Chapter 1 - 90th Bomber Squadron 1942- 43
July 20 1942 - By this date I had accumulated 200 hours Cadet flying time in PT-17 Stearmans, BT-13 Vultees and AT-9 Curtus trainers and was commissioned a 2nd Lt in US Army Air Corps at Victorville, Ca. As the aviation cadets reached 200 total flying hours they were immediately graduated as 2nd Lts. Thus our class 42-G had different dates of rank. We were restricted to the base at Victorville, but my mother and father were able to drive to Victorville for my commissioning and see me receive my silver wings. Next day 32 members of my class mates, including myself were on our way to Columbia S.C. for training as B-25 pilots.
July 29 - From the dry heat of the Mohave desert at Victorville, CA to the damp sticky summer heat of South Carolina was quite a change. I received my first flight in aB-25, an orientation flight to Myrtle Beach Army Base. This was my last flight in a B-25 until 1947. During our stay at Columbia AAB we noted that Base had designation lines on one of the runway where Doolittle's carrier take-offs were practiced for their raid on Japan. This same day some of the single officers (note: single) Lts were transferred to the newly formed 90th Bomb Group based at Greenville AAB S.C. We were assigned as B-24 co-pilots and I was placed in the 400th Squadron.
August 1 - I was assigned to Lt Melvin James Porter's crew and had my first flight in a B-24. Four engines instead of two as on the B-25's is nice. On the 7th of August we flew a 6 hour round robin cross country out of Greenville AFB.
August 9 - Our crew was transferred to the Ford Motor Company B-24 plant at Willow Run, Michigan. The reason given for our assignment was because of labor problems at plant and our "Show of a Patriotic Effort" was to "motivate" them into forgetting their labor problems and get back to work. The plant was one mile long and one-fourth mile wide. Production of Liberators at the plant began in 1942 and 6,792 of Them were built during the operation of the plant. 1500 men of our90th Bomb Group were quartered in this huge hanger in which their cots were in neat rows. I was quartered in a small building near the main plant with about ten other officers. There was no mess hall and a field kitchen was set up behind the hanger.
On the 11th of August our crew flew a evening cross country training mission.
OAugust 14 - Our Group lost a B-24 and crew due to bad weather near Detroit. The local Ann Arbor people did quite a bit to entertain the troops. I remember one evening spent with the Kaiser (automobile and ship building) family and at another time a blind date with a University of Michigan coed.
August 23 - Orders were issued for the group to move to Camp Stoneman, Pittsburg, California. We were soon packing our equipment and were on the way to Camp Stoneman. This trip was made by the support troops, and crew members not needed to ferry the group's 12 B-24s to Sacramento, California. This included most of the co-pilots. Our train was hot and very sooty. I think we were put on a siding for every train we passed. The train was made up of entirely of the 90th Bomb Group with our own cooking "mess hall" railroad car.
August 28 - We Arrived at Camp Stoneman and were processed and issued our overseas equipment. I now had my very own Colt 45 automatic and a set of binoculars. The binoculars were later taken for a Squadron pool in New Guinea and issued to individual planes as needed. Dad and Mother Wegner with Mr. and Mrs. Casto drove up from Orange for a Final visit before we shipped overseas.
September 3 - About1000 AM we boarded a train for San Francisco. There we boarded the U.S.A.T. Republic. The ship stayed at the dock all night and left about 9 AM the next morning. There was four merchant ships and two destroyers in our convoy. I was in a cabin above the water line with three other officers. Our duties aboard consisted of shifts as watch officers looking for I don't know what; subs I guess. We zigged and zagged all the way to Oahu, H.I. This passage took 6 days. According to rumor, one of the other ships in our convoy was full of nurses so we got to practice with our binoculars. Couldn't see a thing except water and our convoy. Near noon of the sixth day, just out of Honolulu, we had an alarm for a enemy sub nearby and the destroyers suddenly became very active, racing all around our convoy. I don't think they ever verified finding anything. We docked about 2 PM September12th next to the Aloha tower in Honolula Harbor. There we were welcomed by an US Army band playing song s of the islands and popular music of the time. We were lucky as my squadron(400th) and the 90th Group Hdqs were assigned to Hickam Army Base, next door to Pearl Harbor. The other three Squadrons,321st Sq was assigned to Wheeler Field adjacent to Schofield Barracks; The 319th SQ was stationed on the extreme northern point of Oahu at Kahuka Point; the 320th drew the short straw and settled in Kipapa Gulch in the former quarters of the workers of a sugar cane plantation about 4 miles south of Wheeler Field The Air crews were to depart on the 15th of September for Hawaii. We were to be here for a month, flying long patrol or search missions of about 11 hours duration.
Our first mission was on the 22 Sept for a 11:45 hour search mission. We now were a crew which we would keep together until we returned in 1943. (Bill Sullivan says he didn't join our crew until we were at Iron Range, Australia. Lt Conti was our navigator and later in Australia he become 90th Bomb Group navigator. That's when we acquired Bill Sullivan.
September 26 - I had my first transition training and made 3 landings and take- offs at Wheeler field. In my log book I described them as poor. But this was the first time to try so maybe better next time!
September 26 thru 26 October - We flew 10 missions including three search missions to the west of Oahu. The other missions were for practice bombing and gunnery in formation. For the practice bombing the Navy towed a target raft behind a destroyer. I remember that one of these mission someone (not us) put a practice bomb on the back of the Navy tow ship. At this point I'd like to tell how Hickam and Honolulu looked to me. The Air Base at Hickam still had scars left from the Japanese attack on December 7, 19 41. There were still wrecked, broken and burnt Martin B-3 bombers, B-17's and P-40s on the field. At least 3 hangers were collapsed from bombings and the main mess hall on the base still had signs of blood on the walls when they were hit that Dec. morning. They told us that there were heavy casualties here. The Army had moved all of the families back to the states by this time and five 2nd Lts where put into one of the family base houses. Our group was Lts Dunbar, Dunmore, and Tom Fetter-all Bombardiers, Lt Lewis, 400th transportation officer and a copilot - Me. Off duty we stuck pretty much together, going to Honolulu, etc. We were here until the end of October flying about every third day. Our Squadron was assigned a Piper Cub (L-4A) and I see from my Form 5 that I had 6 flights in it during October. Lt Sarkesian nosed the plane over and broke the propeller. The L-4A 1st pilots became full time co-pilots again.