VI BOMBER COMMAND
IN DEFENSE OF THE PANAMA CANAL
1941 - 45
Areas of Interest:
VI Bombardment Command History:
6th BGp (Heavy)
3rd BS (Heavy)
29th BS (Heavy)
74th BS (Heavy)
397th BS (Heavy)
9th BGp (Heavy)
1st BS (Heavy)
5th BS (Heavy)
99th BS (Heavy)
430th BS (Heavy)
25th BGp (Medium)
12th BS (Medium)
35th BS (Medium)
59th BS (Medium)
417th BS (Medium)
40th BGp (Heavy)
25th BS (Heavy)
44th BS (Heavy)
45th BS (Heavy)
395th BS (Heavy)
Units Attached to VI Bomber Command
10th BS (Heavy)
15th BS (Light)
25th Bombardment Group
59th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)
The 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light) was activated as an air support unit for The Panama Mobile Forces, on January 2, 1941, at Rio Hato, Republic of Panama (General Order Number Sixty-four (64), Headquarters, Panama Canal Department, December 14, 1940). The original cadre was obtained through the transfer of Second Lieutenant Ellery D. Preston on from the 1st.Bombardment Squadron of the 9th Bombardment Group; and 26 enlisted men from the 1st. 5th, and 99th Bombardment Squadrons of the 9th Bombardment Group. The remainder of the personnel was obtained by transfer of men from other units and Air Corps Unassigned.
The 59th Bombardment Squadron was attached for duty with the 9th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Antilles Command (General Order Number Four (4), PCD Air Force, Albrook Field, Canal Zone, January 6, 1941).
The 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light) was originally stationed at Rio Hato, R. de P., when 2nd Lt. Ellery D. Preston was the first Commanding Officer. Thirteen (13) Douglas A-20A's were assigned to the Squadron. All personnel lived in tents; however, wooden two-story barracks were built by the officers and enlisted men of the Squadron, under the direction of the Engineering Corps. This work included all plumbing, wiring, and the laying of cement floors. The work progressed quickly as all personnel were anxious to get out of the tents,
Captain W. R. Robertson became the Commanding Officer on May 30, 1941.
The 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light) was assigned to the VI Bomber Command (General Order Number Eight (8), Headquarters Caribbean Air Force, September 18, 1941).
The 59th Bombardment Squadron arrived at Howard Field, CZ, at 1100 on October 28, 1941. The living conditions at Howard Field represented a great improvement over those encountered at Rio Hato, since Howard was equipped with concrete quarters and runways. At this Station as at Rio Hato, the 59th Squadron continued to undergo a training program.
The 59th Squadron arrived at Aguadulce on December 13, 1941. This was a temporary change of Station. There were no runways and the field was grass. The planes were kept in revetments with tents pitched beside them for the combat crews. The officers lived in a temporary wooden building. The mess was so inadequate that one pitcher of coffee, with cream and sugar already added, was provided for the officers' table, being passed around so that every one could drink directly from the pitcher. Despite this minor inconvenience, morale was very high as an attack upon the Canal Zone appeared imminent and all personnel realized the reason for living in this manner.
The 59th Bombardment Squadron was divided into two Flights, "B" and "C" which departed from Aguadulce, R. de P., to destinations "Y" and "Z-60," (Special Order (Secret) of Commanding General, CAF). Destination "Y" was Hato Field Curacao, NWI, at which "B" Flight arrived on January 13, 1942. Destination "Z-60" was Dakota Field, Aruba, NWI, where Flight "C" arrived on January 12, 1942, and then reached Hato Field, Curacao, NWI, on March 11, 1942. 1st.Lt. L. R. Ford was the Commanding Officer; 1st. Lt. J. Lazenby, Operations Officer; and 2d. Lt. W. J. Meng, Intelligence Officer, of "B" Flight stationed at Dakota Field, Aruba.
1st.Lt H. S. Williams, became Commanding Officer of the 59th Bombardment Squadron on January 15. 1st. Lt. Ellery D. Preston was the 59th's Operations Officer; 1st. Lt. R. Lippincott, the Intelligence Officer; 2d. Lt. F. W. Campbell, the Engineering Officer; 1st. Lt. R. West, the Armament Officer; and 1st. Lt. G. Schimer, the Adjutant.
At this time, the 59th Bombardment Squadron became very actively engaged in fighting the enemy. The submarine menace in the Caribbean was at its peak. Nine (9) attacks were made on submarines by 59th aircraft in five (5) days. The Squadron delivered a total of 19 attacks on enemy submarines while stationed in the Netherlands West Indies. Indies.
The 59th Squadron was the first. United States Army unit to set foot in the Netherlands West Indies. There were few facilities. The fields at Aruba and Curacao were short for A-20 operations, and were dangerous. They were later lengthened. The officers and men lived in temporary wooden barracks, except the combat crews lived in tents by the planes. 59th personnel at Curacao messed with the KLM at their restaurant in the hangar, while everybody in Aruba ate with the Lago Oil Company. The men at Aruba had to use salt water for showers. These conditions were later remedied, regular army mess being installed, and new temporary wooden barracks built.
The 59th's Flights "B" and "C" were detached from the VI Bomber Command, and assigned to the 6th Interceptor Command (General Order Number Three (3), Headquarters Caribbean Air Force, January 15, 1942).
General Order Number 3 which attached Flights "B" and "C" to the 6th Interceptor Command was revoked, and the 59th Bombardment Squadron was attached to the 6th Fighter Command (General Order Number 31, Headquarters 6th Air Force, June 23, 1942). The 59th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) was accorded battle participation credit for antisubmarine operations during the period June 19- July 5, 1942.
General Order Number 31 which attached the 59th Squadron to the 6th Fighter Command was rescinded, and the 59th was relieved from assignment to the VI Bomber Command and assigned to The Antilles Air Task Force (General Order Number 18, Headquarters 6th Air Force, March 19, 1943).
The 59th Bombardment Squadron was attached to the 25th Bombardment Group (Medium), and remained under the operational control of the Detachment Antilles Air Task Force, APO # 812, C/O Postmaster, New York City (General Order Number 10, Headquarters Antilles Air Task Force, April 26, 1943).
The 59th Bombardment Squadron left Curacao on July 8, 1943, and arrived at Waller Field, Trinidad, the British West Indies, the same date.
The 59th moved to Edinburg Field, Trinidad, BWI, on July 12, 1943. At this field, anti-submarine patrols were again resumed. All personnel lived in temporary wooden barracks. Baseball, volleyball, and tennis were played there, but there was not any formal competition.
The 59th Squadron was detached from the 25th Bombardment Group, and attached to the Trinidad Detachment and 6th Fighter Command (General Order Number 31, Headquarters Antilles Air Command, July 19, 1943).
The 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light) was redesignated the 59th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) (War Department letter, Subject: "Redesignation and Reorganization of 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light),"AGO file 322, June 10, 1943), and was organized in accordance with T/O 1-127, March 26, 1943 (General Order Number 32, Headquarters Antilles Air Command, July 22, 1943). B-25's began to replace the A-20's.
The 59th Squadron departed Edinburgh Field on October 20, 1943, and arrived at Beane Field, St. Lucia, BWI, the same date.
The 59th Bombardment Squadron was assigned to the 25th Bombardment Group (Medium), APO #845, c/o Postmaster, New York City, and the Trinidad Detachment and the 6th Fighter Command, Antilles Air Command, was relieved of operational and administrative control (General Order Number 6, Headquarters Antilles Air Command, October 11, 1943).
The 59th Bombardment Squadron, from that date of its assignment to the 25th Bombardment Group, until December 31, 1943, conducted a very extensive training program, both air and ground, under the direction of the 25th Bombardment Group. Beane Field proved to be a well-equipped field, and living conditions were excellent. The sandy beaches provided excellent swimming facilities, while the USO conducted a basketball league. Tennis and bowling tournaments were held and in general a well-rounded athletic program was carried on. Beane Field, further, provided recreation in the form of an NCO Club, Officers' Club, Day Room, Library, and Motion Picture Theater.
Morale and interest were kept at a high level because of the availability of flights to other Caribbean Bases. Beyond regular navigation and cross-country flights, there were additional over-night trips to such places as Barbados, St.. Vincent, Havana, and Puerto Rico.
The 59th Bombardment Squadron was placed in a state of readiness on January 24, 1944, pending a unit movement, which was communicated by Secret Radiogram 0212. The Commanding Officer subsequently issued further amplifying orders designed to place the Squadron in a condition of readiness. This information was conveyed to officers and department heads by means of staff meetings, directives, and officers meetings. By January 31, all 59th sections were prepared to move both Air and Ground Echelons upon receipt of Movement Orders.
The 59th Bombardment Squadron, still a part of the 25th Bombardment Group, moved to Alamogordo Army Air Field, NM, where it was disbanded on June 20, 1944.