As the campaign against Japan in China continued, the aircraft of the Redhawks required regular care and attention before and after every mission. In addition to the usual aircraft maintenance activities performed on the flightline, there was also aircraft maintenance which was performed on a programmed periodic basis. Since the war in the China-Burma-India Theater was an economy effort in a worldwide war, the men of the 35PRS had to do their best to make their machines last at the end of a long supply line, and abide by the programmed schedules for this periodic maintenance.

USAAF ground crews accomplished various levels of inspection on aircraft after they were flown for 25 hours, 50 hours and 100 hours, and accomplished any repair work required to return the aircraft to an operational status. According to one reference, a typical action item on a 100-hour inspection was to check the landing gear: “…one of the many inspections called out by the tech order was to “swing the landing gear.” This required jacking up the four-ton bird so as to send the main gear and the nose gear through the raising and lowering cycle to check operation, smooth closing of the covering surfaces with gear up, check warning lights for UP and DOWN positions, proper locking, etc.”

An aircraft’s powerplant(s) also required periodic maintenance. This quoted reference indicated that “An engine that had accumulated 500 hours of flight time had to be removed and sent to the depot for overhaul.”

An F-5 undergoes an engine change in the South West Pacific Area, this example belonging to the 8th Photo Recon Squadron, part of Fifth Air Force (Courtesy Worldwarphotos.info)

An F-5 undergoes an engine change in the South West Pacific Area, this example belonging to the 8th Photo Recon Squadron, part of Fifth Air Force (Courtesy Worldwarphotos.info)

As aircraft from the outlying flights of the squadron periodically cycled back to Chanyi for 100-hour inspections, maintenance men, or engineering, as maintenance was known then, went over the aircraft in detail to accomplish the pertinent technical order tasks.

Let us take a look at F-5E # 812, which in January 1945 was with H Flight at Suichwan. On 12 January, 1st Lt. Estal W. Behrens took off at 1040 and flew the ship on a ferrying flight across enemy lines and some 670 miles to reach Chanyi by 1440 hours for the aircraft’s 100-hour inspection. Behrens stayed at Chanyi until 17 January, when he flew back to Suichwan in F-5E # 805.

Ground crew members of the 459th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the "Twin Dragon Squadron", working on a Lockheed P-38 at an air base in Chittagong, India - January 1945.  (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Ground crew members of the 459th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the “Twin Dragon Squadron”, working on a Lockheed P-38 at an air base in Chittagong, India – January 1945. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

By 18 January, the inspection was completed, and the aircraft was reassigned to E Flight at Chihkiang. On this day 2nd Lt. Robert C. Nelson flew the aircraft from Chihkiang at 0830 on a Tri-Met mission. Unfortunately, the aircraft experienced an engine failure – his right engine was missing while over Po Yang Hu Lake, and the left engine (liquid-cooled) was leaking coolant, a bad thing for a liquid cooled engine. Not reaching the target area, near Wuchang he decided to return to a friendly field and recovered safely at # 812’s former home at Suichwan, as it turned out. One wonders what kind of feedback went back to Chanyi after this sortie.

H Flight maintenance crews at Suichwan serviced and successfully repaired # 812 – perhaps they were familiar with how she liked to be treated. Lt. Nelson flew her out the next day, 19 January, on a Tri-Met photo mission of another area, taking off at 1400. Unfortunately, his target area was cloud-covered and the photo recon mission was unsuccessful, but the good news is that # 812 did make it to Chihkiang to safely land by 1550 hours that day. Old 812 would soon be back in the skies for another mission, thanks to the ground crews of the 35PRS.
References

35th PRS Mission Reports for January 1945

Olmsted, Merle, with Bierly, Willard and Deshay, Joseph, “A View From the Flight Line,” online at: http://www.cebudanderson.com/viewfromtheline.htm

Pictures from

P-38 engine change, at: http://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/aircrafts-2-3/p-38-lightning/8th-photo-squadron-f-5-lightning-maintenance/

P-38 maintenance, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_P-38_Lightning

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