July 31, 1942 B-17 missions in Solomons
On July 31, 1942 11th Bomb Group Commander Laverne "Blondie" Saunders led B-17s in a week-long series of raids against Japanese supply and dock areas in the Solomons, leading up to the Marine invasion of Guadalcanal. The airmen had no ground service, no established airfields, no quarters. Air crews slept on the ground. They had to swim 50-gallon gasoline drums in off of cargo ships. Saunders asked Admiral McCain "How the hell am I gonna... how are we gonna bomb Guadalcanal when we don't have any airfrields to work out of... any bombs or service or gasoline?" McCain replied, "Well, we'll have to figure something out." They used a one-way air strip hacked out of a coconut grove with a field artillery searchlight at each end for night landings. To say this was a shoestring operation is an understatement... but they did "figure something out" and got the job done. Saunders was awarded the Silver Star for this action.