5th Bombardment Group (5th BG) "Bomber Barons"
U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF)
During World War II, the 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy) "Bomber Barons" (5th BG) operated the B-24 Liberator in the South Pacific (SOPAC) comprised of Headquarters Squadron (HQ), 23rd Bombardment Squadron (23rd BS), 31st Bombardment Squadron (31st BS), 72nd
Bombardment Squadron (72nd BS) and 394th Bombardment Squadron (394th BS). Nicknamed "Bomber Barons" the motif was a skull with wings with "Kiai O Kalewa" (Hawaiian for "Guardians of the Upper Realm").
Commanding Officers (C. O.)
Lt. Col. Edwin B. Bobzien (April 1941–January 1942)
Col. A. W. Meehan (January 1942–October 1942)
Lt. Colonel B. E. Allen (November 1942–August 1943)
Lt. Colonel Marion D. Unruh (August 1943–December 30, 1943)
Lt. Col J. C. Reddoch, Jr. (December 30, 1943–August 1944)
Col. T. C. Musgrave (August 1944–February 1945)
Lt. Col. A. W. James (February 1945–March 1945)
Lt. Col. I. J. Haviland (March 1945–July 1945)
Lt. Col. A. W. James (July 1945–January 1947)
The 5th Bombardment Group (5th BG) nicknamed "Bomber Barons" operated in the South Pacific (SOPAC) during World War II. At the start of the Pacific War, assigned to the 7th Air Force (7th AF). During 1943 assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF). On June 15, 1944 became part of the Far East Air Force (FEAF) until the end of World War II.
Headquarters Squadron (HQ)
During 1941, the 31st BS was part of the 7th Air Force and based at Hickam Field. During 1942 assigned to Mokuleia Field. On December 1, 1942 transfers to Bomber 1 on Espiritu Santo.
On December 30, 1943 lost is B-24D "Pretty Prairie Special" 41-24186 piloted by Lt. Colonel Marion D. Unruh. Nine of the crew are captured and become Prisoners Of War (POW). Only Unruh survived captivity until the Pacific War.
23rd Bombardment Squadron (23rd BS)
At the start of the Pacific War based at Hickam Field with B-17 Flying Fortress and began flying patrol missions off Hawaii. On March 24, 1942 moves to Mokuleia Field and continued flying patrols. On December 1, 1942 transfers to Bomber 1 on Espiritu Santo. On March 31, 1943 begins operating from Guadalcanal. On August 24, 1943 returns to Bomber 1 for rest and recuperation (R&R) and transitions to the B-24 Liberator. On October 21, 1943 returns to Guadalcanal and resumes bombing missions. On December 7, 1943 returns to Bomber 1 then on January 3, 1944 transfers to Munda Airfield on New Georgia. On April 16, 1944 transfers to Momote Airfield on Los Negros. On August 20, 1944 moves to Wakde Airfield. On September 30, 1944 moves to Noemfoor Island then later moves to Pitu Airfield on Morotai Island. On February 20, 1945 transfers to Guiuan Airfield on Samar.
Squadron (31st BS)
During 1941, the 31st BS was part of the 7th Air Force and based at Hickam Field operating B-18 Bolo and B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers. On December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu, the squadron suffered four Killed In Action (KIA) and nine Wounded In Action (WIA).
On May 23, 1942 the 31st BS transfered to Kipapa Field.
On November 30, 1942 arrived at Bomber 1 on Espiritu Santo and began flying combat missions in the South Pacific. On January 17, 1943 arrives at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal and later Carney Field. By early 1943, the squadron began flying only B-24 Liberators. On February 2, 1944 transfered to Munda Airfield on New Georgia Island.
On August 12, 1943 nine B-24s from the 31st BS plus sixteen B-24's from the 307th BG escorted by eight P-40s of the 44th FS and 22 F4Us from VMF-124 flew a bombing mission over Kahili (Buin) on Bougainville. The bombers drop 520 x 100lbs bombs on the runway and revetment areas and claim twenty aircraft destroyed on the ground. Returning, the formation is attacked by roughly 30 A6M Zeros over Ballale.
On March 13, 1944 the squadron returns to Carney Field on Guadalcanal. On April 21, 1944 transfered to Momote Airfield on Los Negros Island. On August 20, 1944 to Wakde Airfield on Wakde Island. Operated from Pitu Airfield on Morotai Island. On March 17, 1945 transfered to Guiuan Airfield on Samar Island in the eastern Visayas Islands of the Philippines until the end of the Pacific War.
Bombardment Squadron (72nd BS)
The 72nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy). At the start of the Pacific War, operates the B-18 Bolo. On May 17, 1942 converts to the B-17 Flying Fortress. On June 4, 1942 during the Battle of Midway, 72nd BS B-17s flew from Hickam Field to Midway Airfield and flew bombing missions against the Japanese Fleet. Afterwards, flown across the Pacific to Espiritu Santo.
On October 4, 1942 begins operating from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. That same day, B-17E Flying Fortress 41-9118 piloted by piloted by David C. Everitt took off on a mission against Buka Airfield but could not find the target and encountered bad weather. Returning, spotted six warships and was deliberately rammed from below by a F1M2 Pete pilot Kiyomi. The right wing of the F1M2 Pete impacted this B-17's right wing, tearing off the wing tip damaging the vertical stabilizer and immediately caused the B-17 to descend in a spiral before then crashed into the sea.
On October 10, 1943 lost was B-24D "My Baby Bubb" 42-40210 crashed into the sea northwest of Choiseul.
On March 5, 1944 the squadron flew a bombing mission against Tobera Airfield near Rabaul. Lost was B-24D Liberator 42-73469 pilot Captain Lewis W. Haire after the bomb run, hit by anti-aircraft fire with seven crew Missing In Action (MIA). Only SSgt Escoe E. Palmer managed to bail out and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and survived captivity at Rabaul until liberated at the end of the Pacific War.
On October 24, 1944 lost is B-24J 44-40947 (MIA) on an armed search for enemy shipping off Borneo.
394th Bombardment Squadron (394th BS)
Briefly designated as the 4th Reconnaissance Squadron (4th Recon Squadron). Three of the better B-17E Flying Fortresses from the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) were assigned to the 394th Bombardment Squadron (394th BS) including B-17E "Calamity Jane" 41-2440, B-17E 41-2632 and B-17E 41-2658.
During 1942-1943 one of the squadron's pilots was Lt. Eugene "Gene" Roddenberry who later created "Star Trek".
On April 9, 1944 returns to Carney Field on Guadalcanal.
Pacific Wrecks - 5th Bombardment Group "Bomber Barons" Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Pacific Wrecks - 5th Bombardment Group "Bomber Barons" Consolidated B-24 Liberators
History of the Fifth Bombarment Group: The Story of 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy) (1946)
40th Anniversary Headquarters 5th Bombardment Wing (H) (SAC) Kiai O Kalewa Travis Air Force Base, February 13-14, 1959
The Bomber Barons: The History of the 5th Bomb Group in the Pacific during World War II (1982) by Frederick A. Johnsen
Captain James Donald Robertson His Life and Times From Judith Gap, Montana To World War II In The South Pacific (1995)
Bomber Barons 5th Bomb Group Heavy (2000)
Scootin' Thunder (2006) by Beth Houser
Courage Before Every Danger - Honor Honor Before All Men The History of the 31st Bombardment Squadron (H) in World War II In Their Own Words (2010) by Joanne Pfannenstiel Emerick
Thanks to Richard O'Brien, 5th Bombardment Group Association and Joanne Emerick, 31st Bombardment Squadron Association for additional information