Flying from Nadzab on August 7, 1944, Major Richard Cella led a flight of twenty-six of the newly-received P-47D-23s on a 900 mile mission to Noemfoor. This mission involved providing defensive cover for the SeeBees constructing new airfields on Middleburg Island below them. Similar missions continued for 6 weeks, but the 39th was able to move up to Noemfoor earlier than that.
The 39th conducted its first operations from Noemfoor on August 9th. Noemfoor offered some significant advantages with its 7,000 foot, compacted coral runway. Continued testing to verify maximum permissible takeoff loads could be conducted on the long, smooth, and relatively unobstructed runway; the squadron settled on two 175 gallon tanks under the wings, with an additional 75 gallon belly tank. The combined total of these three tanks, 425 gallons of fuel, added 2,550 lbs. to the takeoff weight. With this additional weight, the P-47’s minimum take off speed proved to be between 125 and 130 mph, 15 to 20 mph higher than what the Thunderbolt needed without the drop tanks fitted.
During this time period, the legendary aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh visited various 5th AF and Navy fighter groups as a consultant. His role was to help improve range and load carrying performance for the fighters in use in the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations.
Lindbergh visited the 35th Fighter Group on August 14, 1944 and presented his increased range procedures.1
He demonstrated how raising manifold pressure and lowering engine revolutions, could greatly improve P-47 fuel economy, and hence the aircraft’s range.
On August 20th, another long range mission involved a fighter sweep led by Captain Gordon Prentice. The duration of that sortie extended to over 5 hours and 20 minutes, making it the longest mission the 39th Fighter Squadron had flown thus far, and perhaps the longest of any 5th AF mission to date.2
1 Charles A. Lindbergh, The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh, Harcouirt, Brace, Jovanovoch, Incv., New York, New York, 1970,p 905-906
2 John Stanaway, Cobra in the Clouds,Historical Aviation Album 1982.