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Lessons Learned in Combat

21 November, 1942

Certain phases of Bombardment tactics tested and proven under combat conditions by the 63rd Bombardment Squadron (H) :

1.     Two ship bombardment element has been service tested and found successful. The problem of the third man in an element in flight has always presented itself in a three ship element. The overlapping fire power, with the danger of one airplane shooting a member of its own element, has ever been present. The two ship element has solved the problem and proven in actual combat with Japanese "Zeros" to be sound. The additional gain in manoeuvrability has permitted the airplane commander to fly his own airplane smoothly without worrying about which of his wingman was going to cut off his tail. It has decreased pilot fatigue decidedly by permitting the No. 2 ship to fly on either side, above or below the Flight Commander, as he saw fit or as combat demanded. Another advantage, found by accident, is that, in making a bombing run on two boats close together, the No. 2 man is free to manoevre underneath, to the right or to the left, of his Flight Commander, and bomb the other boat designated by the Flight Commander. A two ship element, called the "buddy system" (You look after me and I'll look after you), is responsible for saving the lives and equipment of many  members of the 63rd Bombardment Squadron (H). It has cut down time in assembly, this being done enroute. The spirit developed between a Flight Commander and his buddy, which has remained fixed insofar as possible within the squadron, has been outstanding. A corollary to the two ship element is the indoctrination of brand new airplanes and crews received in this theater, by assigning to them a seasoned veteran as Flight Commander. They have literally been led by the hand through their first three of four combat missions, thus increasing the success of their baptism by fire, and each success means a good combat crew.

2.     The bombing approach used is to approach the target at approximately ninety degrees and 2,000 feet higher than the predetermined bombing altitude. Any time the airplane commander chooses, he executes approximately a ninety degree turn, diving and losing the two thousand feet so that the Bombardier knows from the approach that he will bomb at two thousand feet less, at an indicated air speed of one hundred ninety miles per hour and that his bombing run will be approximately twenty seconds long. The Squadron put seventy one airplanes over the target during the month of October, and nearly all of these were bombing missions. Every approach was made on this pattern. Airplanes of this squadron have received but minor damage from hostile A/A fire, bombing cruisers from two thousand feet in broad daylight, and bombing concentrations of shipping from thirty five hundred feet, and less, at dawn.

3.     Low altitude precision bombing has been necessary in this theatre with the targets that we have, namely Japanese cargo and war vessels. In order to hit these targets it is absolutely necessary to bomb at low altitude. This is tied in with the type of bombing run of the preceding paragraph.

4.     Skip bombing has been developed by this squadron and executed on several occasions from two hundred fifty feet, indicating 220 miles per hour. The sight used is an "X" on the co-pilot's window, 6 - 3/4 inches from the top. The forward point of reference is the outline of the nose. Under these conditions in level flight at two hundred and fifty feet, indicating approximately 220 miles an hour, a bomb will fall from sixty feet to one hundred feet short of the vessel, skip into the air and hit sixty feet to one hundred feet beyond. If perfect, the bomb will hit the side of the vessel and sink. During periods when the moon is twenty degrees or less above the horizon and at dawn, the slick on the water has given a perfect path in which to operate. By flying North or South at five hundred feet, the slick of the moon follows the airplane so that when a vessel appears in the slick, a ninety degree turn is executed, two hundred fifty feet are lost, power is applied. The results have been hits and sinking of hostile vessels. It has been found that enemy vessels turn their guns directly upward and shoot. So far they have caused only minor damage to a few airplanes.

5.     Night bombing is no new development of this squadron, but has added materially in executing the low altitude attacks demanded for hits or vessels. Closely allied is the "crack of dawn attack" as old as history, but which has paid more dividends than any other single time attack. Formation flying for night bombing has not been attempted in this squadron due to weather conditions usually encountered enroute to target and the loss of time that results in formation flying. To the present date this squadron has had only two ships that failed to reach the target in night operation.


W. G. Benn
Major, AC,

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