The Third Japanese Air Raid on Townsville
on 28/29 July 1942

 

Kingo Shoji took off from Rabaul at 5 pm the next day in Emily No. W 47. Another aircraft W 37 had to return to base with an engine problem. Kingo Shoji pressed on to Townsville arriving over the city at at 20,000 feet at 12.27 am under a full moon.

Four American Airacobras from the 8th Fighter Group were given a 30 minute early radar warning prior to W 47's arrival over Townsville. They had reached the necessary altitude 15 minutes prior to W 47's arrival. With the aid of 10 searchlights, Captain Robert L. Harriger (Aircraft W 183) and John D. Mainwaring (Aircraft W 63) attacked Kingo Shoji at the same time. Shoji dived to 18,00 feet in an attempt to avoid the 0.3 and 0.5 calibre machine gun fire from Harriger and Mainwaring. They finally went down to 12,000 feet to avoid the American Airacobras and escape the searchlights.

Harriger was able to continue to chase the Emily after it escaped the searchlights but he ran out of fuel and ammunition and had to return to Garbutt airfield. During his last encounter with the Emily, Harriger managed to start a small fire in the tail of the Emily with his machine-gun fire. However it extinguished after a short while.

The Emily dumped seven bombs in Cleveland Bay, between the shore and Magnetic Island. By this time HMAS Swan had opened up with her 4 inch main guns. An eighth bomb exploded near the racecourse, shattering a few windows in the area. Many interested locals gathered to inspect the large crater. An Army investigation team went over the area the next day to find metal bomb fragments.

Shoji headed 130 kms out to sea and returned to Rabaul at 6.50 a.m.  Shoji's report claimed "Hit more than 10 times by two Hurricanes. Dropped three bombs near the aerodrome causing three fires, and five more on the city, igniting two more."

The RAAF Townsville Museum has a translation of a Japanese log book describing this raid as follows:-

Number of planes:     1

Target:   Townsville Aerodrome

Townsville           Tokyo             Details
Time                  Time

28 July 1942
1648hrs               1548hrs         Doors Rabaul
1745hrs               1645hrs         Engine abnormality, returned to Base.
1850hrs               1750hrs         Doors open Rabaul
2000hrs               1900hrs         Doors close Rabaul

29 July 1942
0025hrs               2325hrs         Reached target area, Townsville. From time
                                               of entering attack bearing until 2345hrs
                                               caught in beams of 10 searchlights
0028hrs               2328hrs         Attacked by two Hurricanes 7 times until
                                               2344hrs, one was hit more than 10 times.

 

aircobra.jpg (8125 bytes)
P-39 Airacobra - Japanese thought they were Hiurricanes

 

After the third raid on Townsville by Kingo Shoji in Emily W 47, Captain John D. Mainwaring told the local Townsville press "If we had been a bit less excited I guess we could have made sure of it.  We came in together and got our first burst home from the tail, along to the underpart of the hull.   Bob was a little cramped for space, so he slipped underneath me, and I could see his tracers coming up and hitting the side.  I got in so close that I was afraid I would collide with her.  She was a big ship, and, stuck out there in a pool of lights, she looked like a model.  There was not a shadow on her anywhere."

"Our first burst silenced the rear gunner, and one of our shells seemed to explode inside the ship.  Afterwards only the top turret kept in firing."

mainwarg.jpg (13394 bytes)
Captain John D. Mainwaring

from Pennsylvania, USA

John Mainwaring later flew combat missions against Japanese Zero fighters in May and June 1942 at Port Moresby in New Guinea. At the time of the Townsville Raids John Mainwaring had already clocked up two enemy aircraft shot down. Manwaring used to live in Florida, USA a number of years ago.

 

Captain Robert (Bob) L. Harriger also later flew combat missions against Japanese Zero fighters in May and June 1942 at Port Moresby in New Guinea.  At the time of the Townsville Raids John Mainwaring had already clocked up one enemy aircraft shot down.  Harriger eventually reached the rank of colonel in the US Air Force after the war and died in 1984.

harriger.jpg (15658 bytes)
Captain Bob Harriger
from Rose Bush, Michigan, USA

 

Captain Falletta was on R & R in Townsville during the Japanese raids.  He had just finished a combat tour in New Guinea.  "The aircraft was bracketed by three searchlights over the town.  I believe the Australian anti-aircraft batteries on Magnetic Island were not allowed to open fire.  Apparently they did not want to give away their position for just one aircraft.  They were waiting for a large formation to arrive."

Falletta and two other pilots took off in their Airacobras to intercept the Japanese flying boat.

"We got airborne and could still see the Jap in the searchlight beam.  It was a large four-engined seaplane.  We closed in and started shooting at it, but we could not bring it down.  It was pretty difficult as our aircraft had no night flying equipment and it was my first attempt at night combat.   I will never forget that flight."

faleta01.jpg (25014 bytes)
Captain Charles Falletta

 

faleta02.jpg (25573 bytes)
Falletta's Airacobra in about 1963
This aircraft was later restored by Syd Beck

In an earlier incident, Lieutenant Falletta was flying one of 6 Airacobras that crash landed when attempting to ferry their aircraft to New Guinea from Townsville.  They took off from Townsville on 1 May 1942 but ran into bad weather.  Lieutenant Falletta and his friend Lieutenant Walter Harvey both crash landed inland and the other 4 aircraft travelled east and belly landed on the beach north of Cooktown. Eleven Airacobras also crash landed under similar circumstances on 26 April 42.

 


Photo:- Townsville Daily Bulletin

The above tree was near the Veterinary Research Laboratory at Oonoomba.

Two coconut trees were damaged near the 3 metre square crater left by the Japanese bomb.  A nearby area, known as coconut grove, contained a poultry farm that produced chickens for the U.S. forces in the Townsville area.

Damaged coconut tree at Oonoomba

 

Crater at Oonoomba

 

The following two photographs are from the great book called:-

"Fairfield and Her Folk, 1868 - 1995,
Oonoonba State School, 1920 - 1995"
edited by Denyse Bonney.

The photos were supplied by Dorothy Young of Oonoonba.  The book contains lots of
interesting information about the wartime activities in the Oonoonba area.

 

The crater left by the Japanese 500lb "Daisy Cutter" bomb.

 

Shrapnel was widespread but the only casualty was one of the palms at the
Experimental Farm coconut grove.  The coconut grove has now all disappeared.

 

The line of coconut trees forming the coconut grove were all damaged in Cyclone Althea. There is only one of the original coconut trees now left near the complex. Some new coconut trees have been planted inside a fenced area that surrounds the bomb crater. (see photos below). There is a plaque on a rock on the southern side of Rooney's Bridge which commemorates this Japanese bombing raid on Townsville. It was installed by the Townsville City Council.

 

Plaque on southern side of Rooney's Bridge.

 

The plaque on the rock memorial

I've assumed that the following photographs were taken at Oonoomba after the third Japanese bombing raid. Is this the case, or were the photographs taken near Many Peaks Range near Pallarenda after the second bombing raid? 

 

The search for bomb fragments after an unsuccessful raid on Townsville on 27 July 1942.

 

Closeup of the onlookers - Do you recognise anyone?

 

The following photographs of the above Japanese bomb crater were taken on approximately 2 February 1999.  I would like to thank, Stephen Johnson, the Manager of the Oonoonba Veterinary Laboratory, for showing me the remains of the Japanese bomb crater.

 

The bomb crater on 2 February 1999 at the
Oonoonba DPI, Agricultural Production property

 

Stephen Johnson, Manager of the Oonoonba Veterinary
 Laboratory standing beside the bomb crater

 

Stephen Johnson, Manager of the Oonoonba Veterinary
 Laboratory standing beside the bomb crater

 

Reports by Axis Radio on the Townsville Bombing Raids

 

Townsville Saved from a 300 aircraft Japanese air raid

 

Japanese Air Raids in Australia

 

REFERENCE

"The Hidden Chapters, Untold stories of Australians at war in the Pacific"
by Robert Piper

"The History of Townsville Harbour 1864 - 1979"
by H.J. Taylor

"Fairfield and Her Folk, 1868 - 1995,
Oonoonba State School, 1920 - 1995"
edited by Denyse Bonney.

 

 

 

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 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 22 October 2000

This page last updated 26 March 2013