Harvest of the Grim Reapers
Vol I: The Illustrated History of the 27th and 3rd Bomb Groups Prewar and During the Early Years of World War II (1939-September 1943)
by Lawrence J. Hickey, Edward Rogers and Matthew Zepelin with Osamu Tagaya
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Lawrence J. Hickey encountered a huge dilemma in the creation of the last history about the low-level B-25 units of the Southwest Pacific Theater: the unit had such an important history and so many incredible photos were discovered during the extensive research conducted for this volume, that it became necessary to split it into two 400-500 page works. Furthermore, the history of the 27th Bomb Group, originally formed from the 3rd Bomb Group with A-24 dive-bombers, preceded the unit overseas and was destroyed during the Japanese attack on the Philippines during December 1941. Although without assigned aircraft, most of the 27th pilots and aircrews escaped the fate of the ground crews, who were imprisoned by the Japanese, and made it to Australia where one squadron fought briefly in the Netherlands East Indies before being withdrawn again to Australia. The survivors were subsequently folded into the newly arriving 3rd Bomb Group that landed in Australia with no flyable aircraft.
With a two-volume work, IHRA will be able to incorporate the brief combat history of the 27th Bomb Group into Volume 1 of the 3rd Bomb Group history so that the former unit’s extraordinary story can also be told. However, to complicate matters enormously, two factors made researching Volume 1 of the 3rd Bomb Group story particularly difficult. First, the chaos of early air operations in the Southwest Pacific provided very poor documentation of these early days. To make matters worse, the B-25 carrying the Adjutant and the unit’s records vanished over the Coral Sea in January of 1943. Nevertheless, in no small measure due to the incredible persistence of the IHRA research team, interviews, personal diaries, logbooks, letters and other sources have been found to replace the missing records. IHRA can now tell the incredible “lost” story of these important American air units during the early months of World War II.
The 3rd Bomb Group flew a hodge-podge of aircraft during its early operations, including the B-25, the A-24 and the A-20, being the first American air unit to equip with the latter type and fly it in combat. In order to have enough aircraft to conduct operations, two squadrons took charge of a shipment of B-25s that had originally been sold to the Dutch for use in the Netherlands East Indies. Volume 1 covers these events through the eventual equipment with three squadrons of B-25s and one of A-20s. By early 1943, the 3rd Bomb Group was converting its aircraft to low-level attack strafers on a model developed by the legendary and early unit member Maj. Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn, and this strafer concept was employed in March 1943 with devastating effectiveness in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. The story covers all the important targets and campaigns in Papua New Guinea through September 1943, including the devastating attacks by the 3rd Bomb Group strafers on the Japanese 4th Air Army on the ground at the Wewak airfields during mid-August 1943.
This two-volume installment will be Volumes 6 and 7 of the Eagles Over the Pacific series and will contain all of the color sections, 76 color aircraft profiles, including detailed enlargements seen in other recent volumes, and all of the maps and appendices our readers have come to expect from an IHRA publication. Information on Volume II can be found here.