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Destination Guam

When the air and flight echelons finally arrived at North Field during the closing days of March and the first days of April 1945, they found that the ground echelon men, who had preceded them, had already done a man sized job in setting up a Group area in the midst of what had been a dense jungle.

The S.S. Howell Lykes had docked at Guam on 18 February.  At that time bulldozers were still clearing the spot where the 39th was to set up its operational base.  True, one runway of the flying field was completed, and planes from the 19th and 29th Groups were already flying missions to Japan, but the Headquarters and Squadron areas were little more than camps.

The boys who made up the ground echelon had really worked their tails off to get things in shape so that combat flying could begin as soon as possible after the planes got there.  Quarters were established in small wall tents drawn up in orderly rows along a Squadron street.  Mess tents were in full operation and work was far along on the permanent wooden Squadron mess halls.

The men who got to Guam first were already old residents of West Amugdo, and they had pretty well got over the uneasy feeling that comes with being on an island with several thousand enemy Japs still at large.  Not so for the late arrivals of the air echelon, who for many nights went to bed with unsheathed trench knives close by - ready at any alarm to jump up and defend themselves against the marauding Japs.

Tales abounded about the antics of the fugitive Nipponese who were said to enjoy the GI movies from the shelter of the woods behind the theatre area.

At first the tales were believed by many and they even added a spice of adventure to the idea of the hazard of pacific duty.   But gradually, as days and weeks went by and nobody even caught a glimpse of any Japs, the excitement subsided.  Then, too, every man was so busy in helping to keep the big Superforts flying, there was little time to think about prowling sons of heaven.

With the beginning of combat operations by the 39th Group, its history, obviously, centered around the bombing of Japan.  The only reason for the organization's existence was for this purpose.   Therefore, the record of this activity takes first place in the minds of the recorders of World War II history. But, as every man knows who was there on Guam with the Group, the men on the ground made a vast contribution to the success of the combat operations.

To some of the ground echelon, the fighting end was pretty remote.   To them, things of more routine nature were to be remembered about the 39th.  How we finally moved from the tent area into Quonset huts and the K. D. barracks; how "Lake Hilton" became a menace to safe passage to the PX when then rains came; how each Squadron and the headquarters enlisted men finally got service clubs that were more than adequate; how the projector at the open air theatre always broke down when the villain was hot on the case of the heroine; how deserving men sweated out Pfc. for more than two years and then didn't get it because the TO was full and overflowing; how the water was always out when you wanted to take a shower or brush your teeth; how your uniform was always dirty because there were no laundry facilities; how the men on the line set an all time record for efficient maintenance with the barest of tools and equipment; how everybody sweated the point system, and how they cursed the chow during the frustrating days of waiting to go home.  All of these things and many more are the integral part of the memories that many members of the group will carry as the real story of the 39th.

But history is really the efforts and deeds of the many men and each individual leaves his own imprint on that history.  It lies within his own mind and heart.  There are many histories of the 39th Group as there men in it.  For this reason, the job of historian is difficult, for he can record those things he remembers.  The deeds of many others may be forgotten.

Perhaps, though this account will arouse the interest of others and their stories will come to light.  Only then will a complete and accurate history emerge.

Guam Photos

This page was created on 28 November 2000
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