Remember the 345th

North American B-25 Mitchell, B-25

I’ve always viewed my father as my hero for many reasons. I respect his devotion to his loved ones, his professional career in education, as my personal role model and for his combat record during World War II. I haven’t met another man with more integrity with his spoken word. During my childhood he instilled a sense of duty and patriotism in his seven kids. His three sons have served in active duty units in the army, two are retired United States Air Force, I myself served in Naval Aviation.

Whenever someone would ask my father what he did during the war, he would tell them. But he never seemed to dwell on it. What he did was an important part of his life, but it was just one portion. I did not start to appreciate his battle record until I arrived in the Philippine Islands in 1978 onboard the Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. During one port visit, I managed to go to my brother who was stationed at Clark Air Force Base that was a really short drive from my port of call, Subic Bay.

My brother and I spoke about what it must have been like for our Dad during the war. I didn’t know it at the time, but he flew from an air field near Subic Bay. He flew combat missions as a B-25 radio / gunner against Japanese targets in the Philippines, Formosa as well as French Indochina.

To date, I have only been able to locate two books that correctly describe in sharp detail what the 345th Bomb Group did in the South Pacific. 1 book was written by one of the combat pilots, Peppy Blount. My wife managed to find this book on eBay and it was my favorite Christmas gift. I tried to locate the publication,”We Band of Brothers”, but without success, but she managed to locate it and I’ve since lent it to my Dad. Another book was written by Lawrence J Hickey,”Warpath across the Pacific”. Mr. Hickey spent many years of detailed research and the book is really outstanding.

I met one of my Dad’s combat friends who served with him. The thing that stunned me is how modest my Dad was on what he experienced. Their B-25 bombers flew low level strafing and skip bombing runs using the B-25 twin engine medium bomber. The aircraft had their bombardier compartment eliminated in the nose and it had been replaced by fixed .50 caliber machine guns. All their missions were flown at extreme low altitude. My Dad’s job was delegated as a B-25 radio operator / gunner. The bombs had delayed fuses so as to reduce damage to their aircraft. Some aircraft would return with dents from bombs which bounced back hitting the underbody of the airplane. One version had a total of eighteen .50 caliber machine guns. In addition, they could carry four 500lb bombs internally.

My Dad was grounded for a single mission and his crew was shot down near Clark Air Force Base. His crew survived the crash, but they were unable to escape due to their injuries. The only crewmember to return alive was the man who replaced him for the mission. The remainder were killed by Japanese troops who killed them immediately. After Dad finished his combat missions, he returned to the USA.

I have often wondered why the 345th Bomb Group had so little media coverage following the war. It was a really common practice for combat war correspondents to fly combat missions for documentary purposes. I honestly think that one of the reasons was due to the reduction of aircraft shot down as soon as the war correspondents flew together in combat. A total of eight war correspondents / photographers were killed on combat flights.

In 26 months of combat, the 345th flew 58,562 combat hours 9120 attack sorties, dropped over 58,000 bombs with a total weight of 6340 tons, and fired over 12.5 million rounds of ammunition. Intelligence imputed their unit with sinking 260 enemy vessels, totaling nearly 190,000 tons, and damaging 275 others. It was also awarded credit for ruining 260 Japanese airplanes on the ground and another 107 in aerial combat. Its units won Distinguished Unit Citations for four missions and the Group was awarded the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. This record cost the Air Apaches, 712 dead from all causes, including 580 killed on flights, and 177 aircraft.

I took my parents to an air show at Langley Air Force Base several years ago and they enjoyed the series. But when we passed an A-10 ground attack airplane on static display, we couldn’t help notice how the A-10 and B-25 had a similar function in combat. They both fly within gun range at low elevation to strafe enemy targets.

In conclusion, I hope this report will provide you a little insight to the mission that was assigned to the 345th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force during World War II. I hope you enjoyed this article. My parents don’t have internet access, but I will print this out and send it through the mail. I’m sure they will enjoy it. If you like the guide, please pass it along to your friends and have an excellent day!

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