During this month a reorganization in the Commands in this theater took place from which emerged the Eastern Air Command, Major General Stratemeyer, Commanding. The Eastern Air Command consists of units of the 10th Air Force and the Bengal Air Command and is organized into four components; (1) A Strategic Air Force under the operational control of Brigadier General Davidson, (2) A Tactical Air Force under the control of Air Marshal Sir John Baldwin, (3) A Troop Carrier Command under the operational control of Brigadier General Old, and (4) a Photographic Reconnaissance Force the command of which was not announced. Under this set up the 80th Fighter Group Falls under the Strategic Air Force.
Shortly following the announcement of this reorganization Major General Stratemeyer iand Air Marshal Sir John Baldwin paid a visit to and conducted an internal inspection of the 80th fighter group and 89th fighter squadron.
(1). Organizational Changes:
Although there was little difference in the strength of the squadron as of December 1, 1943, when it was 53 officers and 275 enlisted men and as of the end of the month when it was 52 officers and 273 enlisted men, there was quite a turnover of officer personnel. New pilots assigned to the squadron during the month were 1st Lt. Felix H. Jones, Jr. and 2nd Lts. Fred S. Evans, Stephen R. Wheaton, John Makar and Joel Martinez. Loses were Captain Webb and 1st Lt Duke to the 459th fighter squadron, 2nd Lt. Warren to the 80th fighter Group and Captain Sussky, Howie and McQuillan to the most sought-after place of all, the port of the Debarkation. The “going home” orders of the last three officers have been long awaited and eagerly anticipated. With luck they should have spent Christmas in the states
Something new was also added, a Major's gold leaf to the shoulders of her commanding officer Captain Svenningson.
The operations of the squadron during December are reflected in the following tabulation: 1608 combat hours on patrol, 535 sorties; 287 offense combat hours, 125 sorties; 27 tons of bombs dropped; 5425 rounds ammo extended
The average number of planes assigned to the squadron during the month of December was 25, 78.4% of which were in tactical condition throughout the period.
Offensive missions showed a marked increase over those flown during the previous month due principally to compliance with request for in support from Chinese ground forces operating in the northern sector of the Hukwang Valley. Also reported supply dumps and enemy installations on the road south from Maingkwan to Kaimang or Bob and strafed on several occasions
3. Contact with enemy aircraft.
Enemy aircraft were encountered on four different occasions during the month.
The first of these occasions was on December 10, 1943, when Captain Harrell was leading a four ship patrol consisting of himself, Lts. Whitley, Shepard and McCarty over the Fort Hertz area. An enemy formation consisting of three bombers (Sallys) and four fighters (Oscars) were cited south of Fort Hertz. Contact was established immediately and resulted in the destruction of the three bombers and two of the fighters. No losses were suffered by the squadron although the plane flown by Captain Harrell was badly riddled by enemy fire. Later in the same day a four ship patrol over the Fort Hertz area led by LT. COL. Evans including Lts. Matulevicz, May and Martinez, made contact with four enemy fighters (Oscars), two enemy fighter planes were claims as damaged. No losses were suffered by any of our planes.
On December 13, 1943, Lieutenant Adair attacked an enemy formation consisting of approximately twenty-four bombers and thirty-five fighters, (Sallys and Oscars) just prior to their attack on the Dinjan airfield. Not only was the enemy formation broken but one fighter was destroyed another damaged and damage was also claimed to two bombers. Although his plane was badly riddled by enemy fire, Lieutenant Adair returned safely to base. Shortly afterwards Lt. May sighted and attacked a large formation of enemy bombers and fighters, probably part of the group previously attacked by Lt. Adair, and is credited with the destruction of one bomber (Sally). During this attack Lt. May's plane was hit by enemy fire and he was forced to bail out. he landed safely in the valley in the vicinity of NAHARAKATIYA suffering minor burns and injuries.
On December 28, 1943, in a bombing attack on Myitkyina Airdrome, the last element in the bombing string was attacked by four enemy fighters (Oscars). One fighter was destroyed by Lt. Clower and another by Lt. Hardy. The enemy attack severely damaged the plane flown by Major Smith, he himself suffered a minor scalp wound. However, he was able to return safely to base. Lt. Clower's plane was set on fire by enemy fire and he was forced to bail out in the vicinity of Myitkyina deep in enemy territory. As of the end of the month Lt. Clower was carried as a battle casualty
A recapitulation of these combats follows:
Captain Harrell 1 Bomber Destroyed
1 Fighter Destroyed
1st Lt. Clower 1 Fighter Destroyed
1st Lt. Whitley 1 Bomber Destroyed
1st Lt. Adair 1 Fighter Destroyed
2 Bombers Damaged
1 Fighter Damaged
2nd Lt. Hardy 1 Fighter Destroyed
1st Lt. May 1 Bomber Destroyed
1 Fighter Damaged
2nd Lt. Matulevicz 1 Fighter Damaged
2nd Lt. McCarty 1 Bomber Destroyed
1st Lt. Shepperd 1 Fighter Destroyed
Christmas was celebrated with turkey, and even Christmas decorations made their appearance in the unfamiliar setting of bamboo and jungle. Also received and welcomed were the first of the Christmas packages from the States. An added attraction was brought to us by the American Red Cross. They not only held house Open House on Christmas Eve but also visited us with coffee and donuts twice during the month.
December introduced two new innovations, the first being ten day leave periods granted officers, two officers at a time, and the second being the sending of pilots and the listed men to the Armada Road RAF Gunnery School. The nearness to Calcutta is the only thing those innovations have in common.
During the month 16 enlisted men, all former members of the 51st Fighter Group went to Rest Camp at Shillong.