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U.S.A.A.F Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War

2nd Combat Cargo Group

54th Troop Carrier Wing, 5th Air Force, Pacific Theater


     The 2nd Combat Cargo Group was formed when Col. William Bell was working in "Air Force Plans".   In the Pentagon in the winter of 1943-1944, about that time, Merrill's Marauders were having great success with their so called "Overhead Envelopment" tactics in Burma.   Gen. "Hap" Arnold felt that similar tactics could be effective in the island hopping situation in the South Pacific and also in the China, Burma, India Theatre, Gen. Arnold ordered the formation of four joint task forces, each consisting of a Fighter Group, a Troop Carrier Group and a Service Group to go with each Combat Group.   Col. Bell was made Project Officer for the four Troop Carrier Groups.  Gen. Arnold then determined that the name to describe this new organization should not be "Troop Carrier", as it did not adequately describe the full mission.  Gen. Arnold and Col. Bell came up with "Combat Cargo" as a title more appropriate for this unique operation.

     Col. Bell immediately went into action with the hope that he would be named Commander of the 1st Combat Cargo Group.  In retrospect, he was happy to have settled for commanding the 2nd Group because the 1st Group was sent to the C. B. I. which he considered dull action compared to his experience in the South Pacific.

     The 2nd Combat Cargo Group was activated at the Syracuse Army Air Base (S.A.A.B.) at Syracuse, N. Y. on May 1st, 1944 under the command of Col. William J, Bell.  Gen. Arnold conceived that the air echelon would be working in the forward areas most of the time and the airdrome servicing squadrons would do all the major maintenance work.  In a recent speech prepared for a 6th Squadron reunion, Gen. Bell stated, "I well remember that day in May, 1944, when I arrived at Hancock Field.   As I recall, there were about a dozen officers and about 90 airmen present when we activated the Group."

     The 2nd C. C. Group consisted of four squadrons, the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th, and was made up of pilots, navigators, administrative personnel as well as crew chiefs and radio operators.  To each squadron was attached an airdrome squadron identified as the 336th 337th, 338th, and 339th.

     The Group's flying personnel was composed of some veteran airmen who had previously flown B-17's, B-24's, B-25's, B-26's and other multiengine aircraft.  Others were fresh out of flight schools and the enlisted men had been trained in radio and mechanical schools.  The Syracuse Army Air Base became a hub of activity as these young men assimilated into the routine training in Douglas C-47 twin engine transport planes.  Glider towing, paratroop drops, high and low altitude cross country flights, night flying, instrument flying, etc, were a normal part of the training.  We became familiar with the beautiful terrain in New York state such as the Finger Lakes Region, the Catskills and also Lake Ontario.  We also scared a lot of farmers' chickens on our low altitude cross country flights.

     In addition to our flying schedule, the pilots attended ground school courses in meteorology, flying regulations, communications, navigation, instruments, engines, weights and balances, air evacuation, demolition of supplies, link trainer, etc.  Enlisted men likewise received varying courses in communications, engineering, blinkers, ciphers, radio equipment, engines, electrical and hydraulic equipment, etc.

     Bivouacs were required to prepare us for our life overseas and the Airdrome Squadrons drove in a convoy with their equipment and the pilots and crews flew our C-47 s to Fulton, N. Y.  Later we did the same at Wheeler Sack Field near Watertown, N. Y. Gen. "Hap" Arnold visited Wheeler Sack and he viewed our group planes flying in formation at 500 ft, dropping paratroopers and supplies.   We also towed gliders (CG4A's) and engaged in numerous flight operations.  We slept in pup tents and ate out of our mess gear.  This experience proved beneficial to our future life overseas.

     General Bell relates how we suddenly changed from training in C-47's to C-46's.  He recalls the following, "Late in July, when Gen. Arnold came to observe our graduation exercises, we had completed our training in "Gooney Birds."  Gen. Arnold, a General from the Troop Carrier Command and I (Col. Bell) rode off in the same car off base to observe a paradrop.  On the way back, Gen. Arnold turned to me and said, "Bell, how long would it take you to transition into C-46 airplanes?"  Having never had an occasion to even think of such a possibility, I was caught flatfooted.  However, I hazarded a guess that it would probably take about two months.  As you know, in about 6 weeks, when we all averaged about sixty hours per pilot in "The Big Assed Bird," we were off to Ft. Wayne to pick up our new airplanes

     In reading the biography of Gen. Henry H, Arnold by Thomas M. Coffey entitled "Hap", one can readily understand why we were hustled into changing to C-46's without much fanfare.   Gen., Arnold considered by many a Maverick, hated delays and red tape and cut through it whenever possible.   Everything had to be accomplished immediately and many of the successes of the Army Air Corps during W, W, II must be attributed to this no nonsense and quick acting Commanding General.

     At any rate, the official date of transfer to C-46 training was August 24, 1944.  This was accomplished with enthusiasm as the C-46 was larger, more powerful with R-2800 2,000 H. P. Pratt & Whitney engines and offered more of a challenge.  Mr. De Garmo, a Curtiss -test pilot arrived in Syracuse to show the pilots the versatility of the C-46.  He brought 18,000 hrs, of pilot experience along and a big black cigar.  He really could make the C-46 perform and we were impressed.  After 2 months of further training in the C-46, we were considered ready to embark on our adventure to the Pacific.

   Lt. Curtis H. Krogh, 7th Combat Cargo Squadron, 2nd Combat Cargo Group.  From his manuscript  '7th Combat Cargo Squadron History,  2nd Combat Cargo Group,  54th Troop Carrier Wing, 5th Air Force, World War II.  

   This short History of the 2nd Combat Cargo Groups Origins, no way tells the entire group history.   It's sole purpose is to give one an idea of what the Group endured during it's time during the Second World War.    For a more detailed report on the the Groups History, one needs to access the records of the 2nd Combat Cargo Group and it's individual Squadrons at the    U.S. Air Force Historical Research Center   at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL.  These records are available in microfilm.

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    I am looking for former members of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group,  1st, Combat Cargo Group, 2nd Combat Cargo Group and the 4th Combat Cargo Group.  In fact I would like to hear from anyone who flew over the Hump during WW II, or flew any Combat Cargo Missions at any time (Berlin Air-Lift, Korea, etc)

Please e-mail comment, suggestions, corrections,etc to: bill@comcar.org

Imphal, the Hump and Beyond  Copyright 1999 Bill Bielauskas  All rights reserved.

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