I’ve always viewed my dad as my hero for many reasons. I respect his devotion to his loved ones, his professional career in education, as my own personal role model and for his combat record during World War II. I haven’t met another man with more integrity with his spoken word. During my youth he instilled a sense of responsibility and patriotism in his seven children.
Whenever someone would ask my dad what he did during the war, he would tell them. But he never seemed to live on it. What he did was an important part of his life, but it was just 1 portion. I did not start to appreciate his battle record until I arrived in the Philippine Islands in 1978 onboard the Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. During one port visit, I was able to go to my brother who was stationed at Clark Air Force Base that was a really short drive from my port of call, Subic Bay.
My brother and I talked about what it must have been like for our Dad throughout the war. I didn’t know it at the time, but he flew from an air field near Subic Bay. He flew combat missions as a B-25 radio / gunner against Japanese targets in the Philippines, Formosa as well as French Indochina.
Up to now, I’ve only been able to find two books that correctly describe in sharp detail exactly what the 345th Bomb Group did in the South Pacific. 1 book was written by one of the combat pilots, Peppy Blount. My wife managed to discover this publication on eBay and it was my favorite Christmas gift. I tried to find the publication,”We Band of Brothers”, but without success, but she managed to locate it and I’ve since lent it to my Dad. Mr. Hickey spent many years of detailed research and the book is really outstanding.
I met one of my Dad’s combat friends who served with him. The thing that stunned me is how small my Dad was on what he experienced. Their B-25 bombers flew low level strafing and skip bombing runs with the B-25 twin engine medium bomber. The aircraft had their bombardier compartment eliminated in the nose and it had been replaced by fixed .50 caliber machine guns. All their missions were flown in extreme low elevation. My Dad’s job was delegated as a B-25 radio operator / gunner. The bombs had delayed fuses so as to reduce damage to their aircraft. Some aircraft could come back with dents from bombs which bounced back hitting the underbody of the plane. Additionally, they can carry four 500lb bombs .
My Dad was grounded for a single mission and his team was shot down near Clark Air Force Base. His crew survived the crash, but they were not able to escape because of their injuries. The only crewmember to return alive was that the guy who replaced him for the assignment. The remainder were killed by Japanese troops who killed them immediately. After Dad finished his combat missions, he returned to the USA.
I’ve often wondered why the 345th Bomb Group had so little media coverage following the war. It was a really common practice for battle war correspondents to fly combat missions for documentary purposes. I honestly think that one of the reasons was because of the reduction of aircraft shot down as soon as the war correspondents flew together in battle. A total of eight war correspondents / photographers were murdered on combat flights.
In 26 months of battle, the 345th flew 58,562 combat hours 9120 attack sorties, dropped over 58,000 bombs with a total weight of 6340 heaps, and fired over 12.5 million rounds of ammunition. It was also awarded credit for ruining 260 Japanese airplanes on the ground and another 107 in aerial combat. Its components won Distinguished Unit Citations for four assignments and the Group was awarded the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. This listing cost the Air Apaches, 712 dead from all causes, including 580 murdered on flights, and 177 aircraft.
I took my parents to an air show at Langley Air Force Base several years back and they enjoyed the series. But when we passed an A-10 ground attack plane on static display, we couldn’t help notice how the A-10 and B-25 had a similar function in battle. They fly within gun range at low elevation to strafe enemy targets.
To summarize, I hope this report will provide you a small insight to the assignment that was assigned to the 345th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force during World War II. I hope you enjoyed this report. My parents do not have internet access, but I will print this out and send it through the mail. I am sure they’ll enjoy it. If you like the guide, please pass it along to your friends and have an excellent day!