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Chapter 16

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Navy's Air War

by
the Aviation History Unit OP‑519B, DCNO (Air)

Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London
1946

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapter 18
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p173  Chapter 17

Starting the Road Back

The first war in the Pacific spelled the doom of the Japanese on Guadalcanal. But although they were down, they were not yet out, and it took some time to enforce eviction proceedings. As during the earlier phases of the struggle for the island, the Army, the Navy, and the Marines took part in assaults on the enemy, but the mopping‑up period will always be most clearly remembered as a time when the Marines, both on land and in the air, established a high point of courage and stamina.

Closely tied to the campaign on Guadalcanal were our attempts to dislodge the growing enemy forces on the near‑by island of 1 New Georgia. As early as November, 1942, Japanese craft were seeking anchorages in the inlets and bays of this island, and just as early, pilots from Henderson Field were selecting these anchorages and additional land sites as targets. Despite constant surveillance, however, the enemy had completed 90 per cent of an airfield at 2 Munda on New Georgia, before our reconnaissance planes discovered it on 3 December 1942. During the rest of the month the field was continually blasted, but despite this fact, by the end of the year the airfield was not only paved and servicing fighting planes but was also sending out medium bombers. As the war moved into its second year, the Japanese also improved 3 a base at Kolombangara that likewise seemed more or less impervious to air attack.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

It was decided, therefore, that the only solution was to attack and take the fields, since neither naval nor aerial bombardment of the weight available could do more than temporary damage. Meanwhile, however, there was the problem of Guadalcanal. The Tokyo Express was still making its run, though the cause was lost.

Although our reinforcements continued arriving and our air power was increasing, and despite the constant "derailing" of the Tokyo Express, it was believed that the enemy would make a last desperate attempt to reinforce 1 Guadalcanal. There were certain signs that pointed  p174 to this. In January there was an increase in Japanese air strength, indicating, it was believed, that enemy carriers might be in the offing, and there was a resurgence of naval operations in the 2 Buin and 3 Rabaul areas. To forestall any last, desperate effort at reinforcement, the most powerful U. S. naval force yet to appear in the South Pacific was concentrated in the Solomons and the 4 Fiji areas on 27 January. It included 6 major task forces, composed of 5 carriers, 7 battleships, 12 light and heavy cruisers, and more than 30 destroyers.

NB: 5 Cape Esperance and 6 Verahui are on Guadalcanal: pinpoint them by zooming in (3 to 5 levels) on 1 Henderson Field, also on the island.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

One of these task forces went to the support of a convoy of four transports and four destroyers bound for Guadalcanal with supplies. This force became the victim of the first night torpedo attack that the Japanese had yet attempted. Despite the effective work of our planes in destroying the attacking planes, the enemy succeeded in launching enough torpedoes to cause serious damage. The chief casualty was the Chicago, which was lost after a hectic air battle. The loss was heavy, but the objective of the task force had been accomplished; the convoy had safely deposited its cargo at Guadalcanal.

Then, early in February, it appeared that the Japanese were at last ready to make their attempt at reinforcement. On 4 February, twenty Japanese destroyers left Buin for Guadalcanal, and on the following day many 30‑foot landing barges were seen drifting off 5 Cape Esperance. Shortly afterwards, our patrols located a large force headed from 3 Rabaul. Included in this group were 2 enemy carriers, 4 battleships, and 6 heavy cruisers. It looked as if the push might be on. Our forces in the area were alerted, and Air Group 10 was ordered from Enterprise to Henderson Field to reinforce the marine and army planes there.

Then came an anticlimax rather than a climax. The activity of the Japanese from Rabaul and elsewhere proved to have been a feint to cover the real move, which was not reinforcement, but evacuation of troops from Guadalcanal. Exactly six months from the date of the marine landings on the island, the Japanese completed the removal of their forces from Guadalcanal except for occasional patrols. Thus, by early February when our main body joined forces near Esperance with the enveloping detachment from 6 Verahui, the Guadalcanal campaign officially ended. We had taken a firm step on the road back, and the enemy's forward thrust had been definitely stopped. Radio Tokyo, of course, expressed it somewhat differently, reporting that the Japanese Army had been "transferred" from Guadalcanal after "its mission had been fulfilled." The Japanese did not indicate whether or not a part of this mission had been the annihilation of 6,066 of their own men in the  p175 last three weeks of the campaign, or the estimated total loss of Japanese personnel of between 30,000 and 50,000. Nevertheless, had we suspected the real purpose of their accelerated activity of early February we would have turned their successful withdrawal into a disastrous rout and added to their already staggering casualties.

Advance up the Solomons Chain

Although it was to take another year to complete the conquest of the Solomon Islands, this was only twice as long as it had taken to wrest one island in the chain, Guadalcanal, from the enemy. The way was still hard, and the Japanese were both vicious and tenacious, but the growing might of American production was becoming evident on the field of battle.

Outstanding evidence of this growing superiority was the introduction of a new plane in the Solomons. This was the F4U, or Corsair, that was to blaze a glorious name for itself all the way across the Pacific. Prior to this time the Marines had been forced to rely on the F4F (Wildcat), which was a sturdy plane but outperformed by the Japanese Zero with which it had to contest in the Solomons. The Zero, on the other hand, was no match for the Corsair, which made its combat debut on 13 February 1943, and from the outset proved a nemesis to the Japanese Air Force. It should be noted also that the marine squadron that first introduced the Corsair to the area was also the first marine squadron to go into combat against the enemy from a carrier.

Not only new planes but also new equipment was being rapidly supplied the growing air force, and the development of airborne radar made possible night searches and shipping attacks by patrol planes. Known as Black Cats, from the fact that the familiar Catalina was painted in somber hues for this type of work, the aircraft of Patrol Squadrons 12 and 54 ranged far and wide though the Solomons spying out the enemy's nocturnal activities, spotting the fire of our surface ships in night bombardments, and themselves going in to attack whenever possible.

The first step ahead from the Solomons came on 20 February 1943. This was an unopposed landing on 1 the Russells, a small group of islands in the great Solomons chain lying between Guadalcanal and New Georgia. Out of the ooze and muck of the jungle, with little equipment, and with constant dogfights overhead, the Marines managed to construct an airstrip 2,000 feet long that was ready for operation in June. Meanwhile,  p176 there were sparring engagements on the water and in the air. Some were bitterly contested as, for example, the day that Henderson fighters went up to meet 160 enemy planes and knocked down 38, in return for 7 aircraft and 1 pilot lost.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

The occupation of the Russells was merely a preliminary move toward an invasion of 2 New Georgia. Our facilities were being constantly improved. In the early days, flights had been canceled because of insufficient gasoline; there was now storage space for 45,000 barrels of aviation gasoline, with a pipe line that took the gas direct from the tankers at 3 Koli Point to the tanks near the fields.

Admiral Halsey issued the operation plan for the invasion of New Georgia and the capture of 4 Munda airfield on 3 June. The thirtieth was set as D‑Day with one of the objectives 5 Rendova, a small island off the coast of New Georgia. The air support group was commanded by Vice Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, and was responsible for reconnaissance and striking missions and for direct air support during the landings. Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher had tactical command of all land-based aircraft operating from 6 Henderson and the other Solomon air bases.

For a month before the landings on New Georgia, army, navy, marine, and New Zealand pilots harassed enemy fields and bases in the northern Solomons, and struck at Japanese shipping in the Bougainville area. One of the most spectacular air battles took place on the seventh of June. An enemy force of 40 to 50 Zeros was intercepted by our planes near the Russells, and in the ensuing struggle the enemy lost 23 Zeros, while we lost 7 planes and recovered 3 of the pilots. The case of one of these, Lieutenant Samuel S. Logan, USMCR, is one that Marines will not soon forget nor forgive. This officer, forced to bail out of his plane, found that the Japs were deliberately making firing runs at him. Desperately trying to save his life by spilling air from his parachute, Lieutenant Logan barely avoided a collision in the air with a Zero, but had half his right foot severed by the propeller of the strafing plane. A New Zealand flier drove the Zero away before he could complete his deadly work. The injured pilot, meanwhile, managed to apply a tourniquet, inject morphine, and take sulfa tablets while descending. Landing in the water, he had enough strength to inflate his life raft, and place dye markers in the water, thereby enabling a J2F (Duck) to come to his rescue.

Even more unbelievable than this harrowing experience, was that of Lieutenant Gilbert Percy, USMCR. This officer was pursued by five Zeros, one of which he shot down, but in the fray his plane's oil, gas,  p177 and hydraulic systems were wrecked, a wing tip disintegrated, and an aileron was shot away. At three thousand feet the engine sputtered, and Percy jumped — but his parachute failed to open. Putting his arms straight down at his side and keeping his feet together,a he hit the water. Instead of being killed, Percy was knocked out, recovered sufficiently to make his way to shore and, with the aid of natives who went for assistance, was taken to safety. His injuries which included a broken pelvis and broken ankles, kept him out of active duty for a year, but he was alive and held a record that few men would care to attempt to take from him.

As D‑Day for the Rendova landing in New Georgia approached, air activity on both sides increased. There were raids and counter-raids, with the percentage of planes downed heavily in our favor. On 30 June 1943, the Rendova landings were made as planned. The landings were effected before serious air opposition developed. As the destroyers stood out through 7 Blanche Channel for the return to Guadalcanal, however, twenty-four Mitsubishi-type torpedo bombers with a large number of Zeros came in for the attack. The raid lasted only eight minutes, and at the end of this period all the enemy planes but two had been splashed, and the two remaining planes were later downed. In return, we had lost one 7,712‑ton transport, the flagship USS McCawley. In subsequent waves of attacks our planes downed a total of 101 planes out of 130 that were engaged. Marine fliers topped the lists with 58 planes. We lost 17 planes, but recovered 7 pilots, and once again some of the recoveries were in the realm of the fantastic.

Other landings followed, some successful, some filled with discouragement and heartbreak. Sea engagements, also, took place in this campaign that was raging on land, sea, and in the air. The Helena was our worst loss, going down in the Battle of 1 Kula Gulf on 5 July as a result of torpedo hits. Our forces, however, moved ahead. It took five weeks to capture 2 Munda airfield, and throughout that period air warfare reached its zenith for the campaign. Perhaps the highlight of the period came in a series of three raids our planes made on Japanese shipping and harbor installations at 3 Kahili. More than two hundred of our planes, army, navy, and marine, took part in the raids and were attacked on the morning of 17 July by Japanese interceptors. Forty-nine enemy planes were shot down and considerable damage was done to the main targets, with half a dozen vessels sunk.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

While the Japanese were receiving this rough treatment in the Bougainville area, they were retaliating with punishment of our forces in the  p178 vicinity of 4 Banks Island.º The USS Chincoteague, a small seaplane tender, had been badly hit by enemy planes. After three grim days of caring for wounded, trying to check fires, and preparing a destroyer tow, it appeared as if all work had been in vain, for out of the horizon at sunset of the seventeenth came three enemy bombers, ready for the kill. The tender, however, was saved to serve another day, because four marine Corsairs appeared at the appropriate moment and knocked down all three bombers.

By the twentieth, the enemy garrison at Munda was in a precarious state, since sieges and blockades had prevented the arrival of reinforcements. The land engagement went ahead; with strong air support, and finally, on 5 August, the airfield fell to our advancing forces.

The capture of the 1 Munda airfield completed the first phase of the advance into the New Georgia group. The other major Japanese base, 2 Kolombangara, was for a time considered to be the next logical objective. By July, however, it was decided to by‑pass this stronghold and attack a weaker Japanese possession, 3 Vella Lavella, in the hope of building up a new base that would render Kolombangara impotent. Aviation's part in this invasion was along the customary pattern. Army, navy, marine, and New Zealand planes dive-bombed important gun positions on both Kolombangara and Vella Lavella, and army bombers dropped forty-nine tons of bombs on the field at 4 Kahili as a part of the softening‑up process. When the actual landings were made, marine Corsairs and Kitty Hawks flown by New Zealand pilots provided air coverage.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

Although we had by‑passed Kolombangara, the enemy continued his operations at that base. Despite the fact that the Japanese could not rely on the Tokyo Express getting through, they sent large fleets of barges, and when these failed, supplied the base by means of submarines and float planes, and eventually by parachuting supplies to the more remote spots. Meanwhile, we attempted to starve out the enemy by constant air patrol and by laying mines in the sea approaches. Marine pilots, especially, were successful in downing enemy planes and sinking barges.

In addition to making these harassing attacks, American forces began to build an airfield on Vella Lavella. With the construction of this field at 5 Barakoma, toward the end of September, the position of the Japanese on Kolombangara became untenable, as they were now located between this new field and Munda. While the Japanese evacuation was taking place, our air forces divided their attention between heckling this retirement and striking at a new objective. This was the Japanese stronghold of 6 Bougainville, the most northern and the largest island in the Solomons.  p179 We needed it as a base for further strikes against 7 Rabaul and other Bismarck bases. The task was not an easy one, as the enemy had been fortifying Bougainville for about two years, and by the time our invasion was to start, he had two airfields in the north, two on the southern coast, 8 one in the Shortland area, and another on the east coast.

NB: 1 Rabaul is marked at the airfield rather than in the town. The exact location of the airfield "in the Shortland area" is at my marker, on 8 Ballalae island.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

As a result of the success of by‑passing Kolombangara for Vella Lavella, it was decided once again to strike the enemy at a weak point rather than at his strongest holdings. Aviation softened up the area and the supporting airfields. Employing as many as a hundred planes, Marines averaged four attacks a day in this work. As the time approached for the actual landings, planes from the Saratoga rendered assistance by bombing Japanese airfields, while the Marines gave direct support to their own troops which comprised the landing forces on the beaches of Bougainville. A Japanese cruiser force that attempted to prevent the landings was intercepted and routed. The landings were made successfully, and although we were not to conquer the entire island during the course of the war, we had succeeded in our objective of neutralizing much of the importance of Bougainville for the Japanese. As the campaign on the island progressed, the Marines introduced a new form of air fighting. The first night fighting squadron went into action against the Japanese, in an effort to check the night bombing raids that were conducted against our fields. As a result, the enemy was reduced to less effective daytime attacks. During this period also, one of the most famous marine squadrons, the "Black Sheep," led by Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Boyington, came into prominence as a result of startling performances against the enemy. The struggle in this area was to continue throughout the war, with aviation carrying its full share of the load.

Insurance for Western Australia

The work of naval aviation in western Australia may perhaps best be described as insurance against the possibility of a sneak attack by the Japanese or against submarine warfare in the area. It may be likened somewhat to the operations in Alaska, where little actually happened during much of the war, but where a potential threat long existed.

As was the case with Alaska, patrol operations were carried on under severe handicaps, though of a different nature. Except at 1 Perth, which is on a river, there could be no permanent seaplane bases. Elsewhere there were 22‑to 28‑foot tides making correspondingly high tidal currents of from 3 to 4 knots at a minimum and 10 to 12 knots in some places.  p180 Both 2 Sharks Bay and 3 Exmouth Gulf, being large areas, were subject to heavy swells. In fact, several patrol planes were lost because they broke their backs between waves. The nearest harbor was 4 Darwin, sixteen hundred miles away.

NB: 1 Perth is very close to, thus hidden by 5 Preston Point; similarly, 3 Exmouth Gulf is hidden by 6 Geraldton: pinpoint them by zooming in.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

Another handicap was the lack of adequate maps of the west coast of Australia. It was necessary, therefore, to make new maps of much of the coast line, and a permanent reminder of the presence of our seaplane tenders in the region was left in new place names, such as 5 Preston Point, Childs Cape, and Heron Haven.b

The problem of supplying the outlying bases that were set up was extremely difficult, and PatWing 10 was forced to uneconomical practices because there was no land transportation at all north of 6 Geraldton. In this part of Australia a plane could fly for six hundred miles without seeing a house, road, or a single person. The sole trans-Australian railroad had been purchased, one might think, at fire sales, since there were five different gauges of track, and every piece of freight had to be transferred at least four times en route. Then to get supplies, food, and gasoline to the seaplane operating bases, there was no way but to use the tenders themselves. Since it took three days for a tender to go from Perth to Exmouth Gulf and about four and a half to Heron Haven, the fuel problem became critical because by the time the tender reached the base it did not have enough fuel to remain on station until the planes used up the store of gasoline. To help solve the problem, lighters and tanks were built, and a torpedoed Dutch tanker was utilized for storage. All food had to be brought in the same way, since no planes were available for transport duty. The result was that much of the time the outposts were on hard rations.

Fortunately, PatWing 10 had received a shipment of advanced base gear originally destined for it in the Philippines. In other respects, however, the problem of maintenance of equipment was of considerable magnitude. The wing operated planes consistently with too many hours between engine overhauls. At first, engines had to be sent to 7 Wagga Wagga, across the continent near Sydney, and it took four months or more to get an engine back. In 1943, the RAAF set up an engine overhaul shop at 8 Kalgoorlie, four hundred miles inland from Perth, and the engines were sent to this shop by truck; but it still took a couple of months. Engine accessories were simply not to be had, and the only way out was by "cannibalizing" planes. Western Australia was at the end of the supply line, either east or west. Consequently, when materials did finally begin to arrive, they frequently lacked important component parts  p181 scrounged by other aviation units along the line which were also in need of maintenance equipment. One exception to this gloomy picture was the then highly secret radar. When this equipment was first installed, a special crew of experts was sent from NAS, Pearl Harbor, to instruct the plane crews in proper use and maintenance. This mode of operation was greatly appreciated by PatWing 10 and it contributed to efficient use of the equipment.

Evolution of the "Black Cat"

The United States naval air defense of western Australia was entrusted to a refurbished PatWing 10, later renamed Fleet Air Wing (Fairwing) 10, the same organization that had fought so heroically in the early months of the war in the Philippines and in the Netherlands East Indies. Until fall of 1943, the wing's work consisted primarily of long patrols and convoy coverages that were productive of little contact with the enemy. In spite of this, it was coverage well spent — the fact that one has insurance does not mean that he wishes his house to be burned.

On the other hand, the law of diminishing returns began to apply. Over a period of two years, patrol planes in the area had sighted not more than six or eight enemy submarines and no Allied ships had been sunk in these waters. The western Australia area came to be used more and more as a training and respite region, and at length, in April, 1944, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.MacArthur finally permitted the withdrawal of one of the two squadrons remaining there.

Meanwhile, a decision had been reached to shift the principal operations to eastern Australia and then to New Guinea. PBY's began to operate on 7 August 1943 near Samarai, on Milne Bay, with one other squadron near by at Port Moresby. On 15 September, PatWing 17 was created in the southwest Pacific to take over operations in eastern New Guinea and along the Rabaul-Buka shipping lane, in support of General MacArthur's growing offensive in that area. To prevent the Japanese from slips supplies into the area under cover of darkness, extensive use of "Black Cats" was made. In view of the vulnerability of the PBY in daytime combat, it was decided in September, 1943, to experiment with the use of this craft for night raids on enemy shipping and installations. The Catalinas of VP‑11 and VP‑52 were painted black for the purpose; only one nickname could possibly result — "Black Cat."

By the end of 1943, squadrons VP‑11, VP‑52 and VP‑101 of Fleet Air Wing 17 had greatly improved the technique of "Black Cat" operations,  p182 performing feats that their predecessors even as late as the summer of 1943 would have considered risky. Pilots were never told that they had to attack from low altitudes; they were merely told what the likelihood of success was from various altitudes, and to the "Black Cat" pilots goes the credit for proving that low altitude night flights can be made in comparative safety with effective results. Even up‑moon attacks on moonlit nights were found to be practicable. Generally speaking, the "Black Cats" were able to home on the target sufficiently by radar to guide them to a point at which they could see enough in the darkness to make corrections for radar error. The approach consisted of a glide from 1000 feet or more to from 75 to 50 feet at the dropping point. The bomb load usually was composed of two 500‑ and two 1,000‑pound bombs armed with four‑or five‑second delay fuses, to protect the relatively slow PBY from the blast effect of its own bombs. The unknown factor at the outset of this venture was whether or not planes could carry out this type of attack frequently without being shot down. Experience showed that they could. Since the approach was made in a glide, the Japs were often unaware that a run was being made, and more times than not they failed to commence firing until the drop had been completed. By that time, if they were still among the living, the Japanese could do little but fire blindly in the direction of the disappearing plane. Enemy planes which sometimes covered the Jap convoys were not at this period equipped with radar, and as a result rarely attacked the PBY's. Furthermore, being land-based for the most part, they did not dare follow our "Black Cat" evasive maneuvers close to the water at night.

This attack technique, coupled with the long range of the PBY, made them a potent menace to Japanese shipping. The PBY's had a normal range of fourteen hundred miles round trip, with allowances for gas consumed in attacks and in "snooping." To add to their range and safety of operation, emergency bases with extra supplies of aviation gasoline were set up.

Weather conditions were a mixed blessing. While they made for rugged flying, they also gave protection against interception. Squadron aerologists, affectionately called "Thunderbirds," were in an unenviable position and took a continual ribbing from the pilots. It seemed that the inevitable forecast included a couple of bad weather fronts and scattered thunderheads in the area to be covered, yet the planes took off regardless.

The "happy hunting ground" of the "Black Cats" came to be 1 St. George's Channel, the front door to 2 Rabaul. Even though the Japs placed  p183 patrol boats and planes across the mouth of the channel at the time of night that "Black Cat" marauders were expected to pass through, they blocked it off with only partial success. It became a relatively simple task to use other routes, and the effectiveness of our patrols was not diminished. Other Japanese countermeasures consisted of routing ships dangerously near the shore of 3 New Ireland so that radar blips would be hard to isolate, or, on hearing the sound of an unidentified plane, of stopping the forward progress of ships to avoid leaving a telltale wake. By the end of December, the Japanese even diverted a good deal of their shipping from night to daytime dashes.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

In the push that was taking place from the Solomons back through New Guinea toward the Philippines, the indebtedness of our armed forces to the work of all the "Black Cats" was well expressed in a Presidential Unit Citation presented to these PBY squadrons:

For outstanding performance above the normal call of duty while engaged in search missions and anti-shipping attacks in the enemy Japanese-controlled area of the Bismarck Sea. Rendering pioneer service in changing the passive defensive search into a bold and powerful offensive . . . utilizing the full potentialities of the PBY seaplane and its equipment, locating enemy task force units and striking dangerously by night in devastating masthead glide-bombing attacks to insure vital hits on the target. Dauntless and aggressive, in the fulfillment of each assignment, the gallant pilots . . . conducted daring lone patrols regardless of the weather in a continuous cover of this area, intercepting and attacking so effectively as to inflict substantial damage on hostile combat and other shipping, to deny the enemy the sea route between New Ireland and New Britain Islands and thus prevent the reinforcing of important Japanese bases. The splendid record of this combat group is a tribute to the courageous fighting spirit of its officers and men and reflects the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service.

PBY's in New Guinea

In the latter part of 1943, the Catalinas in New Guinea once again demonstrated that they were versatile work horses of naval aviation. In addition to usual convoy coverages from Port Moresby, the Catalina squadron there was assigned to air‑sea rescue, to the transportation of men and supplies to inaccessible points, and to miscellaneous other missions. During this period, there were thirty-five air‑sea rescue missions flown.

Some of the most important flights of the Catalinas were made in support of land scouting forces far in the interior jungles of New Guinea.  p184 Thirty‑six of these flights, for example, were made to the junction of the Yellow and Sepik Rivers in central New Guinea, approximately a hundred miles west of 1 Wewak and behind enemy lines. Ninety‑six thousand pounds of supplies were transported during the period, in addition to a number of personnel. The normal take‑off was before dawn, and the destination was reached, weather permitting, through passes over the Owen-Stanley Mountains, which in that area rise to 12,000 feet. North of the mountains, since ground fogs or low‑lying clouds almost invariably prevailed, it became the practice to drop below the clouds when the Sepik River was reached and follow the river at treetop height to the landing area. Unloading was accomplished in minimum time by natives. Increasingly bad weather during the day often forced the planes to near maximum altitude of 19,000 feet on the return trip. The round trip was approximately a thousand miles, and the fastest round trip was made in less than eight hours. When the position became untenable late in December, 1943, 219 Australian officers and men and 25,000 pounds of gear were evacuated by the navy planes.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

These operations were in support of a forward movement by army and Australian forces which had been augmented with landings at 2 Salamaua and at 3 Lae. While these were entirely army operations, the Navy's planes of Fairwing 17 at 4 Port Moresby were utilized by the V Air Force Command. On 3 September, ten PBY's (which may have included Australian planes) were sent to bomb 5 Rabaul. This was the first raid made on this enemy stronghold since early July, and twenty-five tons were dropped on the town and airfields, causing fires and explosions. On 22 September sea‑borne invasion forces were landed near 6 Finschafen at the eastern end of New Guinea, and this base fell on 2 October, although fighting continued in the interior. During the following week large concentrations of shipping and enemy planes were seen at Rabaul, and on 12 October a heavy army raid, supported by navy rescue Catalinas, was sent from the newly acquired bases on New Guinea. Throughout November, the PBY's regularly attacked shipping between Kavieng and Rabaul, which was also the object of two raids by Task Force 58 on 5 and 11 November, and which, in addition, was constantly bombed by shore-based army Liberators.


Thayer's Notes:

a Arms by your side, feet together, plumb vertical, and rigid as a stick: this will be the best way for you to survive such a fall into water. The skill is routinely taught at the Air Force Academy — and early on too, since I remember doing it (and rather enjoying it) in full gear from the 10‑meter diving board in USAFA's indoor pool: and I only lasted five months at the Academy.

[decorative delimiter]

b These names are those of the three seaplane tenders of the Asiatic Fleet (p111); naturally, they often worked or are mentioned together: see in particular pp120, 127. That it became useful to provide remote and still unnamed places in western Australia with identifiers is entirely likely, and the names of these ships were convenient and appropriate. But seventy years later, I wish that our author had identified the places in question.

Of Childs Cape, I've been unable to find the slightest trace online.

The location of Heron Haven too, by the early 21st century, has become uncertain: see for example the discussion on this page at VPNavy. The only clue given in this chapter (p180) is that it was 4½ hours from Exmouth Bay, and presumably in the direction opposite that of Perth.

The case of Preston Point is muddied by the existence of a Preston Point on the Swan River in the suburbs of Perth. It seems though that it was named — in 1827 — for Lt. William Preston by his commanding officer, Captain (later Admiral) James Stirling, the first European explorer of the Swan River. Also, the context here seems to require a remote point on the coast, not a small feature a few miles inland and right next to Perth which was already a large city when this book was written.

So for now I'm going to conclude, with fair probability, that these three names must have been nonce names, all of remote places that served Allied (principally American) military purposes, but that didn't in fact make it into the permanent geographical nomenclature.


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