208TH COAST ARTILLERY (AA) REGIMENT, US ARMY
TOWNSVILLE, QLD, DURING WWII

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Colour patch for Battery "H", 208th CA AA CNG
on a wall at the South Townsville State School

 

The 208th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment under the command of Colonel William N. Donaldson, Jr (0-8593), left San Francisco, USA on the Troop Transport "Matsonia" (former luxury liner) on 18 February 1942. The 102nd Coast 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 Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment which was on the SS Monterey. The "Matsonia" pulled into docks on 10 March 1942. The 208th moved to Camp Ascot.

The 208th CA AA boarded a train at Ascot Station near Camp Ascot on 16 March 1942 and departed for Townsville arriving there on 18 March 1942. The 208th was placed in tactical locations on arrival in Townsville. The 208th CA AA Regiment was attached to the 40th Coast Artillery Brigade (AA) commanded by General Robert H. Von Volkenburgh.

Two 4 gun 3.7" Australian Heavy Anti-aircraft gun sites, their Battery Headquarters and an Australian light anti-aircraft battery were placed under the operational control of the US Army's 208th CA (AA) Regiment.

The 208th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment was comprised of the following structure:-

 

1st Battalion

Battery "A" 15 Searchlights 15 Sections. Section #15 was at Magnetic Island. Other possible Section locations were Pallarenda, Paluma, ?.

A 268 Radar was located on Magnetic Island.

Battery "B" 4 x 3" guns Located at southern side of mouth of Ross River
Battery "C" 4 x 3" guns Located at Oonoonba
Battery "D" 4 x 3" guns Located at Our Lady's Mount Christian Brothers School on Stanton Hill

 

2nd Battalion (The 2nd Battalion was issued with 48 only .50" calibre machine guns)

Battery "E" 3 platoons, each with 4  x 50 calibre guns 1st Platoon at Mt St John, 2nd & 3rd Platoons at Strand Park and Kissing Point
Battery "F" 3 platoons, each with 4  x 50 calibre guns The three Platoons were located at Goat Hill, the Breakwater, and  Railway Station area
Battery "G" 3 platoons, each with 4 x 50 calibre guns All three Platoons at Antil Plains airfield
Battery "H" 3 platoons, each with 4 x 50 calibre guns All three Platoons around Garbutt airfield

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 light AA battery 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 four 3" guns 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? 

On 18 March 1942, a motor convoy of 25 vehicles with two officers and fifty-two enlisted men (including aid men) left Brisbane to reconnoiter a motor route to Townsville. Vehicles used were 23 two and one-half ton cargo trucks and 2 one quarter ton trucks. The vehicles were empty, save for a mess truck, maintenance truck and a communications truck. The convoy commander was 2nd Lieutenant Douglas C. Lindsay. The convoy arrived at the 208th Coast Artillery (AA) Headquarters in Townsville on 27 March 1942 They had travelled a total distance of 1165 miles. The route traversed some almost impassable country and the report rendered was of immense value in planning future cargo movements by truck from Brisbane to Rockhampton, Townsville, Charters Towers, and points further north on the Australian Mainland. It revealed that many types of vehicles, vans, mobile and truck-drawn artillery and radars could not make the trip during certain seasons and permit the equipment to arrive in serviceable condition.

On 10 May 1942, Colonel Donaldson was relieved of his command to take over another assignment and Colonel Horton L. Chandler, formerly of the 197th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) was placed in command of the 208th. The tactical assignment in the Townsville sector continued with the consolidation of antiaircraft defense positions and continual improvement of such installation.

The defense of the Townsville area included antiaircraft positions on Magnetic Island, an island due east of the city. On 15th August 1942, work was commenced on a submarine cable to Magnetic Island from the mainland by the Communications Section of Regimental Headquarters Battery. When the project was completed it proved a most valuable link in the administrative and alert networks of the defense. During this early period the Intelligence Section of Regimental Headquarters worked in close liaison with Royal Australian Air Force regarding early warning and on general intelligence matters. The relationship was always cordial and cooperative and proved beneficial to all.

On 13 August 1942, the Regiment was changed in organisation from two to three Battalions, the 1st Battalion being a gun (three inch) battalion, the 2nd Battalion being an automatic weapons battalion (37mm and .50 calibre  machine gun) and the 3rd Battalion being a searchlight battalion. The reorganization brought additional personnel into the Regiment. A considerable part of the augmentation was accomplished by transfers of 251 officers and enlisted men from the 94th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) which had arrived in Western Australia at approximately the same time as the 208th had arrived in Brisbane. Battery "G" of the 94th Coast Artillery (AA) became Battery "A" of the reorganised 208th Regiment. One Platoon of Battery "E", of the 94th CA (AA) and a portion of its Headquarters became Headquarters and one Platoon of Battery "K" of the re-organised 208th. A part of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 94th CA (AA) became the 3rd Battalion, 208th CA (AA) Regiment.

At approximately the same time that the Regiment was reorganized, the 2nd Battalion received its first 40mm (Bofors) guns and training in their use was inaugurated.

On 13 September 1942, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 1st Battalion, Batteries A, B, G, and H, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, and Battery I were pulled out of tactical position and moved to a staging area. The tactical positions vacated by the 208th were taken over by the 197th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) and the elements of the 208th still remaining in position passed to the control of the 197th.

On 15 October 1942, the units pulled out of position in mid-September 1942, were organized into a provisional composite battalion and it departed by water from Townsville for Port Moresby, New Guinea, arriving on 19 October 1942, where it was placed into position as the antiaircraft defense for the then most forward forces of the Allies. The fire units, lights and radars were ready for action from revetted positions on 12 November 1942.

On 15 November 1942, Batteries C and E of the 208th were taken out of tactical location in Townsville and organized into the 1st Provisional Antiaircraft Artillery Group under the 40th Coast Artillery Brigade (AA). This provisional Group was prepared for a move to New Guinea. The Group left Townsville by ship and landed in Oro Bay, New Guinea where it went into position.

The balance of the 208th Regiment continued in position during the remainder of 1942 and early 1943 and fast became an integral part of the early American forces which forged from the Australian Mainland the tremendous base for future operations to the North and Northwest. Townsville became an air base of considerable size and importance and its antiaircraft defense was a responsibility of like proportion.

On 15 May 1943, the 208th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) was reorganized as the 208th Antiaircraft Artillery Group and the three Battalions of the Regiment were redesignated as follows:-

1st Battalion became the 745th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion,

2nd Battalion became the 211th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion

3rd Battalion became the 238th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion.

On 4 July 1943, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 208th Antiaircraft Artillery Group with other antiaircraft units departed from Townsville, Queensland in a convoy of sixteen vessels for Port Moresby, New Guinea and arrived there on 7 July 1943. The unit stayed at Port Moresby and on 13 July 1943, departed by air over the Owen Stanley Range and landed at Dobodura, New Guinea, arriving the same day. The group was ordered to organize antiaircraft defense of the Oro Bay-Dobodura area. Air attacks from this point on were frequent and the enemy aircraft were engaged whenever the air defense commander released authority to fire.

Irving Hamlin was amongst the first Americans into Townsville after Pearl Harbor. He was a member of the 208th Coast 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."

 

Private Sydney "Syd" D. Stocking of 1st Platoon, Battery "E", 2nd Battalion,
208th CA (AA) manning a 50 calibre machine gun at Mount St. John

 

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.

John Jewell of Townsville told me on 22 February 2010 that "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
North Ward
Townsville,
North Queensland

Mrs. J, Jones
60 Perkins Street
South Townsville

Mrs. Ivan Butterworth
The Rectory
South Townsville

Mrs. L Evans
36 Macrossan Street
South Townsville

Mr. Cliff Carter
18 Norris Street
Hermit Park
Townsville
North Queensland

Mrs V. Illich
23 6th Avenue
South Townsville

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 believed to be mostly Australian
AA guns in the area now known 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

 

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Click on thumbnail to enlarge

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 WWII. (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 was one of the three heavy ant-aircraft 3" gun sites in Townsville operated by the 208th. This battery was established on 15 March 1942.

 

3.7" Anti-aircraft guns of 395 HAA Gun Station,
16 Australian HAA Battery on The Strand, Townsville in 1942
 


Photo: Irving Hamlin

1st 3" AA gun in Townsville. (208th CA AA), probably near the mouth of Ross River

 


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 supplied by Graham Roberts

A 40 mm Bofor's anti-aircraft gun on The Strand, Can anyone tell me which unit
this gun belonged to. I do not think it belonged to the 208th.

 


Photo: Irving Hamlin

Paul Grimes and Irving Hamlin of the 208th CA (AA) 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 

 


 

1ST BATTALION 208TH COAST ARTILLERY (AA) UNIT JOURNAL

 

The following is an excerpt from the 1st Battalion 208th Coast Artillery (AA) Unit Journal by Lt. Healy:-

 

"31 March 1942 - The first eight days of this month were spent at sea. The day that lay across the I.D.L. was for the mythical day called the 2nd of Mar'42. Passage through the Tasmanian Sea was havoc to the unseaworthy and the mess facilities were strained at the way men threw their food and themselves around in such a sea. It was a real Mack Sennet Comedy scene of custard pie throwing mob and many an officer look undignified as he slipped and came down the ship's stairs on his cushioned posterior or as the case might be. And of course the measles had to pop up again on board ship but was confined to three cases only. On the eight the coast of Australia was sighted about 1430 hrs and the ship hove to off the mouth of the Brisbane River until the following morning when we moved up the river to Brisbane arriving about 1355 hrs and desembarking around 1615 hrs. Personnel, O. and E.M. billeted at Doomben Race Track on outskirts of city of Brisbane. Fresh water showers were in order for all of personnel and it was welcome. Details of O. and E.M. to ships for unloading of cargo of equipment and material. Until the morning of the 16th Monday fatigue details for ship and preparation for rail movement in progress and at 0735 hrs entrained for Townsville Q arriving there at 0300 hrs 18th. Troop trains were staggered in time for departure from Brisbane to Townsville. The average train carried about 305 E.M., 9 O., atch. med. det., ammo 22 tons, rations for 10 days, 7 lbs per man per day say 312 men about 16? ton with impetmentia? of bags, bedding rolls, locker trunks about 10 ton. On Wednesday the 18th, Btry "B" moved to docks vicinity Townsville Jetty for AA mission of protection of the unloading of our boats. 2nd Bn. concentrated heavy MG in same area. On the 19th the freighter arrived with our heavy stuff and on the 20th BC's recon their new gn posns. Orders on the 22nd caused the tactical posn at Townsville to be evacuated and new posns were commenced by emplacing gns. Some btrys required the rebuilding and construction of roads to posns. Extensive pioneer work undertaken. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, and by the end of the month all calibration, and trial slot fire had been completed and positions were well started on the way to being sandbagged and camouflaged. On the first of April our new CO Col. Donaldson inspected positions (The Col assumed cmd as of the 11th Mar).

On the 21st of Mar 1st Bn HQ and HQ btry moved fr Armstrong Paddock to Cluden Race Track outskirts of Townsville. Major Dexter A. Cargill was in cmd of the 1st Bn and his staff consisted of Capt. E.R. Lodge as Ex O., Capt. xxxxx, S-1, Lt. E. Robinson, S-2, Capt. Mercier, S-3, xxxxxx. The batteries atch and asgd for duty to the 1st Bn were Btry A, B, C, D. and 1st Bn. Hq Byty.

13 April 1942 - 2nd Lt. Robinson S-2 1st Bn to SD xxxxxxxx, and atchd to HQ for adm and HQ Btry for rations returning fr SD at S-3 to duty on 30th.

This month saw particular attention to the camouflage and concealment of gun posns and to development of suitable messes and living quarters. firing problems and TSP's fired. "B" btry had one TSP and burst that showed director was in error. Remedied by btry personnel. Heavy rains this period made traffic to "B" posn almost impossible. Details to work repairing and rebuilding road, and fords. Usual duties. Several alerts. No engagements. Toward the end of the month Intelligence information says Japanese recon activity and increase of forces both navl and land at Rabaul speak of probable movement by the enemy to the south of Rabaul and constitutes serious threat to the mainland of Australia. Yanks well received by the native population (Australians) especially the girls and soon American slang and dancing and other customs were in the vogue.

3 May 1942 - Lt. Robinson duty to SD with 3FS (3 Fighter Sector Headquarters) and atchd to Hq Btry fr rations and to Hq for adm. Capt. Mercier reld of SD with CDH (Combined Defence Headquarters) and of atchmt to Hq for adm and Hq Btry for rations. Capt. Mercier duty to (School) DS at AA School Randwick, N.S.W.

21 May 1942 - Capt. Marchand Blatchley (0-328431) asgd to Hq 1st Bn as P&TO.

22 May 1942 - Capt. Marchand C. Blatchley reld fr asgmt to Hq 1st Bn as S-3 and resgd as Ex O. Hq 1st Bn Capt Lodge trfd fr H1 1st Bn as of 21 May.

Activities during this month was limited to alerts. However Btry "C" on the 1st did fire at two recon planes during the early afternoon but the enemy was out of range. Outposts were strengthened and extra small arms amm issued to men. There was further and continued exploitation of development of positions and MG emplacements with still a desire to screen all possible activity from the enemy's observation. Barbed wire entanglements and cementing of sandbags experimented with for future changes. Preserving of sandbags exposed to sun and rain big problem. So is dengue fever.

On the 30th of May 1942 Col. H. Chandler reld Col Donaldson of cmd of 208th CA (AA).

10 June 1942 - Capt Ives abs sk in hosp in Brisbane to reld fr asgmt to Hq 1st Bn & asgd to Base Section #3, Brisbane, Q.

29 June 1942 - Capt. Mercier DS at NSW to duty. Lt. Nealy Btry "E" duty to sk in hosp.

The feeling and thought of possible enemy activity was still strong and Australian patrols protected beaches against possible landing attempts supported by the artillery sited vicinity Stuart Range and other proper tactical places.81mm mortars fired at "B" Btry in demonstration firing. Morale high. Positions still being improved.

3 July 1942 - 2nd Lt. Franken Btry A duty to DS to Sydney Australia as of 27 June '42, same NS to duty 22 July.

6 July 1942 - 2nd Lt. Lindsay SD at Regt Hq as Tran O. aptd 1st Lt. 2nd Lt W. Stewart aptd 1st Lt.

8 July 1942 - Capt. James A. Sullivan (0-283842) asgd to & j? 1st Bn Hq as P&T O as of 7 July '42.

10 July 1942 - Capt. Mercier duty to frfd to HQ USASOS Melbourne Vic Australia.

14 July 1942 - Capt. Sullivan 1st Bn Hq duty to SD with 3FS (3 Fighter Sector HQs) & atchd to Hq for adm & Hq Btry for rations. Capt. Luce asgd to Hq 1st Bn as Adj.

18 July 1942 - Capt. Luce duty to SD with 3FS and atchd to Hq for adm to Hq Btry for rations. Lt. Robinson SD at 3FS to duty & reld of asgmt to 1st Bn Hq and trfd to Btry "B". Lt. Healy sk in hosp asgd to 1st Bn Hq as Int. O. & atchd to 1st n Hq Btry for rations. 1st Lt. Healy reld asgmt "B" Btry sk in hosp.

20 July 1942 - Lt. Lindsay duty to SD atchd to Hq for adm and Hq Btry for rations. As ND.

21 July 1942 - 1st Lt. Healy sk in hosp to duty & detailed to SD at 3FS & atchd to Hq for adm & Hq Btry for rations.

23 July 1942 - Capt. Luce reld of SD with 3FS of atchmt to Hq Btry for rations.

27 July 1942 - 2nd Lt. Franken aptd 1st Lt.

The first three weeks of this month found batteries so established that calisthenics and field exercises were beneficial to good health and morale. Btry "A" report of the enemy raid that occurred on 26 July 1942 Red Alert from 2400 hrs 25 to 0120 hrs 26th from 2 to 6 enemy planes came from the NE 4 to 8 bombs were dropped presumably with intention of hitting docks or shipping in harbour. All bombs fell clear of objectives. No casualties no damage. Bombs fell 400 yds from the docks. Searchlights from this btry (A) worked very efficiently. Section #15 first to pick up enemy planes then held one of targets until out of range. First engagement with teh enemy for this regt. Btry A report 28 July 1942 - Townsville Q. yellow alert fr 00300 hrs to 0159 hrs Red alert fr 0159 hrs 0310 hrs one enemy flying boat, 4 motored Kawanisi, type 97, came over area fr the NE unloaded bombs harmlessly inland cutting down few coconut trees west of Cape Pallarenda Searchlights at Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 15 went into action. Each light carried plane until out of range, Btry D 208th CA (AA) and Aussie AA Btry opened fire but target out of range. All clear 0320 hrs. Several Yellow alerts during the day common throut (sic) month. 29 July Btry A report - Yellow alert fr 0000 hrs (M) to 0007 hrs Red alert 0007 hrs to 0113 hrs. One enemy plane from NE believed to be same type as last raider. Searchlights picked up target and illuminated incoming and out going course. Sections 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, into action. Target was being engaged by night fighters. No AA fire except an itchy AA Btry. (D Btry 208 CA (AA)). Bombs dropped vicinity ammo dump. Interceptors continued to engage target until out of range of fighters. (On the 31st one enemy plane intercepted and driven back. (This last remark should be authenticated by regt remarks).

1 August 1942 - Capt. Desmond MC reld of atchmt to Hq 1st Bn for adm & 1st Bn Hq Btry for rations & atchd to 2nd Bn Hq. 1st Lt. Shapiro MC atchd to 1st Bn Hq for adm & 1st Bn Hq Btry for rations.

16 August 1942 - Capt. Sullivan reld of SD with 3FS & of atchmt to Hq for adm & Hq Btry for rations. Capt. Sullivan reld of asgmt to Hq 1st Bn as S-3 and asgd to cmd Btry K. Capt Luce asgd to SD with 3FS & atchd to Hq for adm & Hq Btry for rations.. Lt. Lindsay reld asgmt to Hq Btry 1st Bn as MTO & asgd to Hq as MTO. Btry A is redesignated Battery I 208th CA (AA) as of 13 August, 1942. per SO 121. 2ns Lt. Tackett reld fr asgmt to Btry I and is asgd to Hq Btry 3rd Bn as Com. O. as of Aug 13. 2nd Lt. Fasig reld fr asgmt Btry I & asgd Ntry K as of Aug 13.

23 August 1942 - 2nd Lt. Case asgd to & jd Btry I. 2nd Lt. Carmine J. Cianfranca asgd to & jd Hq Btry 1st Bn as Comm. O. 2nd Lt. D'Emo asgd to & asgd Btry B.

24 August 1942 - ??????en?on Long (0-359901) asgd to Hq 1st Bn as Ex O. & ???? with Hq Btry 1st Bn. 1st Lt. Raymond Brown asgd to Hq 1st Bn as ??? atch to Hq Btry 1st Bn for rations. Capt. Blatchely reld asgmt to Hq 1st Bn as Ex O. & asgd Hq as S-3 & reld of atcmt to Hq Btry 1st Bn for rations. 2nd Lt reasgd in 1st Bn Hq Btry as MTO & temp Supply O. 1st Lt Richardson asgd to & jd Btry I. 1st Lt. Robinson reld fr asmgt to B Btry & trfd to Btry K?, 208th CA (AA).

27 August 1942 - Capt Luce reld of SD with 3FS & of atchmt to Hq Btry for rations and Hq Btry for adm.

29 August 1942 - 2nd Lt Duffy 1st Bn Hq Btry aptd 1st Lt.

30 August 1942 - 2nd Lt Slote By Btry aptd 1st Lt.

Usual duties this month except that there was record firing for small arms on the 16, 17, 18 August.

1st September 1942 - 1st Lt Evans Hq Btry 1st Bn aptd Capt. 1st Lt Chase Btry I aptd Capt.

15 September 1942 - 1st Lt. Healy reld of asgmt of SD with 3FS & of atchmt to Hq Btry for rations and Hq for adm.

9 September 1942 - Lt. Col. Cargill CO 1st Bn duty to SD on secret mission.

17 September 1942 - Capt. Coleman Duty to SD fr Btry B.

29 September 1942 - 1st Lt. Baker MC atch for duty, adm & rations. 1st Lt. Cusimano atchd to Hq Btry 1st Bn as acting SO & Mun. O. & Hq Btry 1st Bn for rations. 1st Lt. Marshall Case atch to Hq 1st Bn for temp duty to Btry for rations.

The first twelve days of this month were occupied in the performance of usual duties. On Sept 13th, 197th CA (AA) reld 208th CA (AA) of tactical mission at Townsville Q and Regt Hq and Hq Btry moved to new billeting area, in Townsville, Q. On the 13th Btry I moved to staging area at Ross River awaiting movement orders via water transportation. Preliminary packing of material and equipment for gun batteries & on the 12th reld of tactical mission ast B Btry at 1000 hrs by B Btry 197th CA (AA) said btry moved and set up in billeting area at Cluden by 1800 hrs awaiting further orders. Unit strength 142. Distance traveled in change of area 5 miles. No change in SOP and batteries of 1st Bn augmented by atchmt of Btrys G, H, 2 Bn. Btry I, 3rd Bn awaited movement orders.

 


 

JAPANESE BOMBING RAIDS ON TOWNSVILLE

 

The following information is from official records of the 208th AAA Group:-

 

RAID NO. 1

208th CA (AA) Regiment Record of Combat Reports

July 26, 1942 Townsville Area

a.    Amount of ammunition expended - None

b.    Casualties - None

c.    Planes destroyed - None

d.    Alert Time:-     Yellow Alert -  July 25th at 22:30 hours
                             Red Alert -     July 25th at 23:50 hours
                             All Clear -      July 26th at 01:05 hours

e.    Substantiating evidence - None

Initial warning of the raid was received about 6 o'clock as a result of a radio interception which indicated that a force of at least three flying boats had left Gasmata, New Britain, head in the direction of Townsville. The planes were picked up by long range radar about 100 miles off the coast around 2200 hours and subsequently were picked up about 25 miles off the shore by a searchlight radar on Magnetic Island. There was a cirrus cloud layer about 15,000 feet altitude over Townsville and a bright moon. At least two of the three planes arrived in the Townsville area and circled around from south to west to north of the city out of range of the guns and above the clouds.

Subsequently, at least one of the planes came in over the clouds from north to south and dropped a string of bombs approximately 600 yards to the south and parallel to the dock area, all landing in the water. Fragments were recovered from the mud flat at low tide the next day. Although searchlights were in action, due to the clouds the planes were not illuminated, as they were flying at about 19,000 feet. The radar data was not sufficiently accurate to open fire on the one which dropped the bombs.

 

RAID NO. 2

208th CA (AA) Regiment Record of Combat Reports

July 26, 1942 Townsville Area

a.    Amount of ammunition expended - 20 rounds

b.    Casualties - None

c.    Planes destroyed - None

d.    Alert Time:-     Yellow Alert -  July 28th at 00:33 hours
                             Red Alert -     July 28th at 02:03 hours
                             All Clear -      July 28th at 03:20 hours

e.    Substantiating evidence - None

The second raid occurred about 0300 hours on the 28th. Again, time of arrival had been indicated as a result of long range radio interception. Again our radar on Magnetic Island picked up the plane at about 40,000 yards and searchlights made a good pick-up off the north end of the island. The plane was flying at about 18,000 feet altitude as it crossed Magnetic Island. Battery "D", the nearest battery to the plane, opened fire at extreme range, the plane turning immediately to the west, and the battery got in only twenty rounds at extreme fuze range. The Aussie site west of "D" opened fire as did the one inland but their fire was extremely inaccurate. The plane was illuminated by the burst of shells from Battery "D" as well as the searchlights but no damage was evident. This plane was reported to have dropped a couple of bombs on a ridge west of Townsville without damage.

 

RAID NO. 3

208th CA (AA) Regiment Record of Combat Reports

July 29, 1942 Townsville Area

a.    Amount of ammunition expended - None

b.    Casualties - None

c.    Planes destroyed - None

d.    Alert Time:-     Yellow Alert -  July 28th at 23:52 hours
                             Red Alert -     July 29th at 00:01 hours
                             All Clear -      July 29th at 01:11 hours

e.    Substantiating evidence - None

Raid number three took place early in the morning of July 29th by one Model 97 Flying Boat which passed over the center of the city at 19,500 feet. As in the earlier raids, adequate warning was given by long range radio interception. The SCR 268 on Magnetic Island picked the plane up at about 70,000 yards and carried it in. Pick-up by the first light was made at 13,000 yards and from then on the plane was held in steady illumination for 9 minutes. The RAAF had set up a plan whereby two flights of fighters went in the air as the plane approached. As they were P-40's (I believe they were actually P-39's) their rate if climb was very slow. However, one flight was known to be at the altitude of the plane when it approached the city proper so "hold fire" was given to the antiaircraft. While the plane flew directly overhead between the gun batteries at an altitude of approximately 18,500 feet, fuze range came down to 11 seconds but permission to fire was still withheld, the controller being unable to hear the pilot's radio reports of position. After the plane had gotten three-quarters of the way across the city one of the fighters engaged. A burst of 37mm was observed in the tail of the plane causing a fire which apparently extinguished itself. No further MG fire by the tail gunner was observed so it was judged that he was killed. This plane made two passes at the bomber with no apparent fatal results.  As the plane disappeared to the west it was chased by the second plane of the first flight. The fighters claimed serious damage to it as a result of the decreasing altitude. However, the rate of loss of altitude was not greater than would be expected of a plane trying to get away, so that is inconclusive. This plane dropped six or seven bombs in the water south of Magnetic Island, apparently blinded in his aim by the searchlights, about six of which were on it at the time. One single bomb was thereafter dropped in the golf links area (actually in the Oonoonba Experimental Station) in the southeastern portion of the city without damage.

 


 

Irving Hamlin of the 208th 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 Garbutt airfield 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, come 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.

 

Win Leavitt, "Groiniis King", feeding a baby kangaroo.
Photo possibly taken in Townsville.

 

Militia Sentry at Townsville. "Looks like an ad for Foster's lager".

 

SOME MORE PHOTOS FROM IRVING HAMLIN

 


 

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.

 

ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERIES
LOCATED IN THE TOWNSVILLE AREA
DURING WW2

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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 Graham McKenzie Smith, John Jewell, Kevin Parkes and David Young for their assistance with this web page.

I'd like to thank Syd Stocking Jr, for his assistance with this web page. Syd is the son of Private Sydney "Syd" D. Stocking of 1st Platoon, Battery "E", 2nd Battalion, 208th CA (AA).

 

REFERENCES

"Diary of WWII North Queensland" (page 51)
by Peter Nielsen

Townsville Bulletin
"Beat to go ahead"
by Leonie Johnson
18 August 2007

 

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