19TH BOMB GROUP
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

 

Headquarters Squadron

28th Squadron

40th Recon. Squadron
(redesignated the 435th Squadron on 22 April 1942)

30th Squadron

93rd Squadron

435th Squadron
"The Kangaroo Squadron"
(Previously the 40th Recon. Squadron)

 

On the morning of 31 May 1941, 21 of the 19th Bombardment Group’s B-17 Flying Fortresses were flown from March Field to Hamilton Field near San Francisco. Later that same evening, the B-17s left for a 2,400 mile flight to Hickam Field, in Hawaii.  A now famous B-17D, "Swoose" was one of these aircraft.  "Swoose" is now located in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, USA.

This was the first mass flight of land based aircraft to make the trip and the first time that the United States had flown land-based aircraft to reinforce an overseas base. The airplanes arrived at Hickam in 13 hours and 10 minutes.

 

The 19th Bomb Group
Rescue General Douglas MacArthur

 

The first B-17 Flying Fortresses to be based in Australia were 14 early model Flying Fortresses of the 19th Bomb Group which had been evacuated from Del Monte air field in the Philippines. They began arriving at Batchelor airfield in the Northern Territory on 17 December 1941. Some of the more war-weary B-17's were sent south to Laverton in Victoria for major overhauls. These B-17's started to fly bombing missions against Tulagi and other targets in the Solomons from their new base in Townsville. They would also drop supplies to allied forces in the Celebes. They would either stage through Port Moresby or Batchelor for these missions.

By New Year's Day 1942, eleven B-17's flew to a new base at Malang in Java. Their main target then was Japanese shipping. These B-17's were reinforced in January 1942 by some LB-30 Liberators and some new B-17E's of the 7th Bomb Group. These aircraft were later withdrawn to Batchelor at the end of February 1942. 

B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2460, piloted by 2nd Lt. C.H. Millhouse, had arrived in Australia on 15 January 1942 via Africa. Both of these B-17E's had operated in the Philippines with the 7th Bombardment Group before being evacuated back to Australia and transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group.

On 17 February 1942, ten B-17 Flying Fortresses of a US Navy Task Force in "Southern Bomber Command" arrived at Archerfield airfield in Brisbane. These ten B-17's were part of a group of twelve B-17's that had flown from Hawaii via Plaine de Gaiacs, New Caledonia. They had spent a number of weeks in Hawaii prior to this long flight. On the final leg from Plaine de Gaiacs, two of the B-17's flew directly to Townsville in north Queensland through a tropical storm and landed at Townsville on 19 February 1942. These two were piloted by Captain Lewis and the other by Harry Spieth. Dick Graf was Radio Operator on Captain Lewis's aircraft. Three other B-17E's of the US Navy Task Force had earlier flown from Hawaii directly to Java.

This Naval Task Force was made up of twelve B-17's from a variety of Squadrons under the command of Captain R. Carmichael. Six of the Navy's ten B-17's that flew into Archerfield on 17 February 1942, were ex members of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 7th Bomb Group. The 88th Reconnaissance squadron had earlier flown from California to Hawaii arriving during the Japanese air raid on 7 December 1941. Harold N. Chaffin's B-17E, #41-2430, was damaged that night when an Australian DC3 civilian aircraft, VH-ACB,  piloted by Keith Virtue, ran into it while taxiing (see below). Only nine B-17E's flew on to Townsville the next day to join the other two that had arrived there directly. So they ended up with 11 aircraft and 12 crews as a result of the mishap at Archerfield. There was no accommodation at the Garbutt airfield. The officers were put up in some hotels in the city and the other ranks were put up in some tents near the airfield. Dick Graf told me that these aircraft were mainly used for reconnaissance missions.

 

B-17E #41-2340 damaged at Archerfield
enroute from Hawaii to Townsville
on 17 February 1942

 

Loss of a B-17E in transit between Townsville
and Port Moresby - April 1942

 

Loss of a B-17 in the Coral Sea
after leaving Townsville on 25 April 1942

 

On 14 March 1942, Special Order No. 1 was issued for the merger of personnel and equipment of the 7th Bomb Group into the 19th Bomb Group in Australia. The new 19th Bomb Group consisted of five squadrons under the command of Lt. Col. K. Hobson:-

- Headquarters Squadron
- 28th Squadron
- 30th Squadron
- 93rd Squadron
- 40th Reconnaissance Squadron

On 14 March 1942, the Naval Task Force B-17E Flying Fortresses of "Southern Bomber Command" (ex 88th Reconnaissance Squadron of 7th Bomb Group), based in Townsville were transferred to the 40th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 19th Bombardment Group, USAAF under the command of Major W.C. Lewis.  It was three of these B-17's that were sent from Townsville to rescue General Douglas MacArthur from the Philippines. The 40th Reconnaissance Squadron was redesignated to become the 435th Squadron on 22 April 1942.



Picture from Irving Hamlin of the 208th Anti-aircraft Battery at North Ward

B-17E returns to Garbutt airfield with something new - Bullet holes.
This is probably B-17E #41-2638 "I'm Willing" of the 19th Bomb Group.
Frank Hohmann flew 7 missions in this aircraft. The aircraft was returned to the USA.

With some of their own aircraft and some new B-17E Flying Fortresses, the 19th Bomb Group moved to bases at Cloncurry, Townsville and Longreach.

An APO list that I have shows the 30th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group (H) located at Cloncurry in June 1942.

The B-17E's of the 19th Bomb Group staged missions through Port Moresby from Townsville from about April to August 1942.  They lost their first aircraft, "San Antonio Rose II" (possibly #41-2447) when it disappeared during a mission. 

B-17 Flying Fortress, #41-2505, crashed into the side of Mt. Obree in New Guinea at 9,000 feet.  Its wreckage was not discovered until 1986. Another B-17E Flying Fortress disappeared in the Port Moresby area during some bad weather.

More B-17E's were ferried from the United States to replace the lost aircraft, but #41-2667 crashed at Whenuapi in New Zealand during takeoff.

 

Crash of B-17, #41-2652 at Mt. Fox, near Ewan,
west of Paluma on 7 May 1942

 

Crash landing of a B-17, #41-2631
at Charters Towers Air Field on 7 May 1942

 

Crash of an LB-30 Liberator, AL 508, of 435th Squadron
at Essendon airfield on 18 May 1942

 

Force Landing of B-17D, # 40-3097
"Swoose" formerly of 19th Bomb Group
on about 9 June 1942
with Lyndon Baines Johnson on board,

the 36th President of the United States

 

Crash of a B-17 Flying Fortress,
possibly near Darwin on 27 June 1942

Which aircraft Serial # was this?

 

Crash of a B-17 Flying Fortress
approx. 20 miles from Darwin near Noonamah,
 near Hughes airfield, NT on 30 June 1942

 

B-17, "Monkey Biz-ness", force-landed
on west side of Cape York on 6 July 1942

 

Forced landing of B-17E, #41-12633, "Sally"
at Iron Range on 4 July 1942

 

Crash of a B-17, #41-2655,
into the sea near Horn Island on 14 July 1942

 

Crash of a B-17E, #41-2636,
near Horn Island on 14 July 1942

 

Crash landing of a B-17E, #41-2421,
at Horn Island on 16 July 1942

 

Collision of B-17 #41-2640 and B-17 #41-2460,
on Horn Island on 27 July 1942

 

From 16 July 1942 until 23 February 1943, 8 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron operated as part of the 19th Bomb Group.

On 7 August 1942, Harl Pease, the pilot that General MacArthur rejected during a "bungled" rescue attempt in the Philippines, was killed when his B-17E, #41-2439, was shot down in flames near the confluence of the Mavlo and Powell Rivers near Rabaul. He had finished his bombing run and had returned to the target to draw enemy fire away from other aircraft about to start their bombing run. His aircraft crashed into the jungle and the crew were buried by local missionaries. It was not until 1946, that their bodies were recovered for a full military burial.  Harl Pease was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour for his bravery.

On 9 August 1942, the 19th Bomb Group lost 3 aircraft during a mission on Rabaul:-

1.    Capt. H.J.M. Hawthorn force-landed his shot-up B-17 #41-2452 on a beach on Malapla Island. Other crew members were 2nd Lt P.J. Scarboro, 2nd Lt Robert J. Haase, 2nd Lt. N.E. Bryant, Cpl Paul Harmon, Cpl. R.M.M. Andrad, Cpl Walter Buchanan. Pte. Arnold Osborn, and S/Sgt Selm. The crew were looked after by the local natives and were later taken to Milne Bay and flown back to their base.

2.    #41-2660 had an engine fire and was last seen disappearing into the clouds

3.    #41-2643 was shot down by Japanese fighters over Lakunai crashing into Rondahl's plantation.  Only two of the crew went down with the aircraft.

 

B-17E Flying Fortress #41-9014 crashed
near Noonamah, near Hughes airfield, NT on 30 June 1942 - 3 crew members killed

 

On 14 August 1942, B-17E, #41-2656, "Chief Seattle",
  was reported missing off Buna.

 

Crash of a B-17, #41-2434 into the sea
near Cairns on 16 August 1942

Major Dean Carol "Pinky" Hoevet

and all of his crew were killed

 

Two members of the 30th Bomb Squadron who died
 on 16 August 1942 were buried at the US Cemetery in Townsville
Were they from the crash of the above aircraft flown by Hoevet?

 

Crash of an unknown aircraft
at an unknown location 
in Queensland on 16 August 1942

 

B-17E, #41-2621, "The Daylight Ltd.", of the 93rd Bomb Squadron,
was reported lost after bombing a convoy near Milne Bay
 on 26 August 1942. It later crash landed at Mareeba. 

 

B-17, #41-24354 was hit by enemy fire in No. 2 engine
and nose-dived straight into the water.

 

Crash landing of a B-17, #41-2621
at Mareeba on 26 August 1942

 

Crash of B-17F #41-24428 "Miss Carriage"
at Mareeba Airfield on 6 September 1942

 


Photo:- Vernon Elder

B-17 #41-2659, "Frank Buck" on the beach at Hood Point

On 15 September 1942, B-17 #41-2659, "Frank Buck", made an emergency landing at Hood Point near Port Moresby after a raid on Rabaul. Vernon O. "Skeets" Elder was the tail gunner on this mission. The above photograph was found by his son Ken Elder among his personal belongings. The aircraft was repaired. It was later transferred to the 43rd Bomb Group.

 

Crash of a B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2650
crashed on 18 Sep 42 about 28 miles NW of Weipa, QLD

 

Crash of a B-17E, #41-9235 "Clown House" into the sea
near Cooktown on 29 Oct 1942

 

On 23 October 1942, twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 19th Bomb Group relocated from Mareeba to Townsville.  Each B-17 had 15 air echelon passengers on board. The group was lead by Colonel Carmichael. They were on their way via Townsville to Pocatello, Idaho, USA.  The ground echelon departed the following month by ship.

On 1 November 1942, B-17E, #41-2635, was reported missing after a raid on Buin-Faisi. This was the last combat loss for the 19th Bomb Group.  The men of the 19th Bomb Group had fought long and hard since their time in the Philippines.  General Kenney ordered the group home. 

 

B-17, #41-9012 damaged by fire
at Mareeba on 5 Nov 1942

 

The 19th Bomb Group on parade at Longreach.   Captain Felix Hardison, the commander of 93 Squadron is standing in front of his Squadron.  At the right hand side of the photograph is the original hanger in which QANTAS began its operation at Longreach in 1920.

Lt. James T. Connally and the crew of B-17C Flying Fortress #40-2062 at Batchelor, Northern Territory after their first bombing raid out of Australia. Nine B-17's staged through Del Monte on Mindanoa to bomb the Japanese landing at Legaspi. (see E-mails from William B Price II.)

Colonel Connally (see above photo) was the Commanding Officer of the 19th Bomb Group at Longreach for a short time. Captain Felix Hardison was in command of the 93rd Squadron.  30 Squadron was based at Cloncurry and the 435th Squadron was based at Townsville.

 

BATTLE HONOURS

19TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP
The 19th Bombardment Group (heavy) had been twice cited, once for its performance from 1 January 1942 until 1 March 1942, and again for the period 7 August 1942 until 12 August 1942. During the first period the 19th opposed the numerically superior Japanese during the enemy drive through the Philippines and Netherlands East Indies to Java, employed all available aircraft to strike wherever the enemy could be found. Despite adverse weather and lack of adequate maintenance personnel, the 19th daily inflicted great damage upon the enemy. The second citation recognises the accomplishment of repeated long-range bombing attacks on heavily defended Japanese ground, air and naval elements near Rabaul, New Britain. In the face of hazardous weather, interception by superior numbers of enemy fighters, and intense antiaircraft fire on practically every mission, damage to enemy targets was extensive.

(Also cited twice as a unit of 2 organisations engaged in defence of the Philippines, and again as a unit of U.S. Papuan Forces.)

435TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON
The 435th Bombardment Squadron (heavy), a unit of the 19th Bombardment Group (heavy), between 10 September 1942 and 10 October 1942, fulfilled frequent reconnaissance and photographic missions with unescorted Flying Fortresses, inflicting severe damage on the enemy over a wide area including New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland and the Solomon Islands. Hampered by adverse weather which necessitated low flying for observation, and by hostile anti-aircraft fire and fighter attacks, the 435th secured and transmitted accurate information on enemy shipping, made valuable photographs of important enemy-held bases and areas, and damaged enemy aircraft, ground installations and shipping. Notwithstanding many hours of flight and repeated combat damage, the ground echelon maintained 80% of the aircraft in combat condition at all times. (The 435th was also cited as a unit of the 19th Group for action 1 August 1942 until 12 August 1942, and as a unit of the U.S. Papuan Forces.)

 

E-mails from Frank Hohmann
ex member of 19th Bomb Group

 

E-mails from Clinton Bock

 

E-mails from Bob "Von" Liebman

 

E-Mails from Glen E. Spieth

 

E-mails from William B. Price II

 

Photographic Collection of Lee N. Clark
of the 19th Bomb Group

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ken Elder for his assistance with this web page.

I'd like to thank Toni Seward for his assistance with this web page. Toni's father-in-law was the late 2nd Lt Robert J. Haase, who passed away in 1996. 2nd Lt. Haase was the Bombardier on this aircraft.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS:-

The Forgotten Fifth
A Classic Photographic Chronology of the
Fifth Air Force in Action in the Pacific in WW2

By Michael Claringbould

"Fight Back from the North"
By Noel Tunny

"Gateway to Victory"
By Noel Tunny

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

AAF - The Official World War II Guide to the Army Air Forces

 

LINKS TO OTHER RELATED PAGES
ON THE INTERNET

 

The Swamp Ghost B-17E 41-2446
One of the first 12 B-17's to arrive in Australia
and be based in Townsville

 

 

 

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This page first produced 28 February 1999

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