25th Air Service Group

Hq and Base Services Squadron 35th Air Engineering Sq 578th Air Material Sq

1903rd Ordnance Company Ammunition Avn

Historical Report of this Organization covering the period 28 November to 31 December 1944

The 1903rd Ordnance Company Ammunition (Aviation) was activated 28 November 1942 per Paragraph 1 General Order Number 95, Headquarters Army Air Base, MacDill Field, Florida, dated 28 November 1942.  2nd Lt., Carl Gewinner assumed command with Company Officers including 2nd Lts Beattie, Gauquie, and Birtic.  Technician Fifth Grade Littleton was the only enlisted man.  From the activation date until 19 December 1942, activity in the company consisted of drawing initial issue of organization equipment.

Paragraph 4, Special Order Number 352, Headquarters, Army Air Base MacDill Field transferred the company to the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics, (AAFSAT), Orlando, Florida.  Upon arrival in Orlando, the Company Headquarters was set up in the Ammunition Depot and the men were rationed and quartered with the 12th Aviation Squadron on the Base, until 25 February 1943 when the Company was established in its own squadron area at the entrance to the Ammunition Depot.

On 27 December 1942, a Cadre of twenty-two (22) enlisted men joined the Company from Tampa, Florida.  These men were trained ammunition technicians from Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland.  Paragraph 1 Special Orders Number 1, HQ;AAFSAT, dated 2 January 1943 assigned 2nd Lt Linweed K. Thompson to the company and he assumed command.  The same order transferred Lt. Birtic and Lt. Myers to other organizations in AAFSAT.

The purpose and function of the Ammunition Company was to operate the Ammuntion Depot of AAFSAT which was the original supply point of ammunition for all tactical and training units of the typical Air Force which AAFSAT represented.  The compnay received, stored, classified, maintained, and issued all bombs, small arms ammunition, and pyrotechnics used by those units training at the different bases in Central Florida under AAFSAT.  The Ammunition Depot was not a part of the Air Forces General Depot and acted independently as a fourth echelon of supply.  Ammuniton arrived at the depot via rail or truck and was issued direct to the using units with only the paper work going through the Service Centers.  The Depot maintained a 30 day supply level of training ammunition as well as a reserve stock of "Combat" ammunition.  The initial stockage of combat bombs arrived via Rail 22 April 1943 and the unloading of operation enabled personnel to gain much experience for future operations.  During the unloading, one man ws killed in an accident which involved the shunting of a half loaded car of fin assemblies and fuzes.....

During the year 1943 the company never reached its authorized strength of 180 enlisted men.  Classes were set up in the company for instruction and demonstration in all subjects pertaining to the handling of ammunition and the establishment of an ammunition area.  Subjects extensively covered included: bombs, fuzes, pyrotechnics, small arms ammunition, linking and delinking, bomb handling and fuzing, delivery to plane, comouflage storage and safety charts, camouflage, interior guard duty, and many other allied subjects.  Supply personnel were trained in every phase of paper work involved in the receipt and issue of ammuntion which involved stock record account, shipping tickets, stores slips, bills of lading, locator's system, master magazine record cards, and magazine record cards.  Lt. Handley, Depot Supply Officer was responsible for the training of all supply clerks and introduced many innovations of his own which resulted in a simple soundproof system with all clerks not only proficient in their own jobs but able to fill in in any capacity.  The Depot Office personnel gained much from their actual experience and training in Orlando.  Overseas they were able to set up a sytem of supply on a much larger scale in a minimum of time.  The Motor Pool personnel also received training in the operation of all automotive equipment and a few men were sent through the automotive course given by AAFSAT.  The same emphasis was given the training of Mess personnel and as a result, the company Mess Hall received a letter of commendation from the Base Commander on one occasion and never in any month received a rating of below excellent.

The formal training of personnel plus the knowledge gained from actual operations rounded out the outfit into a closely knitted and well trained Ammunition Company.   Personnel both enlisted and officer were called upon by AAFSAT to aid in special projects involving ammunition set up by the Air Force Board.  Many items of an experimental nature such as new types of pyrotechnics and new bomb handling equipment were tested by the company.   Up until June of 1943 all officers in the company, in addition to their regular duties, served as instructors in the Academic Section of AAFSAT and gave lectures to students on all subjects of a Ordnance nature.

On 17 July 1943 about 40 enlisted men and 2 officers from the company were sent to Fort Pierce, Florida to carry out experiments in the loading of ammunition on all types of landing craft.  This project was done at the request of the Commandant, Ordnance School, APG, Md., for the purpose of establishing a comprehensive procedure for loading and unloading bombs and other ammuniton on landing craft under all imaginable conditions.  To accomplish this, a supply of demolition bombs were sent to Fort Pierce by convoy and the detachment set up a small dump near the beach.  Every type of craft was obtained.  A definate procedure was established and a loading table capacity for each type of craft was obtained.  A Letter of Commendation was sent to the company by the Commandant, Ordnance School, APG Md. for this work.

Life Magazine, in an article on skip bombing photographed all pictures of bombs and their component parts in the Ammunition Depot at Orlando.

The Ammunition Area itself was designed to represent a typical overseas dump and the comany worked with that end in view.  The storage installation in the dump represented every known design and were comouflaged to represent different degrees of cover from hastily construction made form natural materials to the latest issued type.  The dump itself was also used as a demonstration installation for all students prcessed throught he AAFSAT.

The morale of the company was a problem from the first.  Local conditions in the town of Orlando for the recreation of colored troops was poor.  A plan of improvement of the Service Club in town was initiated by the Commanding Officer of the 1903rd and the club was improved considerably.  To counteract this condition outside camp, everything possible was done to make the Company Area as attractive as possible.  The company maintained its own Post Ecxhange, and dayroom.  A pool table was installed in the dayroom as well as an electric sound box.  Both a basket ball court and a boxing ring were constructed and the outfit was fortunate in having a fine clear watered sady lake for a private swimming hole.  Sports were emphasized and were supported with enthusiasm by all members of the company.  At Orlando, the Company basketball team was formed.  The team has remained unbeaten in a period of two years.  Several company parties were given during the year which was highlighted by a formal Ball on Christmas Eve.

On 20 December 1943, the Company received Warning Orders for shipment overseas per Confidential Letter, Headquarters Army Air Forces, Washington D. C., dated 20 December 1943, subject "Warning Orders, 1903rd Ordnance Company Ammunition (Avn)."  Immediately preparations were made to bring all organization equipment up to T/BA, conduct showdown inspections for individual equipment, conduct classes in special subjects pertinent to shipment overseas, and to obtain personnel trained in MOS to bring the company up to authorized strength.  Physical examinations saw the elimination of a few men from the Company but with the exception of the Mess Sergeant and the Personnel Clerk, none of the key non-commisisioned officers were eliminated.  All Preparation for Overseas Movement (POM) regulations were followed to the letter.  Movement Orders were received per Confidential Letter, War Dept., dated 25 December 1943, subject "Movement Orders, Shipment 1524-J."  The order gave 15 January 1944 as readiness date but this was moved up by a later amendment.

On 11 January 1944 2nd Lt Robert Vickery was assigned to the company and on 31 January 1944 2nd Lt George A. Sheckells was assigned to bring the company up to its authorized strength of six officers.  1st Lt Kenneth Hankley left for the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation early in January as advance Supply Agent.  The ammunition stock record of the Depot was turned over to the Commanding Officer of the 1933rd Ordnance Company Ammuntion (Avn) and on 10 February 1944 the Company entrained for Camp Anza, California, per Special Order Number 30, Headquarters AAF Tactical Center, Orlando, Florida, dated 30 January 1944.  Captain Linwood K. Thompson, Commanding Officer was Train Commander.

The Company arrived at Camp Anza on 14 February 1944 at 1800 and departed for the LAPE by train 26 February 1944 at 1700.  The USS Mt. Vernon was boarded the same evening and on the morning of the 27th the ship pulled out of Los Angeles Harbor.

The voyage across the Pacific was uneventful.  Entertainment for the troops consisted of GI shows put on daily under the supervision of the Red Cross.  The Company basketball team continued undefeated by beating the Championship Navy Team on board.  Melbourne, Australia was reached on 14 March 1944 and the ship remained at the dock a little over twenty four hours.  No troops left the ship and the voyage to India was continued.  The Mt. Vernon was in Bombay, India by 31 March 1944.  The Company remained aboard for two nights and a day, debarking from the ship at 0900 2 April 1944.  The outfit proceeded to Camp Worli by truck, arriving there the same day.  At 1800 9 April 1944 the trip by rail was begun across India and the Company arrived at the Army Air Base, Khargapur, India for a permanent change of station at 2300 13 April 1944.

On 14 April 1944 one half the company in charge of Lt Hugo and Lt Vickery were sent on detached service to the Air Base at Chakulia.  The remaining company set up camp the same day, dispersing tents and converting a brick stall into a kitchen.  The only equipment available was the TAT.  Next day, the company was at work unloading bombs from the rail head and storing them in the ammunition area.

The 1903rd was attached to the XX Bomber Command of the 20th Air Force and officially assigned per Secret Letter, War Department, dated 25 August 1944, Subject, "Re-assignment of AAF Units."  The purpose of the Ammuntion Company in the XX Bomber Command (XXBC) was to store and issue ammuntion to all units of that Command.

The Detachment of the Company at Chakulia set up an operational dump for that base in advance of the Service Group which had not yet arrived.  From that base they proceeded to the Base at Dudkindia where they repeated the operation.  On 18 July 1944 they arrived at Charra, India to clean out and ship ammuntion from the dump at that base which had been vacated by all U.S. Troops.  They re-joined the Company on 23 September 1944.

The 1903rd started from scratch at Khargpur with borrowed cranes and begging trucks each day.  The XXBC comprised of Heavy Bombardment Squadrons of B-29's anticipated operations on a heavy scale against Japan.  The Ammunition Area itself was under sonstruction by native labor and only partially completed.  Ghurka guards were installed and the Company maintained gate gaurds and a roving motor patrol 24 hours a day.  A locator system was set up and the ammunition was placed on hard stands and in a building as soon as they were made available.  The area itself is about two miles long by one half mile wide and is designed according to British standards to hold 35,000 tons of explosives.  A rail head in the area was competed in October 1944.  The Company receives all ammuniton form Base Section 2 in Calcutta by rail and ships out ammuntion by rail and truck to four other bases, Chakulia, Dudkundia, Kalaikunda, and Piardoba.  Operational dumps at these bases are maintained by Service Group personnel in conjunction with the Ordnance Sections of the Bomb Squadrons.  At first an operational dump was set up at Khargapur within the area established by the 1903rd.  This operational dump was operated by personnel of the 25th Service Group.  The plan failed due to duplication of effort, difficulties in maintaining accurate records, and storage problems arising from the ammunition of both organizations being stored in the same area.  The 1903rd now issue direct to all units at this base, eliminating the need for any Service Group personnel.  With inadequate equipment and difficulty in obtaining transportation for bombs from the rail head to the area, the company to date has handled approximately fifteen to twenty thousand tons of ammunition.

Lt. George A. Sheckells was transferred to the States on 20 September 1944 per Paragraph 5 Special Order Number 233, Headquarters Base Section Number 2, Services of Supply, China Burma India (CBI) APO 465 c/o Postmaster, New York dated 20 September 1944.  On 20 August 1944 Lt Handley was sent on Detached Service to Headquarters, Air Service Command (ASC) United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), CBI Calcutta for the purpose of supervising the de-linking and regrading of over fifteen million rounds of .50 cal ammunition.  At the present date, he is still engaged at this task.  In Noverber 1944 two detachments of twenty-five enlisted men each were sent on Detached Service to the Northern Air Service Area Command, CBI to aid in the reloading of ammunition for shipment over the Hump.  Also in the month of November the 769th Chemical Depot Company (Aviation) was attached to the Company for quarters and rations.

For the first five months in Kharagpur, the housing conditions of the men including quarters, mess, day room, and recreation were poor.  During the Monsoons they might even be termed miserable.  The mess hall or kitchen was inadequately screened with salvaged mosquito netting as regular issue screening was not available.  The drainage system was poor and the latrines were filled with water constantly by the Monsoons.  Everything possible was done to better this situation as quickly as possible but other construction work on the base had priority.  Outside recreation facilities were negligible.  The Base Theatre was the main source of entertainment as well as baseball and softball.  In September the Company moved to its present location which includes permanent barracks and mess hall, electric lighting system, day room Chapel and Post Exchange.  A Non-Com's Club was formed and was attractively decorated by all the men.  The day room is well furnished and has a large library, radio, writing tables, etc.  The Chapel was fitted through the efforts of the Company Chaplain, Pfc Faison, and the Base Chaplain provided an organ.  Services are held twice on Sunday and Bible classes meet three evenings a week.  Attendance is excellent.  The Company entered a ball club in the Service Group League which made a good showing.  Also the crack basketball team has entered the Base League.  Intra company sports consist of basketball, touch football, ping pong and Sunday hard ball games.  The morale at this date is the highest since the Company has been in India.

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31 December 1944 saw the company operating efficiently from an administrative as well as from an operational standpoint.

 

LINWOOD K. THOMPSON

Captain Ord Dept

Historical Officer