halnaheas and Celebes strafed and bombed Morotia nightly. Our crews took off at approximately midnight and flew up the east coast of the Philippine Islands to Leyte Gulf, hoping to arrive shortly before dawn, when fighters would be there to cover the run from Leyte to Mindoro. The first flight turned into somewhat of a nightmare when the fighter escort did not arrive and the Japanese sought to attack. By a miracle our planes escaped damage while flying through clouds, and arrived safely on Mindoro. The return flight was uneventful. However after two runs on the east coast it was decided that a faster and safer flight could be made by flying directly from Morotai over the Zamboanga Peninsula, coming into Mindoro from the south. Successful runs were made and the mission accomplished. The Squadron then returned to Biak, and while there were plenty of operational flying, there was still enough time on hand to improve living conditions on the Island. Under the leadership of Jackson Tolar and I.D. Jones as general contractors, with Thomas Edison Law as sub-contractor in charge of electricity, all other members as employees, a restaurant was erected on the island, and an Officers Club, which was slated for a grand opening on Christmas Eve, 1944. Christmas Eve, 1944, was a most unhappy one, for a plane piloted by Tom Hollis with Robbie Langston was missing on a run from Finschaffen to make the party at Biak. For three days the planes of Squadron flew up and down the northern New Guinea coast and far out to sea looking for the missing plane. However on the third day word was received that Hollis and the crew had been picked up by the hospital ship USS Hope, which was returning empty to the Philippine Islands. All awaited the return of the crew for a proper Christmas celebration. They had been forced to ditch somewhat northeast of Baik. All had come through the ditching uninjured, and as the only passengers on the hospital ship, USS Hope, they really had quite a cruise.
Rest leave came in vogue, and many had the opportunity to invade (visit) Sydney, Australia. Many successful missions were accomplished in this invasion. A very successful "fat-cat" flew in from Australia with fruit and fresh milk which were kept cool by flying at high altitudes. One must remember, however, that it was not completely successful, since a few days after the arrival of the "fat-cat" all personnel of both the 337th Airdrome Squadron and 6th CCS became victims of the green-apple quick-step. It seemed to occur at about the same time, to witness the mad dash, at 1:00 or 2:00 AM during the middle of rainstorm. Many feet were cut in the race for the comfort stations.
The squadron finally moved to the island of Samar in the Philippines in early 1945. We were tented on the beach off the airstrip used by the Jolly Roger bomber outfit. We were flying from there bringing supplies into Clark Field, Luzon. During one of these flights and in the midst of a rainstorm, the late Bob Seet, with a fully loaded Commando, brought the plane in on the strip and crash landed it without injury to any person and little damage to the plane. We were forced to move from our original site, and in true Air Force fashion, during one of Samars mild rainstorms. I particularly remember this since hot-shot Charlie Johnson and I attempted to put our tent up three times only to have it blown down again, amidst the laughter of the other pilots.
After a short stay on Samar we then moved to Dulag on the island of Leyte where we set up camp and operated from the Dulag airstrip. Here we remained until July 1945, during which time the Surf Club was born and enjoyed by all members of the Squadron. Flights were made to the Islands of Palawon, Mindoro, Macton, Legaspi, Sibu, Negros and Luzon. With the fight for Manila, members of the Squadron and of our Group carried out successful evacuation and supply missions. Two of our planes, one under Major Tatum, made a remarkable flight into a guerrilla strip on the Island of Imus to carry supplies and evacuate personnel. The planes of the 6th Combat Cargo Squadron could be found in practically any operational airstrip in the Islands, and some flights were made to Okinawa, first flying into Kadena Strip.
In early August the 6th squadron moved into Okinawa and took over Bolo Strip on the western most part of the largest island of the Ryukyu group. With our move from Dulag we had a group of aircraft go to Lipa, a small strip in the hills, 60 miles south of Manila. There our aircraft were loaded with troops and equipment of the 11th Airborne Division, which had been training for the invasion of Japan. A successful lift was made of the airborne division to Okinawa. Our strip had been originally set up as a temporary base for elements of the 8th Air Force, which was slated to come from Europe. We did not have the best of weather, and with our tents perched precariously on the hills surrounding the strip, we were buffeted by winds and mosquitoes. On the 28th of August 1945 four planes from our squadron under the command of Roger Killingsworth flew in with equipment and supplies to Atsugi Air Base, south of Tokyo to set up communications for the entrance of our forces into Japan.
On the 10th of September 1945, the 6th CCS flew into Yokota Airdrome, slightly west of Tokyo, to the call of Syracuse Tower, and took over the field. The 6th CCS was barracked in the one large hanger on the field for three weeks until sanitary conditions and living requirements had been complied with. All but three of our aircraft came into Yokota on that day. The three remaining aircraft rode out the typhoon of September 17, 1945 at Okinawa and finally arrived at Yokota Airdrome undamaged. Those of us in Japan had the backlash of the typhoon in the form of high winds and rains.
When we were finally housed at Yokota we had the luxury of the Japanese baths, which became a daily custom. Fujiama could be seen just a few miles west of the field. Our planes flew in Tachikama, Osaka and on a trip to Chitosu on Hokkaido, returned with many American prisoners of war. In the latter part of October, 1945, food finally arrived in substantial quantity and quality. Our saving source of food supply from Baik through Japan was Filippis Bar and Grille.
With the passing of the weeks, points became the topic of the day and night, and by Christmas, 1945, only ten of our Squadron remained at Yokota. During our stay many expeditions took place into the hills surrounding the field, and souvenirs from Ome, Hanoi, Tokyo and Yokohama made their appearance in foot lockers and duffel bags.
By the end of December, 1945, there remained one broken down Intelligence Officer, Capt. John J. Johnson, and Colonel William Bell, the Group C.O., who was outranked by a stateside Colonel. Fortunately Colonel Bell and the Intelligence Officer were transferred to Tachikawa, not too many miles distant from Yokota, but a much larger operational field. Thus the Intelligence Officer of the 6th left Yokota, the home of the 6th and remained at Tachikawa until legal research permitted his return to the states in late February, 1946.
In our stay of less than a year and half overseas the 6th Combat Cargo Squadron covered sufficient territory to obtain battle stars for New Guinea, Western Pacific, Southern Philippines, Leyete, Luzon, Ryukus and the Air Offensive of Japan, and, to be awarded the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, together with the Unit Citation.
Initially written for the 6th CCS Reunion in 1955 by Capt. John J. Johnson, 6th CCS Intelligence Office (c) 2001
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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)
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