308th Bombardment Group
1942 - 1945
The 308th Bombardment Group (H) was established by Army Air Forces on 28 Jan 1942. However, it was not until the 15th of April that the unit was activated at Gowen Field, Idaho. On that same day uthorization for, and activation of, the 373rd, 374th, 375th and 425th Bomb Squadrons occurred, with all of them assigned to the 308th. For the next three months little training occurred while the unit worked through its growing pains, resolving administrative and personnell acquistion difficulties. Then a totally new problem arose....all but four personnel were transferred to the 330th Bomb Group! While active on paper, it wasn't until September that personnel were taken from the 39th Bomb Group to form a cadre for the 308th, again making it a 'real force.' On 29 Sep the Group was designated an Operational Training Unit (OTU) with Wendover Field, Utah as its home station. The unit was fully manned by November, after receiving personnel from the 18th Replacement Wing.
During this time of trials and tribulations in forming a recognizable force, the flying echelon had transferred to Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona, on 20 June for incidental training. Colonel Eugene H. Beebe, an experienced commander and recent member of Gen 'Hap' Arnold's staff, was relieved of command of the 302nd and ordered to command the 308th. Col Beebe also assembled his initial staff; Lt Trimble B. Latting (adjutant), Maj William A. Miller (exec), and Capt (Dr) William P. Gjerde (surgeon). The flight crews had been chosen and assigned for all four squadrons, having completed their respective training schools; ie., pilot, navigator, bombardier, engineer, radio and gunnery.
Members of the 308th had to complete three phases of training prior to moving overseas and entering combat. The flying personnel spent most of October in transition training with the B-24, training combat crews as well. Meanwhile, the ground echelon was acquiring, organizing and processing personnel and supplies at Wendover Field.
With the training complete and the personnel and supplies processed, the 308th Bombardment Group officially transferred to China early in 1943. The air echelon began flying its 'brand new' B-24D Liberators from Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida on 15 Feb 43. Traveling by way of Central and South America, the Azores, Africa and India; while the ground echelon travelled by ship across the Pacific.
The group was assigned to the 14th Air Force and made many trips over the 'Hump' between India and China to obtain gasoline, bombs, spare parts, and other items they needed to prepare for and sustain their combat operations. The 308th supported Chinese ground forces; attacked airfields, coal yards, docks, oil refineries and fuel dumps in French Indochina; mined rivers and ports; bombed maintenance shops and docks at Rangoon, Burma; attacked Japanese shipping in the East China Sea, Formosa Strait, South China Sea and Gulf of Tonkin.
Although the 308th had a difficult time getting started because of the supply shortage and monsoon weather, it had built up an impressive record, especially when it is realized that all gas, bombs, ammunition, and other supplies had to be flown over the Hump in the unit's own planes, thus making it necessary to fly about three Hump flights for every combat mission.
The Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for an unescorted bombing attack, conducted through antiaircraft fire and fighter defenses, against docks and warehouses at Hankow, China, on 21 Aug 1943. They were awarded a second DUC for interdiction of Japanese shipping through 1944 and 1945. Maj. Horace S. Carswell, Jr. was awarded the Medal Of Honor for action on 26 Oct 1944, when, in spite of intense antiaircraft fire, he attacked a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea. His aircraft was so badly damaged that when he reached land he ordered the crew to bail out. Carswell, however, remained with the plane to save one man who could not jump because his parachute had been ripped by flak. Before Carswell could attempt a crash landing, the plane struck a mountainside and burned.
"The Bad PENNY" -- 41-24238; 375th Bomb Squadron.
1 Apr 43 -- 1Lt. James H. Henderson was piloting the 'Bad Penny' on a return trip to Chengkung from Chabua along with three other aircraft when they encountered wing icing. An hour and a half into the trip 1Lt. Henderson radioed he was returning to Chabua, but did not state the problem. No more was heard from the plane nor the five men aboard.
"Dippy Dave & his 8 Dippy Diddlers" 41-24143, 3773 Bomb Squadron.
Lost 4 May 43; Pilot, Lt Willis, ordered bail out because out of gas due to transfer system failure while on return from first 308th raid, Hainan Island. All crew parachuted to safety and returned to Kunming.
The 'Goon', B-24D, 41-24183, highly publicized aircraft of the 374th Bomb Squadron.
"The GOON" was probably the most publicized B-24 in the CBI, getting photos of her nose art in the January 1944 issue of 'National Geographic Magazine'. Among the twelve color photos of noseart which were in that issue, the 14th Air Force made it into the magazine with a picture of the 'The GOON'. The nose art shows the "Goon" holding a torpedo.
The name came from a noted comic strip artist, E. C. Segar, however, her real fame related to her top turret gunner, T/Sgt Arthur Benko. He was written up in the 18 Oct 43 issue of 'Time' magazine after setting the record for an enlisted gunner in China. Officially Benko was finally credited with 18 Japaneses aircraft shot down. The crew's aircraft victories (flags) shown on the fuselage below the upper turret indicate sixteen for the 'GOON' at the time the photo was taken. Most of these were claimed by Benko, several during the raid on Hankow docks in August 1943.
"There was some skepticism at group headquarters as Benko's score mounted so they sent an intelligence officer on one mission. Art sent seven Japs down that day and made a believer out of the officer."
"Art's record stood at 16 confirmed victories. Then homeward bound from a Hong Kong mission with one engine out and one faltering, the pilot, Sam Skousen, hit the bailout button so that maybe the plane could clear a mountain range. Benko and Lt. Malcolm S. Sanders landed on the Jap side of the river and were captured. Later, a Catholic missionary sent the Air Force photographs of their crucifixion."
Lakanoonki', B-24D, of the 374th Bomb Squadron. This is the "original". Later she was renamed 'Snowball In Hell.'
"Settin' Pretty" of the 374th Bomb Squadron.
Betty G" -- 41-24279; 375th Bomb Squadron.
Lost 24 April 43, crashed about six miles from Chabua, probably due to carburetor icing. 1Lt Henry G. Staple, 2Lt Albert I. Prator and T/Sgt George Harmony were killed, and three others seriously injured.
The 'Impatient Lady', a B-24J from the 374th. The Rae Behrens' crew is posed in front of the plane, however, Behrens' piloted "Miss Mandy".