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VMB-611 Squadron Insignia

Marine Bombing Squadron Six-Eleven

 

SQUADRON CHRONOLOGY

This section provides a complete unit history of Marine Bombing Squadron Six-Thirteen from its commissioning on October 1, 1943 through its decommissioning on November 30, 1945.  A unit chronology is provided below. 

October 1, 1943: Marine Bombing Squadron Six-Eleven is commissioned and organized at MCAS Cherry Point, NC as a PBJ-1 (B-25 Mitchell) Marine Bombing Squadron assigned to MAG-61.  Captain Prescott D. Fagan assumes command.

October-December 1943:  The assembly of officer and enlisted personnel for flight/ground crews is started; Lieutenant Colonel George A. Sarles assumes command of VMB 611 on November 16, 1943. Training for the flight crews in the PBJ-1 commences.

January 8, 1944: A complement of 180 flight crewmen and 300 ground crewmen report to Page Field, MCAS Parris Island, SC.  Flight crew training includes formation flying, bombing, low-level attacks, night flying, and night navigation.

February and July 1944: The squadron receives training at NAS Boca Chica, FL.  The training syllabus includes the employment and tactics in the use of torpedo and depth charges.

August 5, 1944: The squadron departs MCAS Page Field at Parris Island, SC in two echelons. One-half of the flight echelon and 14 PBJs, led by Lieutenant Colonel Sarles departs Page Field for NAS North Island, San Diego, CA, arriving on August 7, 1944.  The remaining half of the flight echelon and the ground echelon, under the command of Major Robert R. Davis, depart Port Royal, SC by train for MCAD Miramar, San Diego, CA.

August 24, 1944: One-half of VMB 611's flight crews, led by Lieutenant Colonel Sarles and their 14 PBJs embark aboard the escort carrier USS Manila Bay (CVE-61), then depart for Pearl Harbor.

August 31, 1944: Lieutenant Colonel Sarles' section of the flight echelon arrives at Pearl Harbor and offloads their aircraft at NAS Barbers Point.  At NAS Barbers Point, Loran receivers are installed along with 5-inch HVAR rocket launchers at the hard-points under the aircraft's wings. The PBJs then are then flown to MCAS Ewa where the pilots begin training in the use of their new equipment and weapons.

September 26, 1944: The remaining half of VMB 611's flight echelon and the entire ground echelon comprised of 36 officers and 416 enlisted men, join 240 sailors of the Navy's ACORN 34 and embark at Port Hueneme, CA aboard the SS Zoella Lykes.

October 2, 1944:  The SS Zoella Lykes arrives at Pearl Harbor.

October 9, 1944: The captain of the Zoella Lykes, some say without the proper orders, joins a convoy departing Pearl Harbor and simply vanishes into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean with the members of VMB-611 and ACORN 34 aboard.

October 22, 1944: Having received orders to join MAG-61 on Emirau Island, Lieutenant Colonel Sarles and his section of the flight echelon depart Hawaii in their PBJs for the long flight to Emirau.  The flight is routed with stops at Palmyra; Canton; Funafuti; Espiritu Santo; and Munda.

October 26, 1944:  While making an emergency landing at Turtle Bay on Espiritu Santo, MB-13 (BuNo 35152), piloted by First Lieutenant Robert P. Clarke, is destroyed when the aircraft runs off the end of the runway.

October 27, 1944: Lieutenant Colonel Sarles' section of the flight echelon arrives at Emirau.  The enlisted members of the accompanying flight crews are organized to perform necessary aircraft maintenance.  Lieutenant Colonel Sarles then initiates an unsuccessful search for the SS Zoella Lykes with the intent to have her re-routed to Emirau.

November 17-18, 1944: With only one-half of his flight crews, Lieutenant Colonel Sarles reports that VMB-611 is ready to commence combat operations.  VMB-611 makes its first strike late on the evening of November 17a night heckling mission over Kavieng.

December 1, 1944: Two aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 3).

December 5, 1944: Four aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 5).

December 16, 1944: Two aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 9).

Mid-December 1944:  Lieutenant Colonel Sarles learns that the SS Zoella Lykes has been located at Ulithi Atoll.  Flying to Ulithi, he arranges for his PBJs to retrieve the flight crews aboard the Zoella Lykes and fly them back to Emirau.  Unfortunately, the long-suffering ground echelon of 380 men must stay aboard and will continue their slow voyage until February 1945.

January 17, 1945:  VMB 611 suffers its first "war zone" casualties at Emirau.  While flying PBJ-1D "MB-5" on a night training flight and trying to land in bad weather, First Lieutenant Charles H. Lawrence's aircraft crashes into the jungle on approach. First Lieutenant Lawrence and four crewmembers are killed in the ensuing crash.

February 7, 1945: Having been at sea for five hellish months sailing via Hawaii, Eniwetok, Truk, Ulithi, Peleliu, and Leyte, the SS Zoella Lykes finally drops anchor at Lingayen Gulf. The sailors of ACORN 34 quickly disembark for their assignment at Clark Field, however VMB-611's ground echelon is not permitted to disembark until proper orders are received.

February 14, 1944: Two aircraft flew a low-altitude strafing attack against Pangalat Plantation to Lamernewi Point, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 16).  Four aircraft flew a low-altitude strafing attack from Kaut Bay to Sicacui Plantation, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 17).  Four aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 18).

February 17, 1945:  Orders are finally received and the ground echelon disembarks from the SS Zoella Lykes. The ground echelon then embarks aboard LST-67 and LST-68 and sails south for Mindoro, only two days away.  Five aircraft flew a low-altitude strafing attack from Balus Plantation to Cape Lemeris, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 19).  Four aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng (Aircraft Action Report 20).

February 18, 1945: Two aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 21).

February 19, 1945: Four aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 23).

February 22, 1945: Four aircraft flew a low-altitude bombing mission against islands between New Ireland and New Hanover (Aircraft Action Report 25).  Four aircraft flew a low-altitude strafing and bombing mission against islands between New Ireland and New Hanover (Aircraft Action Report 26).

February 23, 1945: Six aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 27).

February 24, 1945: Four aircraft flew a low-altitude strafing and bombing mission against islands between New Ireland and New Hanover (Aircraft Action Report 28).

February 26, 1945: Six aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 30).

February 28, 1945: Five aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 32).

March 1, 1945: Four aircraft flew a night heckling mission against Kavieng, New Ireland (Aircraft Action Report 33).

March 15, 1945:  380 members of VMB 611's ground echelon board LST-579 at Mindoro and set sail for Moret Field outside Zamboanga City, Mindanao.

March 17-18, 1945:  VMB-611's ground echelon arrive at Moret Field, disembark, and commence working on their bivouac area.

March 29-30, 1945:  VMB 611 crews fly numerous missions from Emirau with other VMBs, including strikes on Japanese targets at Rabaul, Kavieng, and Vunakanau.  With orders to join MAG-32, Marine Air Groups Zamboanga (MAGSZAM), Lieutenant Colonel Sarles and VMB 611 flight echelon depart Emirau for Moret Field, Zamboanga, Mindanao, Philippine Islands, arriving March 30, 1945.

March 31, 1945:  Lieutenant Colonel Sarles leads VMB 611's first combat strike from Moret Fielda four-plane night bombing attack on Bongao Island.

April 1945:  Moret Field:  With VMB 611's primary mission to support ground elements of the Eighth Army, the squadron’s initial operations are against Japanese forces in the Sulu Archipelago. Numerous day and night combat strikes are conducted on both Bongao Island and Jolo Island. The next offense began on Mindanao itself, with strikes including Cagayn and Malabang. VMB 611’s close ground support helps in capturing Malabang Airfield from the Japanese. Combat strikes continue, including Maramag and the region known as Del Monte. Missions also consist of day/night PT boat support in Davao Gulf.

May 1945:  During May, VMB 611 made medium and low level bomb, rocket, and machine gun strikes against Japanese forces at Del Monte, Tagaloan Airfield, Dalwangan, Tupi, Davao City, Piso Point, and the Kibawe Trail between Kibawe and Davao.  During April and May, VMB 611 flew 173 sorties, dropped approximately 245 tons of bombs, fired 800 rockets, and used a considerable amount of .50 caliber machine gun ammunition.

May 2, 1945:  VMB 611 suffers its second war zone causalities on a strike near Del Monte airstrip. Flying PBJ-1D "MB-8", First Lieutenant Robert B. Mason's aircraft is hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire. The crash kills First Lieutenant Mason and seven crewmembers, including two ground crew passengers aboard the flight.

May 30, 1945:  VMB-611 suffers crippling loses in sweeps of the Kibawe Trail.  That day the first pair of PBJs made their strikes at 0800. The second pair, led by Lieutenant Colonel Sarles, followed two hours later.  While flying PBJ-1D "MB-7", Lieutenant Colonel Sarles flew directly over concealed anti-aircraft positions, and his PBJ took a hit in an engine. Losing power, his aircraft hit a tree and smashed into the ground. Lieutenant Colonel Sarles and three crewmembers are killed in the ensuing crash.  A third pair of PBJs arrived over the area in the afternoon.  Having been advised that Lieutenant Colonel Sarles' PBJ is missing, both pilots commence a search of the area with negative results. This flight then begins making runs on their respective targets.  During this action, First Lieutenant Doit L. Fish's PBJ-1J "MB-11", disappears, never to be seen again. First Lieutenant Fish and his seven crewmembers, including a passenger, are officially declared Missing in Action on May 30, 1945.  (Aircraft Action Report 131)

June 1, 1945:  Major Robert R. Davis assumes command.

June 1945: Squadron operations from Moret Field see a change in missions.  Flight to Borneo are conducted to harass the Japanese prior to the Australian landings at Brunei Bay. Additionally, VMB-611's PBJs fly navigational escort for fighters of MAG-14 to Okinawa.  Following the landings at on Borneo, VMB-611 resumes missions in support of ground troops in the Philippines.  By mid-June, the first replacement crews begin to arrive and combat veteran pilots, radiomen, and gunners start to pack up for their return to the States. However, bombardier-navigators remain as there are no replacements for these men.  During the month, VMB-611 flies 98 sorties, with about half being reconnaissance missions, and the rest split between night bombing and formation daylight attacks.  Large formation strikes are flown at the end of the month as indoctrination for the newly arrived crews.

June 19, 1945: While leading a strike against Japanese positions north of Sarngani Bay, Major Robert R. Davis' aircraft is hit by anti-aircraft fire on his bomb run.  Losing an engine and with the aircraft on fire, Major Davis makes a successful crash landing in a field.  All six crewmembers suffer varying degree of injuries and burns, with Maj. Davis' being severe.  Despite their injuries, all were able to exit the aircraft and escape to the coast. The next morning they are spotted by SBDs who alert a PBY and subsequently rescued.  The burns of Major Davis and two crewmembers are so severe that they were evacuated to the hospital on Leyte.

Flying in the same group, First Lieutenant Robert A. Griffith's PBJ was also hit by anti-aircraft fire, knocking out one engine.  Unable to maintain altitude, First Lieutenant Griffith heads out to sea and prepares to ditch.  The aircraft hits the sea about a mile offshore in Sarangani Bay, sinking just minutes after ditching.  First Lieutenant Griffith and three crewmembers failed to escape the aircraft and went down with the PBJ.

June 20, 1945: Major David Horne assumes command of VMB-611.

July 1945: With MAGSZAM's operations winding down on Mindanao during July the squadron's missions consisted of dropping leaflets urging the surviving Japanese to surrender, night heckling missions, weather flights, and transport and ferry flights.

August 10, 1945:  Captured Japanese Army Lieutenant Minoru Wada voluntarily guides aircraft of VMB-611 and VMF-115 to the headquarters of General Harada's 100th Division located in the mountains near Kibawe-Talomo Trail in Mindanao’s Davao area.  Pinpointing the location, Lieutenant Wada watched from the radio-gunner's station of the lead PBJ as the pilots pounded the headquarters and billet areas with fragmentation bombs, napalm, rockets, and heavy machine gun fire.

August 14, 1945: All offensive operations against the Japanese cease, however security patrols continue.

August 15, 1945: V-J Day.

September 2, 1945: President Truman declares the war officially ended following the Japanese government's signing of the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.

October 21, 1945 VMB-611's PBJs departed Moret Field for Okinawa.  The trip took two days with a stopover in northern Luzon.  On Okinawa, VMB-611's was assigned to provide navigational escort for F4Us and SBDs bound for Shanghai, China.  Since the assignment was to be a temporary one, most of the ground echelon remained at Zamboanga where the squadron's gear was packed and loaded aboard the USS Gallatin (APA-169).  Those that did go to Okinawa were charged with ensuring proper maintenance and refueling of the aircraft between flights.

October 30, 1945:  Following their navigational escort missions from Okinawa, VMB-611's aircraft return to Zamboanga.

November 3, 1945:  Flight crews of VMB-611 depart Moret Field for the last time in their aircraft.  With fueling stops at Peleliu, Guam, Eniwetok, Wake, and Midway, the aircraft and their crews arrived at MCAS Ewa on November 8, 1945.  At Ewa, the squadron’s aircraft were turned-in and unceremoniously dumped into the ocean.

November 8, 1945:  VMB-611's ground echelon embarks aboard the USS Gallatin at Zamboanga, bound for the United States via Malabang and Pearl Harbor.

November 30, 1945: The USS Gallatin arrives at San Diego, CA and those aboard disembark.  Marine Bombing Squadron Six-Eleven is decommissioned the same day at MCAD Miramar, CA.

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