While the Redhawks cooled their heels at Gushkara Airfield, waiting to receive all their authorized Lockheed F-5E aircraft, training, waiting for the orders to move on into China, some members of the squadron pitched in to help out another photo operation at the field.

 
“There (at Gushkara) our mapping section started to work. We worked with the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron.” So recalled Tony Garra, of the 35PRS Photogrammetry Section, as the Airmen of that section pout their technical training to good use.

Emblem of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron (Courtesy Aviation Trivia Blogspot)

Emblem of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron (Courtesy Aviation Trivia Blogspot)

The 24th Combat Mapping Squadron had the mission of conducting photo reconnaissance missions to gather images to be used in the making of maps. Large areas of Asia were poorly mapped, which presented a challenge for military forces fighting the war on what was for many unfamiliar territory.

Computer gaming skin for F-7A "Nosie Rosie" of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron, 8th Photo Recon Group, 10th Air Force. (Courtesy IL 2 Paint Schemes Forum)

Computer gaming skin for F-7A “Nosie Rosie” of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron, 8th Photo Recon Group, 10th Air Force (Courtesy IL 2 Paint Schemes Forum)

The 24th arrived at Gushkara from the States in January, 1944, and in April, 1944, was assigned to the 8th Photo Recon Group. It used the Consolidated F-7A Photo Liberator, a specialized recon variant based on the J-model of the well-known B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. Instead of bombs, the bomb bays were configured for aerial cameras and in-flight photo maintenance work.

Computer gaming skin for F-7A "Rice Pattie Hattie" of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron, 8th Photo Recon Group, 10th Air Force (Courtesy IL 2 Paint Schemes Forum)

Computer gaming skin for F-7A “Rice Pattie Hattie” of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron, 8th Photo Recon Group, 10th Air Force (Courtesy IL 2 Paint Schemes Forum)

“A trimetrogon arrangement of cameras were mounted in the nose (an additional window was fitted in the lower side of the nose for the lateral cameras of the trimetrogon cameras) and a pair of vertical cameras for stereo-photography were fitted in the aft bomb bay (a pair of windows were fitted in the aft bomb bay). The additional windows were the identifying features of the F-7A. The forward bomb bay carried additional fuel tanks while the aft bay was sealed shut to provide a compartment for the camera technicians and environmental systems that kept the cameras and long rolls of film at a constant temperature. Again, like the original F-7 variant, the full defensive armament was retained.”

Computer gaming skin pack for F-7A aircraft, indicating the location of the camera windows on the bottom of the aircraft.  The blue over gray paint was similar (but not identical) to the "PRU blue" used in the ETO and for the same reasons of in-flight camouflage. These are USAAF, not USN planes! F-7A depicted is "Photo Fanny" of the 2nd Combat Mapping Squadron, 6th Photo Recon Group, 5th Air Force (Courtesy IL 2 Paint Scheme Forum)

Computer gaming skin pack for F-7A aircraft, indicating the location of the camera windows on the bottom of the aircraft. The blue over gray paint was similar (but not identical) to the “PRU blue” used in the ETO and for the same reasons of in-flight camouflage. These are USAAF, not USN planes!
F-7A depicted is “Photo Fanny” of the 2nd Combat Mapping Squadron, 6th Photo Recon Group, 5th Air Force. (Courtesy IL 2 Paint Scheme Forum)

The F-7A’s of the 24CMS ranges far and wide in the CBI, photo mapping all airfields in India, supporting the British as they repulsed the Japanese invasion of India in 1944, sending aircraft in detachments into China to image poorly charted areas of China, reaching out over Burma. Apparently some F-7A’s were used as transports to support operations in China, flying the Hump route, which they also photo-mapped on other missions, and several were lost. Some 31 squadron members were lost on operational flights during the war.

The wartime commander of the outfit recalled one of the China stories: “On a routine reconnaissance mission, while photographing the terrain of China from a B-24 bomber during World War II, U.S. Air Corps Col. Harry B. Allen pinpointed the winding Huang Ho (Yellow) River. The discovery took him by surprise. The river had been misplaced. Maps charting that part of China had incorrectly put its position “30 miles from where it should have been,“ recalled Allen, commander of an aerial mapping squadron (the 24CMS).”

An Airman of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron works with reels of images, at Gushkara, Bengal, India in 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Photo Collection)

An Airman of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron works with reels of images, at Gushkara Airfield, Bengal, India in 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Photo Collection)

Although it is unclear what kind of work Tony Garra and the 35PRS Photogrammetry Section helped with, there is no doubt it was important. This work also introduced these Redhawks to the CBI theater, real places with real names, where real people were fighting a real war. Though not at their final destination yet, the squadron was already at war in the CBI.

Men of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron working with image products at Gushkara Airfield, Bengal, India, 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Photo Collection)

Men of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron working with image products at Gushkara Airfield, Bengal, India, 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Photo Collection)

References
“Squadron To Map Out Memories At Reunion,” at: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1987-09-03/news/8703110779_1_allen-troops-map
“The 24th Combat Mapping Squadron: Unsung Heroes of the Pacific War,” at: http://aviationtrivia.blogspot.com/2012/02/24th-combat-mapping-squadron-unsung.html
Duffield, Ginny, “Tuscumbia Man Served In India, China In WWII,” Miller County Autogram Sentinel (Date unknown), at: http://www.millercountymuseum.org/archives/110207.html
Frank Bond, 40PRS, photo collection at the University of Chicago, at: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/images/bond/bond_search.html?quick=gushkara&limit=20&nextpages=1-20
Computer gaming “skin” for “Nosie Rosie”, an F-7A of the 24th Combat Mapping Squadron, 8th Photo Recon Group, 10th Air Force, at: http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/222871-F-7-%28B-24J-Photo-Recon%29-Skins-WIP-Forums
B-24J/F-7A Photo Recon computer gaming skin pack, Pacific/CBI aircraft, at: http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/339851-B-24J-F-7A-Photo-Recon-skin-pack-Forums

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