National Heroes Day, 2015

Today, Monday, 31 August 2015, the last Monday of August, is National Heroes Day in the Philippines, Araw ng mga Bayani. It is a regular national holiday.

According to the webpage of the Office of the President at Malacanang, “Our national heroes are often portrayed as a pantheon of distinct and powerful personalities (see the banner above) who have managed to get their names published in our history books by virtue of their words or actions. But National Heroes Day specifies no hero; the law that put into practice the celebration does not name a single one. And this lack of specifics offers an opportunity to celebrate the bravery of not one, not a few, but all Filipino heroes who have braved death or persecution for home, for nation, for justice, for freedom.”

Since this web log is focused on the Bataan campaign, it is fitting to salute the Filipino veterans who served in that early war series of battles on the Bataan peninsula. Whether Philippine Army or Scout, whether Philippine Army Air Corps or in the Offshore Patrol, there are many examples of bravery and selfless sacrifice to remember and honor.

So we remember heroes like Philippine Army Air Corps Captain Jesús A. Villamor, who bravely piloted a PAAC PT-17 biplane trainer (Boeing-Stearman Model 76D) biplane trainer on 9 February 1942, in order to conduct a photo reconnaissance of the Ternate area near Cavite for enemy artillery that was firing on the Manila Bay forts.

Heroic and much decorated Filipino pilot. Jesús Antonio Villamor.    (Courtesy Impak ng Sikat web log)

Heroic and much decorated Philippine Army Air Corps  pilot. Jesús Antonio Villamor. (Courtesy Impak ng Sikat web log)

It was a daylight mission in a slow and vulnerable aircraft, in an area which Japanese fighters could intercept. Indeed, Villamor crisscrossed Ternate several times so Master Sergeant Juan Abanes from the 5th Photographic Squadron could obtain the needed pictures for effective counterbattery fire against the pesky enemy artillery.

A Boeing PT-13D "Kaydet 2-seater, open cockpit and fabric-covered  primary trainer biplane (also known as the Stearman Model 75) at the Philippine Air Force Museum in Manila.  The PT-17 was similar.  (Courtesy Firingyourimagination.blogspot.com)

A Boeing PT-13D “Kaydet 2-seater, open cockpit and fabric-covered primary trainer biplane (also known as the Stearman Model 75) at the Philippine Air Force Museum in Manila. The PT-17 was similar. (Courtesy Firingyourimagination.blogspot.com)

Villamor barely made it back to Bataan before six Nakajima Ki-27 (Allied code name NATE) Imperial Japanese fighter planes of the 50th Sentai from the Manila area made an effort to shoot him down. His P-40 escort fought them off, but not before a harrowing landing under fire (see earlier posting related to this mission, “Finding Earl Stone,” at: https://bataancampaign.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/finding-earl-stone/ )

Villamor is remembered today by the name of Villamor Air Base in Manila, the former Nichols Field, greatly expanded into Manila International Airport (Ninoy Aquino International Airport). It is the headquarters of the Philippine Air Force.

Gate 4 of Villamor Air Base, circa 2013.  (Courtesy Endlessrise.com)

Gate 4 of Villamor Air Base, circa 2013. (Courtesy Endlessrise.com)

There are many examples of courage under fire in the Bataan campaign, from land and sea and air. So on this National Heroes Day, remember also the heroes of Bataan, who fought for freedom for their country and future generations in those difficult days of World War II.
References

Gordon, John, Fighting for MacArthur: The Navy and Marine Corps’ Desperate Defense of the Philippines, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, page 168

National Heroes Day, at: http://malacanang.gov.ph/8720-national-heroes-day/

Museum Feature:  Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum – Indoor Exhibits (Pasay City), at:  http://firingyourimagination.blogspot.com/2012/11/while-waiting-for-my-father-in-laws.html#.VeQOrfTm5g8

Villamor Air Base, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villamor_Air_Base

Villamor AB gate picture, at: http://www.endlessrise.com/endlessrise-joins-relief-efforts-for-typhoon-haiyan-victims-2/

And now…the Rest of their Bataan Story…

The title of this post plays on a famous line oft spoken by noted American radio commentator Paul Harvey.  But in this case we will apply it to the rest of the story after a photograph was taken.

This image of Air Corps has been seen in many places.  It was posted on this web log earlier as related to a story about the Airmen of Bataan, members of the US Army Air Corps and Philippine Army Air Corps who fought in the Bataan campaign.

Aircraft mechanics from the Headquarters Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group and 17th Pursuit Squadron pose with a Curtiss P-40E in a camouflaged revetment at Bataan Field, January, 1942.

Aircraft mechanics from the Headquarters Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group and 17th Pursuit Squadron pose with a Curtiss P-40E in a camouflaged revetment at Bataan Field, January, 1942.

As a reminder, here is the previous caption shared on this web log:

Aircraft mechanics from the Headquarters Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group and 17th Pursuit Squadron pose with a Curtiss P-40E in a camouflaged revetment at Bataan Field, January, 1942.  From left to right, front row: Charles Parman, Alan Waite, Brown Davidson, Henry McCracken, William Miller, Melvin Dixon, Lyall Dillon; middle row: Marcus Keithley, Jesse White, Ellis Holcomb, Chester Brown, Louis Tome, Michael Tardivo, Sid Wilkinson, John Dujenski; back row: Earl Akers, Richard Hunn, John O’Neal, Louis Myers, Clarence Hatzer, Henry Blair, William Alvis. Dujenski, Keithley, White and Wilkinson had just returned to aviation duty from the west coast fighting at Quinauan Point. (Photo courtesy of Ms. Linda Dahl, Lewiston, Idaho; mechanic’s full names via Mr. William Bartsch)

On The Battle of Bataan Public Group in Facebook, Mr. Josel Solomon posted this familiar picture, and Mr. James Erickson provided the reply that tells the rest of the wartime story of what happened to these men after the photograph was taken.

“They survived or died at exactly the proportions you’d expect. 22 men, 12 liberated, 10 died. Of those liberated, 8 in Japan, 2 at Mukden, 1 on Taiwan, and 1 at Cabanatuan. Of the 10 dead, 8 died in the PI, 2 at O’Donnell, 2 at Capas Tarlac, and 4 at Cabanatuan.

Charles Parman liberated Mukden Tottori Maru
Alan Waite died O’Donnell 25 May 42
Brown Davidson liberated Taihoku #6 Taiwan Nagara Maru
Henry McCracken, died Cabanatuan 18 June 42
William Miller, probable id. died Ichioka hospital 3 Feb 43 Nagato Maru
Melvin Dixon, died 7 July 1942 Cabanatuan
Lyall Dillon; liberated Hiroshima 6B Omine Canadian Inventor
Marcus Keithley, liberated at Cabanatuan
Jesse White, liberated Mukden Tottori Maru
Ellis Holcomb, died Capas Tarlac 4 June 42
Chester Brown, died Cabanatuan 4 March 43
Louis Tome, liberated Osaka 10B Maibara Hokusen Maru
Michael Tardivo, liberated Fukuoka 8B Nissyo Maru
Sid Wilkinson, liberated Tokyo 8B Motoyama Taikoku Maru
John Dujenski; died Cabanatuan 15 Aug 42
Earl Akers, died O’Donnell 7 May 42
Richard Hunn, liberated Hiroshima 6B Omine Canadian Inventor
John O’Neal, liberated Fukuoka 3B Yawata Nissyo Maru
Louis Myers, liberated Kamioka Tottori Maru to Japan
Clarence Hatzer, liberated Osaka 5B Tsuruga
Henry Blair, died Capas Tarlac 27 June 42
William Alvis. died Mukden 4 Feb 43 Tottori Maru”

It is always welcome when such information is shared to those who may have interest.  There are still so many people from the Bataan campaign, Filipino and American, whose experience in and fate from the Bataan campaign remain unknown.

But family members, friends and those interested are still looking, ever hopeful, for information to bring them closure, because the unresolved absence of a loved one leaves a hole in the heart.

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know…the rest of the story…

A Bataan Thorne in the side of Imperial Japan

That was Henry Garfield “Hank” Thorne, Jr., one of the Far East Air Force pursuit squadron commanders who participated in the Bataan Campaign. He was one of a number of men who fought on Bataan and either escaped or evaded to continue the war against Imperial Japan.

Major General Henry G. Thorne, Jr., USAF during the 1960’s.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

Major General Henry G. Thorne, Jr., USAF during the 1960’s. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Born in Waco, Texas, 1913, he enlisted in the Army in 1932. But Hank Thorne was born to fly and in 1937 earned his pilot’s wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps through the aviation cadet program.

Assigned later to the Philippines, First Lieutenant Hank Thorne became the commander of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron at the end of October, 1941, just before the war. The 3rd Pursuit was based at Iba Field on the Zambales coast of Luzon when the war began in the Philippines on 8 December 1941.

Emblem of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron, formally described as such:  On a blue triangle point down a fanciful creature with the head of a parrot, the winged trunk of a lion and the tail of a sea serpent.  It was officially approved on 14 February 1924, about five years after the squadron arrived for duty in the Philippines.  (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Emblem of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron, formally described as such: On a blue triangle point down a fanciful creature with the head of a parrot, the winged trunk of a lion and the tail of a sea serpent. It was officially approved on 14 February 1924, about five years after the squadron arrived for duty in the Philippines. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

On that day he commanded a squadron with 24 Curtiss P-40E fighters with 18 in commission and six as spares. The squadron also had four Seversky P-35 fighters and a sole North American A-27 light attack aircraft.

Box art for the Revell 1/48 scale plastic model kit of a Curtiss P-40E Warhawk depicts a P-40E bearing the emblem of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron.  This particular kit issue and box art was released circa 2001.  (Courtesy Scalemates.com)

Box art for the Revell 1/48 scale plastic model kit of a Curtiss P-40E Warhawk depicts a P-40E bearing the emblem of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron. This particular kit issue and box art was released circa 2001. (Courtesy Scalemates.com)

But it didn’t take long for the aircraft inventory to change given the costly combat of the first weeks of war. By the time of the Bataan Campaign the 3rd Pursuit was a planeless squadron which had relocated first to Nichols Field, then to a new dispersal field at Tanuan some 40 miles by road southwest of Manila. When USAFFE forces moved to the Bataan peninsula, the squadron’s officers and men assigned beach defense duty near the Biaan River two miles northwest of Mariveles.

Thorne led the squadron through much of the Bataan campaign, including its role in repelling the Japanese landings along the west coast of Bataan in the Battle of the Points in January-February 1942. By April 1, he was ordered to Bataan Field, turning over command to 1st Lt. Herb Ellis.

Just before Bataan fell on 9 April, Thorne was ordered to fly one of the last aircraft out of Bataan, a P-35A fighter with two other pilots in the cargo compartment. The aircraft took hits from enemy small arms fire on the departure from Bataan Field at 8:15pm on 8 April, but made it off safely. Thorne dropped six small fragmentation bombs on some enemy shipping south of Luzon before continuing on down to Cebu where he rested and had his aircraft serviced after arriving around midnight. He departed for Mindanao early on 10 April 1942, just evading Japanese landing forces which had invaded Cebu in the early morning hours. He arrived without passengers, as they had opted to fly out of Cebu on another aircraft after Thorne’s P-35 had proven balky in starting up. But Thorne brought the P-35 in safely to Del Monte No. 1 field, only to be told to head immediately for the dispersal field at Maramag – it was Thorne that flew the last surviving P-35 of the Philippines campaign of 1941 – 1942.

Box art for the 1/72 scale model kit by Special Hobby of a P-35A 'Philippine Defender.' The aircraft in the foreground depicts a P-35A, No. 23, of the 34th Pursuit Squadron, whilst the aircraft in the background is a P-40B, No. 41, of the 20th Pursuit Squadron.  (Courtesy Squadron.com)   *Note:  See earlier post about P-40B No. 41 titled “And then there was (Forty) One,” at:  https://bataancampaign.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/and-then-there-was-one/

Box art for the 1/72 scale model kit by Special Hobby of a P-35A ‘Philippine Defender.’ The aircraft in the foreground depicts a P-35A, No. 23, of the 34th Pursuit Squadron, whilst the aircraft in the background is a P-40B, No. 41, of the 20th Pursuit Squadron. (Courtesy Squadron.com)
*Note: See earlier post about P-40B No. 41 titled “And then there was (Forty) One,” at: https://bataancampaign.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/and-then-there-was-one/

Late on 13 April 1942, Hank Thorne was evacuated from the Philippines by air to Australia on order of Brigadier General Hal George, who needed pursuit squadron commanders for new units forming in Australia. Thorne flew out on one of the B-25’s involved in the Royce mission *Note: See earlier post, “The Bataan Genesis of the Royce Mission,” at: https://bataancampaign.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/the-bataan-genesis-of-the-royce-mission/

But it seems that after arriving in Australia, Lt. Thorne returned to the US instead of directly to command another pursuit squadron, perhaps due to the untimely death of General George on 30 April 1942 and the arrival in Australia of new, intact air units from the States. So he returned to the US and spent much of 1942 and 1943 at Army Command and General Staff school and then in staff jobs in air defense commands on the west coast of the U.S.

From May to October 1944, Thorne commanded the 430th Army Air Force Base Unit at Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington, which was a replacement training unit for twin-engine fighter pilots. Undoubtedly some of these new Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter pilots found their way to the Pacific to combat the Japanese.

However on 9 November 1944, now Colonel Henry G. Thorne, Jr., took command of a combat unit headed for the Pacific, the 508th Fighter Group, at Pocatello Army Airfield, Idaho. The 508th was a new outfit set to fly the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane and slated for Very Long Range fighter missions in the strategic air campaign against Imperial Japan. The group’s three squadrons, the 466th, 467th and 468th fighter squadrons, had the ultimate production model of the Thunderbolt fighter, the P-47N. Each squadron had an authorized strength of 25 aircraft, so now Thorne commanded three times the number of aircraft going into combat against the enemy than he did on day one of the war, not to mention the much greater firepower and weapons load capability of the P-47N as compared to a P-40E.

A Republic P-47N Thunderbolt of the 19th Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group, rests in a late war pose, probably at Ie Shima near Okinawa, with a full payload of eight M2 or M3 (higher rate of fire) .50 caliber machine guns (with up to 425 rounds per gun), ten five-inch High Velocity Aerial Rockets (HVAR) and three general purpose bombs, which appear to be a pair of 1,000-lb bombs under the wings and a single 500-lb bomb under the belly.  (Courtesy 413th Fighter Group.com)

A Republic P-47N Thunderbolt of the 19th Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group, rests in a late war pose, probably at Ie Shima near Okinawa, with a full payload of eight M2 or M3 (higher rate of fire) .50 caliber machine guns (with up to 425 rounds per gun), ten five-inch High Velocity Aerial Rockets (HVAR) and three general purpose bombs, which appear to be a pair of 1,000-lb bombs under the wings and a single 500-lb bomb under the belly. (Courtesy 413th Fighter Group.com)

But the powers that be decided that the unit would be diverted to Hawaii instead, and Colonel Thorne was reassigned in late November, 1944. His former group went overseas to the Territory of Hawaii in January, 1945, where it joined Seventh Air Force and provided air defense, some replacement pilot training for other units, P-47 and P-51 aircraft repair for VII Fighter Command combat units, and also some aircraft ferry to forward area services.

As things turned out, Hank Thorne would lead men into battle against Imperial Japan again. On 6 December 1944, almost three years to the day the war in the Pacific began, he took command of the 414th Fighter Group and its three fighter squadrons, the 413th, 437th and 456th at Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina. In May and June 1945 the group deployed from the States to the Pacific, with echelons arriving at Guam and Iwo Jima where Navy escort carriers Casablanca (CVE-55) and Cape Esperance (CVE-88) brought its P-47N Thunderbolt aircraft.

A deckload of U.S. Army Air Force Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighters of the 414th Fighter Group are seen on the flight deck of the escort carrier USS Casablanca (CVE-55) on 16 July 1945. The planes were loaded aboard at Naval Air Station Alameda, California, and were bound for Guam.  (Courtesy Wikipedia)

A deckload of U.S. Army Air Force Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighters of the 414th Fighter Group are seen on the flight deck of the escort carrier USS Casablanca (CVE-55) on 16 July 1945. The planes were loaded aboard at Naval Air Station Alameda, California, and were bound for Guam. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

In the western Pacific the 414th group became part of Twentieth Air Force. Beginning 13 July, the unit flew a couple of missions from Harmon Field in Guam against the Japanese bastion at Truk in the Caroline Islands. Later, these Guam-based aircraft moved up to Iwo Jima, as can be seen in this vintage film featuring 414th Thunderbolts from July, 1945:

Iwo Jima-based operations began on 29 July with an attack on a Japanese radar station on Chichi Jima, and in August the group conducted missions again the Japanese Home Islands. The 414th would fly four combat missions from Iwo Jima against the Japanese Home Islands before the war ended, ranging as far as Nagoya and Kyushu. In its brief period of action against the Japanese Home Islands, the 414th was “…directed primarily against enemy airfields in Japan, but also strafed hangars, barracks, ordnance dumps, trains, marshalling yards, and shipping.” On the mission to Kyushu escorting B-29s against the steel works at Yawata, the group flew its longest mission of the war, with one pilot recording eight hours and 45 minutes in flight. Some pilots couldn’t stretch their fuel out long enough to return and bailed out near some US Navy ships stationkeeping along the mission flight routes. The group only claimed one aerial victory on 4 August 1945, by 1st Lt. Robert P. Witty of the 456th Fighter Squadron. The 414th received credit for participation in two campaigns including the Air Offensive Japan and the Eastern Mandates.

A Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighter in flight over the Pacific Ocean.  The photo is believed to be one of “Detroit Miss II” of the 413th Fighter Squadron, 414th Fighter Group, assigned to 1st Lt. Urban L. “Ben” Drew, an ace pilot in the air war in Europe and the only ace pilot assigned to the 414th. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighter in flight over the Pacific Ocean. The photo is believed to be one of “Detroit Miss II” of the 413th Fighter Squadron, 414th Fighter Group, assigned to 1st Lt. Urban L. “Ben” Drew, an ace pilot in the air war in Europe and the only ace pilot assigned to the 414th. (U.S. Air Force photo)

After hostilities concluded the group flew one show of force mission over Tokyo and surrounding areas on 30 August 1945. The unit departed Iwo Jima for Clark Field in the Philippines on 23 December 1945, later to Floridablanca Airfield, and was subordinate to Thirteenth Air Force until it inactivated there on 30 September 1946.

Subsequent to his command of the 414th Fighter Group (his end of tour date is not readily available), Col. Thorne was given additional responsibility and became the assistant chief of staff for VII Fighter Command, first at Iwo Jima and after 1 December 1945 when it relocated to the Mariana Islands. Although he was back in a staff position, Hank Thorne surely had some satisfaction in being able to come back in the sky from a position of great disadvantage at Bataan in early 1942 to a position of superiority against the same foe in the summer of 1945.
References

Bartsch, William, Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines, 1941 – 1942. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, 1992.

Maurer, Maurer, editor, Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Office of Air Force History, Washington, D.C., 1983. Entries for the 414th Fighter Group and 508th Fighter Group.
USAF version online at: http://www.afhra.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-090529-055.pdf

Maurer, Maurer, editor, Combat Squadrons of the United States Air Force, USAF Historical Division (reprint, Platinum Press, Woodbury, New York (Smithmark Publishers, Inc.), 1992). USAF version online at: http://www.afhso.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-101202-002.pdf

Major General Henry Garfield Thorne, Jr., official biography, at: http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/105452/major-general-henry-garfield-thorne-jr.aspx

508th Aerospace Sustainment Wing, Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/508th_Aerospace_Sustainment_Wing

414th Fighter Group, Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/414th_Fighter_Group

414th Fighter Group, at: http://www.7thfighter.com/414thfg/index.htm

414th Fighter Group History, at: http://www.7thfighter.com/414thfg/grouphistory.htm

414th Fighter Group P-47N Thunderbolts transfer from Saipan to Iwo Jima (1945), video on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxuAazwG-04

414th Fighter Group aerial victory, a Ciel de Gloire website, at: http://www.cieldegloire.com/fg_414.php

“Flying the P-47N Thunderbolt: The final missions at war’s end still extracted a price,” at: http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/flying-the-p-47n-thunderbolt/
Images

Maj Gen Henry Thorne, at: http://media.dma.mil/2009/Sep/16/2000480203/-1/-1/0/090916-F-JZ029-365.JPG

3rd Pursuit Squadron emblem, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3d_Flying_Training_Squadron

P-40E box art, at: https://www.scalemates.com/kits/149850-revell-04566-p-40e-warhawk

P-35A box art, at: http://www.squadron.com/1-72-Special-Hobby-P-35A-Philippine-Defender-p/so72237.htm

P-47N with bombs and rockets, at: http://413thfightergroup.com/

USS Casablanca and P-47N fighters, at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Casablanca_CVE-55_with_P-47Ns.jpg

P-47N Detroit Miss II, at: http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/flying-the-p-47n-thunderbolt/