Officer strength during the month fell from 52 to 50. Lt. Taylor received his long awaited orders returning him to the states, and in addition Lts. Clower and Kanatzar were transferred out of the Squadron. Lt. Clower had been with the squadron since its earliest days and as prior pages of this history will testify contributed much to the Squadrons activities. He is at present assigned to a training command, and we hope that this may be the first step in this ultimate return to the states. Lt. Shepard, who had been transferred from the Squadron in February, was retransferred back to the squadron during the month.
Through an oversight Lt. Dallison’s departure from the Squadron during February was not noted. Although his definitive whereabouts are not known it is believed that he will be operating as an Intelligence Officer with some of the ground forces in northern Burma. We wish him every success in his new assignment.
Five enlisted men returned to the states. With replacements gained during the month the squadron was brought up to strength as indicated on the T/0 of the 252 and type enlisted men.
Operations during the month were more intensive than in any prior equivalent. A time. They are reflected in the following tabulations:-
For the most part weather was favorable during this month with 29 operational days during the period. Contributing largely to the increased operational activity of the squadron were the large number of offensive missions assigned to it in aid of the ground forces which had commenced their highly successful drive against the enemy forces in the Huinwang Valley. By the end of the month Maingkwan and Walawbum were in our hands and there were unofficial reports of the seizure of Shadzup still further to the south.
In addition to missions run in direct support of the ground forces, reported enemy supply dumps and military installations were hit and on several occasions resulting explosions and fires indicated that direct hits had been scored on ammunition and gas storage dumps. Successful missions were also run against bridges. The Namkwin Railroad Bridge bypass was knocked out on three separate occasions, the Kamwing Road bridge was rendered unserviceable and also the Hopin Railroad bridge was knocked from its base and into the river. Pilots of the squadron credited with scoring direct hits on these bridges were Capts. Harrell, Whitley, Upson and Darden and Lts. E.C. O'Connor and Smith.
During March there was an average of 24 planes assigned to the squadron. Of the 90.1% were in tactical commission during the month.
3. Contact with Enemy Aircraft:
March 27, 1944 saw the most meaningful interception of enemy aircraft by planes based in the Valley. Although all available aircraft in the squadron were scrambled a four ship flight from Sadiya led by Lt. Bell was the only flight of the squadron to make contact. These four planes sighted an enemy formation of some fifteen bombers, identified as Helens, escorted by twenty-four fighters, identified as Zekes and Oscars, southeast of Ledo. Immediate contact was made and in the ensuing battle this flight emerged with a total of four bombers destroyed and one damaged and six fighters destroyed. After destroying one bomber and one fighter, the rudder controls on Lt. Marshall's ship was shot away and he bailed out successfully in the vicinity of Shingbwiyang. A minor leg wound and chipped tooth were his only injuries. A recapitulation of this encounter follows:
1st Lt. R. D. Bell Helen Destroyed
2nd Lt. R. B. McReynolds
2nd Lt P. W. Marshall
2nd Lt H .H. Doughty
Following the attack by the squadron, what remained of the enemy formation was met by planes of the 90th fighter squadron which claimed eight more destroyed without loss to itself. P 51's of the 311th Group also made contact and accounted for the destruction of nine more, with a loss however, of two of their own planes and pilots. Thus as a result of this encounter 27 enemy planes were destroyed with many more claimed as probables and damaged, a highly successful encounter
Enemy planes destroyed by this squadron excluding those destroyed by pilots transferred from the 51st fighter group now total 20 the other two squadrons together have accounted for twelve.
4. Awards and Decorations:
On March 14, 1944 a formal presentation of the medals awarded to twenty-five pilots of the squadron bring the previous month was made by Brigadier General Egan, Commanding General of the 5320th Air Defense Wing (Prov.). Following the presentation General Egan gave a short address congratulating the officers and enlisted personnel of the 80th Fighter Group upon the fine job they had done and were doing in the theater of operations.
During the month additional awards were made as follows:
Major John Svenningsen (deceased) Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal.
1st Lt. John F Keith (deceased) Distinguished Flying Cross
1st Lt. Robert Braucher Distinguished Flying Cross
2nd Lt. Charlie B Hardy Air Medal
2nd Lt. John A. Hartswick Air Medal
A copy of the orders confirming the above awards is annexed as appendix number 16
During the month promotions were accorded 41 enlisted men of the squadron and something new was added to the shoulders of lLts. Darden and Whitley in the form of shiny new Captain’s bars. Another well-deserved promotion was accorded LT. Binns to First Lieutenant.
Credence was given to the rumor that the 80th fighter group was soon to be equipped with their first love, P 47 thunderbolts. Lts. Shepard and Clower, the latter of whom has since been been transferred, and Sgts. Kopek and G. Williams, were sent to Karachi to assist in their assembly and early test flights. As of the end of this month, however, there is no report that the planes have actually arrived in India
After much ado which for too long time looked as if it would be about nothing, work was commenced on the new runway with the object of making it a metalled strip that might be used during the monsoon season. An army of coolie labor can be seen daily now camped on the runway trying to justify whatever pay they they earn. Brick and gravel have also made their appearance in other parts of the camp area in an effort to make it inhabitable during the rains.
During March 1 contingent of old 89th enlisted personnel were sent to rest camp at Shillong. None of them found hard to take