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The 345th Bomb Group

The Air Apaches

498th Bomb Squadron "Falcons"

499th Bomb Squadron "Bats outa Hell"

500th Bomb Squadron "Rough Raiders"

501st Bomb Squadron "Black Panthers"

B-25J of the 498th BS, 345th BG, the "Falcon's"

The 345th Bomb Group was activated on November 11, 1942, in Columbia, South Carolina, by Third Air Force order #275, and four squadrons designated 498, 499, 500, 501 assigned to it. The 345th started with 40 officers and 350 enlisted men, commanded by Jarred V. Crabb. Full strength, the 345th would contain 250 officers and 1250 enlisted men. The first two weeks were spent on paperwork and administrative details. The first B-25 arrived in late November, 1942, which enabled the 345th to start training right away. From Columbia they moved to Aiken and then Walterboro, SC. The group was originally trained as a Medium Bomb Squadron, which should have relegated it to bombing enemy targets from 8,000-12,000 feet. However, events in the Pacific were to dramatically change the 345th's missions. In Australia, at a rear base of the Fifth Air Force, Major Paul "Pappy" Gunn was experimenting on B-25's. Gunn removed the bombardier-navigator from the greenhouse nose, covered it with metal plates and mounted eight .50 caliber guns. The B-25 "Strafer" had been born. The strafer was a brilliant weapon for use against enemy airbases and sea power, so vital to the war in the Pacific. The 345th's original destination was England, but on April 6, 1943, these orders were canceled, as Fifth Air Force commander Major General George C. Kenny had come to Washington to plead for more B-25's, backed up by recent strafer successes in the Bismarck Sea. The 345th picked up new aircraft in Savannah (Hunter Field) then back to Walterboro, where names were chosen for the squadrons. The 498th became the "Falcons," the 499th the "Bats outa Hell," the 500th the "Rough Raiders," and the 501st called themselves the "Black Panthers." The group then flew to El Paso, Texas and then on to McClellan. At the end of April, they moved to Hamilton Field north of San Francisco, and on May 1 they made the thirteen hour flight to Hickam and Bellows Fields in Hawaii. From there they flew to Christmas Island (7hours), then some flew to American Somoa while others flew to Canton Island. Then on to Fiji (5hours), New Caledonia (5hours) and then to Australia. By June, 1943, the 345th had moved to Port Moresby, New Guinea and had entered combat.

I WAS THERE

I was there in forty two

Where the mighty B-25 airplanes flew.

The Three Forty Fifth Bomb Group was born

On a cold and frosty November morn.

The crews were training both day and night

All of us youngsters were learning to fight.

We grew in number and strength every, day

And were ready, for battle the first of May.

I was there too in forty three

Crossing the wide pacific, the 345th with me.

The ship grunted and groaned each day and night

To Australia we sailed all ready, to fight.

The first time foreign soil touched our feet

Then North to New Guinea along the Great Barrier Reef.

We made our homes near the two air strips

And started beating hell out of those nasty Nips.

I was there also in Forty Four

After defeating the enemy here we went looking for more.

The USS Nelson and Waite, our home now but not too keen

Took us due North to Leyte in the Philippines.

A sad Christmas we had that year

As we mourned the lose of many friends so dear.

Yet we knew that we must carry on

We did our duty and much further beyond.

I was there in Forty Five

The enemy then had no place to hide.

Our B-25s and the A-Bomb too

Caused them to surrender and pay their dues.

I will never forget the places our B-25s strafed and bombed

Like Salamaua, Rabaul, Wewak, Madang, and Luzon.

Lae, Leyte, Biak, Okinawa, and lots more--

We helped free those people and ended that terrible War.

Yes I was there with all those courageous men

And there was never a doubt that we would win.

We worked and fought for very little pay

And never stopped until that Victorious Day.

Ken Gastgeb

President, 345th BG Reunion Association

A poem circulated at the Norfolk, Virginian Reunion in 1989.