Saturday, February 27, 2016

12) Permanent Assignment and Voyage to the South Pacific

From March 9, 1943 to Sept 13, 1943 I have no saved letters.

Jack’s grandfather, Clarence Merriman, died on April 5, 1943. I know that Jack had not been sent overseas at that time and was allowed a short leave to come back to Louisville for the funeral. I assume he was still stationed in California at the time, perhaps still at Hammer Field.

Sometime between early April of 1943 and the next letter dated Sept. 13, 1943 he was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron (The Flying Knights) of the 49th Fighter Group in the 5th Army, and sent to the South Pacific. He told me that the sea voyage across the Pacific from California was horrendous. He was seasick for most of the time and ended up sleeping in a jeep on deck (I assume for the fresh air) for much of the voyage. The trip probably took between 20 to 40 days.

Jack was assigned to the supply department of the 9th squadron and by the end of the war had the rank of Sergeant.

Logo of the "Flying Knights"

  1. The 9th Fighter Squadron was activated as the 9th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) on 15 January 1941 at Selfridge Field, Michigan. Redesignated as the 9th Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942, the unit saw combat throughout the Southwest Pacific campaign during World War II, earning four Distinguished Unit Citations and two Presidential Unit Citations during the war.
  2. The 9th Squadron had the distinction of being the first Air Force unit to land and operate from the Philippine Islands following the Japanese occupation of that country, and was selected as the Honor Guard at the start of the occupation of Japan. Fourteen aces served with the 9th during WWII, including Major Richard Bong, the top American ace of the war.
  3. Clarence E. Merriman (1872-1943)-- Jack's beloved grandfather had engaged in several business ventures in Louisville, KY including: The Central Furniture Company and the Phoenix Cafeteria.  He owned a number of properties in Louisville, which after his death were managed by his daughters Avery (Jack's mom) and Lillian (Jack's aunt).  After the war Jack joined his mother and aunt in business, and for the rest of his life was in partnership with them, managing the properties and also building and remodeling homes. It is clear that Jack's Merriman grandparents were a very stabilizing presence for Jack, who grew up in a family in which the alcohol addictions  of his parents took its toll.
The Courier Journal- Tuesday, April 6, 1943

Clarence E. Merriman

These photos of Jack were likely taken during the short leave he was granted in April 1943, to attend his beloved grandfather's funeral in Louisville, KY.

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