While base life was not dull, the men were there to learn to fly and bomb the enemy. With the arrival of more B-24 Liberators and five control tower operators on 22 June 1942, the fledgling base was prepared to launch training operations although only one of three runways was operable. Furthermore, the control tower did not have a clear view of the three runways and engineers were immediately summoned to tear down the tower and build another.[1]

The Army secured a bombing target range on 27 June 1942 when Clemson University reached an agreement with the War Department to loan 4,096 acres of its Experimental Forest near Lake Issaquena, northwest of Calhoun, South Carolina.[2] The Air Corps developed three ranges on the property: a practice range for high altitude bomb runs and a skip range on Lake Issaquena, where pilots could make low level runs to skip bombs off the water into a target, a tactic used against enemy ships. The third range was apparently never used.  Pilots dropped only 100-pound practice bombs rather than actual explosives.[3]

 The first combat training mission was launched 9 November 1942 when the 472nd Squadron flew to the Union Bombing Range on a simulated combat flight. The bombing missions continued for ten more days after bomber gunners trained to shoot down smaller, faster enemy fighters.[4] Bomber crews used their first live munitions at the Myrtle Beach Range 200 miles southwest of Greenville on the South Carolina coast.[5]

 A special training mission took place 9 February 1945 when eighteen Greenville bombers joined a host of planes from other regional bases in a joint “strike” on the Myrtle Beach Range. Greenville’s planes were selected to lead the attack and the mission was accomplished in record time with outstanding success.[6]

As the Allied forces closed in on Berlin, the demand for trained bomber crews increased. March 1945 was remarkably busy for GAAB and the good flying weather allowed the base to keep sixty-six bombers flying daily.[7]

[1] Operators sent from Fourth Airways Communications Squadron. Ibid., 1, 39.

[2] Bombing Range Road is still located off of State Highway S-39-291.

[3] Skip bombing was also used against Nazi dams. Interview with Dr. John Matzko, 5 April 2011.  In 2006, the site was inspected by the United States Corps of Engineers for the purpose of “discern[ing] the presence or absence of munitions and explosives.”  The range was used throughout the war and closed in September 1945. Additional bombing ranges were later constructed in Union and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Clemson University, S.C., “Issaquena Bombing Range” Clemson University Archives, http://clemsonwiki.com/wiki/Issaqueena_Bombing_Range (accessed 12 March 2011.

[4] HGAAB 99-100.

[5] During this time, the other two runways were finished; once useable, B-24 Liberators could be parked dispersed—the original intention of the wide runway design. The Army Air Corps had failed to find a safe location near Greenville, but, Myrtle Beach provided the seclusion and safety needed. There was apparently some difficulty getting the crews to Myrtle Beach and accommodating them so far from Greenville, but the hardship paid off because the range became one of the finest live ordinance bombing ranges in the United States. 334th Bomb Group History, November 1942.

[6] HGAAB 4, 36, 3. 

[7] Flight time in March increased 3,000 hours since February. Ibid., 4, 37, 1. In an effort to maximize efficiency, the base flight schedule was set at 07:00. Daylight savings time allowed extra flights to be scheduled. In addition to the sixty-sixty planes per day flying over the base, fifty-two per day were sent on flights outside Greenville. There was a significant increase in flight crews sent to Europe that month; sixty-one crews were sent—ten more than in February.  Ibid., 4, 37, 2.


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