3RD BOMBARDMENT GROUP
AKA 3RD ATTACK GROUP
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

 

- 8th Squadron

- 13th Squadron

- 89th Squadron

- 90th Squadron

 

- HQ Squadron

- 46 Ordinance Coy.

- 2 Chemical Coy

 

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13th Attack Squadron, 3rd Attack Group 2003 Reunion

 

The 13th Bombardment Squadron
was re-activated on 23 September 2005

 

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Picture of 3rd Attack Group sign
from Bill Swain

In October 1941, when Jack Heyn was assigned to the 3rd Bomb Group, it was based at Savannah Army Air Base, Sav., Ga.. It consisted of 5 tactical Squadrons - Headquarters, 8th, 13th, 89th and 90th Squadrons.

All but the 8th were equipped with A-20's. The 8th Squadron had A-24 Douglas Dauntless Dive Bombers. In the summer of 1942 the Headquarters Squadron was deactivated as a tactical unit and became strictly a Headquarters Squadron with all the Group offices. Mechanics, armourers, radio men, etc. were transferred to the other 4 Squadrons. When the 3rd Bomb Group were shipped overseas they left the planes and senior officers in Savannah. The planes to pull sub patrol, the officers to form a new group.

The 3rd Bomb Group arrived in Australia from the US on board the S.S. Ancon on 25 February 1942 without planes and a 1st Lieutenant as Group Commander. The 13th and 90th Squadrons soon moved to the new airfield at Charters Towers. 

In February 1940 the 27th Bomb Group was formed from a Cadre of the 3rd Bomb Group. On 1 November 1941 they sailed for the Philippines. They were equipped with A-24's, but their planes never arrived, and were diverted to Australia. Some of the pilots went to Australia to get planes, but only got back as far as Java, because of the deteriorating situation in the Philippines. In March 1942 - 42 officers, 62 enlisted men and 24 A-24's were assigned to the 3rd Bomb Group stationed at Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia. They were assigned to the 8th Squadron.

The 3rd Light Bombardment Group comprising A-24 Dauntless Dive Bombers, A-20 Havoc Bombers and B-25 Mitchell bombers moved to Charters Towers on 1 March 1942. The first aircraft to land at the newly constructed airfield was Major "Big Jim" Davies of the 8th Squadron in his A-24.

On 1 April 1942 the 3rd Bomb Group pulled their first combat mission of WW II. Six A-24's, led by Lt. Bob Ruegg (retired as Lt Gen. of the Alaskan Command) were headed for Lae Airdrome. Lae was socked in by weather so they diverted to Salamaua. They dropped 5 bombs, a very inauspicious start for a Group that was to become one of the most active units in the Army Air Forces in WW II.

On 5 April 1942, the B-25's that "Pappy" Gunn and "Big Jim" Davies had appropriated from the Dutch, were used in their first combat in an attack on Gasmata.

On 29 July 1942, seven A-24's of the 8th Squadron left Port Moresby, led by Maj. Floyd Rogers, headed for a convoy heading for Gona. They had an escort of P-39's. Somewhere over the Owen Stanleys they lost their escort and decided to go in with out them. They encountered a host of Zeros -- one A-24 returned from that mission, Capt. Wilkins and Gunner Al Clark. Wilkins later received the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously, in a Rabaul mission on 21 November 1943.

 

Raid on Rabaul on 2 November 1943

 

Charters Towers Airfield

 

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A-24 Dauntless Dive Bomber, ex 27th Bomb Group, reassigned to the 8th Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group.

27TH BOMB GROUP ESCAPES THE PHILIPPINES
AND JOINS THE 3RD BOMB GROUP
A number of important officers and enlisted men of the 27th Bomb Group were whisked out of the Philippines in 5 submarines just before it was overrun by the Japanese. On the night of the 3 May 1942, the last submarine, the "Spearfish" captained by James Dempsey, snuck into Manila Bay and picked up 27 passengers from Corregidor to be evacuated to Fremantle. Left behind on Corregidor were 173 officers, 2317 sailors and 4 nurses who all became prisoners of war. "Spearfish" was the last American submarine to visit the area before it surrendered.

"USS Seawolf" captained by Freddy Warder took 12 army pilots including Glenwood Stephenson and Jim McAfee of the 27th Bomb Group and 13 others who were delivered to Surabaya. 

"USS Seadragon", captained by Peter Ferral, took 4 officers including Harl Pease and Pinky Hoevet, and 20 enlisted men of the 19th Bomb Group.

"USS Sargo", captained by Tyrrel Jacobs, took the Codebreakers with their Red and Purple Machines.

"USS Swordfish", captained by Chet Smith, made two trips. 

8TH SQUADRON
Captain Floyd Rogers led thirteen A-24 Dauntless's of 8 Squadron from Charters Towers to Port Moresby.  They suffered heavy losses while in New Guinea.  They were withdrawn from New Guinea after it was realised that they were not suited for their intended role without adequate fighter protection and they were desperately in need of adequate workshop facilities and spares backup.  They were more suited to carrier based operations.

13TH SQUADRON

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13th Squadron of the 3rd Light Bombardment Group based in Charters Towers, flew their first mission in their B-25 Mitchell bombers against Gasmata.

On 28 September 1943, S/Sgt George L. Spangle (20648171) fell out of the bomb bay of a B-25D-1 Mitchell Bomber of the 8th Bomb Squadron, over Wambianna Station at a location approximately 35 miles SW of Charters Towers. It is believed that the B-25 Mitchell may have been piloted by W. D. Baker with Clarence L. Johnson as a gunner for the flight.

 

89TH SQUADRON
When the A-24 Dauntless dive bombers were withdrawn from service in the 89th Squadron they were replaced with A-20 Havoc  bombers. The 89th Squadron was the first to be equipped with A-20's. They had been shipped from the United States in crates to Brisbane, where they were assembled and then flown to Charters Towers after flight testing in Brisbane.

A total of 10 A-20's were lost in in the first few months of operation of the 89th Squadron.  One of the reasons for the incidents were mismanagement of fuel requirements.  In another incident, a crew chief ran an A-20A into the Group Operations hut in Charters Towers during an engine run-up.

The ground echelon of the 89th Squadron of the 3rd Light Bombardment Group departed Charters Towers on 17 August 1942 via Townsville enroute to Port Moresby on the Dutch Motor Ship, Maetycker-Batavia.

ACQUIRING THE NEW B-25 MITCHELLS
On 1 April 1942, 13 men from the 3rd Bomb Group (including 1st Lt. James McAfee) flew down to Archerfield airfield in Brisbane in a C-39 to pick up some B-25C Mitchell bombers that belonged to the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (Dutch). In his diary, James McAfee wrote:-

2 April 1942 - "Checked out on B-25C today. Flies real good"

3 April 1942 - " Left for CT today. Damn near flew into Schmidt over Rockhampton. and busted door of the back hatch. Bomb sight nearly fell out the open door. Made it to CT OK. Rose was my co pilot."

Noel Tunny's book, "Gateway to Victory" states that fifteen B-25 Mitchells of the Dutch N.E.I.A.F. were taken over by the 3rd Bomb Group after they were delivered to Archerfield.  They were delivered to Australia in crates.  After assembly, they were flown to Charters Towers, but the first 3 aircraft to land were damaged in landing incidents. 

Lawrence Cortesi, in his book "THE GRIM REAPERS" History of the 3rd Bomb Group, 1918-1965" gives a slightly different version of how the 3rd Bomb Group "acquired" their B-25 Mitchells.

HOW THE 3RD BOMB GROUP
ACQUIRED/"STOLE" THEIR B-25 MITCHELLS
FROM THE DUTCH AIR FORCE

Bas Kreuger advised that "Twelve plus five B-25's arrived in April 1942 from a batch ordered and bought by the Netherlands Purchasing Commity in the US. As a new NEI-AF squadron (18th Squadron) was yet to be filled with capable crews, those first 12 were handed over to the USAAF 3rd Bomb Group, where they flew for some time with Dutch serials (N5- .......). So they were not stolen, but handed over to the US."

 

ROYCE MISSION
On 11 April 1942, ten of these B-25 Mitchells and three B-17 Flying Fortresses left Charters Towers via Darwin to Del Monte, to attack Japanese shipping and fortifications in the
Philippines.  They were under the command of General Ralph G. Royce. The aircraft were fitted with long distance tanks for the long trip to Del Monte, where the tanks were removed and replaced by bombs. They returned to Charters Towers loaded with evacuees after their raid.

#112441 Lowerey Walker
#112443 Smith Talley "Mortimer"
#112442 Heiss Townsend
#112511 Maull West
#112472 Peterson Mangan "Lounge Lizard"
#112496 Schmidt Birnn
#112498 "Pappy" Gunn Bender
#112480 Strickland Hipps
#112466 Feltham Linn
#112455  ** Wilson Keeter

** This aircraft later crashed in Mount Bartle Frere on 21 April 1942.

 

CRASHES OF 3RD BOMB GROUP AIRCRAFT IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

Crash of a B-25C Mitchell at Charters Towers on 6 April 1942 Crash of a B-25 Mitchell into Mt. Bartle Frere on 21 April 1942
Piloted by Glenwood Stephenson
Crash of a B-25 Mitchell at Charters Towers on 9 May 1942
B-25C Mitchell
shot down over Lae
on 25 May 1942
Mid-Air Collision of two A-24's at Charters Towers on 5 June 1942 Wheels-up forced landing of an A-24 at Charters Towers on 8 June 1942
Crash of an A-20 Havoc into the Operations Hut at Charters Towers in about July 1942 Crash of an A-20 Havoc into Moreton Bay near Brisbane on 5 July 1942 Crash of a Douglas RA-20A-1 Boston at Charters Towers on 24 July 1942
Crash of a B-25 Mitchell into the Coral Sea on 4 September 1942
Piloted by Guss Heiss
Crash of an A-20 Havoc into another Havoc on 9 September 1942 at Charters Towers killing 13 service personnel Crash of a Douglas RA-20A-1 Boston at Charters Towers on 24 October 1942
Crash on an unknown aircraft at at unknown location some time before 9 November 1942 - 1 killed Crash of an A-20A Havoc between Australia and New Guinea on 16 November 1942
Piloted by 1st. Lt. Francis C. Pruitt
Crash of a B-25 Mitchell one mile north of Herbert River, half a mile south of Smoko Creek on 15 December 1942
Crash of a B-25D Mitchell, "Eight Ball Esquire" into the sea 25 miles NNE of Cooktown on 20 December 1942 Crash of a B-25D Mitchell in the Osprey Reef area on 20 December 1942 Crash of a B-25 Mitchell between Port Moresby and Charters Towers on 31 December 1942 (7 killed)
Crash of a B-25D Mitchell between Charters Towers and Townsville on 3 1 December 1942 Crash landing of an A-20 Havoc "Steak & Eggs" on a beach on Low Wooded Island, near Cooktown, in abt July/August 1944 Crash of a B-25C Mitchell between Charters Towers and Port Moresby on 7 January 1942
Crash of a an unidentified aircraft between Australia and New Guinea on 8 July 1943 Crash Landing of an A-20 Havoc at Cairns Airfield on 4 October 1944 Lt. Gregor M. Bronson of 8 Bomb Squadron killed in crash of a C-47 Dakota between Garbutt airfield and Finschhaven on 27 March 1945

 

"PAPPY" GUNN
Though the ingenuity of "Pappy" Gunn, the two squadrons of B-25 Mitchells were improved via various modifications.  "Pappy" was assisted by a factory representative of the North American Mitchell manufacturer who was based in Charters Towers.

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B-25C Mitchell, #41-12946, "Margaret" in a hangar at Garbutt airfield, Base Depot Number 4.

B-25C Mitchell, "Margaret" (see above) was converted to a low level "Strafer" in the B-25 Conversion centre in Townsville. Eight forward-firing Browning machine guns were fitted to the aircraft. Four in the nose were positioned through the original bomb aiming panel making air-sealing easier. Mr. Jack Fox, was the representative from the Mitchell, North American Aviation company.

BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA
Many aircraft from the 3rd and 22nd Bomb Groups were sent on search missions prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea looking for the Japanese fleet. It was while returning from one such patrol that a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted by Capt. Glenwood Stephenson crashed into Mount Bartle Frere on 21 April 1942 with the loss of all lives. Guss Heiss was another pilot who flew his B-25 Mitchell  one some of these search missions

Land based aircraft took no part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, except for a single sighting and one hour trail of Japanese ships by Lt. Hubbard and Lt. Rose in a B-25 Mitchell bomber of the 3rd Bomb group.

"THE LAST SLUG"
The 3rd Bomb Group had a club called "The Last Slug" located at 26 Aland Street, Charters Towers.

"The Last Slug" at 26 Aland Street, Charters Towers.

Left to right:
Verandah: Rube Rubenstein, "Jim" Davies, James Smith and Tom Gerrity
Top step: Alex Salvatore, Scanlon, Zeke Summers
3rd step: Ron Hubbard, Oliver Doan
4th step: Harry Managan, Howie West, Frank Tally
5th step: Harry Galusha
6th step: Harry Rose, Bob Ruegg, "Pappy" Gunn, Bob Strickland
Bottom step: Leland Walker, Frank Timlin, Jim McAfee

 

THE 3RD SLUG

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"The 3rd Slug" Bar

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General Kenney
2nd from right

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Col. Donald Hall, Gen. Kenney, ?, ?, Col. John Davies, ?

Members of the 3rd Bomb Group would spend time in Sydney for Rest and Recreation (R&R) leave and visit places like "Kitty's Place" at 40 Fairfax Road, Sydney.

 


Photo: via Ted Lye

Lt. Joseph Helbert, AKA “Runt” who flew the “Runts Roost” #41-29727 with the 90th Bomb Squadron

 

"Fat Cat"
73 combat missions and 245 combat hours

 

Photographic Collection of
1st Lt. Richard Rogers, 091447

Special Service Officer
Fifth Air Force, Hq. 3rd Atk Gp, APO 503

 

Photographic Collection of Jack Heyn
of Group Photo Section, 3rd Bomb Group (L) (aka 3rd Attack Group)

 

Jack Heyn in the South West Pacific during WW2
(Includes his time at Charters Towers and visits to Mackay and Ingham)

 

"From Up Over To Down Under: And Back"

This incredible CD-R contains a total of 526 scanned photographs from the photo album of S/Sgt Jack Heyn, a photographer with the 3rd Bomb Group, USAAF during WW2. The photographs cover S/Sgt Jack Heyn's four years in the military during WW II from his basic training to VJ Day

 

E-MAILS

FROM JACK HEYN,
ex 3rd Bomb Group

FROM MIKE BODNAR
Mike's father was in the 89th Attack Squadron

FROM HERB ZWIRN
Herb was in 8th Bomb Squadron in Japan

flying Canberras

FROM SANDRA FENTON
webmeister of the 13th Bomb Squadron Association (Korea)

FROM CHARLES W. HINTON
of 13th Bomb Squadron Association (Korea)

FROM GUS BREYMANN
The nephew of Gus Heiss of the 89th Squadron

FROM BILL J. SWAIN
His father was in the "Grim Reapers"
Bill has sent me a lot of photos

FROM ELLEY PETERSON
Elley's father, James H. Lee, Jr. was in the 90th Bomb Squadron

FROM JIM HYDE
His father, James W. Hyde, was a Crew Chief
on a B-25 in the 3rd Bomb Group

FROM REED B. TIBBETTS
Chief of Ordnance Section in 13th Squadron

FROM STU SOFFER
Nephew of 1st Lt. Abraham Soffer of 90th Bomb Squadron

FROM CAROL MacDONALD
Sister of George Howard of the 90th Bomb Squadron

FROM DAVID HANDLEY
Son of David W. Handley of 3rd Attack Group

FROM STEVEN HALL
Son-in-law of Pilot Officer Ron James, an RAAF Pilot attached to the 13th Bomb Squadron

FROM CARL R. SCHULTZ
Assigned to 3rd BG in Japan after WW2

FROM WESLEY WITTEN
son of Wesley Witten of the 89th Bomb Squadron

FROM THOMAS DRESCHEL
Son of Walter Dreschel of the 90th Bomb Squadron

FROM CHRIS ROOF
Grandson of William Roof, a Grim Reaper

FROM JOHN T. LEES
Son of Donald T. Lees
Navigator from 13th Bomb Squadron

   

 

OTHER LINKS ON THE INTERNET

 

The Grim Reapers at work in the Pacific Theater
The Third Attack Group of the U.S. Fifth Air Force
By John P. Henebry, Major General USAF, Retired

 

89th Attack Squadron Home Page

 

13th Bomb Squadron Association (Korea)

 

3rd Bomb Group
by Gerry Kersey

 

Note:-  The 3rd Bomb Group - WWII, FINAL REUNION, sponsored by 89th Attack Squadron, was held in Austin, Texas, USA 23 - 27 April 2008.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Jack Heyn, Bill Swain, Thomas Lye and Ted Lye for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS:-

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

By Michael Claringbould

"Gateway to Victory"
by Noel Tunny

The Grim Reapers at work in the Pacific Theater, The Third Attack Group of the U.S. Fifth Air Force
By John P. Henebry, Major General USAF, Retired

 

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This page first produced 26 January 1999

This page last updated 19 July 2014