48TH QUARTERMASTER TRUCK REGIMENT
U.S. ARMY
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 16 July 2001

 

The October 1943 edition of the Brisbane Military Telephone Directory shows that the 48th Quartermaster Truck Regiment (Third Battalion) and the 5203rd Quartermaster Truck Battalion (5203rd Q.M. Truck Bn.) were camped at Camp Freeman in Brisbane. Their Commanding Officer at the time was Lt. Col. L. H. Jameson and Lt. P. F. Taylor was the Adjutant. The rest of the 48th was camped at Camp Redbank near Ipswich. These two units may have been involved in working at the nearby Darra Ordnance Depot.

After approximately 3-months in Brisbane, the 48th and 29th QM regiments were equipped with our new trucks and were convoyed to Mount Isa.  The regiments were to form a brigade and operate out of Mount Isa, about 800 miles west of Townsville, and to transport supplies from the end of the railroad up to Darwin. The Americans left Mount Isa in about July 1943.

 


 

Recollection of U.S. Army Lt. Gordon A. Heup, Company “G”, 48th Quartermaster Regiment while stationed in Australia for approximately 18 months during World War II.  (Lt. Colonel Gordon A. Heup, Ret.) 

I sailed for San Francisco on March 19, 1942 aboard the Queen Elizabeth I.  At the time I was a Lieutenant in Company “G”, 48th Quartermaster (“QM”) Regiment and on board the ship was our regiment,  the 29th QM Regiment and elements of the U.S. 41st Infantry Division.  The two other ships in our convoy were the USS Coolidge (later sunk landing troops in Guadalcanal) and the USS Mariposa.  These ships contained elements of the U.S. 32nd Infantry Division and the remaining elements of the 41st Infantry Division.  We were escorted by one British light cruiser and two British destroyers.  We were the first U.S. troops aboard the QEI  which had previously been used to transport Australian troops to the Middle East.

Gordon Heup, with Kay and Peter Dunn on 8 July 2001

This was the first large contingent of U.S. troops to land in Australia in 1942.  The QE1 left the convoy about 3-days out from Australia and proceeded to Sydney by itself.  On April 6, 1942, we arrived in Sydney but the QE1 required too much draft so the QM regiments were off-loaded on to lighters, taken into the dock and put on a train to be taken up to Brisbane.  Thus, spoiling our dreams of having a big night in Sydney.  We were off loaded at Camp Redbank, an Australian camp about 25 miles outside of Brisbane.  If I recall correctly, this was near the town of Ipswich.  There were some Australian Army Territorials also stationed at Camp Redbank.

Gordon Heup at the remains of Camp Redbank on 8 July 2001. These
buildings were not there when they camped there in April 1942

We spent approximately 3-months at Camp Redbank training and also chopping down trees to help construct emergency landing fields for the airfields in the vicinity.  We were issued new trucks but they came over on freighters and were assembled at the General Motors Corporation Assembly Plant in Brisbane.

Gordon Heup at the Redbank Railway Station on 8 July 2001

 

Tim Heup, Gordon Heup and David Heup at my house in Brisbane on 8 July 2001

At the time, each company in the regiment had 48-2 1/2 ton GMC 6x6 trucks, 2-2 1/2 ton trucks for supply and mess, and a 1/2 ton 4x4 pickup truck.  (Jeeps were not available at this time and were issued later.)  A regiment consisted of 12 companies organized into 3 battalions of 4 companies each. The U.S. Army was still segregated at this time so the two QM regiments consisted of colored enlisted personnel and white officers.

After approximately 3-months in Brisbane, the 48th and 29th QM regiments were equipped with our new trucks and were convoyed to Mount Isa.  The regiments were to form a brigade and operate out of Mount Isa, about 800 miles west of Townsville, and to transport supplies from the end of the railroad up to Darwin.  There were no blacktop surfaced roads  in the Northern Territory at this time.

Company “G” made one trip up to Darwin and then the situation changed.  The main threat moved from the Japs attacking from Timor Island to the Japs attacking Port Moresby and central Australia.  So a U.S. base was opened in Townsville and Company “G” was detached from the regiment and assigned to help open the base there.  Our troops and equipment were loaded on to a train but this was too much weight for the small railroad engines to pull.  So, I took the first half of the company on the train and Captain William Everett followed several days later with the rest of the Company.

We arrived in Townsville in early July 1942 and detrained at a siding near the Cluden Racetrack and set up our camp in the woods behind the track.  We immediately went to work as the base was increasing rapidly and the Jap threat was growing. 

Several weeks after our arrival the Jap bombing of Townsvile occurred.  I can vividly remember looking up and seeing that Jap bomber caught in the searchlight and hearing the explosion as the bomb was dropped in the salt flats near us.  Your description of the Japanese planes was very good and corrected my false impressions that these were Mitsubishi twin engine bombers.

One day we were assigned the task of transporting the 126th Infantry Regiment of the 32nd Division from the Townsville railroad station to a bivouac area near our camp in the woods behind Cluden Racetrack.  The next day we had to take them to Garbutt Field where they were loaded on transport planes and taken to Port Moresby, New Guinea. This was the unit that fought its way over the 10,000 foot high Owen Stanley Mountains and defeated the Japs at Buna.

Some of the things I remember about Townsville are:

·         The Cummins & Campbell Wholesale Grocery Company – Captain Bill Everett and I would stop in periodically at their office on Flinders Street and visit with Mr. Cummins. He would arrange for us to buy a bottle of gin and he would serve us some 100 proof alcoholic beverage.  We would spend a delightful hour down in the basement of the store slowly sipping our drinks and carrying on a delightful conversation.  As I understand it, Cummins & Campbell were the liquor distributors for Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory.

·         Our Company bivouac area was moved later (the date escapes me) from the Cluden Racetrack to an area in town along the river at the end of the street leading downtown through the Railway Estate section just below the river.  The area had been previously occupied by a U.S. Army Medium Maintenance Company who were being transported up to New Guinea as the activity at Townsville was slowing down and it was increasing up the north west coast of New Guinea to Lae, Finschafen, and etc.  This company had constructed a nice workshop area for the mechanics to repair the vehicles and also a nice mess hall and a sewer line for the wastewater to drain into the river.  The disposal of the wastewater in Cluden was difficult as the ground would not absorb the water very readily.  The hot sun caused the grease to decay in the water and result in quite an odour.  The U.S. Army Inspector General wrote up a few bad reports on us about this.

·         I remember a small Catholic Church in the Railway Estate area just down the street from the entrance to our camp.  This was not a regular church but was one of the residences converted into a church.  I wonder if it still in there?

·         I also became quite friendly with a family that lived directly behind the camp.  The man’s name was Ronnie but I cannot remember his last name.  He worked in town as a cabinet maker and lived with his wife (Theresa, I think) and a young son in this area of town.

·         I also became good friends with a young man who could not pass the physical exam for the Australian Army.  He was manager of the Shell Oil Company storage and distribution facility in Townsville.  I attended his wedding while I was there and the reception was held in a hall on the second floor in a building across the street from the Wintergarden Movie Theatre.  We toasted so many people that day that I don’t know how I ever got back to the camp.

After eighteen months in Australia, Company “G” was ordered to be part of the landing force at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea.  We proceeded to Finschafen, Papua New Guinea where the landing force was put together.  We were to be in the D +10 landing group but the 6th Army misread the aerial photos and the engineers were not able to push a road through the swamp behind Red Beach, so we were delayed until D +12.  It was a very uneventful landing as the Jap force was mainly moved to Wewak and so there were only a few service troops left to oppose our landing.

We stayed in Hollandia for approximately eighteen months and on June 6, 1945, I was rotated back to the U.S. Company “G” did go on to Leyte, Philippines and later was part of the occupation force in Japan.  Company “G” was later redesignated as the 3527 QM Truck Company.

 

Can anyone help identify Ronnie who lived
at Railway Estate near the 48th Quartermaster's camp?

And the manager of the Shell Oil Company
whose wedding Gordon attended?

 

dh01.jpg (75480 bytes) Bill and Doc - Bill (believe this was Gordon Heup's company commander and company doctor (Capt K. K. Jalena) in Townsville
dh02.jpg (60116 bytes) Bill and Capt Weaver in Townsville
dh03.jpg (64741 bytes) Eleanor Roosevelt visiting the black North American Service Club in Townsville
dh05.jpg (89736 bytes) Officer Group - Left to right Capt Shanks, Lt McConnel, Capt Weaver, Lt Wheeler, Bill, Lt Wynbreechy at Railway Estate?, Townsville
dh06.jpg (72889 bytes) Bar at Officers Club, 2nd Brigade, 48th QM at Railway Estate, Townsville - Lt Rvimmer, Capt Cathey, Maj Hill and Bill
dh07.jpg (45429 bytes) Officer Club and Dance Pavilion (left in picture) believe this was in downtown Townsville
dh08.jpg (102358 bytes) Officers Club from Bridge - believe this was in Railway Estate
dh09.jpg (52695 bytes) Lt. Gordon Heup in Officers Club at Railway Estate, Townsville

 


 

There is a Photo Album located in Mount Isa that originally belonged to a Robert Higley of the 48th Quartermaster Regiment. He donated it to the Mount Isa Museum in 1984. Gordon Heup visited Mount Isa on 14 July 2001 and was shown a copy of this photo album by John Daly from Mount Isa. Robert Higley lived in Fort Worth, Texas.

There is a photo of Chinese Labour Unit (was this the Native Labour Company?) taken at The Junction, in N.T [now known as The Threeways]---also photos of all 3 o/n camps---- 1st camp was called No.19 bore, near Avon Downs Station, N.T.

 

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This page first produced 16 July 2001

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