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This month in Pope History

  • Published
  • By Keith Alexander
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Historian
World War II
The 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was busy from October 1942 to October 1943.
For example, several aircraft from the 43 BG (H) attacked a Japanese convoy on Oct. 2, 1942. That day, Lt. James Murphy set a 15,000 ton vessel on fire, while Capt. Kenneth McCullar started fires on a 20,000 ton ship near Rabaul. 

The following week, the 43 BG (H) sent nine B-17s to strike Rabaul. After the attack, eyewitnesses reported portions of the town were on fire. In the middle of the month, Captain McCullar's crew struck again, sinking a 10,000 ton ship Oct. 15. 

Three days later, the group destroyed "five 4-engine flying boats and eight float planes" in the Faisi Harbor. Maj. William Benn and Captain McCullar used "skip bombing" techniques for the first time in the group's history on Oct. 22, 1942. They dropped down to 250 feet on their run and skipped their bomb into the target, before pulling up to fly over the ship's deck. The Japanese destroyer sank to the bottom of the ocean. 

For the Oct. 30 attack, planes from the 403rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) joined the group. They received credit for sinking "one cargo ship and two destroyers" in Rabaul's harbor. 

A year later, the 43 BG (H) conducted their first wartime daylight bombing raid of Rabaul in October 1943. The group referred to October 1943 as "Bomb Rabaul month." 

Nearly 100 Japanese fighter planes tried stop the Columbus Day attack. Escorted by P-38 fighters, several groups joined the 43 BG (H) for these raids. On Oct. 13, for example, foul weather forced the formation to split, but they still managed to hit the targets with bombs. 

Three days later, the group sent 38 planes against the Vunakanau Drome; however, bad weather forced them to strike the secondary target, Cape Haskins. Nearly a week later, the group targeted Lakunai Drome. Members of the 43 BG (H) described this as "a first class plastering." 

"The target was left with fires burning and smoke palls over the entire area," one member wrote. 

In October 1933, the 2nd Balloon Company was re-designated the 2nd Balloon Squadron on Pope Field. 

From Oct. 2, 1942 through Feb. 1, 1943, the 1st Troop Carrier Squadron trained at Pope Field. 

On Oct. 1, 1954, Lawson AFB was assigned to Pope. This base, which was located near Columbus, Georgia, was transferred to the Department of the Army on Feb. 1, 1955. The 347th Troop Carrier Squadron transferred to Pope on Oct. 8, 1956. This unit served for seven years at Pope. 

On Oct. 25, 1983, C-130 aircraft from the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing participated in Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. During this operation, the 317 TAW dropped American forces into combat. 

Hurricane Andrew relief efforts ended officially on Oct. 25, 1992. Units involved in this operation included the 440th Airlift Wing.