Texas Military Forces Museum


111th Observation Squadron
World War II Narrative History

Part I:  In Training

On 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 since induction.

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 at home.

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 orders.

Air Echelon
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 men each.

The commander of the flight, Major Thomas M. Johnson, was aboard one of the ships and his was certainly a heart-felt loss to the flight.

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 | Next Article