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8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS) "Eight Ballers"
U. S. Army Air Force, 5th Air Force, 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Wartime History
The 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS) was assigned to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF), 5th Air Force, 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group (6th PRG). Also known as the 8th Photo Recon Squadron or 8th Photo Recon. Initially equipped with the F-4 Lightning, the photographic reconnaissance version of the P-38E Lightning, with cameras installed in the nose compartment instead of armament.

The 8th Photo Recon Squadron was sent overseas to the South-West Pacific Area (SWPA) and arrived at Melbourne on April 7, 1942 was assigned to the 5th Air Force (attached to Allied Air Forces). On February 11, 1942 the unit's first Commanding Officer (C. O.) was Captain Karl Polifka. The 8th PRS was transfered from Melbourne to Brisbane on April 24, 1942 then to Garbutt Field on May 2, 1942. Meanwhile, back in the United States, two flights remain at March Field until June 16, 1942.

On April 16, 1942 8th PRS F-4 Lightnings flew their first combat mission over New Guinea.

On August 13, 1942 lost was F-4 Lightning 41-2125 pilot 1st Lt. Paul O. Staller too off from Horn Island Airfield on a flight bound for Port Moresby when he became lost and ended up over Misima Island and was injured in the crash and later died.

On September 2, 1942 the squadron transfered to 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby.

In New Guinea, the squadron flew photographic missions over Japanese occupied areas and airfields. The photographs taken were used to create aerial maps and target documentation for combat missions. Often, these missions were dangerous as pilots usually flew alone and often experienced bad weather and difficult navigation. Over targets, pilots flew steady course often at lower altitude to get quality photographs and experienced anti-aircraft fire or were intercepted by enemy aircraft. During later missions, F-4s were escorted by armed P-38 Lightnings as escorts.

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On September 24, 1942 lost was F-4 Lightning 41-2098 pilot 1st Lt. Andrew W. Peterson on a reconnaissance mission over northeast New Guinea including the Buna area and went Missing In Action (MIA).

On November 11, 1942 Captain Frank Savage became the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the squadron.

On November 28, 1942 lost is F-4 "Fainting Flozzie II" 41-2123 piloted by 2nd Lt. Philip D. Lissner on a reconnaissance mission and crashed after take off killing the pilot.

On February 7, 1943 photographer SSgt Stephen Humenchick was aboard B-24D Liberator 41-23755 and soon after take off, crashed for into a hillside roughly seven miles northwest of Port Moresby.

On June 4, 1943 Captain Arthur L. Post became the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the squadron.

On June 5, 1943 lost in F-5A 42-13073 pilot 1st Lt. Frederic G. "Fred" Hargesheimer on a photo reconnaissance mission over the coastline of West New Britain in search of Japanese barge traffic and was shot down and bailed out and survived and was later rescued by USS Gato (SS-212) and later returned to duty.

On June 20, 1943 lost is F-5A 42-13070 pilot Captain Arthur L. Post on a photo reconnaissance mission over Rabaul and was shot down by Zeros and bailed out near the southern coast of New Britain and linked up with natives who took him to coastwatcher Malcolm Wright and after 101 days behind enemy lines was rescued on September 28, 1943 by USS Grouper (SS-214).

After Captain Arthur L. Post went missing, he was replaced by Captain John G. Foster as Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the squadron.

On June 26, 1943 lost is F-4 "Hellapoppin Hepcat" 41-2137 pilot 1st Lt. Kenneth J. Murphy on a photo reconnaissance mission over Rabaul. When he failed to return, he was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

On July 31, 1943 lost is F-4 Lightning 41-2014 piloted by 1st Lt. LeGrand J. Kneeskern on a reconnaissance mission over the Markham Valley and bailed out and survived and later returned to duty.

On December 5, 1943 lost is F-4 Lightning 41-2122 pilot F/O Roy L. Kross on a local orientation flight and while flying low over the sea, this Lightning apparently lost control and attempted to ditch off Hood Point but crashed sliding into Hula killing the pilot.

On December 9, 1943 Captain DeLasso Loos became Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the squadron.

On December 26, 1943 lost is B-17E "R.F.D. Tojo" 41-2627 crashed after take off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby with two passengers killed in the crash.

Other locations the 8th PRS operated from included Dobodura Airfield, Milne Bay, Lae Airfield and Cape Gloucester Airfield. Next, equipped with the F-5A Lightning, the photographic reconnaissance version of the P-38G Lightning, with cameras installed in the nose compartment instead of armament.

On April 30, 1944 F-4A "Limping Lizzie" 41-2156 was flown to Australia for transfer to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) but rejected as war weary. In late September 1944 condemned at Brisbane and scrapped.

On March 16, 1944 transfers to Nadzab Airfield No. 1 with aircraft later operating from both Hollandia and Wakde Airfield.

On April 21, 1944 Major Richard Shipway became Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the squadron.

On August 11, 1944 transfers from Hollandia to Biak with aircraft also operating from Owi Airfield and Noemfoor.

On October 20, 1944 the ground echelon of the 8th PRS begins a movement from Biak to Leyte while the air echelon continues operating from Biak with F-5s.

On November 5, 1944 the 8th PRS arrived at Dulag Airfield on Leyte. Afterwards, based at Tacloban Airfield then later San Jose Airfield (McGuire Drome) on Mindoro and Clark Field on Luzon.

Finally, operated the F-5E the photographic reconnaissance version of the P-38L Lightning.

On June 7, 1945 lost is F-5E Lightning 44-24559 pilot Captain Lewis M. Gillespie

On August 12, 1945 transfers to Ie Shima Airfield and finally to Motobu Airfield on Okinawa until the end of the Pacific War and the official surrender of Japan. In late September 1945 operated from Chofu Airfield to map wartime damage in Japan until January 1946.

8th PRS Commanding Officers (C. O.)
Captain Karl Polifka (February 11, 1942–November 11, 1942)
Captain Frank Savage (November 11, 1942–June 4, 1943)
Captain Arthur L. Post (June 4, 1943–June 20, 1943)
Captain John G. Foster (June 20, 1943–December 9, 1943)
Captain DeLasso Loss (December 9, 1943–March 25, 1944)
Major Richard Shipway (April 21, 1944–March 25, 1945
Major Richard Bailey (March 25, 1945–?)

References
The Eight Ballers - Eyes of the Fifth Air Force The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Sqn in WWII (1999) by John Stanaway and Robert Rocker pages 160 (losses in action, commanders of the 8th)
Thanks to John Stanaway, Robert Rocker and Edward Rogers for additional information



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