Seventh Air Force has its share of battle scars

  • Published
  • By Gill Robb Wilson
  • Printed in 1945 by the New York Herald Tribune
Announcement has just been made that the Seventh Air Force has been moved forward from Hawaii to become part of Lieutenant General George Kenney's Far East Air Forces. This leaves the false impression that the Seventh has been a rear echelon outfit.
True, the Seventh was created in February 1942, from the old Hawaiian Air Force and has since maintained headquarters in the islands, but these facts are but part of the story. The rest of the story is that the Seventh has ranged 3,000 miles north and south from Midway to the Fijis, and 5,000 miles east and west from Pearl Harbor to the Ryukyus. No land-based air force has ever covered more territory and few have had to average so many hours per mission.
The story of the Seventh cannot be glamorized with figures on bomb tonnages, enemy air forces destroyed, or great cities demolished because its function has been peculiar. Broken into small units for task force purposes, the Seventh has been a boxer rather than a slugger. Its targets usually have been enemy installations on pin-point central Pacific islands and atolls.
When Japan struck Pearl Harbor, the Seventh was hard hit but the following June reciprocated by participating in the battle of Midway which turned the Japanese back in their bid for invasion of Hawaii. In this battle Maj. Gen. Tinker, the famous and beloved leader of the Seventh, lost his life. Following Midway came exacting months of patrol and search. The Japanese was ranging the Pacific.
Then with bases set up at tiny islands, the Seventh began long-range softening of the Gilberts and Marshalls. Some targets we heard about, for their names were synony¬mous with ground action - Tarawa and Kwajalein. The majority of targets never made the news - Nauru, Milli, Jaluit, Moelap, Majuro, Aur and many more. Each mission was a special job. Targets were infinitely small. Weather was unforecastable. Engine failure meant ditching without hope of rescue.
When the Gilberts and Marshalls were taken, the Seventh went after the Carolines, Mighty Truk and its satellites covering more than 30 degrees of longitude were hit with monotonous regularity ever since early in 1944. The Seventh added targets in the Marianas in the spring of 1944. Many of the Carolines targets become familiar names of the reading public. Yap, Woleai, Palau, Ponape, received their share of attention along with Truk.
In the Marianas, targets were more complicated, since Guam and Saipan are sizeable islands. With the Marianas captured, the Seventh turned missions northward to the Volcanoes (Iwo Jima and its surroundings) and the Bonins. In sequence came bomber and fighter operations on an island-wide basis in the Philippines, and eventually components of the Seventh were jabbing at Japan itself.
No air force has used a wider range of aircraft - fighters, medium bombers - than has the Seventh. It has fought and bombed day and night, flown distant reconnaissance, dropped every type of bomb and incendiary, sunk enemy shipping, mined enemy waters and done all the routine and special jobs imaginable. Its personnel have lived lonesomely on isolated dots, had little recognition, and known little except dreary monotony. Several times the Seventh has been scavenged to provide strength for other outfits. Therefore, to leave unchallenged the impression that the Seventh is moving from luscious Hawaii up to join the war is an injustice to the memory of my old friend, "Tink," and the thousands of boys who wear the patch with the star and the numeral 7 sticking down through it.
The Seventh was the first air force to feel the enemy weight and the first to take the toll of the enemy. It has been to the wars steadily longer than any other similar force.