The 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron was activated at Hamilton Field, California [Map] on 15 December 1943, per paragraph 1 General Order No. 195, Headquarters Fourth Air Force, dated 3 December 1943. The applicable T/O & E 1-987, dated 8 November 1943 authorized a total strength of fifty-nine (59) officers and two hundred and five (205) enlisted men. As for aircraft, the squadron wa authorized twelve (12) OA-10A aircraft, four (4) AT-11 aircraft and four (4) L-5 aircraft. The primary purpose of the squadron was the land and sea rescue of air crew members forced to "ditch" their aircraft due to enemy action or operational failure over or near uninhabited or enemy territory.

     The original cadre constisted of eleven (11) officers and ten (10) enlisted men and some of the officers had seen prior overseas service in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Having returned to the States some four months previous, they learned of the activation of this squadron, and waiving their rights of at least six months in the States, volunteered to join it even though they knew it was destined for overseas service. Major Russel L. Redman, 0424156, assumed command of the new organization and the job of bringing the squadron up to strength was undertaken. Being a new organization and the first of its' kind to actually have an authorized T/O & E there naturally was quite a bit of confusion due to the daily transferring in and out of both officers and enlisted men. On 30 December 1943 Major Redman was relieved of command and Major Jim McCall, 0424121 assumed command. However, on 24 January 1944 Major McCall was transferred out and Major Redman reassumed command.

     On 8 February 1944 the entire squadron was transferred to Gulfport Field, Mississippi,
[Map] fifty (50) officers and one hundred ninety-six (196) enlisted men going by rail, and seven (7) officers and ten (10) enlisted men ferrying the aircraft cross-country. Both echelons arrived on the 12th of February 1944 and were attached to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, 26th Technical School Group, Army Air Forces Tactical Training Command, for rations. Even at this time the squadron was in an embryo stage, and there was a constant shifting of personnel in an attempt to bring it up to T/O strength.

     The primary purpose of transferring the organization to Gulfport Field, Mississippi was to give the air crews a better opportunity for training. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico it was an ideal set-up for carrying out mock rescues and familiarizing the crew members with proper procedure in making water landings and take-offs; both requiring a very special skill. One peculiar thing about the organization was that all twenty-four pilots and co-pilots had undergone a period of cadet training at the Naval Air Base, Pensacola, Florida. Upon completion of this course were authorized to wear the Navy as well as Army Wings.
      On the 23rd of February 1944, Major Dwight F. Lewis, 0373823 assumed command of the organization and the problem of getting the squadron in shape for overseas duty continued. A "readiness" date of 15 March 1944 had been given the squadron by the War Department in Washington which left very little time to accomplish the many things that must be done to properly equip and outfit so that it could successfully carry out its' prescribed mission. Quite a bit of difficulty was encountered in properly equipping the squadron, partially due to the fact that this type of organization was entirely new to the Army Air Forces - previously only the Navy had operated the PBY Catalinas - and also the fact that Gulfport Field had never processed any type of outfit for overseas duty before. To add to the confusion the aircraft assigned were manufactured by Canadian Vickers and all radio equipment was of the Royal Canadian Air Force type, entirely new to our personnel. Not only this unfamiliarity with this type equipment presented quite a problem, but the fact that spare parts were hard to obtain added further headaches. The squadron was authorized to to deal directly Wright Field or the War Department in Washington without regard to channels in case of necessity or urgency, and the wires were kept hot almost daily with official business concerning the squadron. After a POM inspection it was decided to allow the squadron an additional thirty (30) days for preparation, and the readiness date was advanced from the 15th of March to the 15th of April 1944. On 1 April 1944 the entire squadron was transferred to Keesler Field, Mississippi
[Map] and attached to 2121st Tactical School Group. [per Special Order No. 91, HQ, Technical School and Basic Training Center, dated 31 March 1944] This caused more confusion due to the fact that things were finally beginning to get organized, and the various supplying agencies at Gulfport Field had instituted proceedings to secure the necessary equipment. Unfortunately Keesler Field had had no experience in preparing an organization for overseas shipment either, and the same difficulties were encountered again. Finally on 12 April 1944 after another POM inspection it was determined that the squadron was ready for shipment overseas and the readiness date of 15 April was authorized.

     On 15 April 1944 the ground echelon composed of 21 officers and 169 enlisted men departed by troop train for the West Coast. The flight echelon consisting of 37 officers and 36 enlisted men remained behind for further modification to the aircraft before they flew them overseas. On 19 April 1944 the grond echelon arrived at Camp Stoneman, California where they remained for the next ten days undergoing lectures, hikes, final inspections of clothing, equipment and personnel records to say nothing of the invigorating obstacle courses.

     On 29 April 1944 the ground echelon departed by river steamer from Camp Stoneman to the tune of an Army band and proceeded down stream to San Francisco Bay where they boarded the S.S. Roseville, or USAT SF2310-R which was to be their home for the next thirty days. At 2430 on 30 April 1944 the transport steamed out of the Golden Gate, all members of the squadron stood on deck watching the Golden Gate Bride fade into the distance and each one had that peculiar feeling so common when leaving home and not quite certain what the future might hold in store. After a very uneventful voyage, land was sighted for the first time in twenty-seven (27) days when the transport entered the China straits, entrances to Milne Bay. There the ship took on water and lay at the dock for a day and a half. No one was allowed to to ashore but the rails were lined constantly with men getting their first glimpse of New Guinea and the "Fuzzy Wuzzies" - the natives peculiar to New Guinea. On the night of 27 May 1944 the ship weighted anchor and on 28 May 1944 dropped anchor in the harbor at Oro Bay - the ground echelon's temporary home. Debarkation started at 0900 29 May 1944 and by 1200 all men were ashore and set up in the Base Casual Camp. On contacting the Base Air Liason Officers at Headquarters Base G, APO #503, it was learned that the squadron had been assigned to the Fifth Air Force, per General Order No. 336, Headquarters, Fifth Air Force, dated 29 May 1944, and were to remain at Oro Bay until such time as the flight echelon arrived overseas, when further orders would be issued. The site of the Base Casual Camp was ideal for whiling away the time while awaiting the flight echelon, because it was situated right on the edge of the ocean with a beautiful sand beach stretching along the front of the area. Since there were only routine fatigue details, such as helping unload ships, to be done and regular administrative duties to be performed, everyone had a chance to relax and enjoy himself by swimming in the oecan, or playing around and sunbathing on the beach.

     The flight echelon had been delayed in Sacramento, California for modification and did not arrive oveseas until the early part of July 1944 at Townsville, Australoa where they had to undero further modification. On 17 July 1944, Headquarters, "A" and "D" flights were transferred to Biak, "B" flight to Hollandia and "C" flight to Nadzab to prepare for the arrival of the flight echelon in New Guinea. These various ground echelons were joined by the flight echelons on 25 July 1944 and actual operations began.

     Prior to the arrival of the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron in the theater there had been no rescue squadron set up under an authorized T/O & E. The fifth Air Force had an Air Sea Rescue unit composed of four PBY's, which were doing a remarkable job under the circumstances. They were handicapped by lack of spare parts and ground maintenance personnel. Because this squadron was organized and in better shape to operate it was in great demand and for the first three months everyone was working his head off. Long flights of twelve to fourteen hours each were common, and the combat hours of the air crew members mounted by leaps and bounds. Due to these long missions, the planes were gone all day which necessitated the ground crews working most of the night to have the ships in shape for the next days' missions. This was all done under the strain of constant alerts and air raids. The first rescue was made on 25 July [actually 27 July] when five (5) men of a B-24 crew were rescued after they had "ditched" their plane in the ocean. (See mission report)

     Due to a mix up in the initial assignment of areas at Biak it was necessary for the squadron to evacuate its' campsight on 20 September 1944 and set up a completely new area about three quarters of a mile down the beach. This wasn't so good for the morale of the men because they had gone to all the trouble of making frameworks for their tents, improving the area and building a volly ball court. However, nothing could be done but move, and everyone took it in good spirit. All this moving was accomplished without ceasing actual operations.

     On 8 September 1944, flights "B" from Hollandia, and "C" from Nadzab were consolidated and transferred to Middleburg Island right off the tip of Dutch New Guinea. This was done in order that better coverage could be given to bombardment squadrons on their strikes on the Celebes, Borneo, Halmaheras, and Morotai. The squadron was steadily making a name for itself and the number of rescues was mounting daily.

     On 23 September 1944 the squadron was transferred from the 5th Air Force to the Thirteenth Air Force per General Order 239, Headquarters Far Eastern Air Forces, dated 23 September 1944. On 10 October 1944 Headquarters "A" and "D" flights bypassed "B" and "C" flights which remained at Middleburg Island, and moved up to Morotai to cover strikes on Palau and the Philippines as well as Ceram, Celebes and Borneo. On 2 November 1944 the 5230th Composite Rescue Group (P) was activated per General Order No. 115, Headquarters, Thirteenth Air Force, dated 25 October 1944, and the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron was assigned to this group along with the 15th AAF Emergency Resceue Boat Squadron. Since the group was a provisional unit it had no authorized T/O and all its' personnel were assigned either to the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron or the 15th AAF Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron, and placed on temporary duty with group headquarters. This meant that all administrative and personnel work was carried on by the squadron for its' as well as that of the Group. On 16 November 1944 Major Lewis was placed on temporary duty with the group and Major B. Mathis assumed command of the squadron.

     Although the squadron did not arrive on Morotai until "D" day plus twenty-five the Japanese were still consistently bombing the island almost nightly. Despite these constant bombings, sometimes requiring the entire personnel to spend most of the night in their fox holes, the missions were still flown and the number of men rescued continued to increase. By 31 December 1944 the squadron had flown a total of 596 missions totaling 5,050 hours and 231 men had been rescued from the open sea or evacuated from enemy territory; some of the evacuees being Japanese prisoners of war and many of the rescues being made under enemy fire.

Prepared by T/Sgt Colin R. MacEachern, supervised by Captain Kenneth O. Eddins


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This report was copied verbatim from the "Official" Squadron History that was obtained via microfilm from Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The text that is in parenthesis ( ), I added to clarify the information. It is not Official.
1 From Squadron Orders obtained from Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

APO numbers from "Numbered Army & Air Force Post Office Locations" - 7th Edition - by Russ Carter
3 From Individual Aircraft Record Cards - Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
4 Obtained from LTC (Ret.) Fred Ritter Jr.


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