History of the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron - 9th RW History Office

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    HISTORY OF

    THE

    5TH RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON

    5 May 1917 to 31 December 1998

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    9th Reconnaissance Wing History Office

    Beale AFB, California

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    Table of Contents

    TABLE OF CONTENTS .. ii

    SQUADRON EMBLEM .......................... iii

    THE EARLY YEARS ...................................... 1

    WORLD WAR II ... 2

    REBIRTH .. 5

    HIGH ALTITUDE RECONNAISSANCE .... 6

    APPENDIX A LINEAGE .... 8

    APPENDIX B DECORATIONS ..... 10

    APPENDIX C ASSIGNMENTS ..... 11

    APPENDIX D COMMANDERS . 12

    APPENDIX E STATIONS .. 14

    APPENDIX F AIRCRAFT FLOWN/WEAPON SYSTEMS ASSIGNED ... 15

    APPENDIX G AIRCRAFT FACT SHEET ..... 16

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    Squadron Emblem

    On a blue disc piped with yellow, a yellow increscent moon and five stars. On the lower horn of the

    crescent a black and white owl holding in his right claw a silver telescope. (Approved 27 May

    1924.)

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    The Early Years

    The 5th Aero Squadron organized on 5 May 1917 at Kelly Field, Texas. The squadron

    trained new pilots to fly JN-4 Jennys. A year later, on 15 July 1918, the Army redesignated

    the unit as Squadron A at Souther Field, Georgia. When the armistice ended World War I on 11

    November 1918, Squadron A demobilized.

    A second 5th Aero Squadron organized at Hazelhurst Field, New York, on 24 October

    1919. The squadron moved to Mitchel Field, New York the following month. In 1921, the unit

    became the 5th Squadron (Observation) and two years later the 5 th Observation Squadron. In

    1924, the original 5th reconstituted and consolidated with the 5th Observation Squadron.

    Three years earlier, in May 1921, the 5th attached to General Billy Mitchells 1st

    Provisional Air Brigade at Langley Field, Virginia. From May to October 1921, the squadron

    and other units of the Air Brigade bombed battleships off the eastern seaboard. Mitchell was

    determined to prove airplanes could sink warships. In July, in the well known Ostfriesland

    incident, brigade airplanes sunk a modern, German-made battleship. General Mitchell

    proclaimed the era of battleships had ended and the age of airpower had begun.

    On 1 August 1922, the 5 th Observation Squadron joined the 1st Observation Squadron to

    form the 9th Observation Group, todays 9th Operations Group and the 9th Reconnaissance Wings

    predecessor. In 1928, the Army attached the 99th Observation Squadron to the 9th Observation

    Group and assigned the squadron to the group the following year. Throughout the 1920s and

    early 1930s the 5th flew normal observation and training missions and participated in air shows.

    Squadron pilots flew a variety of bamboo and bailing-wire, World War I-vintage aircraft,

    including the DH-4, O-1, O-2, A-3, B-6, and several others.

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    In the mid-1930s, as tensions increased in Europe, the United States began to build its air

    arm. On 1 March 1935, the Army redesignated the 5 th Observation Squadron as the 5th

    Bombardment Squadron. Soon after the redesignation, the squadron received new Martin B-10

    bombers. The B-10, a small bomber best suited for costal defense, could out-fly the best Army

    pursuit plane of its day. In 1938, the 5th switched to the larger Douglas B-18.

    World War II

    By November 1940 German U-boats actively patrolled waters off Central America near

    the Panama Canal. The Army dispatched the 9th Bomb Group to guard the canal. First, from Rio

    Hato, Panama, then from Beane Field, on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia, the 5th Bombardment

    Squadron patrolled the Atlantic near the canals entrance. The squadron received a campaign

    streamer for its antisubmarine duty.

    The 5th and its sister squadrons changed missions in October 1942. The 9th Bomb Group

    moved to the Army Air Forces School of Advanced Tactics at Orlando, Florida. The group left

    its B-18s behind. B-24 Liberators awaited the 5th Bomb Squadron at Orlando. Within a few

    months, the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell Bomber, and B-26 Invader joined the

    squadrons inventory. For the next sixteen months, squadron pilots developed new tactics, tested

    equipment, perfected glide bombing techniques, and trained crews in high-altitude precision

    bombing.

    In February 1944, the Army mysteriously relieved the 9th Bomb Group and its component

    squadrons from the Tactics School and transferred them first to Dalhart Army Air Field (AAF),

    Texas, then to McCook AAF, Nebraska. The group left its aircraft behind in Florida. At

    McCook Field, the 5th and its sister squadrons received new Boeing B-29 Super Fortresses.

    Squadron crews spent the next six months training in their new airplane.

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    Then, in November 1944, the 5th Bomb Squadron and the rest of the group moved to

    North Field, Tinian, a Pacific island in the Marianas. By 20 January 1945, the squadron was

    ready for combat operations. A week later the 5th flew its first combat mission: a bombing raid

    against Japanese installations on the northern Marianas. The squadron attacked its first defended

    target on 9 February in a bombing run over a Japanese seaplane base on Moen, an island in the

    Truks. Three days later, 5th bombers struck heavy gun emplacements on Iwo Jima, in preparation

    for the upcoming amphibious landing there.

    On 14 February, squadron B-29s, each carrying an experienced naval officer as observer,

    searched for Japanese picket ships as the Navy prepared a carrier attack against Japans main

    islands. Five days later, the 5ths bombers inflicted heavy damage on a well-defended aircraft

    factory in Tokyo. Joining bombers from other units, the 5th Bomb Squadron returned to Tokyo

    in 25 February. Using incendiary bombs against the wooden structures that housed Japans war

    industry, American bombers kept up a relentless attack on Japanese aircraft factories, chemical

    plants, naval bases, and airdromes throughout the final months of the war. Despite stiff

    opposition heavy and light antiaircraft fire, search lights, flak boats, and fighter planes

    squadron aircraft inflicted heavy damage on Nagoya, Osaka, Kobye, Tokyo, and other cities.

    Conditions were so difficult on two of the missions the squadron earned Distinguished

    Unit Citations. First, on 15 16 April, 1945, the 5th and other 9th Bomb Group units attacked the

    industrial area of Kawasaki, Japan. Kawasaki provided vital components for Tokyo and

    Yokohamas industry. Strategically located, Kawasakis industrial area was heavily defended,

    both on the flanks and surrounding the target area. This made the approach, bomb run, and

    breakaway extremely hazardous. Adding to the danger, squadron pilots flew the 1,500 miles

    from Tinian to Japan low-level, over water, at night. Severe turbulence along the way affected

    the mechanical navigation equipment, but the bombers held their course.

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    Attacking according to the bombing plan, the 5th Bomb Squadron was in the last run over

    the target. By then the Japanese defenders were fully alerted and knew the approximate bombing

    altitude and direction of the attack. Exceptionally close coordination between the enemy

    searchlights and antiaircraft guns subjected the bombers to powerful concentrations of

    antiaircraft fire on their way to the target, over the target, and after their breakaway. Intense,

    accurate fire from flak boats on the flight to and from the target caused more damage.

    Approximately 56 Japanese fighters attacked the 5th and its two sister squadrons. The American

    strike destroyed Kawasakis industry, but the squadrons of the 9 th Bomb Group paid a heavy

    price. Four of the groups 33 B-29s crashed during the mission. Six other sustained heavy

    damage.

    The squadron won a second Distinguished Unit Citation the following month.

    Effectively mining the Shimonoseki Straits and the waters around the harbors of northwest

    Honshu and Kyushu would block sea traffic on the Inland Seas and isolate important northern

    ports. By laying mines in the seas around Japan, the Allies hoped to isolate Japans main islands

    and deprived them of resources from conquered territories in China, Manchuria, and Korea. The

    mines would also prevent reinforcement of Japanese-held islands.

    Between 13 and 28 May, the 5th Bomb Squadron flew eight missions laying mines in

    these strategic areas. Flying at 5,500 feet, on alternating nights, the crews faced adverse,

    unpredictable weather and determined antiaircraft batteries and fighters. Such conditions forced

    squadron navigators to devise new techniques to accurately lay the mines. Despite inclement

    weather, heavy flak, and Kamikaze fighter attacks, the bomber crews systematically covered the

    vital sealanes.

    On 18 and 19 May, squadron B-29s succ

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