8TH MATERIEL SQUADRON
LATER 8TH SERVICE SQUADRON
THEN 8TH AIR SERVICE SQUADRON
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

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The 8th Materiel Squadron, 5th Air Base Group, was enroute to the Philippines in November/December 1941 on board USS Republic (AP 33) as part of the Pensacola Convoy. The Ground Echelon of the 7th Bomb Group (H) and the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron were also on board USS Republic with many other US Army units. They left San Francisco on 21 November 1941 and were in the Pacific Ocean near Fiji when the Japanese mounted their surprise attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941.

At that time, the 8th Service Squadron was attached to the 5th Air Base Group. The Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron of the 5th Air Base Group had arrived in the Philippines a month earlier on 20 November 1941. They moved to Del Monte Air Base on 3 December 1941 to await the arrival of the 7th Bomb Group by air and sea. The 5th Air Base Group was lost when the Americans surrendered to the Japanese in May 1942. The 8th Service Squadron was then later reassigned to the 45th Air Base Group (later 45 Air Service Group).

After much indecision, the Pensacola Convoy was eventually diverted to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. On 21 December 1941, General Douglas MacArthur instructed Brigadier General Julian F. Barnes, the most senior US Army officer in the Pensacola Convoy to disembark along with all Air Corps personnel. The aircraft that were part of the cargo in the convoy were unloaded and the 7th Bomb Group and the 8th Materiel Squadron were ordered to assemble these aircraft so that they could be flown on to the Philippines. The Pensacola Convoy then departed for the Philippines via Darwin in the Northern Territory.

The 7th Bomb Group was billeted in Camp Ascot and Camp Doomben and the next day the Engineering, Armament and Radio Technicians were split into two groups and started to assemble P-40 Warhawks and A-24 dive bombers at Amberley Airfield near Ipswich and Archerfield Airfield in the western suburbs of Brisbane. The 8th Materiel Squadron assisted the 7th Bomb Group with the erection of these aircraft without any proper tools or equipment.

It is not clear when the 8th Material Squadron moved to Charleville in western Queensland but a National Archives of Australia document titled "Allotment of USAAC Units - USAAF Units Assigned to North Eastern Area" shows the 8th Materiel Squadron, 45th Air Base Group in Charleville as at 27 May 1942. Bruce Monighan, whose father Harold Monighan was a member of the 8th Materiel Squadron, said that his father moved to Charleville in late February 1942.

During May and June 1942, the 8th Service Squadron at Charleville carried out inspections on all of the B-17 Flying Fortresses that arrived in Australia from the USA.

The people of Charleville organised an All-Swing Dance in the Corones hall on Thursday 9 April 1942 for the Americans then based in Charleville. There was a specially selected programme of recorded American music provided by radio station 4VL with the first two hours of the programme broadcast to air. American swing music fully occupied the first half hour of entertainment. The Charleville Town Council provided the Corones Hall free of charge and a number of local businesses contributed to the event in a number of ways. Men in uniform could enter for free and civilians were admitted for the nominal fee on 2 shillings and 6 pence. All proceeds went to the Allied Canteens Fund. Dancing went from 8pm through to midnight. Special souvenir mementoes were available as a reminder of the historic occasion for the town.

On 30 May 1942, for the first time in history, Charleville citizens saw a military boxing tournament. Prior to the bouts, ten riflemen in uniform followed behind two other who were carrying flags. They were the flags of the North and South of America. When the procession reached the boxing ring, the officer in charge called a halt. The riflemen then fired three volleys on command. A bugler played a call whilst all the soldiers stood to attention and saluted. The announcer said on the PA System that the day was known as Memorial Day and was in honour of those who fell in what was known as the Civil War.

 

USASOS Station Lists information shows the following entries for the 8th Materiel Squadron / 8th Service Squadron:-

Date Location Unit Description Officers Enlisted Men
19 Jun 1942 Charleville 8th Material Squadron, 45th Air Base Group NA NA
8 Sep 1942 Charleville 8th Service Squadron, 45th Service Group NA NA
8 Sep 1942 Charleville Decon Det 2nd Chem Co (Avn) attached to the 8th Service Squadron NA NA
5 Feb 1943 Amberley Airfield 8th Service Squadron, 45 Service Group 6 232
23 Apr 1943 Garbutt Airfield 8th Service Squadron, 45th Service Group 9 227
23 Jun 1943 Garbutt Airfield 8th Service Squadron, 45th Service Group 8 224
1 Sep 1943 Garbutt Airfield 8th Service Squadron, 45th Service Group 7 220
8 Jan 1944 Garbutt Airfield 8th Service Squadron, 45th Service Group 8 224
23 Mar 1944 Garbutt Airfield 8th Service Squadron, 45th Service Group 10 210
8 Jul 1944 Finschhafen 8th Service Squadron, 64th Service Group 7 233

 

The 8th Materiel Squadron was redesignated to the 8th Service Squadron (8th Serv Sq) on 24 July 1942, and later, at an unknown date, became the 8th Air Service Squadron.

The 8th Service Squadron was attached to 5th Air Service Area Command at Depot No. 2 near Mount Louisa in Townsville, a very short distance from Garbutt Airfield.

The May 1944 HQs Base Section Two APO 922 Telephone Directory had the following entry for the 8th Service Squadron:-

UNITED STATES AIR DEPOT

8TH SERVICE SQUADRON
    COMMANDING OFFICER:

            Capt. R.L. Price            USAD 10
        Dispensary                       USAD 25
        Mess Hall                         USAD  7
        Motor Pool                       USAD  9
        Orderly Room                   USAD 10
        Squadron Supply               USAD  8

 


NARA Signal Corps Photo GHQ-SWPA-43-5792

Brig. Gen. Carl W. Connell, Commanding General Air Service Command, 5th Air Force, congratulated Captain Theodore Swanson, Commanding Officer of the 8th Service Squadron, 45th Service Group after presenting him with a Silver Star at Depot No. 2 at Mount Louisa.

 

Captain Theodore Swanson was awarded the Silver Star by Brigadier General Carl W. Connell, the Commanding General of Air Service Command, 5th Air Force in May 1943. Captain Swanson was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on 3 February 1943, while returning from a mission against the Japanese in which his aircraft was hit and one engine set on fire. He ordered his crew to parachute out over an island and then landed his aircraft on the beach, this saving much needed first aid supplies and emergency rations.

A large number of Enlisted Men of the 8th Service Squadron were awarded the Good Conduct Medal (or Ribbon) on 29 March 1944, having completed one years service after 7 December 1941 and for exemplary behaviour, efficiency, and fidelity to duty. See the two pages of General Orders No. 1, Headquarters 8th Service Squadron, APO 922 below. Click on the thumbnails to see the full documents.

 

Page 1

 

Page 2 - this page is signed by 2nd Lt. John A.
Finnegan, Adjutant of the 8th Service Squadron

 

Staff Sergeant Harold B. Monighan was a member of the 8th Materiel Squadron and arrived in Brisbane on the USS Republic in the Pensacola Convoy on 22 December 1941. After assisting the 7th Bomb Group to assemble aircraft at Amberley Airfield he moved to Charleville with the 8th Materiel Squadron in late February 1942. Whilst in Charleville, Staff Sergeant Harold Monighan met Jean Hill, a girl from the outback in Charleville for schooling. They were married on 17 September 1942 at the Charleville Church of England Church and held their reception with 70 guests in the Corones Hotel. Harold was later transferred to Townsville in north Queensland and then eventually to New Guinea. Harold was was a flight instrument mechanic and worked on repairing aircraft that came out of the Philippines and later the aircraft flying missions to New Guinea.

 


Photo from Bruce Monighan

Equator Crossing Card belonging to Pfc. Harold B. Monighan of the 8th Materiel Squadron

 

Harold B. Monighan and his new wife Jean

 

The Bride and groom

 

The wedding party at the reception

 

Danny Secary's father, Staff Sergeant Lewis D. Sicheri (6 943 449), was also a member of the 8th Materiel Squadron. His father kept a boxing kangaroo whilst he was based in Townsville that he used to somehow win money from the Marines.

 

NOTE:- "Materiel" is the correct spelling when used with the naming of these units. It is not "Material".

 

REFERENCES

They Fought with What They Had - The Story of the Army Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific, 1941-1942"
by Walter D. Edmonds

"Four Decades of Courage - Development of United States Air Power and the 7th Bombardment Group"
by Irene W. McPherson

"All-Swing Dance - Novel Social Event", The Charleville Times, Thursday 2 April 1942

"Splendid Boxing Tournament - Service Men Seen in Action", The Charleville Times, Friday 5 June 1942

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank, Gordon Birkett, Danny Secary, and Bruce Monighan for their assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 18 June 2017

This page last updated 07 August 2017