AVIATION ENGINEERS IN THE WAR WITH JAPAN
Aviation engineers committed to the Japanese war had a more varied experience than did their colleagues in the European war. Climatic conditions ranged from the Arctic storms of the Aleutian Islands to the tropical heat of the South Pacific. The engineers had also to make adjustments to varying patterns of command. In the North, Central, and South Pacific Areas, the ultimate authority belonged to the Navy. In the Southwest Pacific the top command was an Army one, and it was there that the Army's aviation engineers played their largest role in the Pacific campaigns.
The rout of Allied forces from the Philippines and the East Indies early in 1942 made Australia the inevitable base for rally and recovery, unless it too should fall. Airfields in the northern area of this continent around Darwin were the most urgent construction requirement when the 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion, the first in that theater, moved up by rail from the south in February. The 808th EAB had practically no stateside training, but, like many of the original engineer units, it was composed of men who already were specialists. Halted during the bombings of Darwin at the town of Katherine, the battalion set up camp and began to scrape out airstrips, in which undertaking it was joined by an Army engineer unit in March. For more than three months the engineers cleared sites, often beginning by attaching a cable between two tractors and cutting the growth, and then graded and graveled them so that fighters and transports could operate. In all, seven fields were in usable condition for dry weather
when the 808th suddenly departed for Port Moresby, New Guinea, in July 1942, to improve one of the airfields near that port which the Allies had to hold at all cost. The remaining construction in the Darwin area was left to Army and Australian engineers. The aviation engineers, it seems, were pleased to leave behind the importunities and bureaucratic procedures of the Australian government and to get closer to the war.1
In New Guinea the problems were far worse than any planner had anticipated in the days before the war: the distances, the absence of docks and roads, the jungles and mountains, health and morale, and the ever insufficient forces to accomplish urgent tasks in one of the most primitive parts of the world. Since engineering and construction forces were so limited and equipment so precious, all resources were pooled under Brig. Gen. Hugh J. Casey, who had come down from the Philippines with General MacArthur and was Chief Engineer for GHQ, SWPA. Thus aviation engineers and Army engineers and sometimes Seabees labored on whatever engineering projects had to be completed—the two hundred runways built between Australia and Okinawa, roads, camp sites, docks, hospitals, depots, storage facilities, and many other construction jobs—with little or no effort to segregate aviation engineers for purely air force tasks. In February 1943, a few months after he had assumed command of Allied Air Forces and the Fifth Air Force, Maj. Gen. George C. Kenney formally requested that the aviation engineers be assigned to him. General Casey vigorously opposed any such arrangement, contending that with engineering resources so limited it would be unwise to assign the units exclusively to any one command. If the Fifth Air Force had even operational control of the aviation engineers, he maintained, the familiar problems of insufficient equipment, supplies, spare parts, and lubricants would remain, and two engineering agencies would complicate rather than simplify the problems of planning. Besides, the construction of airfields was integrally tied to the building of roads, docks, warehouses, and oil storage. Casey's point of view prevailed at GHQ, and Kenney received official notification that the Services of Supply would continue to be responsible for all new construction, including airdromes, and that engineer units would be regarded as a pool under the direction of the Chief Engineer, SWPA. It was considered desirable, "in order to permit the Air Force to concentrate primarily on its tactical mission, to relieve that Force as much as possible of major or
specialist service work." This decision remained unchanged throughout the war in that theater, although it was often criticized in AAF Headquarters, more so there, it seems, than in General Kenney's command.2
Such matters were not of primary concern in 1942, when the desperate situation created by the Japanese movement into southeastern New Guinea and the Solomons called for urgent construction work rather than dissension over command problems. The AAF needed extensive facilities that had to be developed under enemy action in remote locations on a very primitive island. An under-equipped Army engineer unit had undertaken the improvement of Jackson Drome, as it was eventually called, near the harbor of Port Moresby, but, amid dodging bombs, unloading ships, and servicing aircraft, this group had not prepared the field for all-weather use. The 808th EAB took over, working night and day and also enduring frequent Japanese bombings. Heavy rains began sooner than expected and saturated the clay shale base of the runways, making it necessary to install a costly system of underground French drains and to repave and reseal the runways with bitumen. If planned bombing missions were not curtailed by this delay, air operations in general suffered. It was eight months before Jackson Drome was finally completed, although operations went on during much of the construction period, and Army engineers extended and improved other airdromes in the vicinity. Two-thirds of the 808th's men were diverted on one occasion to create a new airfield, Durand Drome, to accommodate B-17's whose missions could not await the development of the original runways at Jackson Drome. The aviation engineers had Durand ready in only three weeks, clearing the jungle, hard-surfacing the runway, and sealing it with bitumen. After the Fortresses used it on several occasions, pierced-steel matting was laid, a sequence that did not make for stability of the subgrade.3
Already, the engineers realized that many textbook practices would have to be abandoned. In the matter of site selection there was little to go on but common sense and the luck or skill of the surveying parties. The unpredictability of the rainfall in New Guinea complicated every problem, and, since runways had to be placed in readiness without delays, the engineers on occasion took chances with drainage conditions. In a number of cases expensive reconstruction was necessary; General Casey later completed that insufficient attention had sometimes
been given to drainage. The standard military airdrome with three intersecting runways, all of them 300 or 400 feet wide, was out of the question during those early months. Only one runway was really necessary, since the winds were usually gentle and came from the same direction for part of the year and from the opposite direction for the other part. No such luxury as an airfield for each type of airplane could be afforded. Instead, the engineers cleared off jungle sites, slowly dozing the big trees, and, respectful of falling coconuts, created a landing area for transports bringing in men and materials. The next stage was to lengthen and improve the runway for fighters, and then to stabilize the base for the pavement and steel matting that would support the bombers. In time all types of aircraft would probably use the airdrome. Long after operations had begun, there might be sufficient labor, usually in the form of newly arrived aviation engineers, to construct something more than the barest essentials around the runways. By that time the experienced aviation engineer units would be developing new bases elsewhere in New Guinea or nearby islands.4
It was demonstrated many times that the unification of engineering resources in the theater was not inevitably a detriment to air force effort. Army engineers, for example, were employed in November 1942 to construct airstrips in the Dobodura area to permit air operations against the Japanese threat to nearby Buna. Using hand sickles, machetes, axes, and bayonets, they cleared sites for transports bringing in bulldozers, tractors, and graders. By the end of the year there were facilities for combat aircraft. Early in 1943 Army engineers in the Dobodura area also built Horando Drome, which was used by P-38's during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. This construction job involved an impressive air shuttle of men and machines from Port Moresby to complete the base, which was promptly used for the reinforcement of ground units and evacuation of the wounded. By July 1943 the 808th EAB, after a long stint at Port Moresby, joined the Army engineers in the Dobodura area. The 808th had even enjoyed a few weeks of rest in Australia, which General Kenney noted the unit had earned and badly needed, and which was to be its last respite from toil until 1945. Under the combined efforts of Army and aviation engineers and with the assistance of native labor, Dobodura became an elaborate base area for air operations, staging, and storage which served until late in 1944.5
Meanwhile, one of the three most notable instances of airborne aviation
engineer employment during the war took place in July 1943.* The Allies needed a base for fighters near the Lae-Salamau area, which they proposed to seize in September; this base might also serve for refueling bombers that were neutralizing the formidable Japanese air and naval establishment at Wewak. In order to locate a suitable site, Lt. Everette E. Frazier, an aviation engineer on duty with the Fifth Air Force, explored tropical forested areas with an Australian officer and a few natives. On such expeditions into enemy-held territory the natives could be relied on up to a point, although they were likely to tell the visitor only what they thought he wanted to hear. Secrecy was difficult to maintain, for the porters changed with each village, and drummed messages carried news all over the area. Yet, if the white man had weapons, medicine, and a sympathetic attitude, he could count on much co-operation. Frazier found a possible location and made his way back to Fifth Air Force headquarters. Another secret visit, this time by Brig. Gen. Paul B. Wurtsmith of V Bomber Command, resulted in the selection of an abandoned airstrip at Tsili Tsili. The air engineer of the Fifth Air Force, Lt. Col. Ward T. Abbott, took charge of the project. On 10 July 1943, a company of the 871st Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion, which had been working at Port Moresby for the brief period since its arrival in the theater, flew in C-47's to the site with light bulldozers, graders, carry-alls, and mowers. As the company set to work, natives cleared bogus airstrips in the vicinity to attract Japanese attention, which was soon forthcoming in the way of bombings. But the construction at Tsili Tsili went on undetected, a little delayed when the other companies of the 871st were unable to fly in for ten days because of bad weather. By that time the graded runway could accommodate 150 transports a day. Soon there was another runway and seventy-five handstands, and the new base was serving its purpose.6
The achievement at Tsili Tsili aroused great enthusiasm among the leaders of the aviation engineers and came to be widely publicized
Dramatic as it was, however, and important as it proved in operations against Wewak and Lae, overseas commanders were not enthusiastic about the airborne aviation engineers. As General Kenney had written before the operation, the airborne battalion was simply not the equivalent of the regular battalion for airdrome construction.7 It had only two-thirds the number of men, and its equipment was neither heavy
* The others were in North Africa and in Burma.
nor sturdy enough for major construction. The real need in the theater in engineering matters was for an abundance of engineers, construction troops, and powerful equipment. When airborne battalions arrived, the commanders felt they were being short-changed. Even at Tsili Tsili a regular battalion, its equipment broken down for air shipment and reassembled, might have served better. The scrapers that were used proved so light that kunai grass clogged them, tractors had to be repaired almost constantly, and the miniature graders danced along the surface of the ground.8 While airborne aviation engineers were employed on at least two other occasions in New Guinea, the 871st at Nadzab and, with the 872d, at Gusap in the Markham Valley, there was little for them to do but perform routine work in the rear. They regarded themselves as orphan units.9 Late in 1944 most of the airborne battalions turned in their midget equipment for heavier machines or were absorbed in conventional battalions.
Despite the sober reflections about the merits of the airborne aviation engineers, the 871st flew from Tsili Tsili to Nadzab on 7 September 1943, just two days after the massive airborne landing there. Without pause the men set to work on airstrips, putting one of them in readiness so that four days later as many as 420 transports landed. At this point the 842d. Engineer Aviation Battalion relieved it in order to lay a gravel base for steel plank to support fighters before the rainy season began. This task completed, the 842d EAB went to work on a project which would become only too familiar—road-building. During its career in the theater only one-tenth of its time was devoted to airdrome construction. In this case it was the notorious stretch of twenty-five miles between the littered harbor at Lae and the base at Nadzab, where, after sixty days of infuriating labor in drenching rains, the 842d "literally floated that road into Nadzab." Hated though it was, this road made it possible to move the heavy equipment up to Nadzab, where a complex of airfields and a mammoth base were developed. The heavily used main airfield gratifyingly represented "an airport construction engineer's dream," built as it was on an old, dry river bed with a soil of well-graded gravel. By the end of the year four fighter squadrons and two medium-bomber squadrons were based there.10
While Nadzab was under construction, the 871st and the 872d Airborne Engineer Battalions were flown far to the west and up the Markham Valley to another site chosen by Captain Frazier (he got
the Legion of Merit and malaria as a result) soon after his promotion following the Tsili Tsili exploit. As in the previous case, an adjacent site was actually developed, one at a place the Americans called Gusap, where excellent soil conditions and even a pleasant climate prevailed. The development of an all-weather base, however, was beyond the capacity of the miniature equipment of the airborne units, although the men worked doggedly night and day. At length, larger machinery was disassembled and flown in and the heaviest pieces sent overland through territory that was uncertainly in friendly hands. By the end of 1943 the fighter runway was completed and the steel plank laid. As often happened in the theater, the fighters had moved in, substantially before the airdrome was ready. As almost never happened in the theater, reports went back from Gusap that living conditions were not too bad.11
During the last months of 1943, while construction was going on apace at Nadzab and Gusap, the unexpectedly rapid conquest of Finschhafen made possible the establishment of a large air base on the rugged Huon peninsula. The veteran 808th EAB was assigned this mission. Its survey party chose a site a half-mile from a harbor, only to learn that the Navy was unwilling to risk its landing craft there. Therefore, the aviation engineers hacked a broad path through a typically dense rain forest and built a road and a bridge to link the proposed airdrome with the anchored ships, laboriously dragged the equipment up, and now found that the Navy had changed its mind about the unsuitability of the original harbor. Despite this wasted effort, which could scarcely be regarded philosophically, the 808th created in two months a suitable runway but still had much to do. At this point the Fifth Air Force hindered the engineers by swamping the new airdrome with dozens of fighters. Much confusion resulted from this stunning influx, and much chagrin over the interrupted work schedule. Yet the fighters proved very useful in waging the war, and in time Finschhafen received the attention planned for it, eventually becoming a major staging and storage base.12
Aviation engineer battalions were reaching the theater during the last of 1943 in a modest but helpful flow, although they usually arrived long before their equipment, were undertrained and had to learn by doing, and often were cast ashore with little notion of who their parent command might be. The consequence of this last situation was that orders were likely to rain in upon the battalion commanders from
all sides, for so much construction work had to be done. At length, the units would be sent somewhere and receive a formidable mission. The 856th Engineer Aviation Battalion, a Negro unit which had trained extensively for desert operations, joined Army and Navy engineers to complete the airdrome on the rain-drenched Kiriwina Island. The 864th and 1913th EAB's landed at Cape Gloucester in January 1944, followed soon by the 841st EAB, to establish facilities for the air forces in an area that threatened to rival any of the horrors offered by New Guinea. The aviation engineers had hoped to utilize captured Japanese strips, but, as usual, these proved so inadequate it was hard to see how even the unpampered enemy could ever have used them. Extensive clearing and grading had to be undertaken by these inexperienced units. Heavy rains fell almost every day, and it was necessary to haul red volcanic ash from a point eight steaming, muddy miles away with trucks that were always breaking down. When the steel mat finally arrived, someone had omitted to include clips, and an exasperating delay ensued. All these misadventures threw the aviation engineers behind schedule so that the runway was not ready until mid-March 1944. The climate had proved as bad as prophesied, and the runway was none too satisfactory, for its muddy subbase kept seeping through after heavy rains.13
The development of air facilities at Saidor, up the coast from Finschhafen, during the early months of 1944 was not expected to be a difficult assignment, since an old Australian airdrome was available. The much-employed 808th EAB and the. newly arrived 863d EAB moved in, only to learn that orders had arrived to double the expected capacity of the base. GHQ chided the planners for not having coordinated the requirements better beforehand. This was little comfort to the aviation engineers, who received as reinforcement only the relatively untried 860th EAB. All had a wretched time of it. Rain fell almost incessantly during the grading and compacting period. Food was so short that in one battalion the average loss of weight was thirty pounds a man. Worse yet, the men even ran out of cigarettes soon after the landing. Also, the inexperienced 863d built its hardstands too small and had to expend much effort trying to remedy the error. Even after the runway was finished, soft spots developed, probably because jeeps and trucks had been driven indiscriminately over it at a critical stage. Finally, by May 1944, Saidor was completed. It was a useful air base if an evil memory to many aviation engineers.14
The next lunge forward was the daring assault on Hollandia, where a major base was planned. As many as 25,000 engineer troops were scheduled to develop Hollandia, including nine engineer aviation battalions and three airborne battalions, and for the first time in this theater very detailed preparations were possible. Yet, Hollandia proved very disappointing when an inspection of the proposed base site confirmed the earlier skepticism of General Kenney and General Whitehead that the mammoth facilities projected could be developed. Only enough airfield construction to support the next operation was permitted, and this proved adequate.15 A better site lay about a hundred miles west of Hollandia on an island which came to be known as Wakde. It was quite small, but the Japanese had cut away much of a coconut plantation for an airstrip. On D Day, 17 May 1944, the 836th Engineer Aviation Battalion landed with the task force. This battalion had languished at Nadzab, like so many aviation engineer units, after it first arrived pulling "about everything in the Engineer book." Probably its most appreciated job there was the Avineer Playhouse, a huge outdoor theater which was surely the largest in the SWPA. Then it had distinguished itself by constructing Mokerang airdrome in the Admiralties in three weeks, for which General Kenney commended the unit. Not only had the Mokerang job itself been difficult, involving removal of coconut trees and the use of unfamiliar coral, but it was performed in a zone otherwise developed by the Seabees and the Army engineers, and the 836th EAB had given no cause for unfavorable comparison.16
Now at Wakde, the 836th aviation engineers became probably the first of their type to engage in extensive combat. Under enemy fire they unloaded and tackled the cratered, debris-littered airstrip left by the Japanese. For several days they were under sporadic attack by Japanese infantrymen and even saw some of their precious vehicles fired. Yet, on D plus 4 they had a fighter runway ready. Almost at once patrol planes, fighters, and transports crammed the area. It was from this runway that PB4Y's made the first aerial reconnaissance of the Philippines since early 1942. Despite all the traffic and pressure, construction proceeded on a continuous schedule. The aviation engineers laid coral and sealed the runway with bitumen, built taxiways and other essential facilities, and then enlarged the runway. Wakde satisfactorily supplemented the disappointing bases at Hollandia.17
The next operation, Biak, on 27 May 1944 again had aviation engineers
in the assault force, the 860th, 863d, and 864th Battalions. About a fifth of the men in the 863d EAB had enjoyed a rest in Australia following their hardships at Saidor. The others had utilized the interval to recover their weight and to patch up their battered equipment, for already the aviation engineers knew that it was futile to expect replacements. The passage to Biak, with an entire battalion on four LST's as a rule, was hot and otherwise uncomfortable, but at least the men and machines stayed together. And the men enjoyed a massacre of Japanese airplanes which attacked their convoy. The landing at Biak proved unusually hard. For almost two weeks the engineers unloaded, dodged shells, built roads, and carried supplies. Finally, they got through to the abandoned Japanese airstrip at Mokmer and began to fill the craters. Yet artillery fire was such that they managed to work for only twelve hours during the first three days, spending the remainder of the time under cover or helping the hard-pressed combat troops. Much behind schedule, the aviation engineers at length carried out the airfield construction required on Biak.18
In addition to the delays imposed by the fierce Japanese resistance on Biak, frustrations regarding the extreme shortage of supplies and equipment were far worse than usual. Only two large tractors of the eighteen authorized were available for the three battalions. Extensive improvisation and repair taxed the ingenuity of the men, and cannibalization of machine parts jeopardized personal relations, for usually the equipment operators had a paternal pride in their machinery. One of the battalion commanders wrote: "It is difficult to understand why strong measures are not taken to correct this deplorable and demoralizing condition." Perhaps so, but the truth was that this condition was general in the theater—even worse than elsewhere—and remained so until the war was almost over. The aviation engineers also noted without equanimity that Air Corps ground personnel received more issues of food than they did and enjoyed such luxuries as refrigeration. Another complaint arose from the custom of keeping the aviation engineers in ignorance of their mission until they landed on the beachhead, thus denying the officers an adequate opportunity to make plans or, as a battalion commander put it, "of performing such dudes expected of an engineer aviation." Dreadful living conditions, casualties, and typhus plagued the men, but they accomplished their job. They suffered as much or worse when the airfield construction program expanded to Owi Island, three miles from Biak. The project
was suddenly planned, the weather was terrible, and sickness reached epidemic proportions. Yet within ten days the 860th EAB, 864th EAB, and the Seabees had readied an airfield from which the Philippines were bombed for the first time in more than two years.19
Noemfoor Island, where the Japanese had worked about 2,500 Javanese to death on airfield development, was the next steppingstone. Except for three partially cleared airstrips, the coral island was one dense rain forest. After Cyclone Task Force landed with, unexpectedly, no opposition, the 1874th Engineer Aviation Battalion and units of Army and Australian engineers bulldozed their way through the island to enable reconnaissance parties to make their soil tests and surveys. Soon the improvement at Kornasoren, Namber, and Kamiri airstrips began, but the task involved more grading and filling than had been expected, and GHQ boosted the assignment by directing a great expansion at Kornasoren. The engineers fell behind schedule. They also had to provide for a supply of oil and aviation gasoline, and this task called for extensive underwater blasting to erect coral jetties and the laying of sixteen miles of pipe. The surf was so high at Noemfoor that ships could never unload easily there, and eventually the Allies abandoned their plan to develop the island into an extensive base. Like Biak, Noemfoor was not up to air force expectations.20
The assault on Cape Sansapor began on 30 July 1944. The reconnaissance party of the task force turned up good sites for airfield development near the village of Mar on the offshore island, Middelburg. Only at the latter were aviation engineers employed, the 836th constructed a sand jetty at Middelburg, where coral reefs prevented landing by the LST's, and defied Japanese raiders by shuttling equipment at night with the floodlights on. The runway site on the little island proved so sandy that coral had to be dug out from the ocean floor at low tides. Once it was compacted, the four companies competed with one another in laying the pierced-steel mat. The aviation engineers, and the Army unit which joined them, underwent the usual deprivations, air raids, and primitive living conditions, but by now most of them were used to such a life. The job went ahead gratifyingly, the airfield being readied two days ahead of schedule. Then came the phase of constructing bulk-oil storage tanks and facilities for the care of aircraft and, whenever a moment could be stolen, the improvement of living quarters. Like other troops on distant bases,
the aviation engineers knew by now they had to look after themselves in matters of housekeeping. More important, the base they provided enabled the Thirteenth Air Force to move far to the west and to begin its campaign against the Philippines and Borneo.21
By now everyone knew that each pause should be relished, for another operation would begin only too soon. The men relaxed, often in the useful way of working on their machines. Then would come the alerting orders and the packing, waterproofing, and loading. Always too early, it seemed, they would finish the task and board the LST's, only to wait in cramped quarters until the GI cruise began. Enemy action seldom endangered them seriously and often raised their spirits, or at least broke the monotony. The men liked to keep track of the number of times they had crossed the Equator. Even the officers seldom knew what kind of job awaited them or where it would be. Work there would be, they knew, and Japanese, sickness, and infuriating mechanical and technical problems. Yet they were a seasoned group, and they probably never doubted they would do what was needed and move on to another assignment. They generally felt, as most of the troops in the SWPA seemed to do, that they were unsung and unappreciated.
The Morotai operation was clearly crucial, for its bases would permit the AAF to support the planned landings in the Philippines. Here the air commanders for once had the authority to locate the sites for airfields, as assignment which GHQ engineers thought they bungled, for the locations had to be changed.22 Three battalions of aviation engineers, the 836th, 841st and 1876th, were included with the Army, Australian, and later Seabee construction forces. The aviation engineers arrived on 21 September 1944, several days after the initial landing, and found that the surf and sand had already claimed several pieces of heavy equipment. Their camp site consisted mainly of foxholes. The inevitable rain soon began. The task of the 836th EAB was the construction of the Pitoe runway, which "resembled a hog wallow of gigantic proportions," although it was high and dry compared to the sites other units had. It developed at once that far more material than usual would have to be removed. Then Morotai coral proved unexpectedly hard, so that a number of small, shallow pits had to be dug, thus aggravating the hauling problem when there were already too few vehicles. If native labor was not available, at least neither were Japanese snipers in any appreciable number. Although
Pitoe was made into a hard-surfaced heavy-bomber base in slightly more than three weeks, a nearby airdrome called Wama was developed only after heroic efforts. Great quantities of debris had to be removed, about 5,000 large coconut trees had to be pushed over by bulldozers, most of them individually, and elaborate drainage facilities installed. Within two weeks the runway was operational, and then pierced-steel mat was laid on the coral base. In all, the construction job had gone very well. Morotai acquired the reputation of being the most efficient engineering job ever conducted in the SWPA to that date.23
One of the battalion commanders afterward wrote that the construction on Morotai had been carefully controlled and directed and that a good spirit had prevailed. Yet, he added, almost all the details had been irritating. Nails, for example, were almost unobtainable. Orders had dribbled in on the aviation engineers from a variety of sources. Everybody seemed to want to borrow their equipment, usually to improve living quarters, but the engineers had learned to be hardhearted in such matters. Supply channels were so choked that irregular methods alone got results. This situation involved the politics of the base, knowing the right people, and the successful approach. In addition to the usual sprains and back injuries, the men had suffered particularly from skin disorders on Morotai. And, while it was bad enough for aviation engineers to see companion units of the Army work less and live better, the presence of the Seabees in the vicinity was almost disastrous to morale. Not only did the Navy construction forces enjoy comfortable quarters, refrigeration, and higher ratings, but they received much better publicity back home. When at last the lightening of labor came with the completion of the construction job, another affliction of an imperfect world appeared. This was a determined program of basic training and combat drill which the aviation engineers must have realized, however much they grumbled, was a needed preparation for future hazards in the Philippines.24
To provide the logistical services required for the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944, an advanced echelon of Army service forces called ASCOM was created. Of the 37,000 engineer troops in the theater, 14,000 were assigned to ASCOM. Aviation engineers continued to be pooled with other construction forces and were fed into
ASCOM as they arrived from the rear or the States. The air engineers on duty with Far East Air Forces headquarters, or with the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces, served essentially as planning and liaison officers, not commanding or even supervising the aviation engineers but participating with GHQ in over-all planning. The decision to seize Leyte instead of Mindanao disregarded the engineering problems involved in such a move, especially with respect to air-base construction. There was very little information about the obscure island, and such as the planners possessed proved to be erroneous as to existing Japanese fields, soil conditions, and rainfall.25 The ensuing brush with disaster because of a lack of airfields for the AAF and the "terrible disappointment"26 that Leyte constituted in this respect were consequences of a calculated risk for which the Army assumed full responsibility.27 The failure of the engineers to provide the bases when needed was not caused by their lack of effort or skill.
The memorable hardships at Tacloban airstrip just after the landing of 20 October 1944 involved only one aviation engineer battalion, the 1881st, which worked with two Army construction companies. The attacks of Japanese kamikaze and other aircraft, the appalling overcrowding of the strip, and the emergency use of the runway by naval planes have already been related.* In spite of these difficulties, the engineers laid steel mat and prepared dispersal areas for fighters only one day behind schedule.28 By then the rains had begun, and it was becoming apparent that Filipino laborers, who had been weakened by hunger and then sated with captured Japanese stores, were not likely to be as helpful as expected. The experienced 808th Battalion landed on the beachhead on A plus 3, charged with the rehabilitation of the former Japanese airfield at Dulag, to the south of Tacloban. Scarcely had the men collected themselves when stranded naval aircraft began to land. Equipment had to be moved off the runway, the planes serviced and pulled out of the mud. Then the rains started, and enemy attacks began. Within a few days the 821st and 842d Engineer Aviation Battalions joined the 808th EAB and during the few rainless hours of the day began to spread gravel and sand over the runway. A flash flood intervened to submerge the only gravel pit and drown out many of the trucks. Finally, steel mat had to be laid on the road so the revived trucks could make it to the runway. By mid-November
fighters could land and take off at Dulag, but the unfortunate field never became the principal base it was expected to be.29
Meanwhile, reconnaissance into the interior revealed supposedly more promising sites. The 1906th Engineer Aviation Battalion and a battalion of Seabees worked over a dry-weather strip at Bayug, which abruptly became a nightmare of mud when the dry weather ceased. Yet the Fifth Air Force was desperate for bases on Leyte, so, disregarding the rules, the engineers laid steel mat on the graded mud. Before this experiment could be judged, the Japanese dropped paratroopers on Bayug and other fields, a sensational.event which had no lasting military effect, but which delayed work and gave the engineers the right to regard themselves as combat troops. Not until late in December was Bayug usable on any scale, and it was never favored as a landing area because of the unstable base below the steel planks. Two other projected airstrips on Leyte which had absorbed some effort of the engineers to little purpose, Buri and San Pablo, were abandoned. Only Tanauan, which lay on the beach and had good drainage, offered much hope. Yet two objections loomed. At the south approach of the proposed runway stood a steep rocky hill. And on the site itself lay the command post of General Kruger, who had obligingly moved out of the engineers' way at Tacloban. Both difficulties figuratively dissolved in the face of necessity, and within eighteen days two battalions of aviation engineers removed the jungle growth, added coral, compacted it with sheepsfoot and smooth rollers, and laid steel mat. Tanauan proved to be a good airfield, and the hill was apparently no hazard at all. In fact, the pilots seemed to enjoy skimming over it and dropping as suddenly as they could onto the runway.30
Airfield construction was only a fraction of the engineer effort on Leyte. After Mindoro and Luzon became available, the engineers who remained on Leyte added to Tacloban and Tanauan airdromes, but devoted most of their labors to such necessities as roads, port facilities, oil storage, hospitals, prisoner-of-war stockades, depots, and other construction. Even if the air forces were only too happy to get out of Leyte, the island became a formidable base for other purposes. The aviation engineers who arrived there during the winter of 1944-45 generally expected to enjoy civilization, but the mud and the backwardness of the population disenchanted many of them, and they were glad to move on eventually to Luzon. One battalion even reported that its morale reached bottom in Leyte—that after a long tour
of duty on New Guinea! The diversion of the aviation engineers from airfield construction or even air force construction continued to trouble both the air engineer in Washington and air officers in the theater, but GHQ, SWPA, did not relax its grip. At the end of the Philippines campaign, it was estimated that far more than half the effort of the aviation engineers had been devoted to construction unrelated to the air forces. But, of course, many Army engineers labored for the AAF.31
Mindoro largely remedied the deficiencies of Leyte as an air base. The southwestern tip of the island contained an area with good soil and not too much moisture. Three aviation engineer battalions comprised a large majority of the engineer troops in the task force that landed on the island on 15 December 1944. Exactly on schedule the airstrip (Hill Field) was readied for fighters, a circumstance that proved highly fortunate. The 8th Fighter Group arrived just in time to break up a punishing Japanese air attack. A few days later work at Elmore Field was interrupted when the Japanese fleet lobbed shells onto the runway and fired the gasoline storage tanks. The engineers pitched in to service the B-25's and fighters which were flying against the naval forces from a base that was not even officially operational. The destruction of fuel by this attack, the untimely loss of a ship bearing mat, plus enemy raids and rain, threw the schedule somewhat behind for Murtha and McGuire dromes on Mindoro. As a consequence of this situation and logistical problems in general, the landings on Luzon were postponed almost three weeks.32
Fourteen aviation engineer battalions comprised approximately a third or more of the vast construction forces assembled to develop Luzon into the predominant base of the western Pacific. While other engineers repaired roads and bridges and otherwise facilitated the advance of the ground forces following the landings at Lingayen Gulf on 9 January 1945, aviation engineers, merged almost indistinguishably with other units, began to rehabilitate airfields. The first mission involved a turf strip in the beachhead area. The 810th Engineer Aviation Battalion, just arrived from Biak, landed on 15 January without its equipment because of a high surf. Luckily, the job was simple. Four hundred civilians were hired to fill in the craters and to lay palm fronds to keep propeller backwash from blowing sand through the steel mat. When the mat and machines were finally unloaded, construction went fast, and the field soon was ready for the Fifth Air
Force. The second site on the beachhead proved to have too high a water table, so the engineers chose one in a rice paddy in Mangaldan. In five days it was serviceable as a dry-weather field, although heavy bombers soon ruined it through overuse. Meanwhile, the 841st EAB refurbished the former enemy airstrip at Mabalacat, and, just as Clark Field was being captured, the 863d EAB moved in to fill up the craters in the concrete runway made by American bombs. Filipino labor was invaluable here, but many other inhabitants tore at the hearts of the engineers by standing hungrily, apparently not in vain, beside the chow lines.33
During the first half of 1945 thirty-six aviation engineer battalions, the largest number in any one theater, were concentrated in the Philippines. When an engineer construction command (ENCOM) was established in March 1945 under Maj. Gen. Leif J. Sverdrup, the engineer forces on Luzon came within its control.34 FEAF's construction program centered about five major airdromes and extensive depots. Within a week after its capture Clark Field became a much-used American base again. Nichols, Nielson, Floridablanca, and Porac were the scenes of great construction activity during the hot and dusty months of early 1945. The three-shift day, seven days a week, which had always prevailed when necessary in the theater, became standard for month after month. Japanese saboteurs were a nuisance, though not as much so as pilferers. Filipino labor was willing but often not mechanical-minded or, after years of deprivation in that hot climate, notably energetic. Yet the attractions of Manila and the greatly increased flow of recreational supplies and comforts made life much pleasanter for many aviation engineers.
The scattered battalions in those last months of the war had little in common. Some worked more or less desultorily in Leyte or elsewhere on miscellaneous construction. Others had urgent missions to improve or rebuild airfields to support a war that was still on, not only on Luzon, but on Panay, Mindanao, and other islands. Some battalions, like the 863d, performed such work as repairing railroad bridges to permit the first trains to enter Manila, and constructing piers while the city was still under fire. The 857th EAB drew the assignment of providing comfortable quarters for GHQ in Manila. Prefabricated huts, water and sewer pipes, an electrical lighting system, and sidewalks were installed under the watchful eyes of the brass at GHQ who were eager to get settled. The 872d Airborne and kindred
units became or joined standard battalions, sometimes with a little sadness. Also, there were a few problem battalions, under-strength, often idle, and demoralized. The 855th EAB, for example, had been involved in a race riot during training days in California. A few months later a fourth of its men were lost when a Japanese torpedo sank the ship carrying the battalion to the Southwest Pacific. It had never recovered, either in numbers or in spirit, and Col. George Mayo, visiting air engineer from Washington, found the unit in bad shape when he saw it at Nichols Field in 1945.35
This inspection by Colonel Mayo was indeed exhaustive. After he had visited almost every aviation engineer battalion in the theater, he wrote up his impressions for General Kenney and later submitted a more detailed report to General Arnold.36 On the whole, Mayo thought morale was reasonably high despite lack of leaves and rest, alleged discrimination against the engineers, and denial of recognition. Most of the units were well trained, but by civilian and theater experience, not by stateside instruction. Supply, he thought, was inadequate and unorganized, a point that aviation engineer battalion commanders could enlarge upon with more vigorous language. Authorized equipment had generally furnished in the beginning, but it was badly worn, and maintenance was sometimes totally inadequate. The personnel situation was quite bad because too many battalions were understrength and opportunities for promotion were altogether too few, especially for the officers and men who had served in the theater the longest. Finally, the employment of the aviation engineers, he held, was faulty, for air commanders could not obtain needed construction without going through interminable channels and having their demands weighed against all others. The shifting of aviation engineers from one command to another, to task force, Army, ENCOM, and so on, had been detrimental to both morale and efficiency. Justified as these and other criticisms were, the work of the engineers, whether they were aviation, Army, Navy, or Australian, spoke for itself. The impressive feats of engineering in the long campaign from Australia to Okinawa permit no overwhelmingly negative appraisal of the system under which they were achieved.
The Japanese occupation of Kiska and Attu in June 1942 provoked the Americans into an ambitious program of base-building, for the
airdrome they had already made at Umnak was too distant to support sustained attacks on the western Aleutians. Despite many objections, including the estimate that three or four months might be required to build an air base on it, Adak Island was chosen for first development. At midnight on 31 August 1942 two companies of the 807th Engineer Aviation Battalion followed the assault party in a howling gale onto this little-known island. High surf and continuing bad weather interfered with the unloading, so that a more sheltered beach had to be found for the tossing barges and other assorted craft, one of which, the one carrying the runway mat, was lost. The aviation engineers sank two barges to provide a dock and transferred their equipment by crane while officers hurriedly surveyed the island to locate a suitable airfield site. Since a Japanese attack might come at any time, the heavy construction machines had to be dispersed, and roads had to be scraped to permit this. After all, the nearest source of replacement was in Seattle.37
What followed was a fine engineering job that became the boast of the aviation engineers. In only ten days the 807th had an adequate base for fighters. It was located on a sand-covered flat on the lower valley of a creek, an area formerly covered by sea water at high tide. The trick was to throw up a dike between tides to keep the ocean out. This done expeditiously, the aviation engineers then diverted the creek by dozing a substitute channel and erecting levees. Next they picked up rocks by hand and hauled them off, and then with timber attached to a tractor dragged the area until it was smooth. Grading, packing, and the laying of steel mat followed easily enough. By 10 September AAF aircraft started to come in, and on 14 September they initiated attacks on the Japanese at Kiska. Not until the end of the month did the enemy discover the new base at Adak, which by that time had taxiways, buildings, hangars, shops, hardstandings, and a permanent drainage system. In fact, Adak proved so satisfactory that a bomber runway was developed, also in less time than expected, and again considerable ingenuity came into play. In this case, the aviation engineers excavated sand from the flat and filled in with tundra brought from the hills. Not only the speed but the excellence of American construction practices contrasted with those of the enemy, who on Kiska and Attu employed convict labor with almost no equipment but midget dump trucks to scrape out bumpy airstrips.38
By early 1943 the American fores moved into Amchitka, which
was adjacent to Kiska. Here they had a run of bad luck, the winter weather being extremely severe, the enemy raiding from time to time during the construction, and the job itself proving harder than had been estimated. Removing hills and filling gullies required five weeks instead of the two or three planned for, but by the middle of February a steel-matted fighter base was in operation. The 813th Engineer Aviation Battalion and the 896th Engineer Aviation Company carried out this job. The 896th Company was an experimental unit which the Air Engineer, Brig. Gen. Stuart C. Godfrey, hoped would illustrate the usefulness of aviation engineers operating directly under air force control, in this case the Eleventh Air Force, rather than under the theater command. While no fundamental change in the command structure resulted from this experiment, most of the air force headquarters overseas later received companies of aviation engineers for small jobs.39The climactic undertaking of the aviation engineers of the Aleutians came with the assault on Attu. On 30 May 1943, two weeks after the initial landing, about one-third of the 807th Battalion unloaded at Massacre Bay. In the week before the equipment arrived the men made the necessary surveys and soil tests and set up camp. Fighting was still going on, rains fell, and the temperature was still uncomfortably low. But nothing interfered with the construction work, which was essentially a matter of removing tundra, stabilizing sand, and laying steel mat. It was all done eleven days after the work commenced. The runway was not overly suitable, for drainage was difficult and the mat did not rest securely on the sandy base. However, the total Japanese evacuation of the Aleutians shortly afterward reduced the importance of the airdrome and its problems. For another year the aviation engineers remained in the Alaskan area improving bases and engaging in miscellaneous construction tasks. Eventually the well-experienced 807th and 813th Battalions went back to the States for rest and then to very demanding tasks in the western Pacific.40
The South Pacific
The desperate fighting in the South Pacific during 1942 gave urgent importance to airdrome construction in the remote and undeveloped islands of that area. The situation would have proved still more critical had the shortage of construction forces not been matched by the unavailability of aircraft.41 Army engineers and Marines had begun airfield building there in early 1942, and eventually an impressive flow
of the civilian Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees) satisfied the most critical requirements of the air forces. Since this was primarily a Navy theater, command functions in construction matters came under the direction of naval officers. By 1943, however, the Thirteenth Air Force assumed control of aviation engineer battalions through its air service command, an arrangement which worked out to general satisfaction.42 While the operations of the aviation engineers were less crucial and less spectacular than those of the Seabees, their contribution was significant. Tontouta, the most important air base on New Caledonia, and also one of the most highly developed in the entire theater, was largely the work of the 811th Engineer Aviation Battalion. Plaines des Gaiacs, on the northern end of New Caledonia, was the product of the 810th Battalion, like the 811th, a Negro unit which remained on the island for two years and then went on to further toil in the western Pacific.
The early career of the 810th illustrated many of the human and functional problems that arose during the first years of the war in the South Pacific. Crediting a rumor that they were going to a cold climate, the men stored their suntans and sweltered in winter uniforms for five weeks as their transport made its way in the spring of 1942 to Noumea, the port of New Caledonia. For three weeks, until their equipment came, they unloaded ships, often under enemy bombings. When their machinery arrived, they had to move it more than a hundred miles over a mountainous trail to the construction site, a task that necessitated felling trees, reinforcing bridges, fording streams, and, if their training was like that of most aviation engineers, learning how to operate the heavy pieces. On the way the troops frequently cheered themselves up by singing and in fact often seemed to be in a holiday mood. The runway at Plaines des Gaiacs they placed in condition for fighters to use in time for the Battle of the Coral Sea. During this emergency they also unloaded fuel for the aircraft from a nearby grounded tanker. The major construction at Plaines des Gaiacs went on for some months. Mangrove trees were cleared, the runway was lengthened and improved, and machinery broke down and was repaired. The problem of dust they overcame with calcium chloride treatment. Later, when rains impended, they made the runway all-weather by tapping a surface iron-ore pit and rolling the red iron oxide on the base repeatedly. When it became available, steel mat was laid. Hard work, improvisation, and common sense solved all problems
in that unfamiliar atmosphere. Finally, the men made themselves a comfortable camp on the native pattern, with roofs of heavy mat grass, and continued to work on various construction jobs, building a dock at the northern harbor of New Caledonia, roads, and storage facilities. Relations with the natives were extremely cordial. Still, a reporter had reason to describe the 810th EAB in 1944 as a forgotten and unvisited unit. And in 1945 the Air Engineer pointed out that the battalion, by that time in the Philippines, had never been in a rest camp. Nostalgic veterans of New Caledonia might have disagreed.43
Another battalion had a good time of it on the more developed Fiji Islands. This was the 821st EAB, which went directly there after being quartered a week in the Cow Palace at San Francisco awaiting ship early in 1942. Debarking at Fiji, the men made an eighteen-mile trip to the site, a mass of weeds and brush, which they soon transformed into a fighter field known as Narewa and a pleasant enough camp. Later they worked with Seabees in construction in the Nandi area and other parts of the island. Finally, in early 1944, the 821st EAB went to the Russell Islands to build camps, roads, cemeteries, hospitals, and tank farms. Here they were amused by parrots and annoyed by rats, enervated by malaria, and made miserable by the rainfall.44
The 828th Engineer Aviation Battalion joined the Seabees in the later stages of reconstructing the famous Munda airfield on New Georgia. This pattern was typical of aviation engineer employment in the South Pacific. The Seabees performed most of the construction, and the aviation engineers were pulled in as auxiliaries. While full of admiration for the way the Seabees handled the urgent jobs, air officers could scarcely refrain from expressing envy of the ample equipment, sufficient numbers, good living conditions, and considerable publicity the rival forces enjoyed. Yet they noted that the civilian Seabees, who were older than the aviation engineers, could not stand up as well to combat conditions and the strain of unrelenting labor that the latter performed round the clock during the rather frequent emergency periods of the Pacific war.45
When the Navy's Central Pacific campaign got under way in 1943, there were air bases to be built on the atolls of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Here again, aviation engineers supported the Seabees. The 804th Engineer Aviation Battalion, experienced through its long labors in the Hawaiian Islands, sent a detachment on 1 September 1943
to Baker Island, where the only structure was a lighthouse and the only inhabitants were birds. In ten days the men had a runway cleared, graded, and surfaced with steel mat, and a squadron of P-40's came in to protect the aviation engineers as further construction went on. After finishing parking mats and hardstands for fighters and bombers, as well as Quonset huts and mess halls, the 804th moved on, leaving the remainder of the job to the Seabees. Late in November 1943 the 804th EAB appeared on the coconut-forested Makin Island, where Starmann Field was to be built. The previously chosen site proved too marshy, and the substituted area forced the aviation engineers to familiarize themselves with the approved method of removing coconut trees, a skill the troops in SWPA had already attained. It would not do to strike the trunk normally, for it would break and leave a cumbersome root mass to be dug up. Rather, the blow must be high to tip the trunk, the upturned root slowly dozed up, and the entire tree dragged off by tractors. The threat to operators of falling coconuts quickly lost its humorous aspect. Agility in dodging seemed the only reliable defense, for reinforced headgear or umbrellas scarcely served. As for Starmann Field, work went on with the usual 24-hour daily schedule despite rain and Japanese air attacks and snipers. The aviation engineers had only one respite, five hours on Christmas Day. By that time the steel mat had been laid and fighters were operating. Ready rooms, control towers, communications facilities, water towers, tank farms, and living quarters had to be completed. Perhaps there was a trace of smugness in the report by the aviation engineers that the Seabees, unfortunately, had fallen behind schedule in their kindred projects on nearby islands.46
Starmann Field was ready to support heavy bombers of the Seventh Air Force which participated in the assault on Kwajalein. In February 1944 the 854th Engineer Aviation Battalion, which had also gained experience in the Hawaiian Islands, began to unload the day after the invasion. The battle was in progress, and the engineers helped bury the dead. They planned to rehabilitate the Japanese strip by laying Marston mat, which they had brought along, but Navy pilots objected to landing their fighters on such a surface. The aviation engineers had to abandon their plan, not without many caustic observations, and search for suitable grade and subgrade materials. At last they found coarse coral rock and sand which was acceptable and, after working without respite for twelve days, had a runway available to
receive a damaged TBF. As the runway was improved and extended and buildings erected, what the aviation engineers took to be a whimsical.
desire to remove the control tower to another location again brought tensions with the Navy to the stage of energetic discussion. Of course, the Navy had its way. In time, the airdrome on Kwajalein became a major base for combat and transport aircraft, one of the key steppingstones across the Pacific. Guam and Saipan would be the next major undertakings.47
Aviation engineer operations in China and India during the first two years of the war scarcely fulfilled the purpose for which the battalions had been organized. In China there were not battalions at all, but only a small core of officers under Capt. Henry A. Byroade, who advised General Chennault and oversaw to some degree the Chinese construction of airfields. In India the Tenth Air Force needed and desired air bases but depended on British supervision and Indian labor to provide them.48 All of the five aviation engineer battalions (the 823d, 848th, 849th, 858th)1, and 1883d) which reached the theater during 1942 and 1943 were Negro units. As soon as they arrived, they fell under the command of the Corps of Engineers in the Services of Supply to participate in building the Ledo (later Stilwell) Road. The first white battalion, the 853d EAB, came in the first weeks of 1944, late and crippled by a tragedy. Obtaining its training largely in flood control during a rising of the Mississippi in 1943, the 853d had shipped to Algeria, where for a few weeks the men performed small-scale construction. Late in November, while sailing to India, more than half the battalion was lost after an aerial torpedo launched by a German airplane struck its ship near Sicily. When the survivors arrived in India, they were put to work near Calcutta doing mostly quarrying and small jobs for several months.49
The other battalions had reached the Ledo Road after a prodigious amount of traveling. They went on ships by way of Africa, usually to Bombay, and then moved for days on slow trains across India to the Bhramaputra River. Steamers took them up the river to a point where railways connected with Burma, and another train ride ensued. At last they would join the construction forces on the Ledo Road. Each battalion would work on a segment of a few miles and leapfrog to another. Their morale seems to have been surprisingly high, considering
the distance from home, the rainy season, malaria, and the familiar catalogue of other hardships. Usually they worked on a 24-hour-day schedule seven days a week, but they often lived in bamboo and thatched houses that were not uncomfortable. The enemy seldom molested them. Burmese villages offered certain interests and attractions, and the town of Ledo was reported to be almost as good to visit as a stateside city. The alternation of laboring in the jungle lowlands and the highest mountain chain in the world, in cold and heat, in dust and floods, they seem to have accepted without undue complaint. The work itself was monotonous only in its abundance, for each mile presented a challenge to the ingenuity of the men and the sturdiness of their equipment. Both were equal to it. They hauled rocks, dug ditches, laid culverts, rolled roadbeds, erected bridges, dozed out bamboo jungles, and fought erosion on mountain slopes where the road should be. They occasionally scraped out airstrips, although the air forces had a low opinion of their quality. The aviation engineers had some sense of reward in seeing the Ledo Road take shape.50
At last, in January 1945, the road was finished, and some of the battalions—by now there were eight of them—began to move into China, where their services had long been coveted. The 858th EAB was the first to go, taking its heavy equipment more than a thousand miles over the famous road it had helped to build. The 1891st EAB perhaps traveled even more miles in going into China, or so its claim reads. An account by the historian of the 1880th related with pride that every piece of his unit's equipment made it safely, although gravity seemed to have been defied. The men stopped to patch the road they tore up and occasionally had to scramble to save a heavy machine from sliding off into space. Every man had to work his passage by driving the cherrypickers, carry-alls, trucks, tractors, scrapers, and other equipment in relays around the sharp curves. Sometimes appreciative inhabitants applauded when a particularly difficult corner was negotiated. Often it rained. Loads had to be reduced to get a machine across bridges. Once a Bailey bridge, described with assurance as the longest of its type in the world, began to sag with several heavy pieces on it over a fearful torrent. But this and other hazards had no disastrous outcome. When the aviation engineers arrived in China, they received ovations worthy of the liberators of France or the Philippines. Toward the end of the war, when the Chinese armies were melting away, truck-drivers of the 1880th EAB were imperiled by trigger-happy
Chinese soldiers who would shoot if denied rides. Soon all these incidents were only memories. The war was over, and the aviation engineers were going home.51
The airborne aviation engineers demonstrated in Burma that they were handy to have around, a point most overseas air commanders had at times doubted. On Christmas Day, 1943, the 900th Airborne Aviation Engineer Company was flown to Shingbwiyang, beyond the head of the Ledo Road, to construct the first airfield behind enemy lines in Burma. On 5 March 1944, this unit participated with the celebrated Chindits and commandos led by General Wingate and Col. Philip G. Cochran in a brilliant exploit, descending by gliders at night deep into enemy territory. Two men were killed, and almost all of them had very rough landings. The troops at once began to work with their miniature equipment to clear a landing strip for transports, which arrived the following night. Soon they had five fair-weather airstrips ready, averaging one a day. Then they became combat troops to defend the airstrips against Japanese infantrymen. General Godfrey praised the engineers for a marvel of daring and efficient planning, and General Arnold congratulated the 900th Company.52
The exploit at Myitkyina, directed by Col. Manuel J. Asensio, air engineer of the Tenth Air Force, was another bright spot in a somewhat frustrating campaign. Company A of the 879th airborne engineers took off in transports and gliders on 17 May 1944, with Brig. Gen. William D. Old piloting the lead plane. After a rough ride, all the gliders crash-landed, but only four men were hurt. The company commander was greeted with the words, "You are in the way!" Perhaps it seemed that way as mortar shells fell and Zeroes strafed and bombed. Yet the engineers rallied and fought back. Hand grenades apparently saved them from enemy infantrymen. Soon they scraped out airstrips which accommodated fleets of transports over the next months. The whole area long remained dependent on air supply. Emergencies arose repeatedly, as on 29-30 July when a monsoon storm almost flooded the Americans out. Somehow the aviation engineers managed to keep the fields in operation. When it became apparent that the Japanese were likely to hold out at Myitkyina for a long period, the Tenth Air Force began to fly in standard aviation engineer battalions with heavy equipment, which of course had to be disassembled and packed and then put together again. In all, four such battalions went to Myitkyina. It was the only area in the whole theater
where the aviation engineers worked in strength under air force control.53
Late in 1943 General Godfrey was transferred from Washington to the China-Burma-India theater. The development of the MATTERHORN project for basing B-29's in CBI had the highest priority in the theater in addition to the steady impulses of pressure from General Arnold himself. Godfrey envisaged his new job as one of establishing standards and supervising the B-29 bases in the Bengal area, getting the airborne forces into operation under the Tenth Air Force, and overseeing construction in China for the Fourteenth Air Force. For this mission he asked to be designated, and was, Air Engineer, Air Forces, CBI.54 The Tenth Air Force assumed direction of airfield construction in Burma, and, in China, General Chennault, acting usually through his air engineer, Col. Henry A. Byroade, had immediate control of airdrome building. But, since aviation engineers and their equipment did not reach China in any numbers until early 1945, the work there was performed by hundreds of thousands of Chinese working under local contractors.* In the building of B-29 bases in the Bengal area, British, Indian, and U.S. Army officials had a considerable hand. In all, General Godfrey's position was about as complicated and unsatisfactory as other aspects of command in that theater proved to be.
The construction of permanent airdromes for B-29's in southern Bengal—at Kharagpur, Chakulia, Piardoba, and Dudhkundi—was a frustrating and generally disappointing affair. The unrelenting pressure from Washington was not always necessary or helpful. In the theater, XX Bomber Command vigorously insisted that the work proceed in spite of infuriating and bewildering delays. In February 1944 its commander, Brig. Gen. Kenneth B. Wolfe, complained of the complicated system of getting approval, "this God-awful system of who does what kind of work, when and how," of dissension and arguments. In May he expressed impatience with the stock answers to charges of lack of progress. There was little remedial action the aviation engineers could take. There were only four battalions in the area, including the handicapped 853d EAB and three others that arrived tardily and weeks ahead of their equipment. Importunities to bring the aviation engineers down from the Ledo Road were of little avail. British and Indian authorities procured materials and labor. The Army
Service Forces had the ultimate control of logistical matters. In May 1944 General Godfrey, while recognizing the variety of problems, expressed his opinion that things were going as well as possible under the circumstances. After trimming many of the requirements and cutting corners, the construction forces had the bases ready to receive Superforts in April and May 1944 and finished by September.55
The aviation engineers, numbering more than half the 6,000 or so U.S. construction troops, labored in heat and dust, mud and rain. The excavation, grading, hauling, laying of concrete, and building of hangars and shops went on as rapidly as the availability of materials permitted. Lavish use was made of Indian laborers, perhaps 27,000 of of them, including women, who carried supplies on head trays. While the Americans believed they overcame various taboos and showed the British a few tricks about securing co-operation from the natives, the workers were often exasperating. They wasted time riding equipment for fun and often pilfered. Rain was likely to scatter them and keep them away for too long a time. Local police and contractors manipulated petty rackets that sometimes discouraged the Indians from working at all. In spite of these vexations, the aviation engineers probably regarded their daily routine as preferable to that of their comrades on the Ledo Road or in the jungles of Burma.56
The construction of very-heavy-bomber bases in China went better. Here the job could properly be appraised as stupendous. The immediate control of the program by the Fourteenth Air Force and the availability of hundreds of thousands of workers, most of them apparently cheerful and willing, averted some of the frustrations of the kindred project in India. Between January and May 1944, when the B-29 bases in the Chengtu area were built, a few dozen aviation engineers planned and directed the work, choosing sites near materials they would need and selecting the necessary combination of rocks and sand for the runways. The labor itself was performed by the Chinese, whose social problems in disturbing the good earth and building by hand the vast bases caught the imagination of the American press. Much less inspiring and less publicized were the negotiations with the Chinese government, for the bases proved extremely costly. And for some reason the Chinese proved much less competent at maintaining the runways than in constructing them. After early 1945, when the Ledo Road was opened, aviation engineers could reach China in significant numbers with their heavy equipment, but now the B-29's had
moved out of China. In the few months that remained of war, the engineers did not need to inaugurate large engineering projects.57
The last phases of the Pacific war brought the aviation engineers a staggering load of work in the Marianas, where airfields were constructed for the B-29's of XXI Bomber Command.* Until close to the end of hostilities fifteen battalions labored to this purpose. The early planning for the great air bases in the Marianas was carried out in the headquarters of the Seventh Air Force at a time when the engineers of that diminutive organization had little data with which to prepare estimates. Even though representatives of XXI Bomber Command participated toward the end of the planning, many requirements were seriously underestimated. Thus the aviation engineers found themselves with tasks and schedules beyond their capabilities and often fell behind. Moreover, data for Guam were inadequate when it came to planning air bases of such magnitude, while for Saipan, which had been under German and Japanese rule, there was scarcely any intelligence at all. Finally, the command situation was a chronic source of dissatisfaction to air engineers. Administratively, they were under Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Area (AAFPOA), but for materials and supplies they depended on Army garrison forces. Island commanders had operational control of their work, and, in the last analysis, Admiral Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Area (CINCPOA), made the important decisions. This situation permitted such "processing" that it might take weeks to obtain approval for a job requiring only a few hours to complete.58
Five aviation engineer battalions (the 804th, 805th, 806th, 1878th, and 1894th) performed the major airfield construction on Saipan. The seasoned 804th EAB went ashore on 20 June 1944, five days after the assault. Moving the equipment over a wide pock-marked coral reef to the shore, which was dominated by a 50-foot rock bluff, was a formidable task itself, involving dozing a path over the reef and wading through chest-deep water. Then a cut had to be blasted through the bluff, but, in spite of these obstacles, on the second day after landing a platoon began working on the former Japanese strip at Aslito. The men filled the holes and made good use of a captured Japanese roller, so that within 24 hours a P-47 could land. After four days the
* See Vol. V, 512-25, for general discussion of B-29 bases in the Pacific.
aviation engineers had placed a short Marston mat on the runway, had laid a pipe to the ocean to bring in sea water, and had started two coral quarries. Whereupon about 300 Japanese infantrymen overran the field, brandishing axes and automatic weapons. The aviation engineers dropped their tools and grabbed rifles to help drive the enemy away.59
The counterattack was only an incident, however unnerving. More serious interference came when the Japanese began to bomb and strafe the construction troops and kept it up for days. Tropical rains worsened spirits and working conditions but, of course, did not prevent labor. After reinforcements arrived, the engineers were grouped in a construction unit that proceeded to make Aslito (later Isley Field) a base fit for the Superforts. It was hard work. Saipan was hot and overcrowded. Mud alternated with palls of dust. There was no time to build a bivouac area, for construction went on day and night, and all equipment was absorbed. For months the troops had no fresh food. Half the trucks broke down at one time, and all of them at one time or another. The road from the coral pits to the runway was ruinous on vehicles, and replacements were unobtainable. Most of the aviation engineers were not accustomed to working with coral, which was harder than anticipated, and found they had a great deal to learn. Nearly every foot had to be blasted. In October a typhoon threatened disaster to the bombers that had recently arrived. Aviation engineers devised rings in their welding shops to anchor the aircraft. In November a Japanese plane crashed into the camp area and burned.60 Later that month a loaded American bomber blew up on the runway. Of this experience, Brig. Gen. Haywood S. Hansell, Jr., wrote: "Our engineers and our fire people did a job that would warm your heart— the engineers in particular I cannot speak too highly of. They took their large equipment, the big bulldozers and scoops and went to work immediately on the flaming bomber and gas truck in spite of personnel bombs and exploding ammunition. They piled the debris of the bomber into two heaps and pushed dirt on it. Later they drove their 20-ton bulldozers over these flaming heaps. The flames came up through the tractors and all around the drivers but it didn't stop them."61
While the concrete runways were being finished at Isley Field, other projects intended for Saipan underwent considerable change. The island was more rugged than had appeared from aerial photographs,
and fewer bases could be developed there. Lt. Gen. Millard F. Harmon secured a revision of the construction program by offering to base all four groups of the 73d Wing on two 8,500-foot runways at Isley Field, thus reducing the total building program on Saipan, and to use another strip for spare bombers and other aircraft. Then, six operational runways would be built on the small island of Tinian, between Guam and Saipan. He also reversed earlier plans for dispersed housing areas and agreed to place the camps near the bases. By February 1945, when Isley Field was entirely completed, it was clear that the aviation engineer effort had been twice the estimates. It was not surprising that morale had been low during the worst phases—that the commanders had sometimes had to draw on such reservoirs of faith and hope as they possessed in order to see the job through. It had also been vexing in the extreme to have parts and supplies trickle in, improperly marked and incomplete, and too often seized by another organization. Once the aviation engineers even stripped a former Japanese sugar mill in order to obtain such humble items as boilers, pipes, and valves. Their own living conditions were primitive, and, when the 73d Wing settled down on Saipan, its men found no such niceties as mess halls, showers, and latrines ready for them.62
Construction on Tinian did not involve the aviation engineers, since the Seabees had the assignment. That they also got along slowly, notwithstanding their envied equipment, ratings, and luxuries, was possibly some grim consolation to the strained aviation engineers. The development of air bases on Guam had been delayed by Japanese resistance and the Navy's concern for its own construction. The coral was just as hard on Guam as on Saipan, and the supply system as choked. The climate was hotter, and, with the Navy in full control of construction, the aviation engineers occasionally burned with indignation, as when two battalions were pulled off airfield construction early in 1945 to work on a Navy project. Furthermore, the eight battalions which eventually reached Guam had a generally lower level of ability than those on Saipan. Two had been the subject of a scathing inspector-general report at the port of embarkation. Most of them had not received adequate training in the States, and, unlike the first battalions early in the war, their men usually had little if any civilian experience in construction.63
The main projects on Guam for the aviation engineers were construction of an air depot and two B-29 bases, North and Northwest
Fields. In the case of North Field the air engineer and his party worked their way over miles of jungle tracks lined with Japanese corpses to find a suitable site. The trail was so bad the machinery could not reach the location until extensive clearing had taken place, largely through the efforts of the 854th Engineer Aviation Battalion. By November 1944 work started, and late in February 1945 the first B-29 mission flew from the base. It was not a poor record. Northwest Field had been chosen after an air inspection by General Hansell and Col. W. E. Robinson, the XXI Bomber Command engineer. Seabees and two aviation engineer battalions, the 1886th and 1889th, started the work, which went on from January to June 1945. One-fourth of the time was absorbed in rooting out the jungle. On Guam, as on Saipan, there was no effort available for the construction of suitable camps. Aviation engineers had grown accustomed to primitive living conditions, but the men of the 314th Bomb Wing were perhaps justifiably chagrined on arriving to find their permanent housing area not even cleared. On the whole, the morale of the engineers in Guam was rather low, even if a vital engineering construction program had been completed.64
Okinawa, secured after hard battles between 1 April and 31 July 1945, was expected to become a vast air, sea, and ground force base for the final assault on the Japanese homeland. Soon after the landings the chief engineer of GHQ, Army Forces in the Pacific (AFPAC),* made a reconnaissance and proposed that very-heavy-bomber bases be added to the ambitious airfield construction program already scheduled. In all, twenty-six aviation engineer battalions reached Okinawa before the surrender to work under the direction of AFPAC, along with Army construction forces and Seabees. One of them, the 811th EAB, once in New Caledonia, went on to work in the hot volcanic soil of Iwo Jima. The aviation engineers on Okinawa seemed to come from everywhere, from the Philippines, Guadalcanal, Alaska, Guam, and the States. One battalion, the 801st EAB, had spent most of the war on the Azores. It had the unusual opportunity of comparing the hurricane endured there with the great typhoon of October 1945 on Okinawa. Once on Okinawa, many of the experienced aviation engineers prudently assured themselves of comfortable camps before beginning the grading, opening the quarries, and setting up the asphalt plants in preparation for airfield construction. Serious work
began in July, and by the time the war ended Okinawa was well on the way to becoming a formidable base.
Had World War II continued a few months longer, ninety-three battalions of aviation engineers would have been at work in the western Pacific—according to plans, many of them veteran units of the European theater.65 The mammoth construction program for Okinawa went on in peacetime and under different auspices. Most of the aviation engineers went home, probably to participate in the greatest building boom in American history.
Contents * Previous Chapter (9) * Next Chapter (11)
1 Office of the Chief Engineer, GHQ, Army Forces, Pacific, Engineers of the Southwest Pacific 1941-45 (8 vols.; Washington, 1947-53), VI, 16-18, 432; VIII, 156-58. This superlatively detailed and illustrated work (hereinafter cited as ESWP) often has an unsympathetica attitude toward Air Force points of view. Volume VI, the most useful for this study, is entitled Airfield and Base Development.
2 ESWP, VI, 98, 422; I, 39, ltr., Maj. Gen. Groge C. Kenney to CINC SWPA, 4 Feb. 1943; ltr., CINC SWPA to CG, 5th AF, 24 Feb. 1943, reproduced in Vol. II, App. III; Brig. Gen. S. C. Godfrey, Report on Airdromes and Aviation Engineers around the World, 4 Oct. 1943; memo for CG, AAF, from Col. George C. Mayo, Report on Temporary Duty in the Pacific Theaters, 27 Aug. 1945.
3 ESWP, VI, 78, 79, 422.
4 Ibid., pp. 422-25, 432-37.
5 Ibid., pp. 119-22; ltr., Kenney to Col. W. R. Ritchie, 14 Apr. 1943.
6 Early Hist. 871st Airborne EAB; Hiust 5th AF Service Command, Sept. 1942—Jan. 1944, chap. xi; R&R, Godfrey to Arnold, 22 Sept. 1943; Aviation Engineer Notes, March 1945, pp. 2-6.
7 Ltr., Kenney to Col. W. R. Ritchie, 14 Apr. 1943.
8 ESWP, II, 147 and VI, 168, note.
9 Hist. 872nd Airborne EAB, Oct. 1942—Dec. 1943.
10 Hist. Summary, 842d EAB; ESWP, VI, 168-76; AAF in WW II, IV, 191-92.
11 Early Hist. 871st Airborne EAB; Hist. 872d Airborne EAB, Oct. 1942—Dec. 1943; Aviation Engineer Notes, Mar. 1945, pp. 2-6; ESWP, VI, 171-74; Operation of the 872d Air EAB … at Gusap N.G. (special report).
12 ESWP, VI, 180-83.
13 Ibid., pp. 193-94.
14 Ibid., pp. 194-200.
15 Ibid., pp. 222-23.
16 Ibid., pp 216-28; Hist. Narrative for 1944, 836th EAC; ltr., Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Casey to Col. E. R. Heiburg, 25 Apr. 1944. In this letter, Gen. Casey praises the aviation engineers, among other things, for being able to start work almost at once, whereas the Seabees took nine days to set up their own camp before commencing full schedule on the airfield.
17 Hist. Narrative for 1944, 836th EAB; ESWP, VI, 242-26; Robert R. Smith, The Approach to the Philippines, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, 1953), p. 231 (hereinafter cited as Smith, Approach to the Philippines); AAF in WW II, IV, 628-29.
18 Hist. Rpt., 860th EAB, 28 Aug. 1944; Narrative Rpt. of Biak and Owi Islands Operation, 864th EAB, 31 Aug. 1944; ESWP, VI, 247-50; Gen. Walter Krueger, (Washington, 1953), p. 102; From Down Under to Nippon; AAF in WW II, IV, 641-44; ltr., Kenney to Col. M. C. Cooper, 15 July 1944.
19 Br. Hist. Rpt., Biak Operation, 808th EAB, 27 Aug. 1944; Smith, Approach to the Philippines, p. 314; ESWP, VI, 250-54; Narrative Rpt. of Biak and Owi Islands Operation, 864th EAB, 31 Aug. 1944; Supplement to Hust. Rpt., 860th EAB, 27 Spet. 1944.
20 Lt., Kenney to Whitehead, 1 Aug. 1944; ltr., Kenney to Col. M. C. Cooper, 15 July 1944; Smith, Approach to the Philippines, p. 423; ESWP, VI ,257-62; AAF in WW II, IV, 652, 660.
21 Hist. Narrative for 1944, 836th EAB, ESWP, VI, 263-70.
22 ESWP, VI, 272, editor's note.
23 AAF in WW II, V, 312-14; ESWP, VI, 270-77; Smith, Approach to the Philippines, pp 490-91; Hist. Rpt., Moratai, by 1876th EAB, 9 July 1945; Hist. Narrative for 1944, 836th EAB.
24 Ltr., Lt. Col. Robert H. Paddock, CO, 1876th EAB, to Air Engineer, Hq., AAF, 23 May 1945; Hist. Rpt., Moratai, by 1876th EAB, 9 July 1945; Hist. Narrative for 1944, 836th EAB; Hist. Narrative for 1944, 836th EAB; Hist. 5th AF, 15 June 1944—2 Sept. 1945, I, 47-48.
25 ESWP, VI, 283-87 and 426; II, 159; Interview, Capt. George Thomas with Capt. Lambert, Asst. Air Engineer, FEAF, 9 July 1945.
26 Ltr., Kenney to Arnold, 28 Dec. 1944.
27 Ltr., Gen Krueger to Gen War. 13 Aug. 1951, quoted in M. Hamlin Cannon, Leyte: The Return to the Philippines (Washington, 1954), p. 188 (hereinafter cited as Cannon, Leyte).
28 There is also an excellent account in ESWP, VI, 291-98, as well as in Cannon, Leyte, pp. 187-88.
29 Hist. Summary, 26 Sept.- 25 Nov. 1944, 808th EAB; Monthly Hist. Summary.
30 ESWP, VI, 300-303; Hist. Summary, 865th EAB, 1944; Aviation Engineer Notes, March 1945, pp. 8-9; Hist. 821st EAB; Operational Rpt., 866th EAB, 24 Nov. 1944—1 Feb. 1945; Hist. Summary, 839th EAB, 1 Dec.-25 Dec. 1944.
31 Hist. 839th EAB; Col. Mayo's summary of visit to 842d EAB, 5 June 1945; Hist. 857th EAB, 12944; Hist 872d Airborne EAB, 1944; Hist. 821st EAB; Hist. Summary, 839th EAB, Dec. 1944; Hist. 1871st EAB, Mar. 1945; Hist. 867th EAB, Mar. 1945.
32 Operational Rpt. 866th EAB, 24 Nov. 1944—1 Feb. 1945; Aviation Engineer Notes, May 1945, p. 19; ESWP, VI, 413-21; Col. Mayo's interview with 1874th EAB, 11 Sept. 1945.
33 ESWP, VI, 321-26; AAF in WW II, V, 404, 416-18; ltr., Lt. Col. R. H. Paddock to Air Engineer, Hq. AAF, 15 Aug. 1945; Monthly Hist. Summary, 836th EAB, Feb. 1945; Notes on conferences with 864th EAB by Col. George Mayo, 17 June 1945; Interview of Capt. George Thomas with Capt. Lambert, Asst. Air Engineer, FEAF, 9 July 1945; Hist. 810th EAB, 17 Feb. 1945.
34 Report on the Functions and Organization … of Hq., FEAF, 7 May 1945; ESWP, VI, 332.
35 Hist. Summary, 808th EAB, Feb. 1945; Hist. Summary, 31 Dec. 1945, 855th EAB; Hist. of 857th EAB, Mar. Apr, May 1945; Military record, 863d EAB, 1 Nov. 1942—12 June 1945; Hist. Data, 882d Airborne EAB, Dec. 1944; Hist. 5th AF, 15 June 1944—2 Sept. 1945, I, 47-48; Hist. 871st Airborne EAB, Apr.-May 1945; Hist. Summary, 13 Feb.-31 Mar. 1945, 847th EAB. Col. Mayo's notes on conferences with 855th EAB, 10 Sept. 1945.
36 Ltr., Col. George Mayo, Air Engineer, AAF to CG, FEAF, 19 June 1945; memo for CG, AAF from Col. George Mayo, 27 Aug. 1945.
37 Hist. 807th EAB, Sept. 1942-April 1944.
38 Rpt. on Field Airdrome Construction, Adak, Alaska, 807th EAB, 15 May 1943; Hist. 807th EAB, Sept. 1942-Apr. 1944; Aviation Engineer Notes, Aug. 1943, pp. 4-6, and Mar. 1944, pp. 3-6; Hist. 11th AF, pp. 173-75; Hist. Summary of the Aviation Engineers in General Arnold's file (hereinafter cited as Arnold Historical Summary); Maj. Gen. W. E. Lynd, "Strategical Function of the Aviation Engineers," Aviation Engineer Notes, July 1944, pp. 1-6.
39 Ltr., Col. E. S. Davis, 11th AF, to CG, Alaska Defence Command, 5 Sept. 1942; Rpt. of 896th Eng. Avn. Co., June 1942-44.
40 Rpt. on Field Airdrome Construction, Attu, Alaska, 15 Dec. 1943, by 807th EAB; Arnold Historical Summary.
41 Ltr., Maj. Gen. M. F. Harmon to Brig. Gen. St. Clair Streett, 16 Nov. 1942; Ltr., Maj. Gen. M. F. Harmon to Vice-Admiral W. F. Halsey, 20 Nov. 1942.
42 Brig. Gen. S. C. Godfrey, Report on Airdromes and Aviation Engineers around thw World, 4 Oct. 1943; Hist. 13th AF, I.
43 Hist. 810th EAB, 1 Jan.-29 Feb. 1944; Fletcher, Martin, "Aviation Engineers in New Caledonia," in Philadelphia Courier, 5 Sept. 1944; AAFSAT Intelligence Reports, Oct. 1943, pp. 31-38; Notes on conference of Col. George Mayo and 810th EAB, 12 June 1945.
44 Early Hist. 821 EAB; Godfrey report, 4 Oct. 1943.
45 As in Godfrey report, 4 Oct. 1943.
46 Baker Island Rpt., 804th EAB; Rpt. of mission at Makin, 804th EAB; The Construction and Development of Air Fields in the Central Pacific through June 1944 by 1st Lt. W. L. Wannamacher, in Hist. of the Air War int he Pacific Ocean, pp. 71, 86-88 (hereinafter cited as Wannamacher, The Construction of Air Fields); Arnold Historical Summary.
47 Hist. 854th EAB, 1 Oct. 1943—31 Nov. 1944; Hist. 804th EAB, Feb. 1944; Arnold Historical Summary; Wannamacher, The Construction of Air Fields, pp 90-93.
48 Godfrey report, 4 Oct. 1943; Arnold Historical Summary; ltr., Brig. Gen. Clayton Bissel to Maj. Gen. George Stratemeyer, 9 Jan. 1943; China Air Task Force Hist., 14th AF, April 1944.
49 Hist. 853d EAB, 1943.
50 Hist. 823d EAB, Feb.-Dec. 1942; Hist. 858th EAB, Jan. 44—Sept. 45; Hist. 1880th EAB, March 1943—Nov. 1945; Hist. 1883d EAB, 1942-45.
51 Hist. 1880th EAB, March 1943—Nov. 1945; Arnold Historical Summary; ltr., Godfery to Stratemeyer, 31 Jan. 1945.
52 Ltr., Godfrey to Arnold, 28 Mar. 1944; ltr., Arnold to Godfrey, 25 Apr. 1944; ltr., Stratemeyer to Arnold, 3 Feb. 1944; ltr., Stratemeyer to Air CINC, Southeast Asia, 5 June 1944; Aviation Engineer Notes, June 1944, pp. 5-7; CBI Dromes, July 1944, pp. 13-16 and Dec. 1944, pp. 7-11.
53 Ltr., Capt. E. D. Roscoe to Godfrey, 5 June 1944; Diary to Col. M. J. Asensio, CBI Dromes, Dec. 1944, pp. 3-6; ltr., Stratemeyer to General Sultan, 31 Aug. 1944; Rpt. 10th AF Engineer, no date; Hist. 1877th EAB, 1944.
54 Ltr., Godfery to Stratemeyer, 15 Dec. 1943.
55 Ibid., pp. 59-65; ltr., Brig. Gen. K. B. Wolfe to Godfery, 25 Feb. 1944; ltr., Wolfe to CG, AAF, CBI Sector, 5 ay 1944; memo for Brig. Gen. Robert C. Oliver, CG, Air Service Command from Godfrey, 5 May 1944; Hist. XX Bomber Command, Third Phase, pp. 65-67; Final Report, B-29 Bases, India (Col. Seaman report), Nov. 1944, pp. 3-8; ltr., Godfrey to Maj. W. D. Styer, Hq. AAF, 26 July 1944.
56 Col. Seaman report, pp. 7, 23-24; History of 853d EAB, 1944; Hist. XX Bomber Command, Third Phase, 59-65.
57 Ltr., Godfrey to CG, AAF, India-Burma Theater, 13 Apr. 1945; ltr., Godfery to Brig. Gen. Larusi Norstad, 24 Sept. 1944; ltr., Godfrey to CG, USAAF, India-Burma Theater, 31 Jan. 1945; China Air Task Forst Hist., 14th AF, Apr. 1944; Hist. XX Bomber Command, Fourth Phase, pp. 11-16; ltr., Godfrey to Maj. Gen. T. J. Hanley, 21 May 1944; Aviation Engineer Notes, Oct. 1944, p. 13; CBI Dromes, Dec. 1944, pp. 16-21, and II, No. I (1945), 4-8, 21.
58 Hist. of VHB Construction in the Marianas and on Iwo Jume, Monograph IV, prepared by Capt. James H. Hubbell and Sgt. Edward A. Chalfant (hereinafter cited as Hist. of VHB Construction), pp. 4-10; ltr., Col. A. G. Barber to CO, 463d Base Unit, 15 Dec. 1944; Study by Lt. Col. Willard Roper, Air Engineer's Office, Hq. AAF, 1945; Ladd Board Report, 1945.
59 Arnold Historical Summary; Hist. of VHB Construction, pp. 27-29; ltr., Maj. John W. Paxtion, CO, 804th EAB to Hq. AAF, Air Engineer, 22 Oct. 1944; Rpt. on Air Base Construction, Saipan, Marianas Islands, 17 June 1944—1 Feb. 1945, 804th EAB; Aviation Engineer Notes, Feb. 1945, pp. 8-9, and Apr. 1945, p. 2.
60 Ltr., Paxton to Air Engineer, 22 Oct. 1944; Report on Air Base Construction, Saipan, 1944-45, by 804th EAB; History of 806th EAB, July-Dec. 1944; Hist. of VHB Construction, p. 29.
61 Excerpt from ltr., Hansell to Arnold, quoted in ltr., Arnold to Maj. Gen. Eugene C. Reybold, Chief of Engineers, 21 Dec. 1944.
62 Hist. of VHB Construction, pp. 31-51; ltr., Col. George Mayo, Air Engineer, AAF, to CG, AAFPOA, 5 July 1945; Historical summary of the aviation engineers.
63 Hist. of VHB Construction, pp. 56-73, 108-12; ltr., Col. G. E. Linkswiler to CO, 927th Eng. Av. Regiment, undated.
64 Hist. of VHB Construction, pp. 114-29, 143-45; Hist. 854th EAB, Nov. 1944—Feb. 1945.
65 Preliminary history of Seventh Air Force, 1 April- 13 July 1945; ESWP, VI, 386-92; Hist of VHB Construction, pp. 153-59; Hist. 806th EAB, June-August 1945; Hist. 854th EAB, May-Aug. 1945; R&R, Air Engineer to OC&R, 11 Apr. 1945; Hist. 872d EAB, June 1945; Hist. 801st EAB, 1 Feb. 1943—1 Nov. 1945; Hist. 807th EAB, Jan.-June 1945; Hist. 873d EAB, June 1945.