The history of the First Search Attack Group embraces, strictly speaking, a two year period from June 1942 through April of 1944.  But this is primarily a history of technical developments and so to present a lucid picture of its vicissitudinous existence, it is necessary to begin our history months before the official activation and to carry it somewhat beyond the date of inactivation, the latter in order to indicate the effect of Sea Search endeavor upon the conduct of aerial warfare during the closing period of World War II.
        The Group owes its existence to radar, and in the interests of clarification we must speak briefly of the developments leading toward the first electronic equipment installed in Sea Search aircraft.  The idea of location of objects by measuring the time interval between transmission of radio pulse and reception of a signal reflected by the object is not new.  In the twenties this scheme was proposed to measure the height of the Heaviside layer.  Developments in the field of radio location of objects


are so shrouded in secrecy that it is not possible now, nor will it be possible before the conclusion of hostilities, to know to whom the idea first occurred.  But the Englishman Watson-Watt, is recognized as a pioneer in the field and during the Battle of Britain the British had equipment which determined long in advance of their arrival over the island, the source, course, and sometimes even the number of bombers sent against them.
        As the need for lighter airborne equipment became apparent as a weapon against submarines, a great deal of attention was devoted to the short wave field (wave lengths less than 30 cm.).  The imperative need was a generator which would deliver large amounts of power at these wavelengths.  This problem was solved in 1939-40 by the British pulsed magnetron.  From this point on, evolution of airborne radio location equipment, which made possible the ASV* search proceeded with great rapidity.
        In this country, the Radiation Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology along with Columbia University and various commercial research laboratories, notably Bell, all working along parallel lines, developed radar equipment for manufacture on a practical commercial scale.  Many scientists had forsaken more profitable positions in order to
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*  Air to Surface Vessel


employ themselves in this work.  From the army and the navy they had received words of encouragement, but little intelligent assistance or enthusiasm.  The men working in the Radiation Laboratory were frankly disgruntled when in early 1942, having devised a workable ASV set, they were unable to interest the military in its immediate use.  The statements of the laboratory's experts indicate that the interest evinced by some highly placed officers was far outweighed by the nearsighted attitude of the bulk of officers concerned.  This history will point out how difficult it was to sell radar to the Air Forces even after it proved itself.  It can be readily understood then, that these civilian scientists, looked upon in some quarters as brilliant but impracticable theoreticians, had a spot of bother selling it untested.
        The army, though slow, was interested in a routine way.  In February of 1942, ten crews were ordered to San Antonio and thence to M.I.T. for the installation of ASV equipment and education in its use.  From the Fourth Air Force came six crews piloted by Lt. Col. W.C. Dolan, Capt. A.K. Breckenridge, 1st Lt. Leo J. Foster, 1st Lt. John F. Zinn.  From Langley Field came four crews, one pilot unknown, the others 1st Lt. Moensch, 1st Lt. Lolley, 2nd Lt. F.A.V. Hartbrodt.  These crews at San


Antonio picked up B-18As modified to house ASV -- that is to say plastic nose, IFF, cables for installation, etc.
        These crews then proceeded to Boston (Wholly independent of one-another).  Col. Dolan's trip is representative of them all.  He left McChord Field February 17, 1942*, left San Antonio March 8 and was in Boston the next day.  During the five succeeding days he saw things that gave him big ideas.
        He admits that he was a little astounded at the performance of radar equipment as demonstrated for him in the laboratory.  He was immediately enthusiastic which in turn astounded Dr. Bowles and his laboratory associates.  He realized however that success in the laboratory and success in the field are not necessarily one and the same thing.  Strange good fortune gave him an early opportunity to test the latter.
        At supper the evening of April twelfth, he was informed that a navy observation plane was lost some fifty miles at sea.  If the ASV equipment just installed in his aircraft was everything the laboratory men maintained it to be, that plane could be located.  A member of the laboratory staff accompanied the
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*  Per S.O. #22, Hq 42nd Bomb Gp. (M), Seattle Wash., Appendix 1.


Colonel and his crew as they were not yet adept at the use of radar equipment.  Difficulties, the nature of which are no longer remembered, prevented take off before one A.M.  The Colonel estimated the drift of the boat and searched an area well north of the section being searched by navy craft.  About three A.M. the ASV set picked up an indication at twenty miles.  They reached the area but could see nothing visually.  A rising star-shell assured them that they had located the missing craft.  A destroyer was summoned, the crew was saved, and Colonel Dolan was sold on radar.
        Tests were run at New London in conjunction with the navy to determine the ability of a submarine to detect the approach of low flying aircraft.  The results indicated a decided advantage to the ASV equipped plane; the submarines were caught in most instances before they could submerge.
        The original intention had been that each specially equipped plane with its trained crew would return to its old station to carry on searches in that area.  Colonel Dolan contended that such a dispersion of the force so happily brought together at Boston would dissipate its effectiveness.  He proposed that it be operated as a unit from a single base.


        In a room in the Nanger Hotel at North Station in Boston, Colonel Dolan outlined for Dr. Bowles and his associates his ideas for the organization of an outfit to develop tactics and explore the potentialities of airborne radar.  He reasoned that by concentrating the planes at one point the special servicing necessary to the equipment could be more effectively rendered, while the planes could be from time to time detached to strategic points to afford vital protection to shipping.
        On April 15, 1942 the Colonel was in Washington.  A conference was held in General Arnold's office attended by General McClellan and Col. R. G. Breene, then Director of Technical Services.  Colonel Dolan submitted his proposals and it was agreed that the ten planes should operate as a unit.  Langley Field was selected as the base partly because of its strategic situation in regard to submarine activity and partly because of the excellent facilities there for experimentation.  Basic plans were laid for the organisation of the Seasearch - Attack Development Unit and Colonel Dolan was authorized to leave immediately for San Antonio to pick up ten bombsights.  A series of mechanical failures prevented his return to the east coast until April twenty-seventh.
        Meanwhile, the remaining nine crews had obtained their installations and completed their MIT training.  One by one


they were arriving at Langley field where those from the west coast were now assigned* along with four crews originally from that station.  On April twenty-ninth they were attached to the 20th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, the latter under the command of Colonel Darr H. Alkire.  Colonel Dolan took command of the 20th Squadron and began operations under this makeshift arrangement while plans were being completed in Washington for the activation of the new unit.
        During this incubation period, five of the crews were sent to Miami and five to Key West.  This took place May 22.  While they performed anti-submarine operations in the Florida waters, Washington proceeded with the paperwork.  On May 30 a directive for the Director of Technical Services** issued from General Arnold's headquarters calling for the formation of the Seasearch - Attack Development Unit.  It outlined the mission, means, coordination, and liaison for the unit as then envisioned.  The prime mission was stated here to be the development of tactics and techniques in order that the submarine destructive devices known, and those which might be developed, be used to the greatest advantage.
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*    Per So 96, Hq, 4th AF, San Francisco, Calif.: Appendix 2.
**  Appendix 3.


On June 3, as a result of conferences attended by the Commanding General, 1st Air Force; Commanding Officer, 1st Bomber Command; representatives of the Army Air Forces; a Mr. Bundy and Dr. Bowles, a memorandum* was issued over the signature of General Eisenhower, then Assistant Chief of Staff setting forth certain amendments to the original directive to particular regards to coordination and supply.
        June eighth the Adjutant General circulated a letter** constituting HQ, 1st Sea- Search Attack Group (M) and 2nd Sea -Search Attack Sq (M) and ordering their activation at Langley Field by the CG, 1st Air Force.  However the Group was by this letter assigned directly to Army Air Forces rather than to 1st Air Force.  It was felt by most parties concerned that the experimental nature of the Group's employment demanded the simplest channels.  A manning table accompanied this letter as Inclosure 1.***  The same day General Arnold sent a secret message**** to 1st Air Force requesting necessary space and equipment at Langley Field.  On the fifth Colonel Breene had issued an R&R*****
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*          Appendix 4.
**        AC 320.2 (6-6-42) MR-M-F Appendix 5.
***      Also bound in Appendix 5.
****    Paraphrase of this message in Appendix 6.
*****  Appendix 7.


(Routing and Record) to obtain the necessary personnel.
        On June 16, 1942 activation orders were issued.*  These reached Florida the following day and on the nineteenth six of the ten crews returned to Langley Field.  Colonel Dolan at that time flew to Washington to receive preliminary instructions** governing the policy of the new group.  On the twentieth of June the Search, as the outfit was to be commonly called, launched its charge into the unknown realm of radar tactics.  Like those who charged into the Valley of Death, the Search was destined to sustain attack from all angles, even a few pot-shots leveled at its rear.  There is a bromide dealing with the reception of new ideas in established circles.
        The six crews returned from Florida were attached on the twenty-third*** to the Search forming the nucleus of the flying personnel.  Several administrative officers came with them from the 2nd Bomb Group and during the next six weeks about twenty-five more ground officers reported from OCS, Armament Cadets, Communications Cadets, and direct commission sources.
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*     General Orders #24, Air Base Hq, Langley Field.  Appendix 8
**   Appendix 9.
*** Per SO 78, Hq 2nd Bomb Group (H) Langley Field, Va.  Appendix 10


Colonel W.C. Dolan - Commander First Sea Search Attack Group


        Like the cadre of any outfit activated at this critical period, this group of men was notable for little other than its aggregate inexperience.  Colonel Dolan, however, seized upon the bare bones and built on them an efficient, enthusiastic, team-minded organization.  It is undoubtedly true that seasoned commanders throughout the entire army were faced with the same problem of green personnel and were licking it each in his own manner.  Colonel Dolan's manner was perhaps more reasonable and patient the that of less even tempered men.  He could understand mistakes and forgive them freely; he would tolerate any boner once but not twice.  His policies were simple:  get young men, give them a job, and let them do it; never let one staff officer say no to another.
        The Colonel has a direct, thoughtful manner.  His eyes look older than his age, his mouth looks younger, having still the full curves and flexibility of a young man's mouth.  When he knows what to say, he says it fast and nervously.  When he doesn't he thinks it out.  Sometimes he seems to do both at once.  He believes in personal contact and often goes to his subordinates rather than summoning them to him.  He has intense powers of concentration, frequently spending twenty-


four hours at a stretch working at his desk, stopping only for a sandwich and a cup of coffee.  He has a talent for slashing red tape and delegating authority to the right people.  No one has ever seen him snowed-under or down at the mouth.
        The Colonel was educated in Wisconsin, first trained as a pursuit pilot, and commissioned in 1931.  He spent the bulk of his time however in observation with the ground forces.  Out of this work grew a natural interest in tactics with which he has been obsessed ever since.  He worked in the panel system of air-ground liaison for observation.  He was among the first to take up blind flying and flying under the hood.  It saved his life when the army was carrying the mail.  He was assigned for several years as side (pilot) to General H. G. Breeze when the latter was Commanding General of the 8th Corps Area and later when in 1939 he took over the 3rd Army.  The General made him work in every staff section to learn the ropes.  Even CCC.  That was W.C. Dolan's college education in military science.  He came into bombardment not until 1941 and served then in the 4th Air Force.


        As Commanding Officer of the 20th Bomb Squadron, the Colonel had had as his Adjutant 1st  Lt. Bobbie W. Sadler.  He brought Lt. Sadler with him to the Search as Adjutant and later as Executive Officer.  As the Colonel was concerned with tactical work, Lt. Sadler (received Majority 1943) handled the administration of the group.
        For his staff he appointed:
                Adjutant - 2nd Lt. W. I. Bell (Captaincy 1943)
                S-1 - 2nd Lt. Alexander (Captaincy 1943)
                S-2 - Captain Paul A. Stears (Majority 1943)
                S-3 - 1st Lt. Leo J. Foster (Majority 1942)
                S-4 - 2nd Lt. Alton F. Byrant (Captaincy 1943)
all of these officers remained in these positions until the group's inactivation with the exception of Major Poster who took command of a squadron and then went to the Pacific with the Wright Project in August 1943.
        Because of the experimental nature of the work, considerable liaison was necessary.  It was essential that we have certain information from the U. S. Navy in regard to submarines.  Through the Navy and the Army Anti-submarine Command we were able to keep in touch with the tactical situation; the Base


Control Station served as our link here*.  Thus flights over sea areas were coordinated with the Commanding General, Bomber Command exercising general operational control, and through him with the navy.  In experimental projects, we worked hand in hand with the navy research.  Colonel Dolan has this to say of Navy Liaison:  "With the Navy men doing the pick and shovel work out here we got along fine.  Best possible cooperation and understanding.  With the Navy men wrestling desks, it wasn't always so easy.  But the officers out on the line were fine to work with.  The time we came close to bombing one of their destroyers they didn't even show any resentment."
        From the Royal Air Force we received two ASV equipped LB-30s (Liberators) and one British crew (Pilot - Flight Lieutenant Cundy).  This crew was experienced in anti-sub operation and in the use of ASV equipment.  Their combat background was of particular assistance to the Search in tactical planning.
        It was, of course, imperative to maintain close relation to certain civilian organizations.  MIT, Columbia and Bell Laboratories constantly had had men working within the group and making flights in Search aircraft.  The NACA** located at Langley Field was invaluable in its assistance since it provided extensive testing facilities.
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*    A detailed account of this control as it served under the Antisubmarine Command and later as a part of the Search will appear in another chapter of this history.
**  National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics.


        The Search upon activation had the six planes piloted by the crews that had returned from Florida.  The memorandum of June 3* had authorized for the search the first ten B-18s equipped with ASV-10 as they became available from depots.  At this time the shortage of B-18s was not as acute as it was to become, but the ASV equipment was not forth-coming as it was then entirely hand-made at MIT.  It was sometime before Philco was able to manufacture ASV on a commercial scale, so we did not receive ASV equipped planes in any number.  When the crews were detached to the 1st Bomber Command for combat duty off Trinidad on August 15, 1942, we had 10 ASV equipped B-18s.  At no time before or since did we have more than that number**.
        Our supply problem was very difficult at the outset.  We were doing both experimental and tactical work.  The Colonel had preferred that the group be set up as a tactical unit***, so of course we had a tactical Table of Allowances which was wholly inadequate for our needs in research equipment.  Through MM & D and OC & R this problem was in time ironed out and the local supply authorities received a secret letter directing them to supply research equipment over and above the table of allowances****.  It took
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*        Appendix 4.
**      See Appendix 11 for correspondence in reference to obtaining aircraft.
***    It had been envisioned in Washington as the Seasearch Attack Development Unit but in deference to the Colonel's plans was activated the 1st Sea Search Attack Group.
****  This letter cannot be located at time of writing.  It is not known over whose signature it appeared, but probably that of the Director of MM & D.


time to produce this desired situation and thereby slowed up our project developments somewhat.  Much of the property we obtained lost its identity through modification and their was some bickering with over meticulous supply authorities on that score, but that too was ironed out in the course of time.
        The activation orders contained provision for only one squadron, the Second Sea Search, and only one was in operation until December 10, 1942.  This was placed under the command of Captain Francis B. Carlson, (Majority 1942).  His staff was made up of these officers:
                Adjutant - Captain Charles A. Rogers (Majority 1944)
                S-2 - 1st Lt. Virgil Schwarm (Captaincy 1943)
                S-3 - 1st Lt. William K. Walker (transferred 1942)
                S-4 - 1st Lt. McDonald (Discharged 1943)
        Group personnel of course were attached for administrative purposes to this squadron.  When Lt. Walker was transferred in October 1942, Lt. Pohan became Operations Officer and took command on December 10, 1942 holding that position until the inactivation.  1st Lt. John F. Scanlan (Captaincy 1943) then became Operations Officer.  Lts. Nicholas Antonakos (Captaincy 1944) and Lester Lieb succeeded Lt. Askew as S-1.  Lt. Robert L. Breum (Captaincy 1944) succeeded Lt. McDonald as S-4.  This squadron occupied Hangar 532-C.

Click on this text to vew the insignia of the 2nd Sea Search Attack Squadron

        After the Trinidad operations (August - September 1942) it became apparent that our combat duty would be sporadic and infrequent.  Our mission gravitated toward the experimental with the increasing number of projects and the influx of civilian scientists.  Some of these projects called for B-24 testing rather than B-18.  This necessitated an additional squadron.  The Second Sea Search
was medium bombardment.  The new squadron was to be heavy.
        The Third Search Attack Squadron was activated at Langley Field, December 9, 1942 pursuant to authority contained in a letter from the Adjutant General*.  The following day, Captain Leo J. Foster who had been serving as Group Operations Officer assumed command with a cadre of eight officers and thirty enlisted men drawn from the Second Squadron**.  By January 1, 1943, an additional twenty-nine officers and one hundred-eighty enlisted men had been added from the same source.  Captain Foster had received his majority Christmas day.  Operations commenced New Years Day in Hangar 532-E with three RB-18s obtained from the Second Squadron.  The officers reported New Years morning in varying stages of morning after condition to learn of their assignments.  They were these:
                Commanding    Major Leo J. Foster (Transferred 1943)
                Adjutant           2nd Lt. James L. Blackwell (Transferred 1943)
                S-1                  2nd Lt. Wilburn Askew
                S-2                  2nd Lt. Homer A. Beserosky (Transferred 1943)
                S-3                  Captain F.A.V. Hartbrodt (Majority 1943)
                S-4                  2nd Lt. Herbert R. Boshoven (Captaincy 1944)
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*    AG 320.2 (12-5-42) OB-I-AF-M, Subject:  "Constitution and Activation of 3rd Sea Search Attack Squadron (H)."  Appendix 12.
**  Per S.O. #107, 1st SSAG.  Appendix 13.

Click on this text to vew photograps of the nose art on 3rd Sea Search Attack Squadron B-24s

        The Wright Project which was to be the first unit going overseas from the Search was trained within the Third Squadron.  Since Major Foster was included in this project, Captain Hartbrodt assumed command June 2, 1943 and appointed 1st Lt. Robert O. Hickman Operations Officer.  The latter was succeeded shortly thereafter by Captain Donald L. McKay.  On 1 August 1943, 1st Lt. Walter L. Boshoven became Executive Officer in September, Lt. Askew then going to S-4.  This squadron received four B-24s during the winter and operated with about equal numbers of 24s and 18s until the training phase began with the attachment of the Wright Project in June 1943, thereafter operating exclusively with B-24s.
        With the trend of events (that is to say our turning our hands to the training of LAB and H2X*) we no longer had any interests in common with medium bombardment, so on June 24, 1943 the entire group was redesignated heavy and reorganized on that basis July 1, 1943.**
        From this point forward the Search was concerned only with radar training.  Our first LAB project (Wright) departed in August of 1943.  It had been trained in the Third Squadron, but thereafter all LAB training was conducted by the Second Squadron.
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*    LAB - Low altitude (1500') attacks on shipping
      H2X - High altitude (25,000') bombing through the overcast.
**  Appendix 13 contains two letters, AG 322 (24 Jun 43 and 7 Jul 43) in redesignation and the reorganization orders issued by the Group.


As a training outfit our tactical Table of Organization was inadequate to provide sufficient instructors, particularly radar and navigation personnel, so on 7 September 1943 the Adjutant General issued a letter* redesignating the group 1st Sea Search Attack Unit.
        The mission being now training, the Colonel preferred that the unit come under the jurisdiction of the First Air Force.  Direct channels to AAF headquarters were no longer imperative.  Accordingly on 23 September the Adjutant General issued a letter** reassigning the unit.
        It had been apparent for some months that the submarine menace in American waters was no longer so grave a problem that the Navy could not handle it unassisted.  Consequently, the Anti-Submarine Command which had served as an effective stopgap was disbanded 30 September 1943.  The Search benefited by this move.  The overwater Control Station*** continued to function as a part of the Search and was invaluable in our training of LAB crews in overwater search procedure.  The 18th Anti-Submarine Squadron
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*      AG 322 (4 Sep 43) OB-I-AFRPG-M Appendix 14
**    AG 322 (22 Sep 43) OB-I-AFRPG-M Appendix 15
***  Will be dealt with in detail in the Chapter on Training


which had been the OTU for the 25th Wing was reassigned to the Search* and redesignated 4th Sea Search Attack Squadron.  This gave the group the three squadrons necessary to fulfill the training program:  2nd Squadron - LAB crews, 3rd Squadron - B-24 H2X crews, 4th Squadron B-17 H2X crews.  The command and staff of the 4th Squadron at the time of reassignment was:
                Commanding - Major W. Hightower Smith
                Executive - Captain C.W. Groos (Majority 1944)
                S-1 - Captain E.F. Dooley
                S-2 - 1st Lt. G.F. De Fosset
                S-3 - Captain R.B. MacDonald
                S-4 - Lt. H.D. Bradford
No changes were made in the above assignments during the squadron's existence as part of the Search.
        On 29 November 1943, the unit was redesignated 1st Search Attack Group**.  We were used to this sort of thing now and took in stride the loss of the familiar Sea.
        Thenceforward, the Search operated with no exterior changes until the reorganization of the First Air Force on the Base Unit plan.  On 7 April 1944 the Air Force issued General Order Number 43*** inactivating existing groups and squadrons and assigning the Search to the 111th AAF Base Unit (Search Attack and Staging).
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*        SO #30 Hq I Bomb Comd Appendix 17
**      Per GO #12 Hq I Bomb Comd.  Appendix 17
***    Appendix 18.  This includes also SO #17 Hq AAB Langley Field, Va., which assigns Search personnel to the various base sections.  This will serve also as a roster of static personnel of the group at time of inactivation.


Since the activity of all personnel on Langley Field was devoted to the accomplishment of the Search's mission (training LAB and H2X crews), this change had no derogatory effect upon Search operations, on the contrary served to eliminate much red tape and duplication.  Much better coordination of the various sections on the field resulted.  Actually rather than being swallowed by the base, the Search swallowed the base.  The activities of the search continued along their normal course under the new title and augmented by the readier assistance of all base personnel.



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