208TH COASTAL ARTILLERY
(AA) REGIMENT, US ARMY
AT THE STRAND, STANTON HILL,
SOUTH TOWNSVILLE, OONOONBA AND CAPE CLEVELAND
|visits since 6 November 2001|
Colour patch for Battery "H", 208th CA AA CNG
The 208th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment left San Francisco, USA on the Troop Transport "Matsonia" (former luxury liner) on 18 February 1942. The 102nd Coastal Artillery Battalion (AA Separate) was also on board the "Matsonia".
They arrived in Brisbane on 9 March 1942 and anchored overnight, possibly part of the same convoy as the 197th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment which was on the SS Monterey. The "Matsonia" pulled into docks on 10 March 1942. The 208th moved to Camp Ascot. Colonel William C. Donaldson was their Commanding Officer.
The 208th CA AA boarded a train at Ascot Station near Camp Ascot and departed for Townsville arriving on 18 March 1942.
Irving Hamlin was amongst the first Americans into Townsville after Pearl Harbor. He was a member of the 208th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment, a National Guard outfit from the Hartford, Conn. area in USA. Irving advised that their commanding officer, was Colonel Chandler, "a New England Yankee, and one hell of a nice person, as well as a good soldier."
The 208th was comprised of the following structure:-
Battery "A" 15 Searchlights
Battery "B" 4 x 3" guns
Battery "C" 4 x 3" guns
Battery "D" 4 x 3" guns
(The 2nd Battalion was issued with 48 only .50" calibre
Battery "E" 3 platoons, each with 4 guns
Battery "F" 3 platoons, each with 4 guns
Battery "G" 3 platoons, each with 4 guns
Battery "H" 3 platoons, each with 4 guns
The 208th set up the American anti-aircraft defences around Townsville, including searchlights, 3 inch Anti-aircraft guns and .50" calibre machine guns. They had a battery of 3 inchers at Cape Cleveland (or was it a radar site) and also at a small park on a beachfront road called "The Strand" in the suburb of North Ward in Townsville and at the South Townsville State School. The battery at North Ward would have been in the area now occupied by The Strand Park. Battery "C" was located at a number of locations at Oonoonba. There was also a battery of 4 guns (.50" calibre) on the southern side of the mouth of Ross River (see below).
Can anyone please confirm the location of the Battery at Cape Cleveland and whether there is still any current evidence of its location?
The following is a diary entry from the diary of Private First Class Michael Guida of Battery "F" of the 208th CA AA:-
TUESDAY, JULY 21, 1942
This afternoon our Platoon (#1A) took over "Goat Hill" for several hours. The scenery from that hill is magnificent. It takes in the whole of Cleveland Bay. The scenery from G.H. is the most beautiful of it's kind I've ever seen. I forgot for a while all about the war; I just looked, looked and looked.
Goat Hill - What we call it, had once been fortified. We wandered through its dark underground chambers!
Upon arriving back to camp I received a very pleasant surprise: two letters, one from Stanley Karmanski and the other from Keating. Stan sent me some snap shots.
This evening I sneaked out, saw a movie, discovered I had already seen it. I walked out and came back to camp.
Can anyone please confirm where Goat Hill was? Was he referring to Kissing Point or perhaps their battery location at Cape Cleveland. John Jewell of Townsville told me on 22 February 2010 that he believes "Goat Hill" was actually Magazine Hill which was located adjacent to the Townsville Wharves and was once a fortified position with bunkers and tunnels. The hill was demolished well after WWII.
Michael Guida played the piano and accordion and he entertained at tea and other occasions for both civilians and military. He was also an artist, photographer and naturalist. He was also a "tumbler" or better known today as a gymnast and he performed some of his routines, too. He cut out newspaper clippings that mentioned his performances in places such as St Stephens Hall and St. Johns Anglican Hall. The newspaper called it the fortnightly Wog Afternoon. Dates were 7 April, 27 May, 10 June, 2 July 1942. Jackie does not know the name of the newspaper as Michael only cut out the article and taped it in the diary.
In his diaries Mike Guida wrote the name and addresses of some civilian friends he had made and visited on his free time. His niece Jackie Brewer is hoping to locate anyone who would know these people. Jackie never met my uncle as he died as a result of wounds received in battle in either the Philippines or New Guinea. The following are the names and addresses he entered in his diary of civilian friends that he had made while located in Townsville:-
Miss Joyce Paye
26 Alexandra Street
Mrs. J, Jones
60 Perkins Street
Mrs. Ivan Butterworth
Mrs. L Evans
36 Macrossan Street
Mr. Cliff Carter
18 Norris Street
Mrs V. Illich
23 6th Avenue
Can anyone please put me in touch with any of these people or their families?
Photo supplied by Graham Roberts
The remains of the gun emplacements in the area now know as Strand Park in September 1945
Photo supplied by Graham Roberts
The remains of the gun emplacements at the bottom right of the photo in September 1945
Much larger version of the above photo (1,041 kbytes)
In August 2007 whilst preparing the ground for the foundations for a new Strand Police Beat building in Strand Park, the contractors found a "WWII bunker" and some utilities that they were unaware in that area. This "Bunker" is obviously linked to the presence of the anti-aircraft guns that used to be located in Strand Park during WW2. (Does anyone have any more information or photos of this "WW2 Bunker"?).
The anti-aircraft battery at Our Lady's Mount Christian Brother's School on Stanton Hill may have also belonged to the 208th. This battery was established on 15 March 1942. Which Battery was it? Was it 3" guns or .50 calibre machine guns?
Anti-aircraft guns on The Strand,
Townsville in 1942
these are probably the guns of the 208th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment, US Army
Photo: Irving Hamlin
1st 3" AA gun in Townsville. (208th CA AA)
Photo: Irving Hamlin
The original 3" guns at
the southern southern side of
the mouth of Ross River with Castle Hill in the background
Photo:- Peter Dunn. November 2005
A picture from approximately the same location
via Kevin Parkes
The 4 guns at the southern side of
the mouth of Ross River can be seen in this 1959 aerial photograph
of the area. The sea has now reclaimed the foreshore in the area of these gun sites which have now
all disappeared. The mouth of the Ross River is diagonally upwards to the left of the photograph.
via Kevin Parkes
A more general view of the above
area. A disused
sewerage treatment works can be seen in the photo.
It would appear that a number of concrete bunkers were built in the sand dunes behind these 4 gun sites. They were probably earth covered (sand covered at this location) and cannot be seen in the above aerial photos. At this stage I am not sure whether they had anything to do with the gun sites. My guess is that they did not, but I'm not really that sure at this stage. My only possible guess at this stage is that they may have been associated with RAN Station 22, Port War Signal Station Townsville. Does anyone know?
Battery "H" of the 208 CA AA CNG left the South Townsville State School (formerly Ross Island State School) on 31 August 1942, where they had been since March 1942. The 208th CA AA Regiment donated a plaque to the South Townsville State School dedicated to the people of South Townsville. Where did the 208th CA AA CNG go to after leaving the South Townsville State School?
Plaque at the South Townsville State School
US Landing ships offload their cargo at Kissing Point on The Strand
Photo: Irving Hamlin
Paul Grimes and Irving Hamlin at the beach on The Strand in Townsville.
The 208th's Command Post was set up at the Central State School in North Ward, where some of them were "bivouacked in a nice little house on stilts. Not bad for army! From day one, our men were busy building bomb shelters and tunnels."
"We ran a cropper early on, because the American nails would not penetrate the Australian logs, which were as tough as cement, so we had to wait for Australian nails...."
Central State School - Command Post for the 208th Anti-aircraft Battalion
Photo: Irving Hamlin
"David House", the
"nice little house on stilts" that
Irving Hamlin lived in with Castle Hill
in the background. This was Irving's "home away from home in North Ward"
"David House" in July
2002 on the corner of Paxton Street
and Burke Street, North Ward. It was then owned by Mervyn Short
Irving said that the first incident for the 208th, however, was out of a bad Groucho Marx scenario:-
"A Japanese Flying Boat came over one night, no higher than 10-11,000 feet. The radar people picked him up, and eventually had him right over Garbutt Airfield, but the Commanding Officer, Colonel Meyer, forbade the batteries not to fire "For fear of giving away our positions!!!".
"I saw the bomber that night, trapped like a butterfly in the lights, which suddenly went out."
"The Commanding Officer was immediately relieved of his duties and shipped home the next day, but the event was not forgotten by our Aussie Cobbers who going around with us at Barth's pub."
"We would do the buying, because the Aussie pay of 9 shillings per day did no last too long--not the way they slurped it down!"
Col Meyer, was on of the old Army Type, who had been a Cavalry officer, and still wore the baggy cavalry britches. His son, "Monk" Meyer, was a football hero at West Point, and funnily enough became Irving's combat team commander when Irving later joined the Red Arrows.
Irving Hamlin remembers the first B-17 bombers arrived at Garbutt airfield. They were an early issue, and had no tail guns!
B-17 returns to
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.
"We pitied the poor Aussies who had to fly those ancient Wirraways, which were were constantly being Whirred away by the Zeros up North."
"We went up to New Guinea, shot down a number of Japanese #99 Val type dive bombers, a sure cure for constipation if you happen to be on the ground looking at them come right at you with a horrifying whistle."
Irving was then sent to Camp Cable, outside of Brisbane, where overnight he became an Officer and Gentleman of the 32nd Red Arrow Division. He joined Battery "C" of the 129th Field Artillery
Irving promptly returned to New Guinea, and participated in the landing at Saidor, where they did a terrible number on the Japanese when they eventually attempted to break out from the foothills to the ocean and were slaughtered by the American artillery.
On one terrible day in April '44, however, a massive Air Strike against Rabaul was aborted when the weather closed in all over the area, and a large number of Allied Aircraft were lost when they could not find Saidor or Wau (inland) due to the fog. Many of them ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean. A sad day for the Aussies and Yanks....
"I returned to New Guinea to join the 32nd at Dobodura, onward up to Saidor, then up to Aitape, scene of heavy fighting. As a forward observer, I worked on the ground and also did two days weekly in a Piper Cub Observation plane. Jeeeeez....! Was invalided home with a variety of diseases (110 pounds. Still miss the guys who I worked with, even though war is evil. We did the job, and I am proud to be a veteran of the Red Arrow bunch!
Irving made many friends in Australia, "particularly in Townsville, where the wonderful people took us in like family members. I have fond memories."
"My favourite Townsville family, the Galvins, were wonderful to my little group. We danced with his two daughters, Nancy and Veronica, both of whom married Yanks, and Tim, who was Assistant Postmaster of Townsville, kept the Fosters' in the bathtub on ice for the foolish Yanks."
"After the War, Tim had retired, and he and Mrs. Galvin were to take the P&O out of Brisbane, com to Los Angeles to visit us and our kids, and then proceed East to see their daughters."
"We were terribly shocked when we were notified that Tim had suffered a heart attack the night before they were to sail, and passed away... He is probably buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Townsville."
One member of the 208th, Frank Dye (35214228) was killed by a gunshot at Rowes Bay and was buried at the US Cemetery at Townsville on 14 October 1942.
SOME MORE PHOTOS FROM IRVING HAMLIN
|Honeymoon in Miami, March 1945 with the ever lovely Ruth Kushner Hamlin, formerly Wave.|
|Irving believed this to be a Japanese tank at Dobodura, stopped by grenades! David Young (Ex- Royal Armoured Corps) told me on 30 Oct 2007 that it was an American M3A1 light tank. It was known in the British Army as the 'Stuart' and was used by them in divisional reconnaissance regiments.|
|Wrecked Japanese barge at Buna Beach, Unsuspecting Americans of 125 Infantry 32nd Division) were gunned down. Peter Storck, the Australian, took pictures, the first ever shown of dead Americans.|
|Japanese plane engine at Dobodura.|
|Japanese triple barrelled AA machine gun that did much damage to Australians at Buna.|
|Cape Endiadere, a plantation, completely destroyed during a terrible battle, when the Aussies lost18 Bren gun carriers (stupid naked wagons with a Bren gun,) and all of the crews of three, shot down from above and the bunkers below. Bad deal...|
|Japanese plane shot down by B-17 gunners.|
|Disembarking from the crap boat SS Van Heutz at Oro Bay. The ship was sunk by Japanese Val 99 dive bombers as they came out of the sun at 2:30 pm from the mountains as we Americans and our Aussie buddies applauded and cheered. The Dutch had given us a ride from Townsville to Oro Bay. A hunk of sweating black iron. Jeez....|
|Native Cemetery, Dobodura.|
|Dobodura. A native crew working their asss off.|
|Win Leavitt, "Groiniis King", feeding a baby kangaroo.|
|Militia Sentry at Townsville. Looks like an ad for Foster's lager.|
Dave Benfield's uncle, Milas Ray Benfield, was assigned to the 208th in an automatic weapons battalion. He arrived in the Asiatic Pacific Theater on 9 March 1942. He spent the next 39 months in this area before returning to the US in 1945. Dave know that he was in the Papua; East Indies; New Guinea; Southern Philippines and Luzon Campaigns, but he never talked about his time there. Dave would like to communicate with anyone who could provide any details about history and movement of this unit in the 1942-1945 timeframe. In addition, discharge papers indicate that he was assigned to the 211th AAA AW BN in late 1944.
LOCATED IN THE TOWNSVILLE AREA
I'd like to thank Irving Hamlin and his neighbour Phil Pasquini for their assistance with this home page. I'd also like to thank Graham Roberts of North Ward for his assistance with this home page.
I'd like to thank Jackie Brewer, the niece of Private First Class Michael Guida of the 208th for her assistance with this home page.
I'd like to thank John Jewell, Kevin Parkes and David Young for their assistance with this web page.
"Diary of WWII North Queensland"
by Peter Nielsen
"Beat to go ahead"
by Leonie Johnson
18 August 2007
© Peter Dunn 2003
This page first produced 6 November 2001
This page last updated 22 February 2010