Imphal, The Hump and Beyond
U.S.A.A.F. Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War
4th Combat Cargo Group
Formation, Training and Overseas Deployment
| The 4th Group had an interesting background. At
about the same time the 3rd Combat Cargo Group was activated and sent to the fighting in
and around Imphal India, the 4th Combat Cargo Group was also activated and directed to
begin it's training program. The Group was officially activated June 13, 1944, at
Syracuse AAB in New York. Similar to the 1st Combat Cargo Group and 2nd Combat
Cargo Group, the 4th Combat Cargo Group was enrolled in the training program of the 1st
Troop Carrier Command. On June 14, 1944 each of the 4th Combat Cargo Groups,
Squadrons was assigned an individual Airdrome Squadron. These Airdrome
Squadrons had actually been activated on May 10, 1944 and had been under a training regime
with the 2nd Combat Cargo Group. The 13th Combat Cargo Squadron received the 348th
Airdrome Squadron; the 14th Combat Cargo Squadron the 349th Airdrome Squadron; the
15th Combat Cargo Squadron claimed the 350th Airdrome Squadron, and the 16th Combat Cargo
Squadron fell heir to the 351st Airdrome Squadron. This early joining of each Combat
Cargo Squadron with its own Airdrome Squadron avoided many of the problems that the
3rd Combat Cargo Group had in its early days in the CBI. The newly formed 4th
Combat Cargo Group and its four Squadrons were attached to the 2nd Combat Cargo Group
during their training.
Lt. Col. Stuart Baird was the commanding officer of the 4th Group. His combined flying Echelon and Airdrome Squadrons were authorized 370 officers and 1,128 enlisted men. The airplane assigned to the unit was the Douglas C-47-A. Colonel Bairds Squadron Commanders were Maj. Lucian Rochte, 13th Squadron; Maj. Edwin Hatch, 14th Squadron; Maj. Thomas Fields 15th Squadron; and Capt. Leslie Bray, Jr., 16th Squadron. The Airdrome Squadrons were commanded by Maj. David Grossner, 348th ADS; Maj. George Cox, 349th ADS; Maj. Robert Franey, 350th ADS; and Maj. Jacob Holcomb, the 351st ADS. The 4th Combat Cargo Group enjoyed all of the privileges and training facilities of the Troop Carrier Command at Syracuse. The 4th Combat Cargo Group stayed at Syracuse for eight weeks flying C-47s. These weeks were not without problems. In July there were two crashes of C-47s that cost the lives of seven men all from the 14th Combat Cargo Squadron. Except for the accidents, the training program, like that of the 2nd Combat Cargo Group went well. After eight weeks at Syracuse NY., the entire 4th Combat Cargo Group was transferred to Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ten days before this transfer to Bowman Field, Gen. Hap Arnold informed Colonel Baird that the 4th Combat Cargo Group would be trading in their C-47s for new Curtiss C-46s. From this point on, the main effort of the 4th Combat Cargo Group flying echelon and the Airdrome Squadrons was directed at learning about the new, larger, faster Curtiss airplane. To help in this transition, the ATC (Air Transport Command) sent a mobile training unit from New York to help the Flight Engineers and Airdrome Squadron mechanics. In addition twenty-four ATC pilots from Reno arrived to act as Flight Instructors and help check out the pilots and crews in the new airplane. A civilian staff from Curtiss-Wright, in Buffalo, NY., was also added to the program to demonstrate the capabilities of the airplane. At the end of three weeks, each pilot had at least eight hours dual instruction and was checked out. The Group moved to Kentucky and where their rigorous training continued. There were minor accidents such as gear-up landings due to hydraulic system failure and some taxi accidents but no fatalities. One man was killed by lightning while trying to cover an exposed engine on a C-46 during a severe thunderstorm.
While at Bowman Field the pilots of the 4th Combat Cargo Group were aquatinted with the art of towing gliders. This training would come in handy very early on as they arrived in the CBI. The 4th Combat Cargo Group Pilots and Co-pilots also brushed up on their instrument flying. Valuable training for the Theater of Operations they soon would be flying.
Training for the 4th Combat Cargo Group was well programmed and carried out according to plan. When their training ended on September 26, 1944, the 4th Combat Cargo Group pilots averaged 118:35 hours each in the Douglas C-47 and an average of 114 hours in the Curtiss C-46. Each pilot also had an average of 50:25 hours instrument training. Flight Engineers, under the Crew Chief Specialist Program, averaged 245:40 hours on the C-47 program and an average of 303:35 hours under the C-46 program.
The result of this intensive training program, plus selective culling of unqualified personnel, was a highly-trained group of both Officers and Enlisted men, who made up the 4th Combat Cargo Group. On October 14, 1944 orders were cut directing the 4th Combat Cargo Group and its Airdrome Squadrons to Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana, which was the overseas staging area. The 4th Combat Cargo Group began its move on November 6, 1944 and it was completed on the November 9 ,1944
The 4th Combat Cargo Group was only at Baer Field for a few days when orders were issued for the Groups immediate departure to Asia on November 12, 1944. The 4th Combat Cargo Groups overseas trip followed the same route as that of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group. At Borinquin Field in Puerto Rico, one of the crews had a taxi accident resulting in a damaged airplane wing. This C-46 was deleted from the inventory. A C-46 from the 13th Squadron crashed at Kano, Nigeria, resulting in another aircraft loss. No injuries occurred in either of these accidents. The flight of C-46s continued and after crossing Africa, they eventually reached Aden. On the morning of the November 26, 1944 one of the 4ths planes crashed on takeoff resulting in five crew members killed and nine passengers injured. There were no more accidents en route and two days later the entire Group reached Karachi. Here, the Group rested for two days, doing 50-hour inspections and repairing minor damages to the aircraft. Departing Karachi most of the Groups planes towed gliders. The long trip across the Indian Desert, stopping for a short time at Agra the site of the Taj Mahal eventually came to an end. Some of these gliders were released at Ondal. While the remainder of the Gliders were towed on to Sylhet, the 4th Combat Cargo Groups new home, for a while. On December 1, 1944 the 4th Combat Cargo Group and it's 97 C-46s had arrived in Theater and were ready for Combat Operations.
This short History of the 4th Combat Cargo Group, 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 1st 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.
Bill Bielauskas Part 1 rev 2. 3/05/99
IT BEGAN AT IMPHAL, The Combat Cargo Story, John G. Martin, DMV, 1988
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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)
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