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Far East Air Force (United States)

Far East Air Force
A-27s of the 17th Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field, November 1941.
Active 16 November 1941 – 5 February 1942
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army Air Forces
Philippine Army Air Corps
Role Air defense of the Commonwealth of the Philippines
Size C. 6,500 personnel
C. 300 aircraft
Part of United States Army Forces Far East
Garrison/HQ Nielson Field, Luzon
Lewis H. Brereton

The Far East Air Force (FEAF) was the military aviation organization of the United States Army in the Philippines just prior to and at the beginning of World War II. Formed on 16 November 1941, FEAF was the predecessor of the Fifth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces and United States Air Force.

Initially FEAF also included aircraft and personnel of the Philippine Army Air Corps. It was largely destroyed during the Philippines Campaign of 1941–42. When 14 surviving B-17 Flying Fortresses and 143 personnel of the heavy bombardment force were withdrawn from Mindanao to Darwin, Australia in the third week of December 1941, Headquarters FEAF followed it within days. The B-17s were the only combat aircraft of the FEAF to escape capture or destruction.[1][2][nb 1]

FEAF, with only 16 Bataan 24–25 December.[3] 49 of the original 165 pursuit pilots of FEAF's 24th Pursuit Group were also evacuated during the campaign, but of non-flying personnel, only one of 27 officers and 16 wounded enlisted men escaped the Philippines.[4] Nearly all ground and flying personnel were employed as infantry at some point during their time on Bataan, where most surrendered on 9 April 1942.[5]

The surviving personnel and a small number of aircraft received from the United States were re-organized in Australia in January 1942, and on 5 February 1942 redesignated as the Fifth Air Force. With most of its aircraft based in Java, the FEAF was nearly destroyed a second time trying to stem the tide of Japanese advances southward.


  • 1912–1941 1
    • Army aviation in the Philippines 1.1
    • Philippine Department Air Force 1.2
  • Creation of the FEAF 2
    • Pre-war expansion 2.1
    • Aircraft inventory 2.2
    • FEAF airfields 2.3
    • Warning systems 2.4
  • World War II 3
    • Operations in the Philippines 3.1
    • Operations in the Netherlands East Indies 3.2
  • Strength of the FEAF, 8 December 1941 4
    • Order of battle 4.1
    • Support units and personnel 4.2
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Army aviation in the Philippines

In August 1911, the United States Army's Chief Signal Officer, whose United States Army's Air Service at Fort Stotsenburg, consisting of the 2nd Squadron on Corregidor and the 3rd Squadron at Fort Stotsenburg. An additional squadron, the 28th, was activated on 1 September 1922 at Nichols Field, and the group, now at Clark Field, was redesignated the 4th Composite Group on 2 December 1922. On 25 January 1923 the three squadrons were redesignated, respectively, the 2nd Observation, 3rd Pursuit, and 28th Bombardment Squadrons.[9]

The air forces in the Philippines were a component of the Army's Philippine Department, and like the Air Corps in the continental United States, operated under split authority. Their nominal head was the Air Officer, Philippine Department, a staff member who did not exercise command of any operational units. Actual command of the operational forces (the 4th Composite Group) resided with the group commander, who reported through the chief of staff to the commanding general of the Philippine Department, and also through the Air Officer to the Chief of the Air Corps. Installations and airfields were maintained by service forces assigned to the Philippine Department, over which neither officer had any authority. Maintenance of a defensive status quo of the Philippine Department was mandated by provisions of the 1922 Conference on the Limitation of Armament, although air power was not specifically mentioned in its terms.[10]

On 31 May 1940, Maj. Gen.

  • Unit History of the 27th Bomb Group

External links

  • No. 34: Williams, E. Kathleen (1945). Army Air Forces in the War Against Japan, 1941–1942. AFHRA, Maxwell AFB.
  • No. 82: Maurer, Maurer (1969). Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II. AFHRA, Maxwell AFB
  • No. 85: Newton, Wesley P. Jr., and Senning, Calvin F. (1985). USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II. AFHRA, Maxwell AFB.
  • No. 98: Hennessy, Juliette (1958). "The United States Army Air Arm, April 1861 to April 1917". AFHRA (USAF).  
USAF Historical Studies
  • Craven, Wesley F. and Cate, James L. editors (1947). The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. I: Plans & Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942.
  • Edmunds, Walter D. (1992). They Fought With What They Had: The United States Army Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific, 1941–1942. Center For Air Force History/Google Books. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  • Maurer, Maurer (1986). "Part Eight ('Fifth Air Force')". Air Force Combat Units of World War II. New York Military Affairs Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  • Morton, Dr. Louis (1953). U.S. Army in World War II: The Fall of the Philippines"Reinforcing the Philippines", . Center of Military History, US Army
  • Weaver, Herbert (1947). Frank Craven, Wesley; Lea Cate, James, eds. "Chapter 14: Commitments to China". The Army Air Forces in World War II: Plans and Early Operations January 1939 to August 1942 I. Air Force Historical Studies Office. pp. 484–513. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
--- (2003). December 8, 1941: MacArthur's Pearl Harbor. Texas A&M University Press.  
--- (2010). Every Day a Nightmare: American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941–1942. Texas A&M University Press.  
  • Bartsch, William H. (1992). Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines, 1941–1942. Texas A&M University Press.  


  1. ^ Edmunds 1951, p. 178
  2. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 375
  3. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 202
  4. ^ a b DoomedBartsch , p. 428
  5. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 225
  6. ^ Hennessy 1958, p. 79
  7. ^ Hennessy 1958, p. 84
  8. ^ Hennessy 1958, pp. 151–152
  9. ^ SquadronsMaurer , pp. 15, 22, 141
  10. ^ Bartsch 1992, p. 1
  11. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 23–25
  12. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 67–68
  13. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 177
  14. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 70–71, 87
  15. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 26–27
  16. ^ Morton 1953, p. 45
  17. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 9
  18. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 20
  19. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 60
  20. ^ a b c December 8Bartsch , pp. 79–80
  21. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 75–76
  22. ^ a b c Edmunds 1992, p. 38
  23. ^ a b Edmunds 1992, pp. 24–25
  24. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 108–109
  25. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 108
  26. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 15
  27. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 33
  28. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 118, USAFFE General Order No. 4.
  29. ^ Morton 1953, p. 25
  30. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 33–34
  31. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 178
  32. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 35
  33. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 23
  34. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 21
  35. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 7, 12–13, 25, 28–29, and 434–440
  36. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 193
  37. ^ a b c Craven and Cate 1947, p. 192
  38. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 19
  39. ^ a b Williams 1945, p. 21
  40. ^ Williams 1945, p. 40
  41. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 70–71
  42. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 425–426, Appendices A and B
  43. ^ a b December 8Bartsch , p. 427, Appendix C
  44. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 30, 38
  45. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 186
  46. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 27
  47. ^ Morton 1953, p. 43
  48. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 113–116
  49. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 239
  50. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 49, 212
  51. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 26
  52. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 52–55
  53. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 179–180, 195
  54. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 215–216, 222
  55. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 210–211, 225
  56. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 212–213, 236
  57. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 213, 222–225, 257
  58. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 236–238
  59. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 215, 257
  60. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 262, 314, 321
  61. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 87–88
  62. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 87
  63. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 120
  64. ^ a b December 8Bartsch , pp. 131–132
  65. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 206
  66. ^ a b Long, Richard A. "Marine Detachment, Air Warning Service". From Shanghai to Corregidor: Marines in Defense of the Philippines. US National Park Service. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  67. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 225
  68. ^ a b Cahill, LTC William M. (2009). "Technology not realized: Army Air Forces radar employment in the early Pacific War". Air Power History (Summer): 11. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  69. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 242–243
  70. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 318
  71. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 249–251, 269–270
  72. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 271
  73. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 275–279
  74. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 425, Appendix A
  75. ^ Williams 1945, p. 25
  76. ^ December 8Bartsch , p. 403
  77. ^ Williams 1945, pp. 30, 32
  78. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 280–281
  79. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 257–262
  80. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 281–285
  81. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 292–294
  82. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 329–335
  83. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 338
  84. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 344
  85. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 340–341, 344
  86. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 343
  87. ^ December 8Bartsch , pp. 364–373
  88. ^ a b Newton and Senning 1985, pp. 335–336
  89. ^ DoomedBartsch , p. 431
  90. ^ DoomedBartsch , pp. 428 and 432
  91. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 256
  92. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 261–263
  93. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 379
  94. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 269–270
  95. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 271 (note)
  96. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 281
  97. ^ NightmareBartsch , p. 44
  98. ^ NightmareBartsch , pp. 34–35
  99. ^ NightmareBartsch , p. 351, Table 5
  100. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 176, 279–280
  101. ^ NightmareBartsch , pp. 24–29, 64
  102. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 382
  103. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 309
  104. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 288
  105. ^ NightmareBartsch , pp. 90–91, 311
  106. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, pp. 386–387
  107. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 326
  108. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 355–360
  109. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 269
  110. ^ Williams 1945, p. 56
  111. ^ Weaver 1947, pp. 396–399, 494
  112. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 312–313
  113. ^ Edmunds 1992, pp. 399–400
  114. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 394
  115. ^ Edmunds 1992, p. 313
  116. ^ a b Edmunds 1992, p. 441 (note)
  117. ^ Craven and Cate 1947, p. 400
  118. ^ Combat UnitsMaurer , entry "Fifth Air Force"
  119. ^ Morton 1953, p. 49, Table 4
  120. ^ a b Edmunds 1992, p. 68
  1. ^ Two B-18s used as transports and the Philippine Air Depot C-39, used to evacuate personnel from Mindanao in April 1942, also escaped.
  2. ^ Civil aviation preceded military in the Philippines by more than a year. Three Americans, airplane designers Thomas Scott Baldwin and Tod Shriver, and barnstormer James C. "Bud" Mars, visited the Philippines in early 1911 as part of a 30,000-mile world demonstration tour. Their aircraft were the Skylark, Shriver's 1910 biplane, flown by Mars, and the Red Devil, designed and flown by Baldwin. Both planes had been built by Glenn Curtiss. Baldwin made the first cross-country flight in the Philippines in Red Devil in February 1911, and sold it to an American resident of the Philippines, who later crashed it.
  3. ^ The 1st Company, 2nd Aero Squadron was activated on 12 May 1915 but not organized until December, and sailed from San Francisco on 5 January 1916. It expanded to a full squadron of two companies in July 1917.
  4. ^ Third in seniority was Lt. Col. Charles M. Savage, who was on the promotion list to colonel, but he also lacked favor with Grunert, possibly because Savage's command background was in airships, not airplanes.
  5. ^ The general was known in the service as "Sue" Clagett.
  6. ^ The 4th CG, for example, had three commanders between May and August, then was dissolved.
  7. ^ The pursuit squadrons, unable to move their aircraft, were forced to remove propellers, lower the aircraft to the ground with their landing gear raised, then tie down and weight the wings with sandbags to prevent their being lifted by the high winds.
  8. ^ Fifty crated P-40Es, the most current model, arrived at the Philippine Air Depot on 29 September.
  9. ^ The 24th PG stood up operationally on 1 October. The 4th CG continued a paper existence until the 28th Bomb Squadron was absorbed into the 19th BG, then was disbanded, with the 2nd Observation Squadron assigned directly to FEAF headquarters.
  10. ^ The AAF decided to use its experienced pilots in the United States as training cadre for newly created units rather than reinforce overseas units. As a result FEAF pilots were unusually young and inexperienced when war began. The 1941 pilot levies were: 10 February: 24 from Class 40H; 8 May: 39 from Class 41B; 24 June: 96 from Classes 41C and 41D; 23 October: 16 from Class 41G. While 22 of the 28 pilots of the 21st and 34th Pursuit Squadrons, who arrived 20 November, were from these same classes, they had experience flying P-40 aircraft before deployment to FEAF.
  11. ^ 27 each of Mitsubishi Ki-21 (Army Type 97) "Sally" and Kawasaki Ki-48 (Army Type 99) "Lily"
  12. ^ The Imperial Japanese Navy also employed 12 Mitsubishi A5M (Navy Type 96) "Claude" carrier fighters and 13 Nakajima B5N (Navy Type 97) "Kate" carrier attack bombers off the aircraft carrier Ryūjō for its Mindanao operations, which were unopposed by interceptors or land-based antiaircraft weapons.
  13. ^ One B-17 was permanently out of action, its tail knocked off in a landing collision with another aircraft on 12 September while attempting a landing during a typhoon. The other two were in hangars being painted in camouflage.
  14. ^ Headquarters Squadron, 24th PG had one P-40B assigned while the 20th PS had 23 remaining after training accidents. The 3rd PS had 24 P-40Es, the 17th PS had 21, and the 21st PS had 22. Two remained crated at the air depot.
  15. ^ The sole A-27 serviceable on 8 December was with the 3rd PS at Iba. A second was at the Philippine Air Depot for maintenance and later served at Lubao Field.
  16. ^ The total number of surviving P-35A airframes is unknown. The 34th PS had 22 in service and the 3rd PS had four.
  17. ^ Edmunds stated that in a pre-war exercise, 46 minutes elapsed before sightings were reported, plotted, and orders relayed to interceptors to take off to "protect" Clark Field.
  18. ^ SCR-270/-271 radars were crude and could only determine direction and distance of approaching aircraft. An experienced operator could sometimes determine by interpretation the approximate size in numbers of the contact. (Craven and Cate, Vol. 6: Men and Planes, p. 96)
  19. ^ Radar calibration was a highly technical and laborious process which involved checking every sector of the operating range of a station using plots of controlled flights. To calibrate a single set sometimes required as much as 10,000 miles of flying. Performance tests charted both inner and outer ranges at which targets could be detected and accuracy tests were used to spot errors in azimuth and range. (Craven and Cate, Vol. 6: Men and Planes, p. 98)
  20. ^ Six had been shipped to the 60th CA, three to the 200th CA, and two to the 1st Separate Marine Battalion.
  21. ^ The radar set of the Marine detachment was the sole survivor.
  22. ^ 80 Mitsubishi G4M (Navy Type 1) "Betty" and 27 Mitsubishi G3M (Navy Type 96) "Nell".
  23. ^ The Japanese also lost three "Claude" carrier fighters and a "Kate" attack bomber in its attacks at Mindanao.
  24. ^ The Japanese Army by 22 January had 36 Mitsubishi Ki-30 (Army Type 97) "Ann" dive bombers, 11 Nakajima Ki-27 (Army Type 97) "Nate" fighters, and 15 Mitsubishi Ki-15 (Army Type 97) "Babs" reconnaissance aircraft based near Bataan.
  25. ^ Only six sorties were flown between 3 and 27 March, at which time flight surgeons instituted a nutrition "training table" for 25 pilots of three full meals a day. Missions resumed 2 April.
  26. ^ Those rescued included Filipino Col. Carlos Romulo. One of the P-35As landed wheels up just off a beach on Leyte.
  27. ^ The total includes two victories credited to the 6th Pursuit Squadron, PAAC.
  28. ^ The figures are for the 1,144 enlisted men of the 5th Interceptor Command, but are representative of the FEAF as a whole.
  29. ^ Also known as Blimbing, Ngoro Field had been an emergency strip first used in 1939. The ML-KNIL upgraded it to a full fighter strip and camouflaged it so expertly it was not discovered by the Japanese until the final day of the campaign.
  30. ^ Edmunds credits 46. However, Bartsch states that only eight aerial victories by the provisional squadrons can be substantiated. (Edmunds 1951, p. 360, note, NightmareBartsch , p. 337)
  31. ^ The detachment moved to Wawa Beach near Nasugbu on 4 December using trucks borrowed from the Philippine Army because it had no prime mover or tractors of its own. On 10 December it detected the midday raid conducted by the Japanese against Nichols Field and Cavite, and attempted to provide early warning. It was unable to raise its own unit at Sangley Point and could not persuade Army operators on Corregidor to acknowledge the transmission. The detachment moved inland to avoid Japanese landing parties seeking it, and on Christmas Eve began movement to Orani Field on Bataan, where it set up on 8 January. When Japanese advances forced Orani Field to close, the detachment moved south to its final position at Bataan Field, resuming operations on 3 February.


See also

  • Hq & Hq Sq, Far East Air Force at Nielson Field (42 off, 1 wo, 136 enl)
  • Hq & Hq Sq, 5th Bomber Command at Clark Field (1 off, 20 enl)
  • Hq & Hq Sq, Far East Air Service Command at Nielson Field (3 off, 56 enl)
  • Philippine Air Depot (17 off)
  • 5th Air Base Group (Hq & Hq Sq only)(16 off, 166 enl)
  • 20th Air Base Group (Hq & Hq Sq, 19th Air Base Sq, 27th and 28th Material Sqs)
  • 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (Antiaircraft) (Mobile)(76 off,1 wo, 1732 enl)
  • 803d Engineer Battalion, Aviation (Separate)
  • 7th Materiel Squadron, 19th Bomb Group
  • 48th Materiel Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group (216)
  • 440th Ordnance Company (Bombardment)
  • 701st Ordnance Company (Air Base)
  • Other units
    • Tow Target detachment (49)
    • Weather detachment (20)
    • Chemical Warfare detachment (180)
    • Air Warning Service, 5th Interceptor Command
      • Signal Company (Air Warning, Philippines) (194)
        • Iba detachment
        • Paracale detachment (deploying)
        • Tagatay detachment (deployed but not operational)
        • Burgos detachment (deployed but not operational)
        • U.S. Marine detachment (36)[66][nb 31]

The numbers in italicized brackets indicate the number of personnel, as of 30 November.

The August strength of "Air Force USSAFE" was 2,049 enlisted troops under the command of 254 officers. Final FEAF peacetime strength is disputed. One source stated that, as of 30 November, its strength was 5,609: 669 officers and 4,940 enlisted troops.[119] Another put the 7 December strength as 8,100.[120] The Philippine Army Air Corps constituted another 1,500 members, with units at Maniquis Field (Cabanatuan), Zablon Field (Manila), and an auxiliary strip at Batangas, all on Luzon; and a detachment at Lahug on Cebu.[120]

Support units and personnel

(35th Pursuit Group headquarters never arrived in the Philippines and is not listed for that reason.)

  • 5th Bomber Command
    • 19th Bomb Group (Heavy) (Headquarters, Clark Field, collectively, 4 B-17C, 15 B-17D, 10 B-18)
      The B-17s were distributed eight to a squadron, with three attached to the group headquarters squadron. Four of the B-18s were assigned to Headquarters Squadron, and the others to the 28th BS.
      • 14th Bomb Squadron (Del Monte Field No. 1, 6 December; 1 B-17C, 7 B-17D)
      • 28th Bomb Squadron (Clark Field)
      • 30th Bomb Squadron (Clark Field)
      • 93rd Bomb Squadron (Del Monte Field No. 1, 6 December; 1 B-17C, 7 B-17D)
    • 5th Air Base Group (Del Monte No. 1, 2 B-18)
    • 27th Bomb Group (Light) (without assigned aircraft, 3 B-18 attached for training)
      • 16th Bomb Squadron (Fort McKinley)
      • 17th Bomb Squadron (San Fernando Auxiliary Field)
      • 91st Bomb Squadron (San Marcelino Auxiliary Field)
    • 10th Bombardment Squadron (Light), Philippine Army Air Corps (Maniquis Field)
  • 5th Interceptor Command
    • 24th Pursuit Group (Headquarters, Clark Field)
      • Headquarters Squadron (Clark Field)
      • 3rd Pursuit Squadron (Iba Field)
      • 17th Pursuit Squadron (Nichols Field)
      • 20th Pursuit Squadron (Clark Field)
      • 21st Pursuit Squadron (attached, Nichols Field)
      • 34th Pursuit Squadron (attached, Del Carmen Field)
    • 6th Pursuit Squadron, Philippine Army Air Corps (Zablon Field)
  • 2nd Observation Squadron (Nichols Field, 2 O-46A, 3 O-49, 11 O-52)
Location of FEAF squadrons 7 Dec 1941

Order of battle

SOURCES: AAF Historical Study No.34, Army Air Forces in the War Against Japan, 1941–1942[39] and Bartsch, 8 December Appendix C[43]

Strength of the FEAF, 8 December 1941

Fifth Air Force along with Thirteenth Air Force in the Central Pacific and Seventh Air Force in Hawaii was subsequently assigned to a higher echelon on 3 August 1944, the newly created United States Far East Air Forces also with the acronym FEAF. This FEAF was subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area. By 1945, three numbered U.S. air forces—5th, 7th and 13th—were supporting operations in the Pacific.

Of 61 heavy bombers based on Java, only 23 escaped: 17 B-17Es, three LB-30s, and three of the original B-17Ds of the 19th BG. Only six had been lost in aerial combat, but at least 20 were destroyed on the ground by Japanese attacks.[116] Every fighter (39) and dive bomber (11) that arrived on Java was destroyed. Against these losses, the provisional pursuit squadrons were credited with the destruction of 45 Japanese aircraft in aerial combat.[88][nb 30] Heavy bombers had flown over sixty missions and at least 300 bomber sorties, but 40% of the bombers turned back or otherwise failed to find their targets.[117] Brereton's evacuation to India on 23 February 1942 effectively ended existence of the Far East Air Force, which had been re-designated "5 Air Force" on 5 February. Its headquarters was not re-manned until 18 September 1942 in Australia, when it was designated Fifth Air Force.[118]

Evacuations of personnel from Java and diversion of resources to India and Australia began 20 February. By 24 February only ten heavy bombers, four A-24 dive bombers, and 13 P-40 fighters remained flyable against Japanese forces. ABDA Command was officially dissolved the next day. The ground echelons of both heavy bomb groups began evacuation by sea on 25 February, while the bombers, carrying up to 20 passengers each, made daily six-hour flights to Broome, Western Australia, an intermediate evacuation point for all aircraft fleeing Java. Malang/Singosari closed on 28 February and Jogjakarta the next night, following the final bomber sorties. 260 men, including the remnants of the 17th Pursuit Squadron, were evacuated by five B-17s and three LB-30s. 35 passengers crammed the final LB-30 that took off at 12:30 am of 2 March. On 3 March, nine Japanese fighters attacked Broome, destroying two of the evacuated B-17s.

On 3 February the Japanese opened a series of air attacks on ABDA bases on Java, and the 19th BG was again caught on the ground, losing five of its B-17s in a raid on Singosari, four of them on the ground.[112] On 20 February, just back from a mission to bomb the invasion force at Bali, seven B-17s of the 19th BG were caught on the ground by Zero strafers while re-arming and five more were destroyed.[113][114] Although 38 of the more capable B-17E Flying Fortresses and a dozen LB-30 Liberators incrementally reinforced the FEAF, losses were severe and the slow rate of reinforcement was unable to keep pace.[115] Despite dispersal and elaborate camouflage, a lack of antiaircraft artillery and poor warning/communication systems resulted in the loss of 65 FEAF aircraft on the ground alone.[116]

B-17E Flying Fortress

The 91st Bombardment Squadron was re-manned in Brisbane with pilots from the 27th BG, and dispatched eleven A-24s to Java on 11 February, but the Japanese threat to Timor prevented the other two squadrons of the 27th from following. Inadequate facilities at its new airfield near Malang delayed maintenance of the dive bombers and prevented their operational use until 19 February.[110] 32 assembled P-40s were collected at Maylands Airfield near Perth, Western Australia, towed to Fremantle on the night of 19–20 February, and loaded on the flight deck of the seaplane tender USS Langley. The Langley sailed at noon 23 February in convoy for Burma but was immediately diverted for Java, as was the freighter MS Sea Witch soon after, carrying 27 unassembled and crated P-40s destined for the 51st Pursuit Group in China. All of the aircraft aboard Langley were lost when it was sunk on 27 February. 31 of the 33 pilots of the 13th and 33rd Pursuit Squadrons (Provisional) perished in the attack. The Sea Witch reached Tjilatjap harbor the next day but destroyed its cargo to keep the P-40s from being captured by the Japanese.[111]

By mid-January, Japanese advances southward cut the anticipated aircraft ferry routes to the Philippines and reinforcement was no longer feasible. Instead, using aircraft and personnel at hand, provisional fighter squadrons were organized in Brisbane to assist the Royal Netherlands Indies Air Force (ML-KNIL) in defending the NEI. The 17th Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) was established on 14 January, and 13 of its 17 pilots had previously been with the 24th PG. With 17 P-40s delivered by the Pensacola convoy (assembly of the 18th could not be completed because of a lack of parts), it flew across northern Australia from Brisbane to Darwin, then to Java via Penfoie Airdrome at Koepang and Den Pasar Field on Bali between 16 and 25 January. Only 12 Warhawks arrived at the designated FEAF fighter base at Ngoro Field, the others lost to accidents, combat, and pilot illness.[104][105][nb 29] The 20th Pursuit Squadron (Provisional), incorporating pilots of the 35th PG, took off from Darwin in 25 P-40s on 2 February, but only 17 reached Java, the remainder shot down over Bali or damaged on the ground by air raids.[106] Likewise, 25 P-40s of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) departed Brisbane, but because of accidents involving novice pilots, only 18 reached Darwin on 8 February. Just nine eventually reinforced Ngoro; an entire flight of eight was lost when it exhausted its fuel after its LB-30 navigation guide aircraft became lost in a storm trying to find Koepang. Survivors of both the 3rd and 20th provisional squadrons were integrated into the 17th PS.[107] The 33rd Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) was en route to Java at Darwin when it was nearly annihilated by a Japanese air raid on 19 February.[108] Of 83 P-40s assembled and flown from Brisbane, only 37 arrived at Ngoro Field,[109] and by 15 February less than 20 could be mustered for operations.

The Pensacola convoy for the Philippines was diverted on 13 December to Brisbane, where it disembarked its Air Corps personnel on 23 December, then continued to Darwin with field artillery reinforcements on 29 December.[96] The pursuit and partially trained pilots began training as assembly of the crated aircraft went forward at Archerfield and Amberley airdromes.[97] 21 pilots of the 27th Bomb Group[98] and 17 from the 24th Pursuit Group were flown to Australia in the last two weeks of December to ferry back the aircraft,[99] but no engine coolant had been sent for the fighters and the guns of the dive bombers were missing key electrical and mounting components, hampering not only reinforcement of FEAF but limiting flight training of the new pilots.[100] The President Garfield, 500 miles at sea en route to Honolulu,[37] reversed course after receiving word that war had begun in Hawaii and returned to San Francisco. The USAT President Polk, a cargo liner impressed into service as an Army transport, embarked 55 P-40s, an equal number of pilots and ground crews gathered from four groups based in California (including 27 pilots off the President Garfield), and sailed without escort on 18 December, reaching Brisbane on 13 January 1942.[101] There the President Polk embarked the ground echelons of two squadrons of the 7th Bomb Group (based at Jogjakarta)[102] and continued to Java, escorted by the heavy cruiser USS Houston, arriving in Surabaya on 28 January.[103]

USS Republic entering Brisbane harbor

On 29 December 1941, Brereton and his small staff arrived in Darwin, where his only combat forces were 14 B-17s of the 19th Bomb Group that had come south from Del Monte, and reestablished FEAF headquarters. By 1 January 1942, eleven of the bombers had been shifted northwest to Singosari Airfield on Java.[91] The 19th BG flew its next combat mission on 4 January against Japanese shipping off Davao, utilizing Samarinda Airfield, Borneo, as a staging base,[92] but on 11 January, when the first aircraft of the 7th Bomb Group arrived, FEAF conducted its operations solely for the defense of the Netherlands East Indies.[93] FEAF became a part of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command created to unify forces in the defense of the NEI.[94] On 18 January, FEAF headquarters moved to Bandoeng.[95]

Operations in the Netherlands East Indies

Against the overall loss from all causes of 108 P-40s and 25 P-35s, FEAF pilots were credited by USAF Historical Study No. 85, USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II, with 35 aerial victories between 8 December 1941 and 12 April 1942.[88][nb 27] 33 pursuit pilots were killed in the campaign and 83 surrendered to become prisoners of war,[4] with 49 of those dying in captivity.[89] 95% of enlisted men became POWs, and 61% of those died before they could be repatriated.[90][nb 28]

The two P-40s on Bataan both flew out on 8 April, the P-40E to Iloilo City on Panay, where it landed wheels up, and the P-40B to Cebu. The two P-35s on Mindanao flew to Bataan Field on 4 April, and they also evacuated three pursuit pilots in their baggage compartments. A Navy Grumman J2F Duck that the 20th Pursuit Squadron raised from Mariveles Bay and placed in service again on 24 March evacuated five officers.[87][nb 26] Bataan surrendered the next morning. The P-40B reached Mindanao but crashed on 14 April trying to land at Del Monte No. 3 in a heavy rain. The three new P-40Es and the sole remaining P-35 operated out of Maramag Field in central Mindanao until 3 May. The P-35 was transferred to the Philippine Army Air Corps and two surviving P-40Es were ultimately captured intact by the Japanese army on 12 May.

Accidents put all three P-40s based on Mindanao out of commission by 9 February, leaving just two P-35s that had escaped from Bataan. Transfer of a propeller put a P-40 back in commission two days later, and shipment to Cebu by submarine of parts taken from wrecks on Bataan put another back in operation by mid-March, when a fire destroyed one of them on the ground. Three new P-40Es, still in crates, were shipped from Brisbane, Australia, by blockade runner on 22 February but ran aground on 9 March on a reef between Bohol and Leyte. Carefully hidden and moved by barge at night, the crates reached Mindanao on 26 March, where a makeshift air depot had been established in a coconut grove at Buenavista Airfield using mechanics of the 19th Bomb Group and the 440th Ordnance Company. By 2 April, all three P-40s were assembled and flight-tested, making the Mindanao P-40 force twice as large as that on Bataan.

A single flyable P-40E remained at Bataan Field, although by 5 March mechanics had repaired the damaged P-40B at Cabcaben using P-40E parts, facetiously calling the composite a "P-40 something".[83] Occasional individual reconnaissance flights were made in the following month by the two craft.[84][nb 25] Brig. Gen. George was evacuated by PT boat on 11 March, ending the effective usefulness of the detachment, whose pilots were severely debilitated by starvation and disease.[85] Churchill eventually succeeded to nominal command 12 days before the surrender, but was unable to evacuate and became a prisoner of war.[86]

  • 26 January 1942, morning missions strafed boats attempting to reinforce Japanese landings behind the USAFFE lines on the west coast of Bataan, and shot down three Mitsubishi Ki-30 (Army Type 97) "Ann" dive bombers trying to support the landings. That night the detachment conducted a successful attack on Japanese aircraft at Nielson Field, then shot up a truck convoy on the north shore of Manila Bay.[80]
  • 1–2 February 1942, a night attack by four P-40s flying two sorties each bombed and strafed a 13-barge convoy attempting to delivery 700 reinforcements to the Japanese beachheads, destroying nine and killing approximately half the troops aboard, confirmed later by Japanese records.[81]
  • 2 March 1942, an all-day attack on shipping in Subic Bay and supply dumps on Grande Island resulted in 12 sorties. Claims included total destruction of an ammunition ship, but Japanese records could not be located to corroborate more than a subchaser sunk. However apparently extensive damage to at least four large ships was made. Four of the five remaining P-40s were used in the attacks, with one shot down and its pilot killed, and two others destroyed in landing accidents at Mariveles.[82]

Combat and accidents reduced but did not eliminate the P-40 complement, and a group of pursuit pilots, called the "Bataan Field Flying Detachment," continued to fly missions until the last day of the campaign, employing mainly 30-pound fragmentation bombs and machine gun fire as ordnance.[78] Four of the six P-40s sent to Del Monte on 8 January were recalled to Bataan two weeks later, but only three arrived, leaving the detachment still with just seven P-40Es and two P-40Bs.[79][nb 24] The small detachment, gradually attrited, had a few notable successes:

Bataan Field Flying Detachment with one of the last P-40Es of the 24th Pursuit Group in early 1942

Follow-up attacks on Nichols, Nielson, and Del Carmen fields followed in the next two days, destroying both the offensive and defensive operational capability of the FEAF, and a decision was made late on 10 December to save the surviving fighters for reconnaissance and avoid direct combat.[77] Fourteen surviving B-17s, after just three days of small and unsuccessful attacks on Japanese amphibious forces, were transferred to Harold H. George (promoted to brigadier general 25 January 1942) in command of units in the Philippines. Reduced to a single squadron-sized composite force, his pursuit fighters were carefully husbanded for reconnaissance duties and forbidden to engage in combat until forced to evacuate to fields hurriedly built on the Bataan peninsula, to which the entire USAFFE withdrew by 6 January 1942.

Japanese naval bombers and fighters took off according to their revised schedule and approached Luzon in two well-separated forces, both of which were detected by the Iba radar detachment just before 11:30 am. Despite an hour's warning, only the P-40 squadron at Iba took off, and it ran low on fuel in futile response to confusing instructions from the 24th PG that resulted from changing analyses of Japanese intents. The Iba P-40s were in their landing pattern when the Japanese struck. The aircraft at Clark and Iba were caught on the ground when the attack began at 12:35 pm. 107 two-engined bombers[74][nb 22] divided into two equal forces bombed the airfields first, after which 90 Zero fighters conducted strafing attacks until 1:25 pm (the fighters strafing Iba concluded at 1:05 pm, after which they flew to Clark and resumed attacks). Nearly the entire B-17 force, one-third of the U.S. fighters, and its only operational radar unit were destroyed.[75] The Japanese lost only seven fighters and a single bomber to combat.[76][nb 23]

Brereton attempted in person to obtain authorization for attacks on Formosa soon after word of events in Hawaii reached Manila, but was twice prevented from speaking with MacArthur by Sutherland. The authorization was refused, apparently a misinterpretation of standing orders not to make "the first overt act." The P-40 squadrons at Clark, Iba, and Nichols moved to alert takeoff positions at 6:00 am as news of war spread among the units.[73] A large force of aircraft was detected flying south towards Luzon, prompting the takeoff at 8:30 am of 15 of the 19 B-17s at Clark with orders to patrol within communications range of its control tower, while the 24th Pursuit Group launched its three P-40 squadrons and the P-35 squadron at Del Carmen to patrol central Luzon for intruders. At 8:50 am and 10:00 am, telephone attempts to obtain authorization from USAFFE headquarters for a B-17 attack was also rebuffed by Sutherland. However MacArthur himself called Brereton at 10:15 am and released the bomber force to employ at his discretion. Brereton immediately ordered two bombers to conduct reconnaissance flights and recalled the rest to prepare for a late afternoon bombing mission. The B-17s and the fighters, which were low on fuel, all landed by 11:00 am to refuel and prepare for afternoon operations.

Japanese air operations against FEAF airfields on Luzon were scheduled to take off from their Formosan bases beginning at 1:30 am on 8 December, with attacks to commence 21 minutes after dawn (and approximately four hours after offensive operations began in Hawaii), at 6:30 am. However, reconnaissance flights dispatched to check weather conditions between Formosa and Luzon neither returned nor reported as launch time approached, and a thick fog over southern Formosa set back the timetable by 90 minutes. The commanders of Japanese units were disturbed when monitoring of American radio traffic indicated that the weather flights had been detected despite the darkness and attempts were made by Iba-based P-40s to intercept. Although all the interceptions failed, Iba Field was then substituted as a target in place of Nichols (where it was assumed that two squadrons of B-17s had dispersed) to deal with the new interceptor threat.[71] Further radio monitoring revealed to the Japanese that the U.S. Asiatic Fleet had been alerted at 4:00 am of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and they expected attacks on their own bases by B-17s (bombing through the fog undercast) at any time after 7:00 am The air defense weaknesses of the FEAF were mirrored by those of the Japanese, who had prepared only for offensive operations, but no attack came before a final revised plan was issued at 7:50 am, ordering the main attack force of Japanese land-based aircraft to launch at 9:15 am and attack at 12:30 pm[72]

Curtiss P-40E Warhawks

Operations in the Philippines

World War II

USAFFE also received 11 sets of SCR-268 antiaircraft radars, a searchlight-control radar that could also be used for gun laying of AA weapons.[68][nb 20] After the FEAF was forced to withdraw into Bataan to continue operations, its primitive fields were subject to frequent attack from Luzon-based aircraft of the Japanese Army. An SCR-268 of the 200th Coast Artillery was placed in operation on the hillside above Cabcaben Airfield. Used in conjunction with the sole surviving SCR-270B unit,[nb 21] hidden in the jungle a mile from Bataan Field, it served as an early warning system and was linked to headquarters of the 5th Interceptor Command at Mariveles. Takeoffs and landings by the Bataan Field Flying Detachment required towing of P-40s off the runways to and from hidden revetments, and were vulnerable to strafing. The ad hoc system facilitated coordination of field operations, and while imperfect, no aircraft were lost during takeoffs or landings.[70]

SCR-268 radar similar to set-up used on Bataan.

The AWS received seven SCR-270 mobile units but only two were operating on 8 December: one in full operation at Iba, Zambales, and a Marine Corps unit training at Nasugbu, Batangas. The latter was assigned to the Air Warning Detachment of the 1st Separate Marine Battalion in late November to provide protection to the Navy base.[66] The Iba unit had been operating since 18 October and was fully functioning.[67] Three Army detachments with mobile units and the Marine detachment were ordered into the field on 3 December with instructions to be in operation by 10 December. Of the Army detachments, at the onset of hostilities one had just reached position at Burgos, Ilocos Norte, in northwest Luzon; another was at Tagaytay, Cavite, with a damaged set; and the third was newly established at Paracale, Camarines Norte, in southeastern Luzon, where it had just completed calibration tests.[68][nb 19] The two fixed-location SCR-271s were in storage.[69]

His specific recommendation was in line with the one SCR-270/seven SCR-271 recommendation of the Air Defense Board just received by the War Department, and was endorsed by MacArthur on 8 September with a recommendation for funds. MacArthur was notified by wire the next day that an SCR-270 and two SCR-271s were already in transit to the Philippines by ship for use by the air warning company, with three more SCR-270s to follow in October.[64] However by 15 November, when the AWS was integrated into the new 5th Interceptor Command, plans for the fixed-location radar sites were only five percent complete and no date to begin construction had been set.[65] The 557th Air Warning Battalion was designated to provide the expanded early warning defense, and was at its port of embarkation at San Francisco on 6 December.[37]

On 4 May 1941, the Warning Service was shifted to the new PDAF as the "Air Warning Service".[62] A newly trained 194-man Signal Corps air warning company arrived by transport on 1 August to operate two SCR-271C fixed-location air tracking radars planned for deployment on Luzon, each with a range of 150 mi (240 km).[63] Campbell immediately prepared a study for Clagett recommending 24-hour operations and modern aircraft detection equipment, specifically two mobile SCR-270B units and nine SCR-271s,[nb 18] allotting eight units to Luzon and three to Mindanao, and expanding the force to a 915-man battalion. He also suggested that radars be established at some future time on the islands of Lubang, Samar, Palawan, Jolo, Basilan, Tablas, Panay, and Negros.[64]

The "Warning Service" of the Philippine Department was directed by Lt. Col. Alexander H. Campbell, who had originally transferred to the Philippines in October 1939 to command a battalion of the 60th Coast Artillery (AA). Functioning as an office of the Intelligence Section (G-2) of the department headquarters, the Warning Service operated an interim Information and Operation Center at Nielson Field that included an electrically lighted map to plot sightings that indicated origins of reports with twinkling lights. In lieu of working detection equipment and trained personnel, the Warning Service maintained a primitive system of 509 observation posts manned by 860 civilian watchers, unschooled in aircraft identification, who would report airplane movements by five radio, two telegraph, and ten telephone networks manned by members of all three U.S. military services, the Philippine Army and constabulary, the Philippine postal system, and civilian companies in the provinces. Interpreters were required for the many dialects used by the observers.[61] Message processing encountered significant delays between the time of observation and time of report.[23][nb 17]

Warning systems

Two other fields were constructed at the end of January 1942 to provide dispersal for aircraft from the often-bombed Bataan Field. At Cabcaben 2.5 mi (4.0 km) south, a strip 3,900 ft (1,200 m) in length was hastily graded by civilian contractors and was operational on 6 February. The 21st PS was recalled from infantry duties on 12 February to operate and maintain both it and Bataan airfields. The previous liaison dirt field at Mariveles was abandoned on 7 January, but a road adjacent to the field was extended and widened to provide a strip 65 ft (20 m) in width and 3,800 ft (1,200 m) long. Its orientation to the overlooking heights was such that once a pilot was committed to landing, he had no choice but to continue, and was subject to severe tail-winds. The 20th Pursuit Squadron was also recalled on 12 February to complete defensive position preparations, camouflage revetments, and maintain the field, which became operational on 23 February.[60]

Bataan Field was originally graded in early 1941 as a 2,000 ft (610 m) dirt strip running uphill from a coastal road, and was dubbed "Richards' Folly" after the Department Air Officer, who had ordered its construction.[22] Located three miles north of Cabcaben on the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula, it was widened and lengthened after 24 December to 5,100 ft (1,600 m) by the 803rd Aviation Engineers in anticipation of future operations. The first aircraft, two P-35s and an A-27 displaced from Lubao, arrived on 2 January, and on 4 January the nine P-40s at Orani were sent down.[57] Combat operations began on 8 January, the aircraft concealed in hidden revetments until they could be launched between raids made by Japanese dive bombers. The P-35s were flown to Mindanao on 11 January after the A-27 was lost in a landing accident.[58] Maintenance and operation of the field was assigned to the plane-less 16th Bombardment Squadron (27th Bomb Group), and damage to the runways from raids was repaired by Company C, 803rd Aviation Engineers.[59]

Another camouflaged dirt strip at Orani (2,800 ft (850 m)) also opened operations on 26 December. The 34th PS received its transfer orders on Christmas Day and conducted twice daily reconnaissance flights using five P-40s. The field was camouflaged using rice straw and movable haystacks, and was not attacked before it too was abandoned, on 4 January.[55] The withdrawing aircraft from both fields were flown to an airfield on Bataan near Pilar, which had been graded in rice fields by Filipino hand labor, with revetments built and camouflaged in one day on 26 December by the 17th PS. Operations at Pilar began on 1 January using the final three new P-40Es of the 25 November shipment, which were assembled in the last week of December at the Philippine Air Depot, relocated to Quezon City. The last mission from Pilar was flown 8 January, after which its nine P-40 aircraft displaced to Del Monte Field, Mindanao (only six arrived).[56]

On 15 December 1941, a 3,600 ft (1,100 m) fighter strip was completed in sugarcane fields seven miles west of Lubao, along Highway 7 near the entrance to Bataan. The 21st Pursuit Squadron moved a detachment into the field to complete construction of revetments and taxiways in preparation for basing a dozen P-40s and five P-35s there, flown by a mixed assortment of experienced pursuit pilots from all the squadrons.[53] Lubao Airfield began operations on 26 December and was superbly camouflaged. The 21st PS flew reconnaissance and other missions from Lubao until 2 January 1942, when the field was evacuated. On 29 December, three pursuits (two P-40s and a P-35) were salvaged at the last minute at Clark Field in the face of advancing Japanese units by a volunteer group of mechanics and flown to Lubao, where they were evacuated with the others.[54]

Clark Field was originally the only base that could support heavy bombers, but its all-grass field could not withstand heavy operations when wet, making dispersal nearly impossible.[51] MacArthur and his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, favored new bomber bases in the Visayas but recognized that selected sites at Cebu and Tacloban would not support bomber operations without significant and expensive construction of runways. As a compromise, on 25 November 1941 the newly arrived 5th Air Base Group was hurried 800 mi (1,300 km) south to Mindanao by inter-island steamer to begin work 27 November on a second bomber base, Del Monte Field, so named because it was situated on pineapple plantations owned by the Del Monte Corporation. Construction required only cutting of grass to create a hard, all-weather sod runway, and Del Monte No. 1, the first of seven planned strips on Mindanao, was ready for limited operations by 5 December. A much smaller strip situated on a small golf course nearby was designated Del Monte No. 3. Sixteen B-17s were dispersed from Clark to Del Monte No. 1 on the morning of 6 December (5 December in the United States), but neither maintenance facilities nor barracks had been built, and only a single radio was operating when war commenced. Two understrength ordnance companies arrived 3 December and constructed their own camp a mile away, but the remainder of their personnel and all the materiel required, particularly aviation gas, were not scheduled to leave Luzon until 10 December.[52]

Within 80 mi (130 km) of Manila, the Army had six airfields, two of which were auxiliary strips nearing completion. Another four auxiliary strips were begun in November: O'Donnell and San Fernando near Clark, San Marcelino northwest of Subic Bay, and Ternate west of Cavite (Ternate and San Fernando were never finished).[44][45] No strips were planned on Bataan, despite its prominence in strategic war planning. In August and October 1941, the War Department allocated US$9,273,000 to construct and improve airfields, most of which was spent constructing a concrete runway at Nichols Field (the only hard-surfaced runway in the Philippines),[46] and adding and extending graded strips at Clark Field, with the rest going to the auxiliary fields.[47] The auxiliary strips were dirt-surfaced and without maintenance, servicing, communications, or control facilities. The dust clouds generated by takeoffs at all strips except Nichols seriously hampered flight operations, with numerous mishaps that destroyed many aircraft, killed pilots, and reduced the assigned strength of already tiny combat missions.[48] The use of expedients to cut down the dust, including a molasses mixture deposited by a tank truck, was unsuccessful.[49][50]

FEAF airfields

There were 60 additional aircraft in the Philippine Army Air Corps, including one Keystone ZB-3A bomber. 42 were Stearman 76DC trainers of varying serviceability and utility.

The numbers below in italicized brackets indicate the number of aircraft in commission on 8 December.[43] If no figure is listed, the number of usable aircraft is unknown.

[nb 12][42] army fighters) to support its Luzon operations.Nakajima Ki-27 (Army Type 97) "Nate" carrier fighters, and 36 Mitsubishi A6M Zero 90 [nb 11] bombers, 54 army bombers,naval The Japanese committed 288 first-line combat aircraft in fully trained units of the Navy's 11th Kōkūkantai and Army's 5th Hikōshidan (108 land-based [41] All five pursuit squadrons had a

Aircraft inventory

The "Pensacola convoy" of seven transport vessels gathered at Honolulu and sailed for Manila on 29 November, transporting the 52 A-24 dive bombers of the 27th BG, 18 P-40s intended for the 49th Pursuit Group, 48 pilots of the 35th PG, 39 recent flight school graduates on "casual" status, and the ground echelons of five squadrons,[40] all escorted by the USS Pensacola. The remainder of the 35th Group (the remaining pilots, two pursuit squadrons, and group headquarters) sailed aboard the USAT President Garfield for Honolulu on 6 December to join another convoy.

The arrival of National Guard units at the end of September provided the first ground defenses for Clark Field. Two battalions of light tanks were positioned at Fort Stotsenburg in late November to protect Clark against seizure by Japanese airborne troops, while the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) provided limited antiaircraft artillery defense with 50-caliber machine guns and a dozen 3-inch guns.

Maj. Gen. Formosa. Units worked to complete protective and dispersal measures, while interceptors were armed and placed on alert status.[39]

MacArthur held the position that Japan would not attempt an invasion of the Philippines before April 1942. Clagett (described by one historian of the campaign as lacking "the necessary elasticity of mind and body for realistic preparation for total war")[38] had twice been hospitalized during mid-1941 and was not meeting the demands of even this scenario. At the beginning of September Marshall met with Arnold to identify a replacement for Clagett who would infuse the necessary urgency into the Philippine buildup.

The personnel of two squadrons of the 35th Pursuit Group (the 21st and 34th, their pilot rosters at half strength), and three of the 27th Bombardment Group (Light), moved by a convoy of two transports escorted by the cruiser Louisville, but without their airplanes, and disembarked at Manila on 20 November 1941. The pursuit squadrons were attached to the 24th Pursuit Group and acquired P-35s from the other squadrons for training purposes. A shipment of 24 crated P-40Es arrived in Manila by freighter on 25 November, the first of those intended for the 35th Pursuit Group, and were trucked to the Philippine Air Depot at Nichols Field for assembly.

Arnold wrote on 1 December 1941, "We must get every B-17 to the Philippines as soon as possible."[36] The War Department scheduled 165 heavy bombers and 240 fighters to be based in the Philippines by March 1942.[37] B-17s of the 7th Bombardment Group staged in California and its 88th Reconnaissance Squadron was in transit at the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Nine B-17s of the 14th Bombardment Squadron pioneered an air ferry route from California to the Philippines. Two squadrons of the 19th Bombardment Group followed in October–November. The 14th and 28th Bomb Squadrons (the latter a longtime part of the 4th Composite Group, which disbanded on 16 November 1941) were attached to the 19th BG and a total of 35 B-17 Flying Fortresses constituted the FEAF's heavy bombardment force.

Boeing B-17D Flying Fortress

By 2 October 81 P-40s had been shipped to the islands,[33][nb 8] and a new organization, the 24th Pursuit Group, was constituted on 16 September to control the three pursuit squadrons.[34][nb 9] Since 10 February 1941, FEAF had received 203 new pilots (140 of which became pursuit pilots), but all but 28 were fresh from flight schools and required further individual training, which cut into needed unit tactical training.[35][nb 10] Arrangements were made with the oxygen-producing plant in Manila, which supplied the U.S. Navy's shipyard at Cavite, to buy any surplus for pursuit units, but output was so small that only the squadron at Nichols (which reopened on 17 October) could be supplied, and on a limited basis.[22]

In July 1941, Chief of the Army Air Forces, Major General Henry H. Arnold, allocated 340 heavy bombers (not yet manufactured) and 260 modern fighter planes for future reinforcement of the Far East Air Force.[31] Work at Nichols continued slowly in the second half of the year, but the 17th PS was forced to return there to accommodate the planned arrival of the heavy bombers, and a high accident rate ensued.[32]

Pre-war expansion

Creation of the FEAF

[30] Its headquarters moved to Nielson Field, and although the move had been made to increase the urgency of expanding air capabilities, precious time had been lost that was never re-gained.[29] and incorporated into its ranks the newly inducted Philippine Army Air Corps on 15 August 1941.[28] On 26 July 1941, Gen.

In July, the P-40s became operational, but Nichols Field was closed to replace its east-west runway with one made of concrete, and to regrade the north-south runway, both measures taken to correct drainage deficiencies that made the entire field inoperable in the wet season. On the morning of 2 July (ironically, delayed five days by a typhoon),[25][nb 7] all three fighter squadrons transferred the FEAF's 39 P-35s and 20 P-26s to Clark and Iba, where the 17th PS moved for gunnery training.[26] Construction of two new fields intended to support heavy bomber operations, at Rosales on the Lingayen Plain and Del Carmen near Clark Field, proceeded slowly.[27]

Ceremony at Camp Murphy in Rizal marking the induction of the Philippine Army Air Corps into the U.S. Army on 15 August 1941.

Clagett immediately undertook an administrative "shakeup" of the existing organization, marginalized Richards, relieved Churchill of command of the 4th Composite Group (he retained the position of base commander at Nichols Field), created new channels of command, and because of a lack of qualified staff officers, drew senior (but administratively untrained) officers from the squadrons to fill his staff. The last move further aggravated a problem created when experienced pilots of the two newly arrived squadrons had been shifted to fill the understrength 4th Group. A lack of cohesion and confidence in command resulted that continued into the war.[23][nb 6] Richards and Churchill both responded with "obstructionist tactics" that exacerbated the already poor command situation.[24]

In May 1941 its aircraft situation was only marginally better than a year before: only 22 P-26 fighters,[17] 12 "utterly obsolete, ancient, vulnerable as pumpkins" B-10s,[18][19] 56 Seversky P-35As diverted from a sale to Sweden in November 1940,[20] 18 Douglas B-18 Bolos still in crates after disassembly and shipment from the Hawaiian Department in March,[20] nine North American A-27s seized in January from a shipment intended for Siam and distributed to the pursuit squadrons as instrument trainers, several Douglas C-39 transports, and a small number of varied observation planes. Its only modern aircraft were 31 Curtiss P-40B fighters, assigned to the 20th Pursuit Squadron. Although assembled in mid-May, they were not operational for lack of engine coolant.[20] PDAF Headquarters was located at Fort Santiago near Manila; the majority of the planes were at either Clark or Nichols.[21] Except for one small commercial firm in Manila, no oxygen-producing plants existed in the Philippines, severely limiting the service ceiling of all aircraft, but particularly the fighters.[22]

The Philippine Department Air Force was formed on 6 May 1941[13] as the United States hurriedly attempted to expand its air defenses in the Philippines. After completing a three-week air defense course taught at Mitchel Field, New York, to familiarize him with current concepts of integrating Signal Corps radars, radio communications, and interceptor forces, Brig. Gen. Henry B. Clagett arrived on 4 May to command the PDAF and set up air defenses. Clagett also had been given a top-secret mission by Marshall to go to China in mid-May for a month of observing and assessing tactics used by the Japanese.[14][nb 5] The PDAF's one major unit, the 4th Composite Group, consisted of five squadrons (two of which had arrived in November 1940) based at two grass fields: Clark and Nichols. A third field, Nielson, lacked facilities and was used primarily as an auxiliary strip for nearby Fort McKinley. An isolated sod strip at Iba on the west coast was used for gunnery training. PDAF's materiel was centrally located in the Philippine Air Depot at Nichols Field, easily targeted from the air and highly inflammable.[15] The only existing antiaircraft defenses were a single battery of guns and a searchlight platoon at Fort Wint at the entrance to Subic Bay.[16]

Philippine Department Air Force

[nb 4][12] The senior Air Corps officer in the Philippines was Col. Harrison H.C. Richards, the Department Air Officer. Col. Lawrence S. Churchill, commanding the 4th Composite Group, was a year his junior in rank. Cooperation and approval by Richards, a


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