air group one

Air Group One is the San Diego Wing of the "Commemorative Air Force"

At the start of WWII, the Army Air Forces created liaison squadrons. These units were equipped with L-Birds, Piper L-4s and Stinson L-5s. These Aircraft were flown by enlisted men known as "Sergeant Pilots" and were also responsible for maintaining their own planes. Typical duties consisted of limited observations, transport, and miscellaneous air task. their operations soon extended beyond that, limited by their daring and ingenuity and the capabilities of their planes, the enlisted pilots who flew these light aircraft were a tough and determined bunch and no challenge was too great for them.

While the liaison squadrons naturally flew a large number of mundane courier missions, other operations included forward route reconnaissance, combat re-supply and casualty evacuation, search and rescue, equipment test and development, air control of fighter-bombers (“horsefly” missions), glider and target towing, dropping surrender leaflets, laying telephone wires, mosquito spraying, and clandestine work for the OSS. Many of these operations took place over enemy territory and under fire. This is only a partial list of the missions flown by liaison squadron pilots, but it gives an idea of their adaptability, flexibility, willingness and authority to attempt any job that needed doing.

From April 1944 through June 1945, the 5th Liaison Squadron alone, flew 33,904 individual sorties for a total of 27,998 hours aloft. In the course of 14 months of extremely hazardous duty, 40 squadron aircraft were destroyed in accidents or by enemy action, but just two pilots were killed in the line of duty. Two others were recorded as MIA and later declared dead. On the plus side of the ledger, over 4,500 casualties that might otherwise have succumbed to disease or injury were successfully evacuated from makeshift jungle airstrips, hundreds of tons of equipment and supplies were delivered where it could have not otherwise been sent, and thousands of passengers of all ranks and nationalities were transported without a single loss. Although the liaison squadrons were relatively short lived, they measured up to the highest of military ideals.

Distinguished and Meritorious Service

The unit decorations awarded to liaison squadrons during WWII include:

2 Presidential Unit Citations

2 Philippine Presidential Unit Citations

3 Distinguished Unit Citations

1 Meritorious Unit Citation

2 Belgian Orders of the Day

2 Belgian Fourragere’s

Individual Liaison Pilot decorations include:

76 Distinguished Flying Crosses with 38 Oak Leaf Clusters

56 Air Medals with 70 Oak Leaf Clusters

3 Silver Stars

3 Bronze Stars

1 Soldiers Medal

Additionally, dozens of Letters of Commendation were issued by high ranking officers in all theaters in recognition and appreciation of the work the intrepid sergeant-pilots performed. 

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