6th Bomb Group Living Area. ©Bill Webster. All Rights Reserved.
Bomb Group Camps
Each of the nine B-29 bomb groups stationed on Tinian Island in 1945 operated from independently functional group camps. Each camp included housing, medical, dental, operations and briefing facilities, entertainment and recreation facilities, mess halls, PX, shops, motor pool, post office, clubs and a religious chapel. Prior to Seabee completion of the facilities, crews housed in tents. The map below shows the location of several of the Group areas along the west coast of Tinian, including the 6th Bomb Group. The bomb group quarters were located 2-3 miles from their respective airfields. The single exception was the top secret 509th Composite Group and its atomic bomb assembly facility, which was located adjacent to North Field, isolated from the other group areas. The Army 374th operated the Army Hospital near North Field. The Navy operated the Naval Hospital near West Field.
The north facing aerial picture above of Tinian’s west coast shows four camps. The two nearest are the 462nd and 444th Bomb Group Camps, respectively, both 58th Wing groups assigned to West Field. In the distance are the 6th and 9th Bomb Group Camps, respectively, operating out of North Field.
There were 21 bomb groups and camps collectively stationed on the islands of Tinian, Saipan and Guam, each built by the Seabees following capture of the islands from Japan. See Organization for bomb groups listing.
6th Bomb Group Camp
Camps were organized similarly, but not identical. 6th Bomb Group housing (Quonsets) was split between Officer and Enlisted Barracks. The Officer Barracks were located in a single NW quadrant of the camp with some overflow across Riverside Dr. The Enlisted Barracks were split by Squadron (24th, 39th and 40th) and located in each of the other quadrants of the camp with separate mess halls and operations buildings. There were likewise separate Officers and Enlisted Men Clubs. As common with most group camps, common facilities, like the Briefing Hall and Group Headquarters, were centrally located within the camp.
The separation of officer and enlisted men quarters, generally split B-29 combat crews socially. Each Officer Quonset contained the flight deck personnel from two flight crews. Enlisted men from those flight crews (gunners) likewise shared housing with enlisted men from other flight crews.
6th Bomb Group mess halls were operational within days of air crew arrival on Tinian in January 1945. Quonset construction within the camp was completed in the April-May 1945 time period allowing crews to transition from their tent housing. The picture above is taken from the 39th Squadron enlisted barracks looking north to the 24th enlisted barracks area. The center-left building is the 39th Squadron Mess Hall.
Crew pre-mission briefings and post-mission de-briefings took place in the Briefing Hall (completed in February 1945) adjacent to the 6th Bomb Group Headquarters complex. Headquarters comprised six Quonsets including the office of the Commanding Officer, Col. Kenneth Gibson, Group Operations, Group Intelligence (aerial reconnaissance), Message Center (communications), Personnel and Supply. Mission briefings were conducted by Col. Gibson, his Group Operations, Intelligence and Weather Officers. Separate briefings were given for pilots, navigators and bombardiers.
Air and ground crew transport between the Briefing Hall and flight line (North Field) was by a pool of 6×6 all-wheel drive trucks kept and maintained at the camp Motor Pool. The Motor Pool was charged with the Group’s allotment of trucks and all-wheel drive jeeps, which were used and checked-out by camp personnel to perform camp functions.
The operations of each of the three squadrons were managed in separate Squadron Operations facilities headed by the Squadron Commander. Each facility was located in their respective squadron area and directly across from Camp Headquarters.
The 6th Bomb Group Starlite Theater was completed in early April. Like a number of buildings in the camp, the theater was jointly built by Seabees and willing 6th Bomb Group volunteers on their days off. It was located across Riverside Dr. on the southwest corner of the camp area. As common with camp theaters, the seating was open-air. Only the stage and projection booth were housed. The Starlite entertained crewmen with movies, plays and shows (USO).
The 6th Bomb Group offered both Protestant and Catholic services at its Church By The Side Of The Road. The Church was located directly north of the theater along Riverside Dr. Sunday Catholic masses were held at 9:30 am and Protestant services following at 10:30 am.
Crew members were encouraged to embellish their Quonset living areas to make them enjoyably homey and livable. Crews planted gardens, built fences, porches, awnings, tables and deck chairs using wood from shipping crates and borrowed tools.
9th Bomb Group Camp
The 9th Bomb Group Camp adjoined the northern border of the 6th. The aerial picture below shows both camps (looking north), with the 9th consuming the upper (northern) half and the 6th the lower half. Many 6th BG officers could see and hear movies playing at the 9th BG Theatre from their Quonset.
462nd Bomb Group Camp – 58th Bomb Wing
The east facing map below of the 462nd Bomb Group (aka the “Hellbirds”) Camp shows the housing of the Enlisted squadrons (768th, 769th, 770th) and Officers in separate quadrants, with common areas concentrated in the center of the camp similar to general layout of the 6th Bomb Group.
40th Bomb Group – 58th Bomb Wing
The 40th Bomb Group Camp was located northwest and across Riverside Dr. from the 462nd Bomb Group Camp. The distinctively shaped 462nd BG Officer’s Club shown at the bottom right of the 462nd diagram above is clearly shown here in the aerial photo of the 40th Bomb Group Camp.
509th Composite Group Camp
The 509th Composite Group (atomic bomb group) took over the 13th Seabees camp on the southwest side of North Field. The 509th arrived on Tinian just after the 13th transferred out to Okinawa. 509th Group Commander Paul Tibbets liked the fact that the camp had a tower that overlooked and was just down 125th Street from the hardstands on North Field.