Captain John Alden Tilley's Story
I guess I should start this report at the beginning. I was born in June of 1923 at the Presidio of San Francisco, California. My Dad was career Army, so my brother and I were what were known as "Army Brats." The Presidio was an Army base that included units of the Infantry, the Coast Artillery, and the Army Air Corps. In the 1930's it was a pretty nifty place for young boys to live. My brother and I and our friends would explore and play in the trenches and dugouts used for Infantry training, wander around and gape at the big 12" Coast Artillery cannons, and watch the Air Corps P-12's (and later P-26's) land and takeoff at the airfield. By the time I was 10 years old, I had decided that I wanted very much to fly fighters in combat. Later, while in high school, I saw my first P-38 Lightning flying overhead and knew immediately that was the aircraft I wanted to fly. When I graduated from Army Air Force pilot training on February. 6, 1943 (at 19 years of age) I was surprised and very unhappy to find myself assigned to the AAF (Army Air Force) Training Command. I didn't find out until months later that my dad had arranged this assignment because he didn't want to lose his son in the war (understandable now, but infuriating at the time). At any rate, I was a very unhappy and bitter young man with an extremely bad attitude about being stuck in Training Command. After about six months of constant complaining to a family friend in the Training Command Headquarters, I finally convinced him that my bad attitude was going to get me in serious trouble so he reluctantly arranged for my transfer to a P-38 training program (and he has my eternal thanks and gratitude). About three months later I was on my way to Australia as a 2nd Lieutenant P38 replacement pilot. At last I was a very happy kid driving a 2000+ horsepower flying hotrod.
I joined the 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, of the 5th AF at Dobodura, New Guinea in Nov. 1943 and flew my first two combat missions on Dec. 15th. All I can remember is that we were outnumbered about six to one. I was very frightened, and we came back to base with my guns unfired. The next day, on my third mission, we intercepted a large formation of Jap "Betty" bombers and attacked them several times at high altitude. Then the Squadron leader, on whose wing I was flying, dove on a lone bomber flying homeward on the deck (just above ground level). When I completed my firing pass on the bomber I pulled up, looked around, and realized I was suddenly all alone. All alone, over enemy territory, not sure how far and in what direction home base was, and definitely frightened, I headed in the direction I thought would get me home. I reduced airspeed and leaned the mixture to conserve fuel and flew just under an overcast that I could duck in to if any hostiles appeared. I was thinking all the time "you dumbbell! You could be flying over sunny California instead of this damned jungle with people trying to kill you." I got back to Dobodura about 30 minutes after the rest of the squadron and learned that (a) I had been considered lost in action and (b) my leader and I shot down two bombers (one of them credited to me) and (c) my tent mates had already appropriated all my personal GI property for themselves.
From Dobodura the 431st moved to Finschafen and then Nadzab in Papua New Guinea, then Hollandia and Biak Island in Dutch New Guinea. From Biak we moved to Buri and then Dulag on Leyte, P.I (Philippine Islands). Then we went to Mindoro, P.I. From Mindoro to Clark Field and finally Lingayen on Luzon, P.I. Dobodura was a miserably hot, humid, muddy and buggy place (somewhat like South Florida in the summertime, but in Spades). At Dobo (our slang for Dobodura) we enjoyed Australian "C" rations obviously left over from the 1915 Gallipoli campaign (Moldy "bully-beef" and hardtack biscuits). We also had U.S. rations which were as bad or worse (dehydrated potatoes, powdered eggs and synthetic powdered lemon juice to kill the God awful taste of the Lister-bag water).
U.S. 'K' rations were also available and highly prized. I soon found out that I couldn't handle the mess tent food and then fly a combat mission so I gave up eating breakfast or lunch and just carried a canteen of water and hard candy from the K rations with me in the aircraft. After the mission (or sometimes, missions), I'd again brave the mess tent, but with damned little enthusiasm. It was also at Dobo that I was introduced to the two constants of tropical living fungus infestations and dysentery. I was hospitalized briefly for Dysentery. The fungus usually showed up as "jock-itch." When we became raw enough to make walking unpleasant, the medics would swab our crotches with salicylic acid solution. This led to about 15 minutes of lively dancing and fanning of the affected location.
I was also personally "blessed" with a serious sinus blockage. On slow let-downs returning from a mission, I would go completely blind in my left eye until the blockage popped open. Fast descents were no problem but those slow ones were pure torture. I was finally hospitalized for the sinus problem. After about three days of suction pumps up my nose and no sleep at night because of the pain, I talked a nurse into a shot of morphine. I awoke the next morning with a large glob of mucus on the cot next to my head. The blockage was gone and never seriously bothered me again. From then on, I made rapid descents from altitude whenever possible.
I remember two things about our stay at Finschafen. One was the proximity of the mess tent to the outdoor latrine and the flying insect's very efficient shuttle set-up between the two locations. This required us to adopt a unique eating style. We'd keep one hand over the canteen cup to deprive the bugs access to their aluminum swimming pools. At the same time, while holding spoon, fork, or whatever in the other hand, fan the mess trays madly to keep as many bugs as possible out of our "food." The second indelible memory of Finschafen was the difficulty of digging foxholes in the rocky hillside upon which our tents were situated. We lived four to a tent and at this time Frank Monk and I were on one side of the tent and I believe Warren Cortner and Bill Ekdahl were on the other side. The idea was to dig a two-man foxhole on each side of the tent. Cortner and Ekdahl worked like the devil and produced a proper foxhole on their side. But Monk couldn't quite see the need for all that manual labor so I dug one by myself just barely deep enough to get my head and most of my body below ground level. Sure enough, "Bed Check Charlie" showed up shortly thereafter and I jumped into my hole. The next thing I knew Monk jumped in on top of me. Don't know how much of himself Monk was able to get below ground level (possibly an arm or leg) but he made a nifty top cover for me.
Compared to our first two camps in N.G., Nadzab was a delight. Out in the open of the Markham Valley with no jungle surrounding us, it was hot but dry and dusty. In fact finding water for drinking and washing was the big problem.
Hollandia, our next base, was very close to the Jap lines. Most of our ground troops were aware of the fact that pilots received 2oz. of booze for every combat mission, so we had Infantry visitors looking for Air Force hospitality whenever we were located close to each other. An Infantry 2nd Lt. showed up one day looking for a little alcohol to ease his pain and suffering, and we got to swapping war stories. Someone asked him what it was like to shoot a person you could actually see (something we pilots didn't 'have to contend with, thank God). I'll never forget his reply: "I don't shoot Japs, I BURN 'em. There's nothing like flame throwers and white phosphorous grenades." His eyes lit up and bugged out as he said this and he looked like a madman. We flyboys all backed away a bit and were damn glad when he left us for his muddy foxhole. No one will ever convince me that men in combat are sane by any civilized standards.
It was also at Hollandia that I found out first hand how well the Jap aircraft were built. Their flush riveting was beautiful and the aluminum skin was about half as thick as ours. The Oscar unbolted just behind the wing and I could carry the entire aft end of the aircraft. No wonder the little devils were so maneuverable. They weighed about one third of the P-38's weight.
We had two camps on Biak. Both were quite pleasant with good saltwater swimming and fishing. However, the food was still terrible. I quit going to the mess tent altogether and lived mostly on the melt-proof chocolate bars in our survival kits. We must have had a pretty good supply of those things 'cause I never had any trouble scrounging them from the fellows responsible for our parachutes and survival packs.
From Biak we staged through
the Halmahera Islands to Leyte P.I. The pilots and planes of the 431st
landed at a mud field on Leyte called Buri on 7 November 1944. Buri was
the mud hole to end all mud holes and about 2800' between palm trees.
Flying from Buri was a very dicey proposition. For takeoff, Cletracs
would tow us from the dispersal area and back our tail booms into the
palm trees at one end of the field. The brakes wouldn't hold in the mud,
so as soon as we got the engines started we'd cram on full throttle and
go. No mag checks just fire up and go! About half way down the
field, we'd slap down ½ flaps, haul back on the yoke, and pray.
To my constant surprise I always just cleared the palm trees at the far
end. For landing, the flaps were full down, the props were flat, and oil
and coolant radiator doors full open for additional drag. We'd then bring
her in as slow as possible, barely clearing the tops of the trees at the
approach end of the field, and drop it in the mud with a splash that covered
the whole plane in mud. When we stopped sliding, we'd cut the engines
and wait for the Cletrac to tow us out of the way so the next guy could
"splash down." Needless to say, we carried no external stores
(bombs or drop tanks) while flying out of Buri. The P-38 was without a
doubt the only fighter in the USAAF inventory that could operate out of
that particular mud hole.
came the paratroops. Hells fire, thinks I, heading for the nearest water-filled foxhole with my trusty .45 auto pistol. I'm going to wind up in the damned ground war after all. I was frightened but awed and fascinated by the spectacle. I've never seen so much flak in my life, as all the ships offshore and all the AA batteries on land opened up. It was almost dark by this time and there were so many tracers crossing the sky I believe a person could have walked on them. I don't think a single Jap transport A/C made it through. They were literally blown out of the sky before our eyes. As luck would have it, the Jap paratroops that survived landed around Buri, the field we had just vacated, and behind our infantry troops fighting in the mountains west of us. For a couple of days they raised hell with some of our ground personnel and destroyed most of the P-38s we had left behind. Some infantry units were sent back from further west and finally eliminated the enemy paratroops. It was a very "interesting" couple of days.
From Leyte the 431st moved to a base on Mindoro. At this time Robert (Pappy) Cline (Squadron Commanding Officer), Fred Champlin (Squadron Operations Officer) and I (Senior Flight Commander) were taking turns leading the Squadron. On the evening of 24 Feb. 1945, my crew chief came over to my tent for a visit. It was not my turn to fly the next day, so we proceeded to get seriously "Happy " on my "combat ration." About four a.m. the next morning (25 Feb)., I was awakened and told I'd been selected to lead the Squadron to Phan Rang Bay in French Indo China (now called Viet Nam) to cover a PB4Y (Navy B-24) snooping around the area checking out the Japanese radar coverage. I was still drunk at takeoff time, and although I was on 100% oxygen (great for hangovers) I still couldn't read the aircraft instruments for the first two hours. Thankfully we had a B-25 to follow for navigation on the way over. When the coastline of Indochina came in sight, the B-25 turned back and I started calling and looking for the PB4Y we were supposed to cover. He was no where around Phan Rang but I did finally make radio contact. He said he'd moved on up to Cam Ranh Bay and was about to head for home. I asked if he wanted us to cover him on the way home but he said that wouldn't be necessary. I then asked if he'd mind us staying in the area to see what mischief we could do. That was OK with him so the 431st pulled a Pearl Harbor in reverse at Phan Rang Bay. This was the first time 5th AF fighters had flown over that part of the world. We strafed everything in sight, sinking a couple of small boats, setting fire to a POL storage area and knocking down a couple of Rufes (Zeros on floats) who were foolish enough to get airborne in our airspace. When it was time to go home I picked a reciprocal heading from the one the B-25 had used coming over, threw in a little wind-drift correction by looking at the waves and was pleasantly surprised to find Mindoro dead ahead when we again made landfall. This was an 8-hour mission and like all other 7 - 8 hour missions we flew, very few of the pilots could straighten up for about 15 minutes after climbing out of the cockpit. Only one of our P-38s sustained any damage, and that was caused by a U.S. 50 cal. machine gun round that bounced off something we were strafing. All in all, a very satisfying mission -- for this kid at least.
Our next base, and probably the best location of all, was Clark Field on Luzon. Very nice, with wooden floors and screens for the tents and a short jeep ride to what was left of Manila. That didn't last long though. A P-51 outfit located at Lingayen couldn't handle the 90' crosswind (the strip was parallel to the beach with a constant on shore wind) or the rolling PSP landing mat. No sweat for that wonderful P-38 though, so we had to swap camps with the P-51 outfit. At Lingayen I came down with a facial paralysis that interfered with my attempt to spit, whistle, swallow, etc. So, again I was hospitalized, but this time I was sent to Letterman General Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco, where I had been born almost exactly 22 years earlier. After a month long boat trip across the Pacific, eating as much of that good shipboard food as I could. I arrived home in California weighing about 80 pounds.
I flew 159 combat missions and over 550 combat hours in P-38 models G, H, J, and L. My first kill was a Betty bomber on my 3rd mission while in a P-38H model. The 2nd was an Oscar while I was flying in a J model. I was particularly proud of this one 'cause I was able to stay inside this maneuverable little rascal's left turn for 360 degrees while doing about 90MPH, and at less than 1000' above the water. That P-38J was bucking and shuddering all the way around in what was nothing more nor less than a controlled stall. I was so close to the Oscar that his engine oil covered my windshield. For the last half of the turn I was shooting at a dark blur that finally burst into-flames. When I saw the Oscar explode I pulled up and started calling for someone to lead me home cause I couldn't see through the oil on my windshield. "Pete" Madison was kind enough to oblige. When we got back to base, I had to crank down the side window and wipe a clear spot on the windshield so I could see enough to land the bird.
My last three kills were made while I was flying the P-38L, which I considered the greatest fighting machine of the war. Surprisingly enough (to me) numbers three and four were downed with deflection shots. I was a lousy shot and really didn't understand the effects of gravity in aerial gunnery. I thought the bullets would go where the sight was pointing. Of course I now know this was true only if you were within boresight range and were not pulling any Gs while shooting. Both #3 and #4 were in descending turns and must have flown downward into my dropping stream of gunfire. Number 3 was a Zeke, and at the time I called #4 a Jack and #5 a Zeke 52.
I'm now convinced (after seeing them on the ground when we got to Clark Field) that #4 was a George and #5 was a Frank. Number 5 was extremely fast and took little or no evasive action but just tried to outrun me. It didn't work. It took me a comparatively long time to catch him, but catch him I did and he finally exploded. By then I was too close to react and f1ew right through the debris without running into any of it. Pure luck.
I guess P-38s were the great love of my life. They handled beautifully, were very forgiving and would do almost anything you asked of them. I loved the two counter-rotating engines (one of those engines brought me home on several occasions) which eliminated the torque problems associated with single engine prop jobs. I also loved all those guns in the nose, because we didn't have to worry about a converging cone of fire as you did with wing mounted guns. The P-38L clocked a good 40 MPH faster on the deck than the P-51Ds I flew with similar loads. The P-47s, P-40s and P-39s weren't even in the same ball park. The P-38 would also carry one hell of a big load. I remember someone in the Group getting airborne in 1700' with two one-ton bombs hung under the plane.
What didn't I like about the P-38? High altitude flight and the cockpit layout. Although designed as a high altitude interceptor, it was a pain in the buns above 30,000'. The cockpit heat and windshield deicing were not adequate for cold ambient air. The turbo chargers had a habit of running wild above 30,000'. The cockpit was very cramped (not a real problem for us pint-sized fellows). (Editors note: Lt. Tilley was 5'6" tall and weighed approximately 130 pounds. By the time he was Captain, he was down to about 100 pounds.) I would have preferred a stick to the yoke and wheel flight controls in the P-38 and the cockpit layout was God awful compared to the other fighters I've flown. On our "pitch-out" landing approaches we were reaching for things all over the place and had to change hands on the controls at least twice. In spite of all of the above, I still think it was the greatest aircraft I've ever flown, including five of the AF's earliest jet aircraft.
As for combat training--it is to laugh. After learning to fly the bird at Williams AFB and Muroc AFB, I went to a tenant unit at San Diego NAS for "operational training." This amounted to just over 75 hours during which time we were supposed to learn all the good stuff like dive and skip bombing, air to ground and air to air gunnery, tactical formation flying and dog fighting. I had no problem with any of it except air to air gunnery. I even managed to whip my instructor in the final exam dog fight. But we only got about six air to air gunnery passes on a towed target and that just wasn't enough for someone who had received no gunnery training in Advanced Pilot Training. I compared notes with "Pete Fernandez" some years ago and he was convinced he owed his good score in Korea to the fact that he had been a gunnery instructor in the states before going MIG hunting in Korea. When I joined the 431st at Dobo, our pre-combat training consisted of questions from Col. MacDonald about the amount of lead needed to hit a target at various angles of deflection, then a flight on the wing of one of the "old hands" who would try to lose you or "kill" you. The thinking was that it was better to lose a new pilot before combat than to find out he couldn't cut it later when it really counted. My checkout flight was on Tom McGuires wing and it was a wild One. I've never worked harder staying on someone's tail. That guy was probably the best fighter pilot I've ever flown with, but he couldn't shake me off his tail so I was then and there declared "combat qualified." It wasn't till many missions later that I thought I was "combat qualified."
Our survival training was equally comprehensive. "If shot down, form a group and head for the hills" was one of the gems of wisdom imparted to us. The only practical survival advice I can remember was "don't ever wear those fleece lined Aussie flying boots when you're actually flying." After a week in the swamps in those things you'd wind up with mush where your feet used to be. The .45 auto pistol we carried was another useless survival tool. The only valid reason for carrying a side arm was to kill food. About the only plentiful game in New Guinea jungles were birds. If by some miracle you did manage to hit a bird with that.45 ACP you'd wind up with nothing but feathers to eat. Evidently some of the 5th AF crews bitched enough about the .45 that somebody came up with, "shot" cartridges for it. When I got my hands on these .45 cal. shot shells I took them to a nearby body of water and shot at a wooden box floating about 25' away. The shot hit the water halfway to the box. I stopped carrying the 45 on my flights. The only piece of survival gear I carried on all my missions was a GI handy dandy sheath knife. Many years after leaving the service I finally learned how to shoot the 45 auto and it's now one of my favorite personal defense weapons, but a survival tool it is not.
Without question the air to ground missions (strafing, dive bombing, etc). were the most dangerous missions. My aircraft was hit only three times. The first time, while attacking Betty bombers, a 7mm MG (Machine Gun) Round knocked out my hydraulic system. The second time was while dive bombing a heavy AA (Anti-aircraft artillery) position. Now that was a really scary mission. If I remember correctly I was leading the very last element and rolled into the dive about four or five seconds after Kenny Hart who was in the P-38 ahead of me. The AA was pointing straight up at us while we were pointing straight down at them. The flak was so heavy I couldn't see Kenny's a/c through all the flak bursting between us. The sky was black with flak bursts all around us. We had to drop the bombs at about 2500' to keep from catching some of our own bomb blast. I figured I'd be a sitting duck at that altitude so I started zigzagging like crazy and when far enough from the bomb burst, headed for the deck to find some trees to hide behind. Just as I leveled out I took a chunk of flak in my horizontal stabilizer. The third time, I took a small cannon shell in the inboard right wing while leading eight a/c strafing an enemy airfield on Cebu. McGuire was leading the other eight a/c flying top cover for us. Gen. Kenney had ordered him not to do any more "dangerous" flying because he was the #2 U.S. fighter ace and was due for rotation back to the U.S. I really can't remember how many surface targets I destroyed because we got no "points" for them and nobody bothered keeping count but I'm certain I destroyed at least as many enemy a/c on the ground as in the air. Once again I can't remember where or when, but our Squadron once clobbered a fair sized freighter by all of us shooting again and again at the same spot on the waterline until it rolled over and started sinking.
I could never tell if we were fighting Japanese Army or Navy pilots but you could sure tell the "instructors" from the "students." Like any other group of pilots when they were good they were very very good, and when they were not good they were dumb as bricks. The best I ever met was a Zeke pilot over Cebu Island sometime in Dec. 1944. I was leading a flight of four P-38s eastward and at low level towards home base on Leyte. Just as we passed over the east coast of Cebu I spotted a lone Zeke a couple of thousand feet above heading westward. I didn't think he'd seen us so I wheeled around and started climbing into his blind spot (below and behind). Just as I started to mash the trigger button he "split S"ed and proceeded to lead us on a merry chase. First he took us over a Jap airbase where all the AA started shooting at us, but came as close to hitting him as it did us. I guess he didn't like that flak any better than we did so he headed down one of the many narrow valleys running the length of the island. He'd zigzag from one side of the valley to the other. Then, when he reached a dead end, he'd pull up sharply and roll over into another valley heading in the opposite direction and I'd find myself face to face with a rapidly approaching mountain. This went on for about 20 minutes without any of us laying a glove on him, but we had plenty of fuel left and I was determined he wasn't going to get away. I guess he finally saw the futility of it all so he took the Zeke right down to ground level, rolled over, pulled back on the stick, instantly converted himself and his Zeke into a ball of flames. Japan lost a hell of a good pilot that day. When the four of us got back to Leyte we agreed that none of us had really hit the guy so we cut cards to see who would claim the kill. My element leader won the cut. On several other occasions I can remember following an Oscar or Zeke zigzagging full throttle down hill to about 1000' above sea level where they'd pull a split S and slip right between our legs so to speak. I was somewhat unhappy about losing them this way so decided to see for myself just how much altitude it took for a full split S in the P-38. From a fast cruise at a safe altitude I cut both throttles, pulled the nose up, rolled over as fast as possible and pulled back as hard as possible. I never made it in less than 2500'. If I had tried to follow those guys, I'd have earned a submariner's badge posthumously.
The 431st radio call signs were "Hades" and later "Daddy." The "Hades" call sign was what led to my design for the Squadron insignia, and the Group's "Satan's Angels" name. When I first joined the 475th at Dobo the Group was looking for a Group insignia and everyone was encouraged to submit a design. I thought a red devil's head on a blue field with golden yellow stars representing the Southern Cross (the Group was formed in Australia) would cover the three Squadron colors of red (431st), yellow (432nd) and blue (433rd). I put a halo around the devil's head because we were, after all, "the good guys." "Satan's Angels" seemed a natural because of the devil's head with halo. Group didn't think the insignia was formal enough but kept the name Satan' s Angels. The 431st then adopted the insignia for itself. I still like the insignia and am very proud of it, but after all these years "Satan's Angels" is beginning to sound rather corny.
Everything considered, I don't believe our losses were excessive but we did lose too many pilots not due to enemy action. Some of our very best pilots were lost this way. In the final analysis even Tom McGuire killed himself by trying to dogfight without first dropping his almost full belly tanks.
I don't think any 475th Group history would be complete without acknowledging the masterful way in which Bill O'Brien led the 431st on "Black Sunday," 16 April 1944. On an escort mission from Nadzab to Hollandia the weather socked in solid behind us. There was absolutely no safe way of going through or over the weather and to make things even worse, our home base at Nadzab was weathered in. Making a very wise decision, O'Brien led the 431st to the northeast coast of New Guinea, and with the Squadron flying very very tight white-knuckle formation, we found a few hundred feet between the water and the solid overcast. Even so, the rain was quite heavy and you could see zilch straight ahead but could see out to the side. With the Squadron a couple of hundred yards offshore and just above the water, Bill could follow the coastline by looking out to the side. He led us in this fashion, making very slow and gentle heading changes as the coastline changed until we reached a reasonably clear landing strip at Saidor on the New Guinea coast where we all landed as quickly as possible. The 431st pilots were all safely on the ground when singles and small formations of other units began arriving. It was a nightmare, with everyone low on fuel and desperate to land. Aircraft (B-24s, B-25s, A20s and P-38s) were landing from both directions at once, dodging, hopping over each other, and, in at least one case, colliding on the runway. The 431st did not lose a single pilot, but the other units suffered serious losses. It was in fact, the worst beating the 5th AF took throughout the entire war.
All in all my combat tour was a very exciting adventure. I actually enjoyed a good bit of it and I was very grateful to the Fates for allowing me to live (and live through) my boyhood dream.
1. Lister Bag: A large canvas bag (approximately 40-50 gallons) used to treat (antiseptically) and dispense drinking water from several spigots around its bottom. I presume it was named after Sir Joseph Lister, founder of antiseptic surgery.
2 Frank MonkA 431st Fighter Squadron pilot. He later became an ace. He is now deceased but survived the war.
3. Warren Cortnner and Bill Ekdahl 431st pilots. Both survived the war and.
4. "Bed Check Charlie" Usually one twin engine bomber with unsynchronized engines (just to make our teeth grate most of us thought but probably the Japs thought it would disrupt the anti-aircraft batteries aim). He showed up regularly but not every night.
5. Cletracs. Small tractors used to move aircraft on the ground without using the aircraft engines.
6. "Pappy" Cline. The oldest pilot in the 431st at age 29.
7. POL Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants. A Fuel Dump
8. PSP Matting. Pierced Steel Planking. I always assumed it was the same as Marston matting but we called it PSP. Steel interlocking planks that could be put down very fast to build an air field.
9. Harold N. "Pete" Madison. Another 431st pilot. He survived the war.
10. "Zeke" Commonly referred to as a "Zero." A Mitsubishi A6M5. A single Radial engine Jap fighter. U.S. code name "Zeke."
11. "George" A Kawanishi N1K2-J Single Radial Engine Jap fighter. U.S. Code name "George." It looked like a P-47 with a Jap paint job).
12. "Frank" Nakajima K184. A single engine Jap fighter. U.S. code name "Frank." Fastest of the Jap fighters.
13. Tenant Unit. We were an Army Air Force Squadron operating out of a U.S. Navy Base. I'm sure the Navy was being reimbursed for everything they provided for us. Any military unit located on a base belonging to a different command or service is (or was) designated a "Tenant Unit."
14. "Pete" Fernandez. The third leading Jet Ace of the Korean War.
15. Major Thomas B. McGuire Jr.. Born August 1920 in New Jersey but lived in Sebring, Florida until joining the Army Air Force in July 1941. He is the second ranking U.S. Fighter Ace with 38 "kills." He was killed in action on 7 January 1945. "Mac" was a 1st Lt. With 13 "kills" when I flew this "combat checkout" flight on his wing.
16. ACP Automatic Colt Pistol. If you walk into a gunshop today and ask for .45 cal. Ammo, the guy behind the counter will want to know if you want 45 ACP or 45 long (which came into being with the old 45 Colt six-shooters used in Wild West days). Both cartridges are still in use today.
17. Kenny Hart. A 431st pilot. Later to become an "ace." Survived the war but was killed in an auto accident shortly after the war.
18. General Kenny was the Commanding General of Far Eastern Air Forces (FEAF) which, at that time, included the 5th and 13th Air Forces.
19. Captain Bill O'Brien was the 431st Squadron Operations Officer at this time. He was killed in action several months later.
June 6, 2000