MARINE SCOUT BOMBING SQUADRON 341
Marine Scout Bombing
Squadron 341 (VMSB-341) was commissioned at Marine Corps Air Station
Cherry Point, North Carolina, on 1 February 1943 as the senior squadron of
Marine Aircraft Group 34 (MAG-34), a component of the Third Marine Aircraft
Wing (3d MAW). Captain William E. Classen, USMCR, recently returned from
Midway was the first commanding officer. On 1 March 1943 the squadron was
transferred to the newly opened outlying Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Field
Atlantic, North Carolina. Administratively the squadron was transferred on
I August to MAG-31 at Cherry Point, but remained operational at Atlantic
Field until its departure overseas on I September 1943.
The squadron was
detached-from the 3d MAW, FMF, on 1 September and the ground echelon with
all squadron material departed Newbern by train and arrived at Marine Corps
Air Depot (MCAD) Miramar, San Diego, California where it became a component
of Marine Fleet Air, West Coast on 9 September 1943. The flight echelon,
consisting of pilots and radio gunners flew the squadron aircraft cross
country departing on 1 September and arriving at NAS North Island, San
Diego on 5 September. A detachment of mechanics, ordnancemen and radiomen
were sent from Miramar to North Island on 11 September to prepare the SBD's
for overseas shipment. This group then became the air echelon for
embarkation purposes. This air echelon embarked on the USS NASSAU (CVE-16)
at North Island with the squadron aircraft on 25 September and sailed that
day. The ground-echelon with the remainder of the squadron material,
including motor transport, embarked on the Army Transport USAT Pueblo and
departed San Diego on 20 September.
Upon arriving in the harbor of Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa on 6
September, the USS NASSAU catapulted several of the SBD's off while tied to
the jetty. The remainder were off loaded on the dock and all aircraft and
personnel transferred to NAS Tafuna. The following day, aircraft and
personnel were flown to NAS Faleola, Upola, British Samoa. This red rock
field parallel to the lagoon was to be home for the next two months while
the squadron finished its training .and conducted anti-submarine patrols.
After an extended trip, the ground echelon arrived in the harbor of Apia on
27 October. All material had to be- unloaded into lighters for transfer to
the beach and then trucked to the airfield.
The squadrons first
casualty occurred on 31 October when Second Lieutenant Louis F. Zimmerman,
USMCR, and Pfc James P. Madden, USMCR, crashed and were killed on the island
of Savaii. This island is reputed to have been the inspiration for Robert
Louis Stevenson who lived on Upola at the time he wrote Treasure Island.
He is buried on a hillside overlooking the town of Apia.
All squadron personnel, less pilots and radio gunners, embarked on the USS
PRINCE WILLIAM (CVE-31) with all squadron material on 17 December 1943, and
sailed from Apia, Upola, Western Samoa the following day bound for the New
Hebrides. Arriving in Vila Harbor, Efate, New Hebrides on 23 December, the
squadron disembarked and moved to Bauer Field that day. This field was
named in memory of Medal of Honor winner and Ace Lt. Colonel Harold W.
Bauer, C.O. of VMF-312, killed in the Guadalcanal battle. The flight
echelon flew the squadrons SBD's to Bauer Field from Faleola Field, Upola,
via Wallis and Nandi, departing on 18 December and arriving on 21 December.
On 22 December, the squadron was transferred to MAG-21, 2d MAW. The squadron
was organized to include its own ground defense unit which was equipped with
cal..50 and cal.. 30 water cooled machine guns and Browning Automatic Rifles
(BAR). In order to fully utilize these men, the majority were now as-signed
to the ordnance section to augment the bomb handling and loading crew. As
time progressed this became their primary duty although the weapons were
carried as part of the T.O. equipment all the way to Zamboanga, Philippine
On 31 December, the flight echelon was transferred to Munda, New Georgia,
where it joined MAG-14 and the Strike Command. From the time the squadron
was split at Efate, it existed as two units: the flight echelon composed of
the pilots and radio gunners and the ground echelon composed of all other
enlisted men and the Aviation Ground Officers. This splitting of tactical
squadrons was standard policy in Marine Corps aviation. When the flight
personnel had completed a prescribed tour in the combat zone, they were
sent to the rear for a rest period. However, the ground component remained
in position operating the squadron aircraft which were flown by flight crews
from another squadron. The rest period - 3 - for the ground crew came as
the war passed them by and before they moved north again.
VMSB-341's baptism of fire came on I January 1944, when the squadron
participated in a strike against a bridge on the Puriata River,
Bougainville. By staging through Torokina Fighter Strip on Bougainville,
VMSB-341 participated in the first land-based bomber attack against the
Japanese stronghold of Rabaul on 9 January, let by Major James T. McDaniels,
USMC, of VMSB-236. Major McDaniels later became the C. O. of VMSB-341.
Less than a week later, on 14 January, the squadron shared in the first
large-scale strike on Rabaul shipping by land-based bombers. On that day,
considerable damage was inflicted on enemy shipping (although not confirmed
by JANAC) and the following commendations were received for the destruction
wrought. ComAirSols: "The outstanding achievements on yesterday's strike on
Rabaul are most gratifying. It is with extreme pride that I extend to you a
highly merited well-done. Mitchell." ComThirdFleet: "The SoPac crew Is
again cheering your hard-driving boys for the way they keep pouring It on.
Your deliveries at Rabaul are more regular than the Uncle Sugar Hall and
equally good for moral. Best wishes for continued good hunting". CIncPac:
"Hearty congratulations to all concerned on the damage Inflicted on ships
and aircraft In Simpson Harbor Strike. Admiral Nimitz"
One of the two SBD's lost in that outstanding strike belonged to VMSB-341.
Both pilot. First Lieutenant Harold R. Tuck, USMCR, and his radio gunner,
Private First Class Paul F. McCleaf, USMCR, spun in and were lost when
anti-aircraft fire clipped ff the tail of their aircraft. During this raid
a Mitsubishi A6M Zero was shot down by Private First Class Martin A.
Houlroyd and two additional Zeros were claimed by Sergeant Sheplor and
Corporal Skowronski of VMSB-236, who were flying in VMSB-341 aircraft.
On 17 January, VMSB-341 exceeded the exploits of the fourteenth, since the
tour transports claimed sunk on the latter date were confirmed, whereas the
five it claimed a share in sinking previously were not. The following
commendations from Admiral Halsey (ComThirdFIt) and Major General Ralph J.
Mitchell, USMC, (ComAirSols) were received: ComThirdFIt: "A large platter
of disintegrated and sinking AK makes a very fine breakfast dish. Loud
Cheers from the boys again for another magnificent job." ComAirSols: "Your
blasting of Rabaul shipping on 17th has well-merited applause of
this entire command. Well done. Mitchell." Unfortunately, so were the
casualties. An SBD piloted by First Lieutenant Robert E. Bishop, USMCR, and
radio gunner Private First Class Richard L. Parrow, USMCR, failed to
return. Before the end of January, First Lieutenant Howard M. Conley, USMCR,
and his radio gunner Private First Class Jack B. Thommann, USMCR, were shot
down over Lakunai, one of the Rabaul airfields.
Strikes continued against Rabaul targets until 9 February 1944, when the
squadron flight echelon was relieved and sent to Sidney, Australia, on rest
leave. Following a brief rest, they returned to Efate, New Hebrides. The
ground echelon embarked on the USS ALNITA (AK-127) - 5 - at Vila Harbor
3 March, and sailed the following day. Several days were spent at Empress
of Augusta Bay, Bougainville as reserves in the landing operation there.
Green Island was reached on 20 March, and off-loading while underway
commenced three miles at sea. Camp and operating facilities were readied in
preparation for the arrival of the flight echelon on 6 April. The squadron
was transferred from MAG-21, 2d MAW to MAG-13, 1st MAW effective
16 March 1944. Flight operations were conducted primarily against targets in
the New Ireland and New Britain area. During this period shuttle flights
were conducted against Rabaul and Kavieng. The flight would start at Green
Island, bombing Rabaul and proceeding to Emirau, St. Matthias, where they
would be rearmed. The return flight would be to Kavieng and return home
empty to Green Island.
VMSB-341 suffered its first casualties of the third combat tour on 2 May.
On a mission to Tobera Field, Rabaul, two SBD's with crews were lost to
anti-aircraft fire. Captain Walter L. Jordan, USMCR, and Staff Sergeant Van
Cicero Swearingen, USMCR, crashed in flames on the runway. First Lieutenant
William K. Harkins USMCR, and Sergeant Robert W. Anderson, USMCR, his radio
gunner, made a forced landing in the water a mile off Birara, New Britain,
and were not recovered. Once again the squadron designation was changed,
when on 7 May 1944 it was transferred from MAG-14 to MAG-12, 1st
MAW. However, they were returned to MAG-14 prior to the end of the month.
After the early morning strike was
launched on 9 May, - 6 - the squadron was informed that they had to leave
that day. After much work, the squadron did embark on the USS MINTAKA
(AK-94) that afternoon, having struck camp, packed all equipment and rearmed
the aircraft for the following days strike. The following morning, the ship
sailed and arrived and disembarked all personnel and equipment at Emiru on
12 May. The flight echelon was relieved by VMSB-244 flight echelon and
after a short health and recreation trip to Sidney, Australia, returned to
Emirau via Efate.
On 22 June, the South Pacific Air Trans-port Command (SCAT) aircraft
commenced airlifting them, and two days later, the squadron was together
Because of intensive anti-aircraft
fire over Kavieng, which caused a minimum altitude restriction being
imposed, which was higher than the normal push-over altitude of the SBD's,
the squadron was ordered back to Green Island. The ground echelon and
equipment embarked on the USAT Sacajawea and sailed from Emirau on 26 June,
arriving and disembarking once again at Green Island on 28 June 1944. They
were joined by the flight echelon on I July, and combat operations commenced
on 7 July against enemy gun positions in the Vunapope area of New Britain.
Bridges, buildings, huts, gun positions and small surface craft in the New
Britain, New Ireland area were the targets for the squadron the remainder of
On 14 September, the original members
of the squadron, pilots and radio gunners, were relieved having completed
their tour of overseas duty. However, the original ground echelon was
retained for the pending invasion of Luzon so that the squadron would not
be composed of new replacements at the time of the Invasion.
From the day the SBD first entered service, there had been an attempt to
increase its fire power and bomb load. During VMSB-341's stay at Green
Island, several of these ideas were sent to the field for evaluation. The
squadron was one of the first In the area to utilize aircraft rockets - both
3'.'5 and 5"0 AR. This was a self-taught project from one small brief
manual. The aircraft carried eight rocket rails, similar to those used by
the British, which extended about three feet for-ward of the leading edge of
the wing. None of these aircraft were taken to the Philippines. Kits were
also sent for evaluation that were supposed to allow three or four 100 pound
General Purpose bombs to be banded together and hung on the wing
bomb-racks. This system never worked satisfactorily because of the
difficulty in fabricating the straps in the field to the length necessary to
properly secure the bomb-cluster. Caliber 50 machine gun packages were also
provided which were to be carried on the wing bomb racks. The lack of any
charger system in the pod, making it impossible to "safety" the guns on the
deck, made this a very dangerous installation and was not adopted.
In preparation for the forthcoming
invasion of Luzon, Philippine Islands, administrative control of VMSB-341
was transferred from MAG-14 to MAG-24, 1st MAW on 5 October 1944.
During October, a program for providing close air support for U. S. Army
troops was inaugurated and preparations commenced . for departure. The
ground echelon embarked on the SS Julian departed Green Island the following
day. This was a cargo vessel with no troop accommodations. Shortly after
boarding Tokyo Rose Informed the squadron that it would never make it to the
Philippines. After several days the squadron personnel had their doubts
too. Field ranges were set up on deck to feed the troops. Shower
facilities consisted of a length of pipe, with numerous holes drilled in it,
secured to the rigging and connected to a fire hose pumping seawater. Head
facilities were equally primitive. The following month was spent in transit
aboard this ship.
VMSB-341 arrived at Hollandia, New Guinea, and alternated between that
anchorage and Lae, New Guinea, until departing Hollandia on 8 January 1945.
As a component of the resupply convoy, the squadron arrived at Leyte,
Philippine Islands on 16 January 1945 and sailed the following day, arriving
at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Islands on 21 January 1945.
Disembarking the following day VMSB-341 proceeded approximately twelve miles
inland and helped establish the airfield at Malgalden, Pengasinan Province,
as a component of MAGS-DAGUPAN. In addition to establishing the camp area
the squadron participated in the off loading of its material and
transportation from the beach to the camp area.
The flight echelon remained at Green Island until 22 January when it flew to
Emirau staying until 26 January, and
then, by "island hopping" through Manus, Los Negros, Oui Island and Peleliu
Island arrived at Malgalden, where operations were commenced on 30 January
1945. The first close support mission was flown 12 February, in support of
the 1st Cavalry and 11th -9 - Airborne Divisions in
the Wawa - Lobac area during the advance on Manila, and later on the same
day, in support of troops in Tarlac Province. The following day, Second
Lieutenant Eiton A.Barnum, USMCR, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and reported
missing but turned up safe after an emergency landing on a friendly
airstrip. At some time prior to the Luzon operation the nickname "Torrid
Turtles" was adopted by VMSB-341.
On 15 February in anticipation of the move to Zamboanga, the squadron was
transferred from MAG-24 to MAG-32. Dock and gun emplacements on historic
Corrigidor, buildings at Bagulo, installations at Fort Stolsenburg, then in
enemy hands, were the targets in February. Once again the squadron was
divided, when on 21 February, eight pilots and part of the ground echelon
were ordered to San Jose, Mindoro, arriving on 25 February. The remainder
of the pilots, plus 134 enlisted men, and all aircraft, remained at
Malgalden to continue operations. The ground echelon at Mindoro embarked on
LST 626 at Mingarin Bay on 13 March 1945, and departed for Zamboango,
Mindanao on 15 March, arriving and disembarking on 17 March - they proceeded
to Moret Airfield the following day. This field was named for Lt. Colonel
Paul Moret, killed in a transport crash at New Caledonia about June 1943.
Colonel Moret had been a fighter and dive bomber pilot and commanded the
first Marine Corps Torpedo Bombing Squadron VMSB-131 which served at
Henderson Field beginning 12 November 1942. VMSB-10 131 was not
redesignated VMTB-131 until June 1943.
On 25 March, the remainder of the squadron embarked in Army Air Force C-46's
for the flight to Zamboango. The SBD's were flown to Moret Field the same
day reuniting the squadron. Shortly after becoming established at Moret
Field, the original members of the squadron ground echelon were relieved and
returned to CONUS. Close support was furnished the guerrillas during April
at Malaybalay, and missions were flown in support of U. S. Army troops at
Jolo Island and Malabang.
In May, Davo targets became the most important objectives. Operations in
Kibawe Trail area north of Davo and Saraganin Bay area on the southern tip
of Mindanao during the month of July, brought to a close the operations of
VMSB-341, with the final strike taking place on 31 July. The most
noteworthy achievement of the Mindanao campaign was, that there were neither
combat or operational losses of pilots from March till the final mission.
During the first half
of August, all personnel were standing by for transfer from MAG-32, which
was effected on 15 August. At this time, all personnel who had completed
their tour of duty, the Squadron Adjutant and six clerks, who were assigned
to accompany the squadron records back to the United States, were attached
to Marine Fleet Air, West Coast. This detail left for the U. S. Naval
Receiving Station, Samar, Philippine Islands on 17 August, and departed that
facility on board the SS Sea Partridge on 23 August. Arriving on 9
September 1945, the detail disembarked at Seattle, Washington - II - and
left for Marine Corps Air Depot, Miramar, California where they joined
Marine Fleet Air, West Coast (MarFair, West Coast). VMSB-341 was
decommissioned upon arrival of the detail on 13 September 1945, by authority
of Commander-in-Chief and Chief of Naval Operations dispatch, date/time
group 311836 dated August 1945.