Originally planned as a single volume, the 38th Bomb Group history project grew to such a size and complexity, and so much exceptional—even amazing—photography was located, that the book was impractical for publication without severely cutting a lot of material that the IHRA team felt was essential to a definitive treatment of the subject. Rather than removing much material from the book, the decision was made to produce the project as a two-volume work. The incredible story of the 38th Bomb Group can now be definitively told.
The 38th Bomb Group was a largely unsung Army Air Force combat group in the Southwest Pacific Theater during the early part of World War II, despite its outstanding record of air combat and production of some of the most famous and spectacular photos ever taken in air combat from the belly cameras of their low-level B-25 strafers. This book covers the Group's formation and training in the States as a B-26 Marauder unit in the hurried buildup of American air power just before World War II, up until its poorly organized deployment to the Pacific that included action during the Battle of Midway. The two squadrons of 38th Bomb Group B-26 Marauders that initially deployed were short-stopped in the South Pacific and came under US Navy command, where their connection with the 38th ended.
The deployment of the two remaining squadrons, the 71st and 405th, was canceled; they stayed in the U.S., converted to the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, retrained, and finally deployed in August 1942 via the Pacific island-hopping route to Australia where they began combat operations out of Port Moresby, New Guinea the following month. The 38th's two squadrons conducted medium altitude bombardment and anti-shipping missions during many of the most important combat operations during the early part of the air war in New Guinea, including the key Battle of the Bismarck Sea in March 1943.
At the end of March, the Group started activating two new squadrons in the theater, thus becoming the test unit for the B-25G, which added a 75mm cannon to its fearsome forward nose armament. Over the following months, the unit converted from medium bombers to low-level strafer attack aircraft and learned its new role against Japanese targets such as Salamaua, Lae and Wewak, helping to devastate many key Japanese positions in eastern New Guinea. During this period, the 38th won its first Distinguished Unit Citation for the Papua Campaign, and one of its pilots won a Medal of Honor during a low-level attack against the Wewak area on August 18, 1943.
Volume I of Saga of the Sun Setters features about 350 pages of thrilling text and appendices, approximately 500 photos, detailed maps showing the location of every base, mission flown, and plane lost by the 38th Bomb Group during its early involvement in WWII. The first installment of Saga of the Sun Setters is Volume 6 in the Eagles Over the Pacific book series.
Read about Volume II.