World War II Narrative History
Part I: In Training
the 25th of November, 1940, one hundred and seventy-five men lined up soldier style to
form the 111th Observation Squadron. A lot of the boy's were fresh out of civilian life,
some straight from the plow handles, offices, and factories. One could just imagine a
General walking in about that time and gazing with amazement upon the fine array of zoot
suits, red ties and green shirts, blended in with those in uniform who had been in the
National Guard on inactive service. In no time, though, we had filed by the supply
department and were all fitted out in our new GI duds. We immediately learned the old
"one, two, three, four" along with guard duty, military discipline, and just
being a soldier in general.
In January of 1941, we made our first
of many changes in stations to come. Our first move was to Brownwood, Texas, and there our
first real period of basic training commenced. We also did air-ground support with the
36th Infantry Division with O-47's and O-43's, in those days really some "Hot
Rock" airplanes. By this time we were coming along nicely with our training program
and all were actually beginning to look like they would make top-notch soldiers.
We moved again to Houston, Texas, in
March, 1941, for a period of practice in aerial gunnery. The main part of the unit was
stationed at Houston, with a small echelon at Galveston, where the firing took place over
Galveston Bay. This period of training completed, it was back to Brownwood to make
preparations for the Abilene maneuvers.
In May we journeyed to Abilene, Texas,
for a three-week maneuver with the 36th and 45th Divisions. This was our first real
maneuver which was practically all simulated warfare. One can recall the airplanes flying
over dropping small paper bags of flour representing bombs, and anyone with a certain
radius of the strike immediately became a casualty. 'Course, in those days a casualty mean
"dear old bunk fatigue," so we all did our best to become casualties.
The maneuvers over, we went back to
Brownwood in June, this time for a rest period and the first furloughs to be handed out
In August, 1941, we departed for
Mansfield, Louisiana for the big sixty-day maneuvers. In the course of this two month
period we had two additional stations at Marshall and Port Arthur, Texas. The maneuvers
involved tow major forces known as the "Blues" and the "Reds." As the
Blue was the offensive army and defeated the Red, we being on the Red side also suffered
defeat. It was back to Brownwood for another period of rest and furloughs.
In November, 1941, we went off to
Greenville, South Carolina, on another maneuver, and this time the Reds, including the
111th Squadron, emerged the victors.
We were back in Brownwood at the end
of November and plans were immediately drawn up for leaves during December to include
Christmas and New Year's. Just think, fifteen days for everyone in the unit! The first
group departed the first week in December, everyone having made plans for a grand old time
However, up comes Mr. Jap and throws a
monkey wrench in the works with the raid on Pearl Harbor. All men on leave were
immediately recalled. One can feel assured that there were one hundred and seventy-five
men at that moment ready to deal with Hirohito personally. With this catastrophe came the
immediate flock of rumors that we would soon b off to the wars.
As anticipated, we received movement
orders immediately. The Squadron was split into two echelons, one sent to McAllen and
later to Laredo, Texas, and the other to Fort Clark at Brackettville,
Texas. Our primary duties at these stations were border patrol and sub
patrol out of Brownsville, Texas, so we were at war only in a milder
form than we expected. With O-47's, O-43's, and O-52's we patrolled the
border between Texas and Mexico along the Rio Grande.
In February, 1942, the unit was
reassembled and moved to Augustus, Georgia. Here we got a new type aircraft. Our first
A-20's and P-43's really looked nice. Now we knew we were getting somewhere with real hot
airplanes that flew well over two hundred miles an hour and looked slick in the air.
While in Augusta all pilots got in
their transition time and the unit received its first big shipment of replacements, having
lost a great number of men to flying school and to limited service units.
In July, immediately after arriving in
Charlotte, North Carolina, we started our last extensive training program before leaving
the States. As we had a very good idea that we would be leaving the good ol' U.S.A. at
last, it was readily decided that we should have one more Squadron party before leaving.
With the idea of "our last party" in mind, everyone had himself a grand time and
it is certain that the affair will live long in the memories of those friends of ours
operating the Charlotte Hotel.
On the 22nd of September, 1942, the
ground echelon did go away -- straight to Fort Dix for processing and shipment overseas.
The air echelon remained at Charlotte awaiting the arrival of new airplanes and movement
September 22 to November 28, 1942
The air echelon remained at Charlotte
from the 22nd of September, 1942, to the latter part of October before moving to West Palm
Beach, Florida, for processing and shipment.
The flight echelon for this unit was
comprised of eighteen A-20's of the latest of that type ship. We were split into two
flights of nine ships each with flight leaders for each element flying B-25's.
Our first leg of the flight across the
Atlantic was to Puerto Rico on the 9th of November, 1942. Our first day out, Lady Luck
threw us a very effective curve ball, as we lost three ships complete with crews of three
The commander of the flight, Major
Thomas M. Johnson, was aboard one of the ships and his was certainly a heart-felt loss to
On the 11th of November we moved on to
Belem, Brazil, en route having our look at the Amazon River.
The 12th saw us arrive in Natal, our
last stop in South America. Here we had a two-day rest period and a complete check-up on
all ships in preparation for our over-water jaunt.
On the 14th of November we took off at
dawn for the little speck of land in the middle of the Atlantic known as Ascension Island.
It certainly turned out to be a little speck only five by seven miles, out there all by
its lonesome in that big ocean.
Our next flight, on the 15th of
November, put us in at Accraton on the Gold Coast of Africa. Here we had a ten-day
lay-over awaiting a change in orders as to our destination. During this period we made
ourselves well acquainted with Africa and were quite surprised to see a comparatively
civilized land and not one overrun by wild beasts.
On the 24th of November we took off
for Kano, our shortest hop of the flight. Our longest hop (ten hours and forty-five
minutes) was north to Tafaroui, Algeria, where we rejoined our ground echelon and the old
one-one-one was back together again.
Directory Contents |