459th FIGHTER SQUADRON



Ex-CBI Roundup
July 1956 Issue

From Phoenix, May, 1945
By Crosby Maynard

SAGA of the Twin Dragons, the J- 459th Fighter Squadron, is also a story of the evolution of air war in Burma during the past year - a tale of the transition from defense to offense and of the change in the day-to-day missions of these swift fighters who now, more often than not, have no air enemy to fight.

Operating somewhere in Burma under the 3rd Tactical Air Force of Major General George E. Stratemeyer's Eastern Air Command, the 459th was, a year ago, in the forefront of the air defense against the Japanese Zeros and Bettys, attacking Allied positions at Imphal and Kohima. Day after day they rose to intercept the common foe, sharing the task with a group of British-flown Spitfires and Beaufighters.

Flying the twin-tailed Lockheed Lightning, the Dragons compiled what well may have been a unique record; throughout the world, the average victory-to-loss ratio of Allied Air Forces was three of the enemy for one of our own; the Twin Dragons destroyed more than 12 Japs for each loss they have sustained in combat.

As of today, the men of the 459th have destroyed nearly 150 Jap planes in the air, accounted for about 25 probables, and damaged some 75 on the ground. It is impossible to give a complete up-to-date account of the blithe havoc which the Dragons perpetrated in their part of the world; they worked too fast.

Recently the squadron participated in four sweeps against key airfields in the Rangoon area, in company with other US-AAF and RAF units, the mission involving a round trip of some 800 miles; and even more recently they made a 1,500 - mile ' round trip to Bangkok, a mission generally reserved for the heavy bombers. Rangoon was formerly a long, long way away; now the boys call it a "milk run."

But it is right here that the change in operation needs and methods since last year becomes evident. The fact of the matter is that, like many fighters, the 459th have, of necessity, become bombers -bridge-busters and ground support specialists.

The Dragons and their fellow pilots of other American, British and Indian squadrons have done such a thorough job of running the Japs out of the Burma sky that there is very little left to shoot at close to home.

Flying the latest model of their beloved P-38's ("best damn aircraft in the world"), the airmen of the 459th now carry bomb loads that would have been regarded as fantastic a year ago. And these fighter pilots have done very nicely at the business of depositing their eggs on strategic bridges, rail centres, and Jap supply dumps. In one recent nine-day period, they knocked off 11 enemy-held bridges; they got three on one mission.

Back in the old days, it was a somewhat different story. Then the Twin Dragons (until recently under the command of Lt. Col. Verl Dean Leuhring) didn't have to look far for trouble, or to cause it. And their present C.O., Major Hampton E. Boggs, emerged as the No. 1 trouble-causer.

Bound only by the limitations of plane performance and range, the Dragons used all the tactical techniques in the book.

Example: When not engaged in interception or flying top cover for the bombers, the daring young men on their flying Twin-P's are given to lurking about Japanese airfields when it was known (never mind how) that the Japs were out on mission. When the Jap returns for tiffin and arnica, the roof fell in on him from considerable altitude.

If, on the other hand, the Jap was sulking on the ground, he still wasn't too sure of his comforts. The Twin Dragons were also given to tree-topping toward Jap airdromes at better than 400 m.p.h. They sprayed the crib with .50 calibre machine guns and 20mm cannon. Then they went away.

The Jap protects his bombers on the ground with high, three-sided revetments. It's good protection against some forms of attack.

But against the people from the Twin Dragons, who persisted in flying into the open end of the revetment at an altitude of maybe six inches, plastering the aircraft and being a mile away (straight up) before the Japs could say "You can't do that to us," the revetment doesn't work too well.

The operational day begins about dawn when the flight detailed to alert takes over. The pilots on alert sit and drowse on the basha porch . . . .until something happens. If something happens, the alert flight, abetted in full by expert ground crews, can put a given number of P-38's into the air in one hell of a hurry. On a field which shelters both P-38's and Spitfires, the changeover from static to kinetic can be a riotous operation.

Return from a mission is apt to be announced suddenly by the roar of two Allison engines as the flight leader buzzes the roof of the operations basha, a maneuver which the more sportive young men in some parts of the American Air Forces have discovered, will summarily remove the saris from the local ladies. (Sari-dusting is not an approved operational procedure).

The fighters roar in, settle to the runway, and, one by one, turn off and taxi to the dispersal areas. If the gun ports are smoke-blackened, they have not been out just for the ride. And it is a sunny day when the P-38's bring home the bombs that were snuggled under their wings at take-off.

The composite Twin Dragon pilot is between 23 and 24. He is more apt to be single than married. Very few are college graduates; most have one to three years of college. Most have been graduate fighter pilots for less than a year, averaging 10 to 11 months.

A few went from college direct to cadet flying school, many more were selected for flying training after having joined the army, served as GI's.

Pre-army occupations include farmer, grocery clerk, students and soda clerk. One was studying embalming.

In their off-duty hours, the Twin Dragons are given to discussing flying, life, women in India (some real, some imaginary), women in the United States (all real).

The Dragons play some of the roughest poker in a rough poker league. You had better be able to stand a Rs. 2,100 raise without getting hiccups.

There is no knowing what the ultimate mission and destination of the Twin Dragons will be in South East Asia. But based on their past performances, it seems a safe guess that before the Allied Air Forces have finally done with the Japanese, the 459th Fighter Squadron will have the ample opportunity to increase the tally of 150/25/75. -THE END


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