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My dad, Hubert L. Wood Woods was in the 442nd signal construction battalion 238 in the Asiatic theater. He enlisted on May 25 1942. He was Honorably Discharged on Dec. 14 1945. I wondered what action he might have been in? There is a man in our town who writes about the men from WW 11. Could you please help? Thank You Pam Wood Hercules.

Answer
Pam:

First, you should request your father's service records.  It will give you a better indication of where he was deployed during his war service.  The 442nd was formed in Puerto Rico, as shown below.   It was an Aviation signal battalion, so was likely attached to ether the 5th or 13th Army Air Force in the Pacific.  Not knowing where it was deployed in the pacific, from the time it moved there it is hard to say which Air Force it was attached to.  The 13th AF was fighting in the Solomons...Guadalcanal, and the 5th AF fought in Papua New Guinea.  As the 5th air force area of operations converged on the Phillipines Kenny asked for and was granted command of the 13th as well and formed the Far East Air Forces, or FEAF under his command.

If you can find out what air force your father's unit was attached it would help a lot.  His discharge papers should show what larger headquarters his unit was attached to.


see here:   http://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww2/index.html

If you can find that out, which air force, it will open the door to following the history of his unit.  For instance, the 5th air force moved from Australia, up the length of Papua New Guinea, building air strips along the almost 1200 mile island.  Many strips were build under the noses of the Japanese in order to defeat their own air bases.  I was kind of a chess game involving surprise and guile having to do with the range of the air craft.  A good book on the subject at a high level is "Winged Victory: the US Army Air Force in WWII" by Geoffery Perett.  He is a very readable author, in fact I am reading the book for the second time right now.  The last chapters deal with the actions of Kenny's 5th air force in Papua NG.

As you probably know the Air Force in WWII was still part of the Army, so your father, while in the Signals Engineers, was assigned to the Army Air Force and served by setting up communications networks.   He might have seen some interesting action, since, some of the air strips built in Papua NG were done covertly, by parachuting in men, then  flying in men and engineering equipment to build the strips in secret. Combat air craft were then flown in and surprise, we had an operational air strip right in the Japanese forces back yard.  We could supply more aircraft and pilots than they could and in sort order we bombed and strafed their air bases into oblivion.  Then they would withdraw and we would do it all over again.

Gen Kenney wrote a history of his WWII involvement and it lists all the airdromes by name, and you can use it as a guide to locating them. Most of them are overgrown, but parts of them are still in use.  There are also maps.  One complex in central Papua NG is huge and consisted of 4 or five different airdromes, for bombers and fighters.  I have little doubt that your father's unit was involved in the building of these complexes.


His book is downloadable in PDF form from here:   http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA442

Now the landings in the Philippine Islands were also a chess game of putting your pieces where the other players weren't building yours up so you hand local superiority and then start a game of attrition to wear the other down.

That your father's unit got a Presidential unit citation says they did something special.  It might have had something to do with building and maintaining air fields on Leyte after the invasion or later on Mindanao or somewhere else.

I could not find reference to the unit citation, but you might be able to find the circumstances and the actual citation by contacting the US Army Signal Regiment.  The Army has organizational regiments for service men to identify with: Artillery, Signals, Infantry etc.   They are kind of artificial constructs, that you belong to if you served in units associated with those arms.  This is because so many actual units have been disbanded or deactivated.  This way they still have a "parent" organization to preserve the actual unit lineages and heritages.  For instance, the Rangers, trace their lineage back to the French and Indian wars from Robert's Rangers, to Darby's Ranger's in WWII, to Ranger Battalions in Korea, Viet Nam and so on.  Unit histories were merged and amalgamated to form a coherent history to which its members can relate and identify with.

So if you contact the Signal's regiment on the link on this page:

http://signalcorps.org/

 You may be able to find out more information about the actions that resulted in the Pres. Unit citation.

Some history of the unit:

The 442nd Signal Battalion was constituted on 19 July 1942 in the Army of the United States as the 442nd Signal Construction Battalion, Aviation. It activated on 1 August 1942 in Puerto Rico. The unit reorganized and was redesignated on 1 August 1944 as the 442nd Signal Heavy Construction Battalion. It inactivated on 30 June 1946 in Japan

it received a presidential unit citation fighting the japanese in the phillipines

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Keith H. Patton

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