|K e n s m e n : 4 3 r d B o m b G r o u p (H), 5 t h A A F|
|During January 1944 Alexishafen
continued to be a priority target; however, the 43rd hit such familiar
places as Wewak, Hansa Bay, and Arawe, and extended its range to
include targets in the Admiralty Islands. Airdromes, gun emplacements,
and supply and personnel concentrations at Hollandia, Wewak, and Hansa
Bay were the primary targets in April 1944. On the 28th of that month,
"Ken's Men" participated in the first Allied raid on Biak; 15 B-24's
dropped their bombs on Mokmer airdrome. The following month Bial and
Wakde were hit often. After Wakde fell into Allied hands late in May,
the 63rd Squadron, primarily an anti-shipping unit, staged through that
base and began to fly weather reconnaissance missions to the
In June the 43rd Bombardment Group left targets in New Guinea to the medium bombers; more profitable targets for the Group were Biak, Noemfoor, and the elaborate netword of Japanese airdromes in the Vogelkop Peninsular. Unfortunately, the Vogelkop airfields, for all practical purposes, were out of the Group' range; therefore, principal targets during the month were Biak and Noemfoor. By staging through forward airstrips, the 43rd was able also to hit the strongly defended enemy islands of Palau and Yap.
In July 1944 combat operations were greatly restricted because of the move to Owi Island. The Group historian's comments on that move are of great interest:
There is a great deal more to fighting a war in the tropics than dropping bombs on the enemy. It is a constant struggle to build airstrips and operating facilities that make bombing possible, and it takes an effort just to stay alive. As men moved into the new camp area at Owi they found nothing awaiting them but jungle. Out of this they carved a camp. It is doubtful if any man who had not fought a war of this type realises how much unsung heroism there is involved in moving a large organization like a heavy bombardment group.
From July through November 1944 the 43rd Bombardment Group attacked enemy aridromes in the Halmahera Islands, Ambon-Ceram area, and on Celebes. In August the 63rd Squadron was operating against enemy shipping in the Philippine waters. If ships were not sighted, the squadron bombed on the docks and airdromes in the Davao Gulf area, along the Molucca Straits, and Ceram Sea. During September the entire Group made four strikes against the Philippines. The first raid, conducted with the 22nd and 90th Bombardment Groups, was the first mass daylight attack on the Philippines. In October the 43rd participated in the historic Balikapapan raids, which were designed to knock out the important oil refineries and storage facilities in that area. On 4 November the ground echelon of the Group arrived at Tacloban, Leyte. However, that field was not ready for B-24 operations, so the air echelon remained on Owi and staged through Morotai to hit targets in the Philippines.
By 17 January 1945 the 43rd was conducting regular missions from Tacloban. Principle targets during the month were airfields on Luzon, particularly Clark Field and others in that immediate area. Toward the end of the month the Group began to attack industrial targets on Formosa. With the exception of the first six days of February, when the Group blasted Corregidor and furnished close ground support in the areas of Fort Stotsenburd and Ipo Dam on Luzon, the unit's primary targets were on Formosa.
Among the most damaging attacks on industrial targets on Formosa were those directed against thte island's main source of electrical power, two plants in the mountains in central Formosa. Four heavy groups of the Fifth Air Force were scheduled to hit plants on 15 March, but heavy cloud cover forced all the planes except 16 of the 90th Bombardment Group to hit secondary targets. Ten days later, however, 23 Liberators of the 22nd Bombardment Group dropped ninety-two 1,000-pound bombs on the penstocks and transformer yards of one of the plants, while 14 B-24's of the 43rd Group unloaded fifty-five 2,000-pound bombs on the other. The numerous direct hits on vital points cut off 60% of Formosa's power for the rest of the war.