Chapter 3 - 90th Bomber Squadron 1942- 43
January 1 - 1943 Spent New Years eve in Brisbane. Plan to leave for Iron Range but cancelled because of weather.
January 2 - Flew up to Townsville but couldn't land because of weather. Returned to Amberly AAB, Brisbane with 4:15 flying time.
January 3 - Operations won't clear us to Townsville because of weather, but later find out it was practically clear the whole way.
January 4 - Finally make it to Garbutte Field, Townsville. Went to local movie with Lt Milder. We saw our adjutant, Lt Lord in Townsville. Found out that after he saw us he had an appendicitis operation later that night.
January 5 - (my Birthday) we return to Iron Range. Three 400thSquadron crews including ours are scheduled to fly some photo reconnaissance missions for the RAAF northward out of the Darwin, Australia area.
January 6 - With B-24 # 4068 named "Redaz", we flew from Iron Range to Fenton (My log-book says it is some 90 miles south of Darwin). At Fenton we learn that the Dutch Government had build quite a number of permanent airdromes in the Dutch East Indies just before the Japanese struck. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) wanted the use of US air crews and planes capable of making photo intelligence flights over these fields. They would supply the camera equipment and operators. Here at Fenton I meet a Australian officer, named Don Wald, who was a cousin to a High School chum of mine, Fulton Doughty from Orange California. It's a small world.
January 9 - Early morning we were briefed on our photo target locations and last known positions of the "Australian coast watchers" on the island of Timor. This was for our possible emergency survival. On this day we flew northwest to the east coast of Bali, over Sumbawa and west edge of Timor. I guess we were not expected and got our pictures with no "Zero" problems. However on the way back to Australia, we mixed it up with some of the most severe turbulent weather that I've ever experienced. Due to route deviations, winds etc, it became a possibility that we might not have enough fuel to get back to Australia. The closest suitable field was at the town of Darwin. On the north western coast of Australia. Sergeant Tavner, our engineer squeezed the gas tanks and we squeaked in there with 18 (according to my diary) gallons left in our tanks. I do remember one engine quitting due to fuel starvation as we taxied off the runway.The Australians at Darwin refueled us with a couple hundred gallons and we flew back to Fenton. As we took off we could see the harbor of Darwin and it was full of sunken ships with just their masts above the water. This was from an earlier Japanese bomb raid. This was a flight of 11:15 plus 1:00 trip back to Fenton with no bomb bay tanks.
January 11 - We returned to Iron Range to pick up some much needed bomb bay tanks. We returned with two tanks to Fenton on 12 Jan and then to Batchelor Air Base at the request of the Australians. My diary says it was because of logistical operations. Also, I noted "not so good a place a s Fenton". On 14 Jan, we flew north over Buru Island then west over Kendari, an airfield in SE Celebes. This place turned out to have a large number of Japanese planes on the ground and a few flew up to meet us. They attacked us from straight overhead. I saw a couple passes pull away early when Sgt Tavner's top turret with a tracer every 3rd shell making it look like a stream from a fire hose when he fired at them. We were credited with destroying 1 Zero during this attack. Our tail turret gunner, Sgt Rozow was credited with the downing. Our flight time was (11:15 hrs).
January 15 - We went over to Fenton to have some (5) Zero inflicted bullet holes patched. No personnel or equipment damage.
January 16 - We flew (11:00) north to Manado, Celebes for pictures, but too much cloud cover for pictures. This was a flight north of the equator.
January 18 - Saw us north to Fakfak, an air base on western New Guinea, then flying along the coast to the area on the sw corner of New Guinea. I noted in my diary tha t coast (colored coral etc) was beautiful (from the air) and there was signs of an airfield being built along this coast.
January 20 - we were up at 3 AM flying north to Manado, Celebes again. This time we got good pictures. We had no Zeros intercepts and we left notice of our presence by dropping propaganda leaflets over city of Manado. Flight time was 12:20 hours. This was our last mission for The RAAF. January 20 - We were up at 3 AM flying north to Manado, Celebes again. This time we got good pictures. We had no Zeros intercepts and we left notice of our presence by dropping propaganda leaflets over city of Manado. Flight time was 12:20 hours. This was our last mission for The RAAF.
January 21 - we returned to "home" at Iron Range. Noted: The only crews with us at Batchelor and Fenton were from the 400th Bomb Squadron. They were Lts Porter, Coolidge, and Capt Hatfield -with Maj Bullis. There is an error in John Alcorns list of the crews at Fenton. I guess that no time or distance records were set by us except possible one without bomb bay tanks. 43 New crews have arrived in Iron Range while we were in Darwin. Still at Darwin, Still in the Darwin area, Maj Bullis and 2 other crews bombed Amboni Island. They hit cruiser and cargo ship. Also were attacked by about 20 Zeros for one and half hours. One gunner was killed.
January 22 - Regan and crew lost (I believe on a recco mission).
January 23 - Went on test hop in #068 and #904. I made a practice landing on the strip at Iron Range.
January 24 - Lt Jones back from Sidney. Lt Tom Fetter (bombadier for Lt Jones) still in hospital with back problems.
January 26 - Major Bullis back from Darwin. Our crew saw a demonstration of anti-aircraft guns with Lt Patterson of the US artillery.
January 27 - Rain today. Operations said we can't use a combat (B-24) f or transportation on leave to Sidney.
January 28 - Still Raining. Story going around that our Group is shooting down so may Zeros it will be called a HEAVY fighter unit.
January 29 - Lt Lewis going to an Island off Portland Roads. I wenton trip inland, to the west of Iron Range with Lt Patterson to see a nearby Australian Gold Mine.
3January 30 - Have lost 11 planes to date. 400th crews gone are:
January 31 - 33 The Claudia strip Sq (B-26's) is moving to Port Moresby. They later changed to B-25s. Saw movie-Tortilla Flats.
February 1 - 319 Sq moving to Darwin. 320th and 321st going to Moresby. The 400th to stay at Iron Range and be replacement Sq until we get more planes. The Group way under strength for planes. Some of us took a bath in the local creek.
February 3 - Tent-mate Lt T.O. Dunbar back from Sidney vacation.
February 5 - Started Officers call. It's raining by noon.
February 6 - More rain (and Mud). A transient P-38 landed wheels upon Claudia Strip (B-26 Runway). 319th, 320th and 321st have about completed their move out from Iron Range. All 400th crews are back except College, Wilson. McMair is still in Sidney on vacation.
February 9 - Test hop and shot a landing in #720. Ship seems to be out of alignment and didn't fly well.
February 10 - Our crew leaves in #904 for Amberly Fld, Brisbane Depot and we're on our way to Sidney for R & R.
February 11 - We flew from Brisbane to Sidney in a Douglas DC-5 Flown by the Australian AF. The were only 12 made and 5 were sold to the Dutch for use in East Indies. When the war started the surviving planes were assigned to the Australian AF. We start our vacation in Sidney.
February 22 - In Sidney We hear that Lt Reinsland's crew was lost about 3AM; hitting a mountain on returning to Iron Range from a mission to Rabaul. Reinsland(P) Hughes(CP) Peck & Wimberly (N) Stuemer (B).
February 23 - Tom Fetter back is operated on. Mary, Olive and I see him in a Sidney hospital.
February 25 - Sully (Sullivan) and I rent a 57 ft yacht for afternoon sailing in Sidney Harbor. I had been renting a 25 ft sail boat previously.
February 26 - Leave Sidney by train for Iron Range arriving at Brisbaine on the 27th.
February 29 - Departed by C-47 to Townsville.
March 1 - Arrive at Ward strip in Moresby. This is the new home for the 90th Bomb Gr.
March 2 - Delayed by bad weather from returning to Iron Range.
March 3 - Back at Iron Range by C-47. All our leather things in our tent are moldy. Started raining at 2PM. Bismarck Sea battle is going on. Low level B-25's are doing most damage.
March 4 - McNair, Straw, and Menge crews left for Moresby.Visited Lt Holiday, Blum & Dreskin in hospital with athletics foot ?. Rain in afternoon again.
March 5 - tried to leave for Moresby but Iron Range runway was too wet for us to taxi out. They even had wooden planks to taxi the B-24s over the muddy spots.
March 6 - Finally got out to Strip and took off at 10:00 for Ward Strip, Port Moresby. Sully, Weinberg and I living together in tent at bottom of a hill; alongside a (accessible) water pipe and not too far from the mess hall. Porter and Digges have a tent near the top of the hill in our area.
March 7 - Dug into the side of hill to make level site for our tent. Have a headache and G.I.s, but am well enough to go to engineers to see movie.
March 8 - Took trip of 7 miles (Note: Ward Strip also called Seven Mile Strip) to see downtown Port Moresby. Officers club on beach with good food. 9 Mar Sully goes into hospital. Al Weinberg and I go to town again. The Officers club on the beach there is the only place without mosquitoes. It usually has a nice breeze off the water.
March 10/11 - Moresby both days . Got a ticket from M.P.s for speeding in jeep.
March 12 - Ate at Moresby Officer club again. Al's tooth isaching again. Reccos have found big convoy off Wewak (7 ships).
March 25 - 400th ground crews arrive by ship from Iron Range.
March 26 - Enlarged and improved tent. Lt North has moved in with us. Lt. Hork-mess officer has improved our mess hall meals.
March 27 - Raining most of day. Built myself a table for writing letters.
March 28 - Time put back 1 hour. Lots of mosquitoes. We have netting over our cots, but if you roll against the netting they are waiting for your blood.
March 29 - Squadron up and running finally. First Officers call this AM. This is when some of us are picked each morning to censor squadron out-going mail.
March 30 - Alerted to go on recco tomorrow.
March 31 - A Group Operation Officer going as copilot, but I decide to go along anyway. Rode in the rear part of plane and saw how the back end of our plane and crew does their jobs. We flew a recco (8:30 hours) from Ward strip counter-clockwise a round New Britain Island. We passed by a couple zeros off Gasmata but they didn't engage for some reason and we didn't bother them. Below minimums weather at Port Moresby so we landed on the north side of New Guinea at Dobadura strip (Buna) That evening I talked to a Army Officer and he gave me a few Japanese souvenirs. He said that he had trouble with his troops looking for souvenirs and that the Japanese were starting to "booby trap" things.