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)
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25th Bombardment Group
35th Bombardment Squadron (Medium)
The 35th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) was activated February 1, 1940, at Langley Field, Virginia, pursuant to authority contained in Adjutant General Letter, AG 320.2 (11-14-39) (Ret) M C, War Department, December 22, 1939, Subject: "Constitution and Activation of Certain Air Corps Units," and General Orders No. 1, Air Base Headquarters, Langley Field, Virginia, which activated the 25th Bomb Group and designated its permanent duty Station as Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico. The 35th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), upon its activation, was assigned to the newly formed 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy), along with the recently activated Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Tenth Bombardment Squadron, and the Twelfth Bombardment Squadron. Located, together with the Tenth and Twelfth Squadrons, in the lighter-than-air hangar, the 35th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) underwent a routine tactical training program.
The 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and its component units were ordered to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico, on October 25, 1940, for a permanent change of Station. The 35th and its sister squadrons departed Langley Field, Virginia, at 3:30 AM, on October 26, 1940, for Newport News, Virginia. The following day the units embarked aboard the U.S. Army Transport, "Hunter Liggett," which, after stopping at Charleston, SC, to take on the 24th Air Base Personnel that was also scheduled for permanent Station at Borinquen Field, set course for San Juan. The journey was without incident and the ship docked on at San Juan on October 31, 1940. The men disembarked the following day, boarded a train, and were transported to Borinquen Field, PR, located on the northwestern corner of the island. The Air Echelon of the Group, consisting of 14 B-18's and two A-17's, 32 officers, and 44 enlisted men, arrived at Borinquen Field on November 3, 1940.
More than one-half of the 25th Group's personnel were transferred to the 40th Bombardment Group (Medium) when that organization was activated on April 1, 1941. Soldiers from the Air Corps Unassigned and from Base personnel replaced these men.
The 25th Bomb Group's Squadrons were distributed throughout the area. The 10th Bombardment Squadron and the 27th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) (Later to be redesignated as the 417th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), and assigned to the 25th Bomb Group) remained at Borinquen Field, PR. The Headquarters, 25 Bomb Group, and the 12th Squadron began movement from Borinquen Field, PR, to Benedict Field, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, on November 6, 1941, while the 35th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) was sent to Coolidge Field, Antigua, on November 11, 1941.
The 35th Bomb Squadron, until the outbreak of war, flew routine training flights from Coolidge Field, Antigua, to various bases located throughout the Greater and Lesser Antilles, using Douglas B-18 type aircraft. Upon the beginning of hostilities, the Squadron immediately began flying missions designated as patrols, sweeps, sub-hunts, and convoy coverage, usually of six hours' duration, using B-18 type aircraft.
The organization was actively engaged in the "Caribbean Campaign," from the beginning of hostilities until its movement to Jamaica in October 1943. The particular part played by the 35th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) was to furnish protection to "Bauxite" shipping (shallow draft vessels transporting bauxite from South American mines for reshipment to Trinidad), and to convoys traveling along the South American coast. The campaign was strictly defensive and was entirely successful in that by constant patrols submarines were prevented from emerging and harrowing shipping. The number of merchant vessels sunk, which at the outset of the war constituted a serious threat to U. S. airplane production, was reduced to a negligible minimum by the time of the organization's departure. Incidental to anti-submarine and convoy patrol activities, the organization engaged in regular training activity, and also flew search and rescue missions over South American jungle and mountain country.
The designation of the 25 Bombardment Group and its squadrons was changed from "heavy" to "medium" on May 7, 1942.
General Orders No. 50, as amended by General Orders No. 52, Hqs, AATF & VI Fighter Command, dated October 17, 1942, disbursed the personnel and property of the 35th Squadron to other units, and reorganized the Squadron. The 35th Squadron was restructured into a Headquarters, 35th Bomb Squadron, with "A" and "B" Flights that remained at the headquarters of the organization at Zandery Field, Dutch Guiana; and a Detachment 35th Bomb Squadron, comprised of "C" and "D" Flights, which remained at Atkinson Field, British Guiana. "A" and "B" Flights were constituted from personnel and equipment transferred from the 99th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) located at Zandery Field, Dutch Guiana. "C" and "D" Flights were created from personnel and equipment transferred from the 430th Bombardment Squadron located at Atkinson Field, British Guiana.
On October 2, 1942, a successful submarine attack was made by a plane piloted by Capt. Howard E. Burhanna, Jr. One member of the submarine crew was captured.
Major Joseph R. Ambrose assumed command of Detachment 35th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on October 31, 1942, and with the exception of the time during which he temporarily relieved Major Hawes at Zandery, Dutch Guiana, was detachment Commander until his transfer to Hq., 25th Bomb Group, and subsequent transfer to the United States. Major Ambrose was succeeded as Detachment Commander by several officers (e.g., Capts. Charles E. Williams, Robert H. West, Harvey E. Ferguson, and Preston B. Wooley) who held the command position for a short period of time.
The 35th Squadron was relocated from Coolidge Field, Antigua, to Zandery Field, Surinam, on November 1, 1942. Personnel and equipment were already in place at Zandery and Atkinson Fields, having been obtained from the 99th and 430th Squadrons of the 9th Bombardment Group (Heavy), as previously explained.
Organizational strength as of December 31, 1942 was 47 officers and 307 enlisted men.
"C" and "D" Flights of the 417th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) were attached to the Hqs., 35th Bomb Squadron, at Zandery Field in January 1943, and remained there until officially transferred to the Squadron on May 1, 1943.
Captain Charles Ross, pilot of a B-18 airplane, and crew, effected the rescue of at least. 42 survivors on January 9, 1943, by flying over an area of the ocean at a hazardous altitude of approximately 50 feet, for a period of six hours, disclosing the location of many seamen afloat in life rafts, wreckage, and miscellaneous objects to the commanding officers of the U.S. Navy PC-577. This was accomplished during extremely bad weather and fair visibility. Without the invaluable aid of this plane, the rescue of these men would have been impossible due to the fact that the men were obscured from vision by heavy seas.
Major Edwin H. Hawes, Commanding Officer of the 35th Bomb Squadron, and one other officer, on March 18, 1943, arranged for the transfer of Cayenne from Vichy French influence to cooperation with the United Nations. Thereafter, planes of the organization were the first. U.S. planes to use La Gallion Field as an advanced base for ant-submarine operations.
On March 21, 1/Lt John A. Wilson and PFC James T. Ackerman, members of the Detachment 35th Bomb Squadron, were awarded the "Soldier's Medal," per General Orders #9 and #14, Headquarters VI Air Force, Albrook Field, CZ, respectively, for heroism in British Guiana on November 21, 1942. The awards were presented by Major General House, Commanding General, Antilles Air Task Force, during a formal review at Atkinson Field.
Captain Erskine G. Berry, Jr., assumed command of Detachment 35th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), until he relieved Major William W. Walmsley as Squadron Commander and the two units were consolidated.
B-24 and B-18 aircraft from the 8th ARON, Navy, 35th Bomb Squadron, and Detachment 35th Bomb Squadron, under the tactical control of the 35th, made numerous separate attacks on German submarines off Zandery Field, in the general area from 04o- 08o N and from 49o- 56o W, during the period July 19-30, 1943.
A B-24D piloted by Lt. DeStiche of the 8th ARON attacked a submarine at 1417Z, on July 19, 1993, at 05o 06' N, 48o 40' W. The B-24 made two attacks on the submarine, dropping four depth charges and one M-24 during the first. run, and directing gun fire on the submarine during the second pass. The attacking aircraft met strong opposing AA and machine gun fire from the submarine, and was damaged from the fire. The returned fire wounded two aircraft crewmembers. The B-24 crew lost. sight of the submarine due to difficulty experienced by the pilot in managing the plane, and returned to Zandrey Field.
A B-18B piloted by Lt. Crandall, 35th Bomb Squadron, sighted a surfaced submarine at 2110Z, on July 19, 1943, at 04o 48" N, 49o 10' W. The submarine appeared disabled. Two attempts were made to attack the submarine, but the aircraft was fired upon both times. The aircraft then circled the submarine and directing turret fire at it. The submarine began to submerge, and the aircraft dived to attack, bombing 30 yards at the end of slick. The aircraft circled the area, and finding no wreckage, returned to base.
A PBY, pilot unidentified, sank a submarine at approximately 0900Z, on July 22, 1943, in position 04o 00' N, 49o 00' W. Three survivors were observed drifting toward shore in a rubber boat.
A B-18C, piloted by Lt. Crandall, 35th Bomb Squadron, attacked a submarine at 2125Z, on July 23, 1943, position 07o 10' N, 51o 31' W. The conning tower of the submarine was first. sighted by Captain Chen, the Navigator, at a distance of five miles, at which time it was apparently just. surfacing, as only the conning tower was visible and the crew was just. starting to emerge. The submarine started to submerge before the crew had disappeared from sight. The B-18 made a 340o angle to the course of the submarine, and dropped three depth charges just. ahead of the submarine swirl and two short. Oil slick was seen to appear just. ahead of the areas disturbed by the depth charges, and a flow of fine air bubbles was observed in the center of the slick. The aircraft remained in the vicinity for two hours, but no further sighting of the submarine occurred nor was contact made by MAD.
A B-24D piloted by Lt. Richmond of the 8th ARON attacked a submarine sighted at position 07o 41' N, 50o 08' W, at 1832 Z, on July 24, 1943. The aircraft made a run on the submarine at a 150o angle to its course, with the submarine maneuvering broadside to the plan, and firing both AA and machine guns. The aircraft countered by directing 50-caliber nose turret fire at the sub, and beginning its bombing run. A shell fired from the sub hit the toggle switch as the bomb run was almost. complete, and prematurely released the bomb load. The submarine dove after the first. run, and the aircraft dropped the M-24 about 200 yards ahead of the swirl. The area was covered for about 15 minutes, and the plane returned to base due to damage to the aircraft caused by the AA fire.
Aircraft from the 80th Bomb Squadron, 10th Bomb Squadron, 9th ARON, 8th Anti-Sub, and Navy Bomron 130 assisted the 35th in tactical emergencies for short intervals in January, March, July, and August1943.
Planes and personnel from the 23rd ARON were attached to the 35th in August1943 for tactical purposes. Operational and administrative control of the 35th was transferred from the 25th Bomb Group to Commanding General, Trinidad Detachment and VI Fighter Command, effective August1, 1943, per HQ. AAC GO #31.
Hq., 35th Bomb Squadron, at Zandery Field, Dutch Guiana, and Detachment 35th Bomb Squadron, at Atkinson Field, British Guiana, were ordered to move to Vernan Field, Jamaica, BWI, and consolidate, per Hq. AAC GO #56, October 4, 1943. The air echelon from both fields accomplished the move on October 7, 1943. The ground echelon left Dutch Guiana on October 11, 1943, and British Guiana on October 13, 1943, and arrived in Jamaica on October 22, 1943. The trip was accomplished aboard the USAT, "State of Maryland." The organization was actively engaged in the "Caribbean Campaign" from the beginning of the war, until movement to Jamaica, at which time its efforts were limited to maintenance of an alert plane that investigated supposedly suspicious vessels or possible submarines reported by the British.
Hq. 25th Bombardment Group was given full operational and administrative control of its Squadrons on October 11, 1943, and shortly thereafter began an intensive training program with the B-25 series of planes. The men worked assiduously to bring themselves to the point of efficiency that would enable the organization to function perfectly if it were sent to a combat theater.
"C" Flight, 35th Bomb Squadron, Capt. Robert Bair, commanding, engaged in simulated combat maneuvers at Benedict Field, St. Croix, VI, December 11-14, 1943.
"A" Flight, 35th Bomb Squadron, Capt. Robert Albrecht, commanding, engaged in simulated combat maneuvers with practice bombs at Benedict Field, St. Croix, VI, December 28-31, 1943.
Squadron strength as of December 31, 1943 was 65 officers and 313 enlisted men.
Captain James K. Stepp, Jr., led a flight of five planes on a navigational trip extending to Salinas, Ecuador, during the period January 11-15, 1944. "D" Flight, commanded by Captain Stepp, engaged in simulated maneuvers at Benedict Field, St. Croix, VI, January 19 to 23, 1944.
The 35th Bombardment Squadron was placed in a state of readiness on January 24, 1944, pending a unit movement.
The 35th Bombardment Squadron was relocated from Vernam Field, Jamaica, to Trinidad, on February 7, 1944.
The 25th Bombardment Group (Medium) and its units- - the 12th, 35th, 59th, and 417th Bombardment Squadrons (Medium) departed Trinidad on March 24, 1944
The 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived at Alamogordo Army Air Field, NM, in April 1944.
The 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was disbanded on June 20, 1944 while stationed at Alamogordo Army Air Field, NM. Its personnel were shipped to various assignments, many in support of the training of B-29 crews, which were being activated at that time,