Valentine’s Day, 1944, found the men of the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma.  It was at Will Rogers that the unit began its relationship with the Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning, the unarmed reconnaissance version of the famous P-38 fighter.  The Lockheed F-5 was the squadron’s primary aircraft in combat reconnaissance operations in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater.

The squadron arrived at Will Rogers on February 5, 1944 after completing its first phase of training in preparation for overseas movement (POM) to the combat theater at Gainesville Army Air Field, Texas.  The second phase of POM training was accomplished at Will Rogers.

Wartime Postcard from Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma (Courtesy allposters.com)

Wartime Postcard from Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma (Courtesy allposters.com)

At the start of the month there were 46 officers and 307 enlisted men assigned to the squadron.  During February, more transfers of men occurred, but not as heavy as in December, 1943, and January, 1944.  Mostly it appears that the transfers were medical related, hernias, etc, that medically disqualified some men from going overseas, and valuable training time was lost in processing replacements.  By the end of the month, the roster carried 48 officers and 299 men, very close to the 50 officers and 297 men authorized for a photo recon squadron.

All of the pilots in the squadron were attached to the 7th Photo Recon Squadron (7th Space Operations Squadron today) of the 2nd Photo Group, Recon, for the purpose of transition into the Lockheed Lightning and for training (all except for the squadron commander and operations officer had been attached since Jan 5, 1944).

The first P-38 Lightning was assigned to the squadron on 25 February, 1944, followed by four more of various types, none of them flyable.  (Note:  The squadron’s history does not perhaps definitively indicate whether these were actually P-38 or F-5 versions of the Lightning).  They served as familiarization training aids for the line/aircraft maintenance personnel.

A Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning in the foreground contrasts with the P-38 Lightning in the background, in this 1943 picture.  (Courtesy IL2 Paint Schemes Forum)

A Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning in the foreground contrasts with the P-38 Lightning in the background, in this 1943 picture. (Courtesy IL2 Paint Schemes Forum)

And so it was, Valentine’s Day, 1944, found the Redhawks in the middle of their second phase of POM training.  Their next significant event was the squadron bivouac slated for Gainesville, Texas, beginning on March 3, 1944.

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