DID THE JAPANESE LAND ON THE SOUTH EAST
OF THE GULF OF CARPENTARIA, QLD IN APRIL 1943?
In April 1943, the RAAF Radio Unit in Townsville intercepted Japanese radio traffic which they interpreted as indicating that Japanese military were being landed on the Cape York Peninsula. The large military airfield at Iron Range was advised and placed on alert.
HMAS Australia spent the early months of 1943 in support of the Coral Sea Group and patrolling the east coast of Australia. On 11 April 1943 she received a report of a Japanese landing of 40 to 50 Japanese marines on the south east shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria at Galbraith. Although subsequent investigations proved negative, it appeared likely that the Japanese were either establishing fuel caches for subs or aircraft or both, or landing small parties of men as commandos or coast watchers.
The reports started with advice from N.E.A. through O.B. 28 at Horn Island of an unconfirmed report of a Japanese landing at Galbraith. At around the same time, local residents from Mitchell River Mission and Galbraith reported seeing lights out to sea. They were even reports of a submarine being seen west of Aurukun Mission.
At 1720 hours on 11 April 1943 P. Randall of Sterling Station reported the landing to Colonel O'Malley VDC in the Gulf area.
At 1930 hours the RAAF advised that a Japanese submarine had been sighted west of Aurukun and an aircraft was circling the area.
At 2330 hours NOIC Townsville reported that there were no sightings after an aerial reconnaissance of the area. However footprints were found on the beach.
York Force was mobilised to find the suspected landing party. An Independent Company was formed from the 11th Brigade. They were flown from Cairns in Qantas flying boat Camilla on 13 April 1943. Another source stated that a party of 10 RAAF guards and a detachment for the 13th Garrison Battalion of the Australian Army was sent to the area on 17 April 1943 where they patrolled Tozer's Gap on the road between Iron Range airfield and the sea. They searched the area for two days with no result.
Extensive ground and aerial surveillance patrols failed to find any trace of the suspected landing force.
Ball, Reg. A., "Torres Strait Force - Cape York, Thursday Island, Merauke 1942 - 1945", Australian Military History Publications, 1996
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This page first produced 2 November 2000
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