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The Exploits of the Ninth TAC

            The Ninth TAC or Ninth Tactical Air Command organized planes on many war fronts including Africa and Normandy. Originally commanded by Brigadier General A. C. Strickland, command was appointed to Major General E. R. “Pete” Quesada upon the unit’s arrival in Britain.  Before D-day the ninth TAC escorted flying fortresses and other bombers from the 8th Air Force to their objectives for strategic bombing. These bombers needed a significant escort to avoid harassment from the Luftwaffe, and the Ninth TAC bravely supplied it.

            In preparation for D-day the Ninth TAC’s primary objective was to isolate Normandy. The fighter-bombers under its command smashed railway lines, bombed marshalling yard, attacked airfields and shattered bridges crushing German supply and communication lines. Furthermore, TAC pilots photographed the Normandy beaches, “one of these pilots, a captain, flew so low that his pictures showed startled workers putting in … iron stakes,” (Achtung Jabos!, 9). During May, two months before D-day, the Ninth TAC used 5,000,000 gallons of gasoline on 14,000 missions to drop over 2500 tons of bombs and more than 800,000 rounds of ammunition (Achtung Jabos!, 11). On D-day IX TAC flew 1400 sorties to scout out targets, report the success of missions, and provide intelligence. Throughout D-day, “there were so many allied planes in the air that almost every returning pilot said he had to put his hand out to make a turn,” (Achtung Jabos!, 13). On the day after D-Day called D plus 1 the IX TAC flew 1594 sorties and its personal made the trip to France. After D-day the Ninth TAC’s ground personnel followed in the wake of the ground forces, allowing planes to take off from advanced air fields.

            The IX TAC successfully repelled enemy planes, supported allied ground troops, disrupted German supply and communication lines, and participated in the strategic bombing of enemy infrastructure and military targets. In fact the German command structure noted the power of the fighter-bombers of the IX TAC: “The enemy air superiority is terrific and smothers almost everyone of our movements,” phoned Field Marshall von Kluge to Gen. Warlimont, Hitler’s personal representative in the West. “Every movement of the enemy is prepared and protected by its air force. Losses in men and equipment are extraordinary” (Achtung Jabos!, 4).

Major General E. R. “Pete” Quesada 

For the majority of the U.S. involvement in World War II Major General E. R. “Pete” Quesada was the Commander of the IX TAC. Born in Washington D.C. in 1904, General Quesada went through a rigorous education ending with his graduation from Georgetown University. Soon after Quesada enlisted in the air force and a year later received his wings and commission in the air reserve.

            In 1929 Quesada was one of the Question Mark endurance crew, flying under Major Carl Spaatz and Captain Ira Eaker. The Question Mark plane set a new record for sustained flight at 151 hours, over 6 days. The plane refueled 43 times and flew 11,000 miles.

            In 1935, after a variety of different posts throughout the air force and slowly advancing in rank, Quesada now only a captain was the commanding officer of headquarters at Langley Field, Virginia. After a stint in Argentina for two and a half years as a technical advisor, he was assigned to intelligence. In 1941 he was promoted to major and after commanding the 33rd pursuit group for a year was promoted again to lieutenant colonel. Quesada took command of the Philadelphia region of the 1st Fighter Command and became a brigadier general by December 1942.

            At the start of the war Quesada commanded the 12th Fighter Command in Africa participating in both the African and Italian campaigns. After his involvement in Africa Quesada took command of the IX TAC and stayed with the unit for most of the war, earning the rank of major general in the process.

            After the war Quesada continued his military career earning the rank of lieutenant general in 1948. “General Elwood Quesada's medals and awards include Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross; Purple Heart; Air Medal with two silver stars; American Defense Service Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and seven bronze battle stars; World War II Victory Medal; British order of Bath (Degree of Companion); Commander of British Empire; French Legion of Honor; French Croix de Guerre with Palm; Luxembourg Croix de Guerre; 
Order of Adolphe of Nassau; Polish Pilot Badge; Conmandeur de l'Ordre de la Couronne with Palm; Croix d'Officier de l'Order de la Couronne with Palm.” (Elwood) He died in February 9, 1993 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


World War II as a Testing Ground

            World War II saw great technological advancement and the conquering of the sky. Planes became increasingly prominent in warfare since they are fast scouts, can provide support for ground forces, and can take the war to the enemy. Therefore, several outfits were created to organize an air force even before its establishment as an independent arm of the US military. Due to its lack of history, air warfare was largely untried and unknown, leading to a severe merciless learning curve where failures often resulted in the death of the participants. Of the main areas of experimentation were bombing techniques, and ground-air coordination.

            The ninth TAC was forced to experiment with different bombing techniques in combat situations. Often pilots flew too low and were caught in the blast of their own bomb. Pilots came into their targets at the wrong angle, or scraped their undercarriages on trees and buildings. However, despite the difficulties bombing was broken down into skip-bombing, dive-bombing and buzz-bombing each for specific targets. As pilots gained experience they could pinpoint and strike their targets with great accuracy.


            “First Lt. Walter J. Ozment, Jr., of Cannelton, W. VA., was west of Mortain one afternoon when he saw a Nazi tank with its hatch open. He came down to 1000 feet and planted a bomb right through the opening. Maj. Robert C. “Buck” Rogers, on a mission with some Lightnings, skipped two 1000-pound bombs into the mouth of a railroad tunnel. Col. Howard F. Nicholas and a squadron of Lightnings blasted von Kluge’s headquarters; the Colonel skipped a bomb right through the front door.” (Achtung Jabos!, 19)


            A riskier process of trial and error slowly brought about the techniques for ground-air coordination. At St. Lo soon after D-day the ground officers directing fighter-bombers were untrained in the capabilities of aircraft. They did not know how close planes could come without hitting friendly troops and they could not provide the tactical advice for the fighter-bombers to make a good decision. As a result, aircraft sometimes hit their own men or strafed a position when they should have bombed it, leaving the enemy unharmed. Soon pilots replaced the ground controllers in the tanks, working directly with ground officers to choose targets providing a more effective connection between ground troops and air support.

Brigadier General A. C. Kincaid

            Kincaid was born in Orleans, Indiana in 1892. When he was 25, he became a First Lieutenant in the Infantry Reserve and served in the 336th Infantry within the U.S. (Alvan). During the First World War he briefly went to France as an aerial observer with the 91st Aero Squadron.

            After the war he continued his career in the military with a stint in the Panama Canal Zone in 1931. After coming back to the United States he went to Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. He continued his education at Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1938.

            Alvin Cleveland Kincaid started World War II in the Air Corp Training centers throughout the U.S. However, in 1944, he was appointed commanding general of the 84th Fighter Wing of the ninth air force and went to France. Soon Brigadier General Kincaid was named chief of staff of the ninth TAC. After serving a year with the ninth TAC he became the deputy commander and administrator the ninth air force. Finally, he ended the war back in the states as the chief of staff for the Air Training Command centered in Barksdale Air Force Base Louisiana.

                        General Kincaid has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Commendation Ribbon. His foreign decorations include the French and Croix de Guerre with palm; the Belgian Order of Leopold II and Croix de Guerre; the Luxembourg Order of Adolphe and Croix de Guerre, and the Chinese Special Necklace, Cloud and Banner.” (Alvan).

            Kincaid died as a major general on January 15, 1968 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery.     

The Aircrafts in the Ninth Tactical Air Command

            The ninth TAC is not a static force and “because of its fluid nature, TAC has had almost every group in the ninth air force under its command at one time or another. At present [April, 1945] all three types of fighter planes, Thunderbolts, Lightnings, and Mustangs are represented.” (Achtung Jabos!, 32)

            The Thunderbolt is among the heaviest and largest of World War II planes. Weighing 11,000 pounds the 14 foot seven inch craft is heavily armed and armored. Eight 50 caliber machine guns decorate its 42 foot 7 inch wingspan. The size of the plane allows for a very high carrying capacity and it has a range of 800 miles, delivering it well into enemy territory. The Mustang was the most numerous U.S. fighter since over 15,700 planes were built.

            The P-38 Lightning is a duel-engine long range fighter and fighter bomber. The plane has 3 parts, two engines and a cockpit, connected by its 52 foot wingspan. In the nose of the craft are 4 machine guns and a 20mm cannon and up to 2000 pounds of bombs and rockets. This gun arrangement allowed for a more concentrated firepower than the gun layout in most planes which placed the weaponry out on wings.

            Mustangs, a small but legendary fighter plane, could provide long range support for bombers. The six .50 machine guns in the wings of the Mustang provided a fierce armament, and its 1000 mile range more than doubles that of the Lightning. Mustangs could escort bombers far into German controlled areas, protecting them from the Luftwaffe.




"Achtung Jabos! The Story of the IX TAC."  Web. 27 May 2010. <http://www.skylighters.org/ixtac/index.html>.


"Alvan Cleveland Kincaid, Major GeneralUnited States Air Force." Arlington National Cemetery Website Title Page. Web. 27 May 2010. <http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/ackincaid.htm>.  


"Elwood Richard QuesadaLieutenant GeneralUnited States Air Force." Arlington National Cemetery Website Title Page. Web. 27 May 2010. <http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/ackincaid.htm>.   


"World War II Planes the Advent of Modern Aviation." Web. 27 May 2010. <http://www.world-war-2-planes.com/>. 

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