USAAF 709th Ordnance Company History
Feb 1941-Mar 1942
The 709th Ordnance Company (Avn) (AB) was activated per General Order
No. 5, Hq., GHQ Air Force, Langley Field, Virginia, dated February 11, 1941.
The original cadre, composed of S/Sgt Smith, Sgt. Walker, Corporals Jackson,
Markiewicz and Bonislawski, and Privates First Class Morris, Lynch, and
Delestienne, was taken from the 334th Ordnance Company, 51st Ordnance Batt-
alion, Langley Field, Virginia and Captain Don R. Ostrander assumed command
of this organization pp 8, Air Base Special Order No. 42, dated 19 February,
Organization was attached to the 714th Ordnance Company for rations.
Capt. Smythe as assigned to Company on Feb. 20, 1941, while on DS, joined
on the 25th and was relieved from assignment on the 25th. S/Sgt Smith
was acting First Sergeant.
1st Lt. Robert J. Knight was assigned to the Company pp 14, AB Special
Order #63 dated March 17, 1941 and assumed duties of Supply and Executive
Officer. S/Sgt Smith was appointed First Sergeant on the 22nd. On the
26th, M/Sgt McNeil was transferred into the Company.
Corporal Jackson, of the original cadre men was transferred from the Company
on the 24th. During this month, the usual garrison duties were performed.
1st Lt. Lays H. Sjodahl was assigned to the Company pp 14, AB Special Order
No. 121 dated 23rd May, 1941 while still on DS at Aberdeen Proving Ground,
Md. T/Sgt Heueisen was transferred into the Company on the 27th. During
this month, all the men were busy packing, and getting the organization in
readyness for the transfer to Fort Wayne, Ind. that was to take place in June.
With this transfer in mind, all the men were in high spirits and were
quite anxious to leave. Captain Ostrander made a trip to Bear Field and
came back with good news about the field, and city of Fort Wayne. Since the
social activities for the men stationed at Langley Field were very limited
because of the number of servicemen stationed in that area, Captain Ostrander's
report about Fort Wayne was the major factor regarding the men's high morale.
At 6:00 AM of the 3rd of June, the Company left Langley Field by motor
convoy enroute to Bear Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana. The first night was spent
at VMI, Lexington, Virginia, the second night at Charlestown, W.Va., the third
night at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio. At 3:00 PM, on the 6th of June, the
organization arrived at it's destination and the remainder of the day was spent
unpacking. On the 8th, three men joined the Company from Selfridge Field, Mich.
Effective the 6th, Captain Ostrander was appointed Base Ordnance Officer and
Lt. Sjodahl was appointed Ordnance Property Officer. Captain Ostrander was
on DS at Selfridge Field from the 13th to the 16th of June. During this month,
the organization swelled it's ranks by acquiring a total of 13 new men whereas
one man went to the hospital on the 30th.
Sgt. Walker went on DS to Fort Knox, Ky. from the 8th to the 9th. Pfc. Morris
joined the company from DS, Holibird, Md. where he successfully completed the
mechanic's course. On the 9th, T/Sgt Heueison was honorably discharged per
ETS and reenlisted on the 10th, in grade. On the 14th, S/Sgt Walker, Cpl.
Markiewich, & Pvts. Sawyer & Schwister were transferred to the 679th Ord.
Co., same station. 1st Lt. Knight went on a 5-day leave on the 16th. Pvt.
Bonislawski appointed Corporal on the 24th. On the same day, Capt. Ostrander
went on DS at Mitchel Field, NY, Lt. Knight assumed command. Capt. Ostrander
returned from DS on the 25th. Pvt. Dickman was wrongly accused of being AWOL
from the hospital at Fort Benjamin Harrison, returned for duty on the 25th,
and was granted a 15-day furlough on the 30th. Three men from the Company
were sent to the Bakers and Cooks school at Fort Benj. Harrison, Ind. During
this month, ten more new men were assigned to the Company. During this month,
the recruits received their basic training each morning, while in the after-
noons, all the men in the organization attended Captain Ostrander's Ordnance
School, with the Company Officers and First Three Graders as instructors.
This school, and all the activities of this organization were merged with the
679th Ordnance Company (P). All the men had 30 minutes of Infantry Drill
every morning followed by 30 minutes of calisthenics and therefore, as time
went on, the Ordnance men had the distinction of being called the best drilled
outfit on the post. The morale was exceptionaly high for the people of Fort
Wayne, Ind. accepted the men and gave them a very hearty welcome.
Cpl. Wilhelmus appointed Sgt.; Wrestler aptd PFC.; Pfc Gralka rated 3rd cl
Specl; Pvt Zuicarelli rated 4th Cl Specl; & Pvt Stone apt. PFC. Pvts.
Belkowski & Fota were give furloughs and upon his return, Pvt. Belkowski went
on DS to Springfield Trade School. Lt. Knight went on DS for 48 hrs. to
Selfridge Field. Capt. Ostrander & Pfc Wrestler went on DS for 48 hrs. to
Fort Hayes, Ohio. Sgt. Bowman was transferred to the 46th Air Base Group to
become the Mess Sergeant of the Consolidated Mess Hall. Pvt. Gralka was
AWOL for 3 days. On the 23rd, Sgt. Wilhelmus was aptd S/Sgt and Corp.
Delestienne was aptd Sgt. During this month, three men went to the hospital.
Eight more men joined the organization and were receiving their basic training.
Captain Robert E. Hunt was assigned to the organization on the 10th. On the
16th, Corp. Gralka was in an automobile accident and was placed in the Station
Hospital, NLD, and on the 18th, was transferred to Billings General Hospital,
Fort Benj. Harrison. On the 8th, S/Sgt Wilhelmus was honorably discharged
per ETS and did not reenlist. Pfc Stone aptd Corp., and Pvts. Mosier, Wilson,
and Ash aptd Pfc. Pvt. Schmidt went on DS to David Ranken School of
Mechanical Trades, St. Louis, Mo. On the 22nd, Captain Ostrander is detailed
Summary Court Officer, in addition to his other duties. Pvt. Stein went on
DS to the Ordnance School, Aberdeen, Md. During this month, the organization
performed the usual garrison duties. A football team was organized as part
of Captain Ostrander's Physical Education Program and the team won all its
Pvt. Carr returned from the Bakers & Cooks School. Captain Ostrander was
transferred to the 726th Ord. Co., Selfridge Field on the 6th, and Captain
Hunt assumed command of the organization. Pvt. Lehew went AWOL on the 27th.
Pvt. Baldwin went on DS to the Ordnance School, at Abeerdeen, Md. One man
joined the organiztion whereas three men were honorably discharged during the
Pvt. Lehew was charged with desertion on the 6th. Pvt. Schmidt returned
from school on the 13th and Pvt. Cushman left on the 14th, to attend the
same. On the 21st, Capt. Hunt left on a 2 day leave, Lt. Knight assumed
command. During this month, two more enlisted men and one officer were sent
to Aberdeen, Md. to attend the Ordnance School.
On the 7th, after the news of the Pearl Harbor attack was known by all, the
Commanding Officer restricted all men to their barracks, to await further
developments. Shortly thereafter, the organization received orders to move
to Hamilton Field, Calif. and at 9:00 PM, the men started to pack. Thus we/re
the next two days and nights spent, and on Wednesday morning, the outfit
pulled out for California. Upon it's arrival at Hamilton Field, the organia-
tion was billeted in a hanger and immediately commenced to unpack. The men
were placed in two groups, each working twelve hours daily. The rains and
mud added to the men's miseries but the morale was high possibly because of
the two 6-hour passes each man received during the week. On the 19th, 10 men
went on DS at the Sacramento Air Depot, Sacramento, Calif.
Corp. Gralka who was absent sick as a result of his accident was reduced to
the grade of Private. On the 4th, the 10 men returned from Sacramento, Calif.
Lt. Knight & Pvt. Stein returned from Aberdeen, Md. and 21 recruits joined
the organization. The organization was scheduled to leave for overseas service
therefore all the new men, and those absent on DS were transferred to the
692nd Ord. Co., Hamilton Field, and 25 experienced men from the 692nd Ord.
Co. were transferred to the organization on the 17th. Lt. Sjodahl was transferred
to the 711th Ord. Co. on the 8th. On that same date, Lts. Carr and Britton
joined the organization. Sgt. Delestienne was aptd S/Sgt on the 27. The
Company, with a war time strength of 4 officers and 60 enlisted men boarded
the USAT Hugh L. Scott on the night of January 30, 1942, at San Francisco,
Calif. On the afternoon of the 31st, the ship sailed, destination unknown.
Corp. Bonislawski aptd Sgt, on the 7th. Pvt. Mitchell was admitted to the ship's
hospital with a case of measles. On the 20th, the ship crossed the International
Date Line, east to west. During this trip, the men witnessed two enemy
submarine attacks, and the Commanding Officer held weekly small arms inspection.
The food was terrible but that didn't seem to effect the morale any. On the
25th, the ship landed at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and the first week
was spent in Camp Doomben. Several difficulties were encountered, such as,
Australian money, driving on the left hand side of a road, different fashions
but the men enjoyed themselves immensely.
On the 3rd, the organization once more boarded the USAT Hugh L.
Scott and sailed for Melbourne, Victoria. Upon arrival there on the
8th, the men proceededto Ballarat, Vict. by train, arriving there the
same day and were billited in private homes for the next eight days.
In the meantime, Lt. Knight and six men were left at Melbourne to supervise
the unloading of organizational equipment sending the same by rail to
Mount Gambier, South Australia. The Company itself, left Ballarat, Vic.
at 9:00 PM, March 15, enroute to Mount Gambier, arriving there on the
morning of the sixteenth. Six men from the organization went to Melbourne
to drive back several organizational vehicles that arrived in that city
via water transport.