Out in the remoteness of the Pacific the prospects of survival for any downed pilot were never going to be good. With the arrival of the USAAF 2nd Emergency Squadron flying out of Pitoe Strip in Morotai ( now Indonesia), the odds improved. Using OA-10A’s (equivalent to Navy PBY-5A’s) the Second Emergency Rescue Squadron retrieved over 300 airmen from death or capture during the first six months of its activity.
For the crew of the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron flying boats, 17 November 1944 was a day like many others over the wide expanse of the ocean and remote islands. For Ensign John Drex, USNR it was to be very memorable, and he himself seems to have had quite a tale to tell:
17 NOVEMBER 1944
Captain Clarence L. “Solie” Solander, pilot of “Daylight Two Two” with Lieutenant Colonel Wallace S. Ford as copilot, took off from Pitoe strip at 0545 on a special mission with fighter cover to search around Taland Island and the Southwest coast of Mindanao. They circled contact point “A” on the North coast of Mindanao, dropped message and then went on to the West coast of Negros where they sighted three survivors. Captain Solander landed, took the survivors aboard, then returned to contact point “A”, unloaded supplies and took off for his base at 1130.
Survivor, Ensign John Drex, USNR, stated that while on a strafing mission over an airfield on Negros the oil line on his engine was damaged by enemy fire when he attacked a Jap bomber which fell into the sea in flames. He saw three zeros coming toward him, so he turned into them, and shot the first one down, but the other two got on his tail and he dove for the deck, finally crash landing in a rice paddy on Negros near Kamalishas.
Ensign Drex was stunned and otherwise uninjured. Natives assisted him out of the plane and took him to the Governor who cared for him until he was able to travel. He remained with the Governor from 13 September until 22 October 1944, when he made his way Southward by mule and caribou to the rendezvous point. He was on the trip three weeks. Ensign Drex obtained valuable information during his stay on Negros.
Just one story from the comprehensive records of the online 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron, which includes copies of all their original mission reports fro November 1944. Not many units, from anywhere in the war, are fortunate to be so well remembered online.