Saturday, December 12, 2015

History of Ordnance and Armament Activities, 359th Fighter Group


APO #637, U.S. ARMY
27 August 1943 to 30 June 1944
1. General:

The following is a presentation of Ordnance and Armament activities on the station. It is not the intention nor is any attempt being made to offer it as a factual or chronological history. Instead, it is presented in more or less outline form so that the technique and procedure as employed at this station may stand out and be clearly understood.
Ordnance clerks at work in the 1833 Ordnance Company. PFC Charles E. May, T/4 Andrew A. Hansen, Cpl. Joe D. Rice. Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association, from records at HQ USAF Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

2. Installations:

Perhaps this station is more fortunate than others in the location and accessibility of the installations. While this field is probably as widely dispersed as others, practically all of its Ordnance and Armament installation, particularly Squadron Ordnance and Armament Shops, Bomb Storage Area, 3rd Echelon Automotive Maintenance Shop and Group Armament and Station Ordnance Officers, are conveniently located.

a. Bomb and Ammunition Storage Area:

‎6 Sep 1944 photo of 500 pound bombs on racks at ammunition dump. Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association, from records at HQ USAF Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.‎

Located in the southeast corner of the airdrome, it is readily accessible to the 369th and 370th Fighter Squadrons and about 1 mile from the 368th Fighter Squadron Armament Shop. Since the station was originally used by the RAF as a bomber field, the bomb storage area is complete in its fittings. It is equipped with three (3) large camouflage revetments with overhead sliding hoists. In addition, it has six (6) open revetments which can be used to park trailers loaded with bombs or as is required at present, to store 100 and 250 lb. bombs. Recently, a new revetment has been put in use. Originally what appeared to be a storage pit of some sort, it has since been converted into a revetment large enough to park all loaded bomb trailers. Cleared of rubbish and leveled by a “bull dozer”, with a roadway lined with metal landing strips, it makes an ideal auxiliary revetment. Practically all of the small arms ammunition is stored in brick or concrete buildings, the only exception being when such permanent facilities are overtaxed, it is necessary to use storage tents. However, in no event is ammunition stored in tents if the original containers have been opened. Therefore, as ammunition is inspected and linked by personnel of the 1833rd, it is stored in permanent buildings. Fuzes and Primer Detonators are stored in a hut designed for that purpose and while at times appears to be rather small, it is adequate.

b. Squadron Ordnance and Armament Installations:

With the exception of the 369th Fighter Squadron, all the squadrons have a separate building which is used for the storage of ammunition which is authorized each squadron. The 368th Fighter Squadron’s shop is located on the west side of the field and has as its armament shop a large brick building with permanent work benches. It is light and airy and conveniently located in relation to its flights. The 369th Fighter Squadron has a large Nissen Hut which serves as both an Armament Shop and Ammunition storage. It is not as well equipped as the 368th in that it lacks sufficient lighting but it is also centrally located with respect to its own particular squadron. The 370th Fighter Squadron, of necessity, shares its Armament Shop with the Pilot’s Locker Room but since it is used only as a work shop and has a separate building for storing ammunition, it covers its purpose. It is shortly contemplated that the 370th Fighter Squadron will move into a building now under construction and almost complete. At such time it will have a set up similar to the 368th Fighter Squadron.

Robert Hunter, armorer, rank unknown (left), with his older brother Captain John B. Hunter (right). Photo courtesy of Anthony C. Chardella: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

c. Other Ordnance Installations:

The 1833rd Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company has as its 3rd Echelon Automotive Maintenance Shop a large thatched roofed barn which has been converted into a garage. It is well lighted and large enough to accommodate several large vehicles undergoing repairs. It also has several covered sheds which border around a courtyard which are used for such purposes as a paint shop and repair bays for smaller vehicles, particularly during inclement weather. It might be well to add that for the most part commercial power is used to operate the various machines and motors. This in preference to generating their own power so as to conserve existing facilities which may be required more urgently at a later date. The record of the number of deadlined vehicles on the station is comparatively low - lower than the average for Fighter Command. The Supply Section of the 1833rd Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company maintains a warehouse for Ordnance General Supplies and works in close liaison with the Station Ordnance Office since most supply functions must clear through that office. An Armament Shop for 3rd Echelon maintenance of weapons is operated by the Armament Section of the 1833rd and their mission is to service guns beyond the care and maintenance that individual units are insofar as caliber .50 aircraft machine guns are concerned. A new or serviceable gun is issued as replacement for a worn or unserviceable one. The primary function of the Ordnance Company is SERVICE - service at all costs. This is particularly true on this station and every effort is being exerted towards that end.

2. Personnel:
Two per Mustang. Courtesy of Elsie Palicka, wife of Ed Palicka, 370th Fighter Squadron Photographer: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

When the 85th Service Group first arrived at this station on 27 August 1943, it brought with it two Ordnance Officers and five enlisted men, The ordnance Section of the Headquarters Squadron and its included Major Samuel W. Marshall, Jr. as Group Ordnance Officer and 1st Lt. John G. Dales as his assistant. Because of the lack of sufficient ordnance personnel, the task of setting up ordnance activities on the station was doubly difficult. However, with the arrival of first, the 359th Fighter Group and later, the 1833rd Ordnance, this condition was appreciably relieved. At first each of the Fighter Squadrons had an Ordnance and Armament Officer but since the policy of Fighter Command was to have one officer serve in a dual capacity, the following assignments of officer personnel were affected with the Fighter Group:

1st Lt. Louis F. Major, Jr. 359th, Group Ordnance & Armament Officer
1st Lt. Carlyle W. Thomas, Ord/Armament Officer 368th Fighter Sqdn.
1st Lt. Marshall C. Carpenter, Ord/Armament Officer, 369th Fighter Sqdn.
1st Lt. Don E. Caskey, Ord/Armament Officer, 370th Fighter Sqdn.

The original roster of Officers of the 1833rd included:
1st Lt. Eugene S. Jackson, Commanding
1st Lt. James B. Levin, Armament Officer
2nd Lt. Secil D. Dykstra, Automotive Officer
2nd Lt. Thomas H. Collier, Ammunition Officer

No change of Ordnance Officer personnel were effected until 19 January 1944 when 2nd Lt. James E. O’Connel joined the 1833rd to become an overage. On 11 February Lt. Dales was transferred to and assumed command of the 1833rd while Lt. Jackson replaced him as Asst. Station Ordnance Officer. However, with the transfer of Major Marshall on 1 April 1944, Lt. Dales returned as Station Ordnance Officer and Lt. Levin assumed command of the company. At this time 1st Lt. Eli Berlin joined Hqs & Hq Sqdn. and was assigned the duty of Asst. Station ordnance Officer. Lt. Jackson was then carried as an overage in the position he held until 16 July 1944 when he was transferred from the station. In the meantime, Lt. O’Connel was designated as Armament Officer of the company to fill the vacancy created by Lt. Levin assuming command. Lt. Collier was subsequently transferred from the company on 23 May 1944 and was replaced by 2nd Lt. (now 1st Lt) Stanley A. Berman who joined the unit on 14 June 1944.

Promotions Included:
Lt. Dykstra promoted to 1st Lt. on 1 March 1944
Lt. Dales promoted to Captain on 1 June 1944
Lt. Berman promoted to 1st Lt. on 15 June 1944.

As for changes within the Fighter Group, 1st Lt. Thomas was designated as Group Ordnance and Armament Officer replacing Lt. Major. 1st Lt. Francis W. Hankey replaced Lt. Thomas as Ordnance & Armament Officer of the 368th Fighter Squadron. These changes were effective on 17 May 1944.

Recent change to the T/O of the Fighter Squadrons authorized additional personnel and including Chemical Warfare and Photographic personnel calls for 66 Enlisted Men.

Armorers working on P-51: Frank Luddeke (on wing); Sgt. John Bobola (centered behind cockpit); Sgt. Samuel Dailey (back to camera). Courtesy of Charles Doersom: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

3. Operations:

At the outset it was a question of breaking down the barrier that heretofore existed between Ordnance and Armament personnel. As stated before, the policy of Fighter Command required the closest cooperation and collaboration between these two sections and it was found necessary to install the concept of teamwork between the two in order to obtain a maximum of efficiency. As for the Station Ordnance policy, it was merely a question of carrying out the plan originally formulated which required the understanding of problems which the various sections were expected to be confronted with and to giving all assistance and advice possible.

As far as the Fighter Group was concerned, it was necessary for the various squadrons to learn each others problems, to understand them and to work to a common end and to mutual advantage of each other. It must be borne in mind that this was perhaps the first opportunity that the Group had to function as an individual unit. While the squadrons were still in training in the States they had operated more or less independently or at least were physically separated so as to make close cooperation and understanding impracticable, if not impossible. By 13 December 1943 when the Group went on an operational status, most of the knots had been unraveled.
May 3, 1944 photo of two bomb-carrying 368th Fighter Squadron P-47s: CV-Y and CV-X. Courtesy of Elsie Palicka, wife of Ed Palicka, 370th Fighter Squadron Photographer: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

One of the first major problems which confronted the Group as a whole was the question of carrying bombs. It presented a particularly acute problem to all Ordnance personnel since very little experience had been gained in this respect. The question of bomb handling equipment and bomb shackles had to be overcome. The first was solved by the fact that sufficient bomb handling equipment, such as Bomb Service Trucks and Trailers were obtained by Station Ordnance for the use of the squadrons. Since the bomb lift trucks were not originally designed to raise bombs to the required height, it was found necessary to improve cradles. This was accomplished by each of the squadrons and they proved to be a satisfactory method. It should be stated here, that after the first mission calling for the use of bombs, it was discovered that the closest cooperation was necessary between Operations, Intelligence, Group and Station Ordnance Officers. The first attempt to carry bombs may well have proven to be disastrous had not the mission been called off. It was just as well as our short comings were realized and every effort taken to correct them.

At first, the chief concern was in handling 500 lb. bombs but later the matter of employing fragmentation clusters came up. Before discussing clusters, it might be well to add that before any 500 lb. demolition bomb was dropped at least 5 attempts had been made to carry them. The first two missions were scrubbed before the planes took off. The third and fourth, the planes had taken off but because of poor visibility could not find the target and as a result were returned to the station. However, the fifth attempt proved successful.

Fragmentation clusters, at least the type the Group was to carry, were designed primarily for use by bombers and were not made to be carried externally. Because of this fact, it was found necessary to employ various and sundry adapters and modifications to either the cluster itself or to the sway braces. As standardization of such adapter was necessary not only within the Group but within Fighter Command as a whole, some delay was experienced before it was felt that it was safe, or at least before the Group felt ready to carry them. However, since all work had been concentrated towards making the clusters adaptable to P-47 aircraft, the replacement of our P-47 aircraft with P-51s presented new problems and required new methods. To date, several adapters have been manufactured either locally or by Fighter Command, but even with these, it is still necessary to improvise and try to make the use of clusters feasible. This Group has not as yet gone on a mission with fragmentation clusters.
Two armorers hanging 500 lb GP "Valentine" bomb on 368th Fighter Squadron P-47. Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association, from records at HQ USAF Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

One modification which was required immediately was to the bomb lift truck. Since the present type truck was not intended to be used to raise the bomb to the fuselage or wings of an aircraft it was necessary to manufacture a cradle sloped at the proper angle so that the bomb could be raised into the shackle. Each Squadron undertook to make its own. Here too, the problem was duplicated when the Group changed over to P-51 aircraft. Originally designed to lift a bomb into the shackle under the fuselage of a P-47, it was inadequate for the wing shackles for the P-51. As a result, an addition or rather an extension was added to the cradle previously used.

22 January 1944 photo of bomb and bomb rack. Courtesy of Anthony C. Chardella: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

Perhaps one of the greatest hazards to which everyone, particularly pilots, were exposed to, was the danger of the bomb fin becoming loose from the bomb while the plane was in flight. In such cases, the tail fuze was invariably armed and in some cases, was sheared completely. One such incident occurred on this station when an aircraft returned with its bomb but less the bomb fin. The fuze had been sheared and consequently was armed. It required the services of a RAF Bomb Disposal Flight to remove the fuze. Because of this incident and two others at a later date, in fact on the next bombing mission when two more fins were lost, it was not only necessary but urgent that a method be found to tighten the fins sufficiently to prevent such recurrences. Towards this end, a wrench was designed and manufactured on this station which has proven to be the answer to this problem. Since the last time that a fin had become loose approximately 500 bombs have been carried and not one fin has become disengaged.

From the standpoint of reports of equipment stoppages, when the Group first went on operations, its stoppages per rounds fired were comparatively high, in fact higher than the average for the Command. However, as technical problems were solved, this rate followed a downward trend and up to the time that the changeover to P-51s took place, it was well within the average for the Command. However, with arrival of the P-51s new problems arose which required new techniques and new methods. Consequently, the stoppage rate per rounds fired was again higher then the average for the Command. During the last three reporting periods however, the number of such stoppages has been so reduced as to bring the total of this Group well above the average for the command, and in at least one period, the highest in the Wing.

The fact that all Ordnance units, sections and activities have been able to meet the demands that have been placed upon them since 5 June 1944 is tribute to their ability, ingenuity and determination to see a job well done. It has required patience, stamina and fortitude. Each section has been called upon to perform more than its share, particularly the Squadron Ordnance and Armament personnel and that of the Ammunition Section of the 1833rd where working around the clock became the practice. It was soon discovered that the only way that the required work could be accomplished was to create two shifts each working at least twelve hours per day. Long hours, little rest and satisfaction of seeing the results of their labor was all that could be offered to the personnel concerned.

The night before D-Day, word was received that a complete mission of each type of bomb was to be kept stored at the dispersal area of each aircraft. Not only was it necessary to deliver the bombs but fuzes had to be inspected and issued to each of the squadrons. It was not until after midnight that the job was completed but at least the deadline had been met. In this connection, it should be stated that what had been asked of us was contrary to Safety Rules and Regulations set forth by the Ordnance Department in that bombs were allowed to be stored without protective screening in the proximity of the installations and equipment. However, the instructions received were carried out. The tactical situation demanded that the risk be taken. To date, there has been no accident in which Ordnance Personnel have been involved.

Because of the fact that at the beginning practically all of the missions called for the use of bombs, it was necessary for either the Group Armament Officer and/or the Station Ordnance Officer to be present at these briefings, in order to brief the pilots as to type bombs and fuzes used, fuze settings, proper altitude for release etc. It was gratifying that in a small measure, our contribution to the total effort was being felt.

However, the conditions originally experienced have resolved themselves into routine day to day occurrences. While it is true that this routine is now more or less normal, still in all, Ordnance and Armament, whether in the Company, or in the Squadrons, or in the staff sections stand ready to do their share until the final completion of their appointed tasks.

Captain, Ord. Dept.,
Station Ord. Officer.


Text is from the report stored at HQ USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, transcribed and archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association. Photos archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

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