DEPLOYMENT TO THE PACIFIC
On the morning of October 21, 1944 the squadron began the first leg of their deployment overseas, beginning with the departure of the air echelon. All 15 of the squadron's PBJ-1Hs took off from MCAAF Newport, Arkansas, headed for El Paso, Texas. In order to conduct a fuel consumption test during this leg of the flight, each aircraft departed MCAAF Newport at five-minute intervals. Upon arrival at El Paso, the aircraft were refueled and departed for Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Centro, California, and from there to Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, California, arriving on the 22nd of October.
In the late afternoon of October 21st the train that was to carry the ground echelon finally arrived. The squadron formed, marched to, and boarded the train with the well wishes of the people of Newport. The train then proceeded to Marine Corps Air Depot (MCAD) Miramar, California, arriving after a long and monotonous trip in the late evening of October 25th.
While the ground echelon was en-route, the air echelon had made some last minute changes to the aircraft at NAS North Island. The aircraft were then loaded onto the escort carrier USS Tulagi (CVE-72) for shipment overseas. Following a few changes in their personnel roster, the air echelon enjoyed one last liberty in Los Angeles, then boarded the USS Tulagi and departed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on October 30th.
The crossing to Pearl Harbor the was filled with excitement as the USS Tulagi, sailing without escort, took action to evade the Japanese submarine I-12 that had been reported in the area. Arriving at Pearl Harbor, the aircraft were unloaded at Ford Island, then flown to MCAS Ewa. After a few days the aircraft were flown to Naval Air Station (NAS) Barber's Point where rocket rails were installed underneath each wing. While the pilots awaited the arrival of the ground echelon they, spent time in ground school, a land and water survival course, and sight-seeing.
The ground echelon remained at MCAD Miramar for three weeks under the command of Captain Corwin R. Mocine, the squadron intelligence officer. This time was spent in classes, securing and marking all equipment, and enjoying liberty in Los Angeles and San Diego. On the morning of November 22, 1944 the ground echelon, some 500 strong, departed San Diego for Pearl Harbor aboard the U.S. Army Transport (USAT) George W. Julian. The first few days at sea some problems were encountered. First, a violent storm pitched and tossed the ship. Next the Marines learned that, in the tradition of the U.S. Army, they would only receive two meals per day. This problem was solved upon the insistence of three meals per day by the squadron's officer-in-charge, and the use of the squadron's cooks to assist in the ship's galley. Once the transport had joined the convoy the remainder of the trip proceeded smoothly and time passed quickly.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor on Sunday afternoon, December 3rd, some additional changes were made to the air and ground echelons. It was decided that all pilots were to be taken off the USAT Julian in order for them to receive additional training. In their place, all copilots in the air echelon were reassigned to the transport for further movement.
While awaiting the arrival of the ground echelon, all pilots in the air echelon attended the rocket firing course at NAS Kaneohe on November 24th. There, after several days of practice, they became proficient in learning to dive their aircraft at exactly 15 degrees and estimate ranges of 1,500, 1,000, and 500 yards. On December 8th, following the arrival of the ground echelon, all pilots received additional training in survival and resisting interrogation, should they be captured. Major Nevils also used this time practicing coordinated attacks with the aircraft's 75mm cannon and 3.5 inch rockets. The results of this practice indicated that the APG-13A gun director was highly accurate, and that attacks would be very effective against enemy shipping.
With additional training completed, both the air and ground echelons prepared to depart for their destination in the Pacific -- Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands.