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Kodiak Alaska Military History

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Fleet Air Wing Four News clippings



Thursday, January 6, 1944


Associated Press Staff Writer

AN ALEUTIAN BASE, Jan. 6,-- (AP) -- American raiding planes, which blasted the Japanese on Paramushiro Island on New Year's Day, were manned by Navy crews from Fleet Air Wing 4. They braved wintry North Pacific skies at night to keep the first 1944 date with the enemy on its home soil.

It's cold on Paramushiro -- colder than in the Aleutians -- and the crashing high explosives and antipersonnel bombs routed the Japanese from their warm beds in the middle of the night.

The bombers of the North Pacific Task Force group, under which Navy and Army planes and crews are operating, arrived over the big Paramushiro base after midnight on New Year's Day (Japan time) after a long flight from an Aleutian base.

"New Year's is a big holiday in Japan," said Commodore Gehres, commanding Fleet Air Wing 4, "and we wanted to help them celebrate. We stirred them up, all right. We could tell by their excited radio chatter."

The commodore said 6,626 pounds of bombs were dropped, but, because of darkness, it was impossible to determine damage results.

All Planes Returned
All our planes returned safely to their base.

Vice Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher, commander in the North Pacific, and Maj. Gen. Davenport Johnson, commander of the Army's Eleventh Air Force and tactical commander of the combined air task group, expressed satisfaction with the mission as accomplishing its purpose.

Lieut. Joseph Peter Weibler, U.S.N.A.R., of Yakima, Wash., who led the mission, reported it was so cold the windshields iced inside and outside the bombers. The bombers reached their target by risking the uncertainty of the weather and by overcoming navigational difficulties. They were met by anti-aircraft fire and by at least one night fighter plane.

One of the bombers was caught in a concentration of Japanese searchlights, but managed to escape into the clouds before the ground fire could be concentrated.

First Night Raid
Commodore Gehres disclosed that another mission, with Navy crews, went over Paramushiro December 22 and dropped some bombs in a first night raid there. Bombers of the Army's Eleventh Air Force previously made four daylight raids.

Lieut. Comdr. J. Aiken Horton, Jr., U.S.N., of Belton, S.C., whose wife and children live at 2557 Fourth Ave., Seattle, led the first Navy mission.

Others participating in the flights included Lieut. (j.g.) Carl Oscar Riedel, U.S.N.R., Hollywood, Calif.; Lieut. (j.g.) Donald Perry Norton, Stevens Point, Wis.; Lieut. (j.g.) Merle James Noe, U.S.N.R., Billings, Mont., whose wife is at 2216 E. 46th St., Seattle, and Lieut. (j.g.) Alan Apershau, U.S.N.R., of Vivian, W. Va.



Saturday, January 9, 1944


Six Seattle men and four from other Washington communities were among 25 officers of Patrol Wing 4 awarded Navy decorations today for distinguished service defending the Aleutian Islands during early stages of the Japanese attack last June.

The Navy Cross was awarded to Lieut. Lucius D. Campbell of Seattle.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to Lieut. (j.g.) Karl W. Bergner, 8814 Sand Point Way, and Ensigns Melverne E. Johnson, 9730 Sand Point Way; Thomas P. Sullivan, 7554 14th Ave. N.E.; Leo T. Nuss, 12338 36th Ave. N.E., and Donald M. Anderson, 1116 Fifth Ave. N.

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross also were Lieuts. (j.g.) Claude W. Gaskell, Opportunity, Spokane County, and Frank S. Caughey, Spokane, and Ensigns Marvin Hart, Sumner, and Elmer D. Anderson, Ellensburg.

According to the Associated Press, the Navy Announcement of these awards said:

"From the moment last June 3 when word was flashed of Japanese aircraft carriers, only 400 miles from Kiska, until June 15, and the pilots, crews and craft of Patwing 4 faced and surmounted an almost incredible succession of obstacles to hold the enemy at bay.

Capt. Leslie E. Gehres, Coronado, Calif., commander of the unit, said "Every flight was a flight that the crew should not have returned from. Every man knew this and yet none wavered."

The men were flying Catalina patrol boats designed for long-range scouting service rather than fighting, but "a total of approximately 65,000 tons of enemy warships and transports suffered under Patwing 4 onslaughts," the Navy said. "In addition, Japanese aircraft were destroyed, a radio station demolished and enemy supply dumps bombed."

The American losses were not stated in the Navy announcement.



Monday, January 24, 1944


Associated Press Staff Writer

AN ALEUTIAN BASE, Jan. 23, - (Delayed)- Navy flyers here today referred to their latest exploits as the "Paramushiro Express," the "Empire Express or the "Tokyo Shortline," referring to the fact their raids down Japan's Kurile Islands toward Tokyo were accomplished on an "express schedule."

Commodore Leslie E. Gehres, commanding Fleet Air Wing Four, was able to report to Vice Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher, commander of the North Pacific, repeated missions over Paramushiro several nights running, without loss of a plane.

I rode with one mission, thus becoming the first war correspondent to fly over Japanese home territory.

Flyers Are Young
The young flyers -- only one over 30 years of age -- accomplished the bombing of Paramushiro's southern tip right on time. Other missions were, in the main, equally successful, Commodore Gehres said.

The raids struck Paramushiro installations Thursday, Friday, Saturday and yesterday mornings (Aleutial time) on the following mornings in each instance, by Japan time.

The extent of damage and other tactical details of the raids were undisclosed, but the wing commander said his flyers apparently had taken to heart his advice to get familiar with Japana's [sic] northern door "because we'll probably have to go over and take it some day."

Commodore Gehres' new successes came just after he received the Legion of Merit by President Roosevelt, through the secretary of the Navy, for his services as patrol wing and, later as Fleet Air Wing commander, in helping block the Japanese thrust at Alaska and driving them from the Aleutians.

Fletcher Lauds Gehres
The decoration was presented by Admiral Fletcher, who remarked in a brief address: "When the history of this war is written, I am confident that the recipient of this medal will be credited, more than any other officer, with the defeat of the Japanese in the Aleutians."

Admiral Fletcher also paid tribute to the men of Fleet Air Wing Four. The record, he added, "proves that every man in the organization has carried on with the complete devotion to duty not only through ice, wind and snow, in addition to the perils of combat."

The new thrust against Japan's homeland northern outposts followed preliminary raids December 22 and New Year's Day.

The first was led by Lieut. Comdr. John Horton, squadron commander. He thus became the first navy flyer over Japanese home territory.

Prior to the Navy's attacks, bombers of the Army's Eleventh Air Force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Davenport Johnson had made four daylight raids over Paramushiro.


These clippings were pasted into the back cover of one of the Leslie Gehres photo albums.

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Main index This page created 2001 September 29, Updated 2001 September 30