565TH SIGNAL AIRCRAFT WARNING BATTALION, US ARMY
US RADAR STATION AT PALUMA, ON MOUNT SPEC
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 12 June 2004

 

 

Company "E" of the 16th Platoon of the 565th Signal Battalion arrived at Paluma on Mount Spec north of Townsville in March 1942. The township of Paluma was only 5 years old in 1942 and was located almost 3,000 feet above sea level overlooking Halifax Bay in north Queensland. The unit had been formed in a short period of time and boarded the "Cristobal", a former Atlantic passenger ship, in New York headed for Australia. The "Cristobal" travelled in a convoy to Australia via New Caledonia.

Lieutenants Hunt and Stuart trained the non-technicians during the voyage in the basics of radio and radar. Lt. Stuart, had been a ham radio operator in his student years and had graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in June 1940. After reporting for active service in February 1941, he was sent to Harvard University in June 1941 to learn about Radar, which was very new and still very secret at that time.

They arrived in Melbourne in Victoria in March 1942. Lt. George Stuart travelled to Townsville by train where he supervised the unloading of their equipment and stores from the "Torrens". This comprised eight large special trucks and another five or six truck loads of crates, plus a bag of mail. Lt. Stuart carried out a recce of the Paluma area prior to meeting up with the rest of his men who soon arrived in Townsville by train. 

After arriving a Paluma a tent camp for approximately 50 men was set up in Cloudy Clearing. Due to the secret nature of the Radar unit, security guard posts were established to check all traffic coming into Paluma.

The men built earthen ramp to assist with unloading the large six cylinder "LeRoi" generator which would power the portable radar units and their camp. A Doctor was assigned to the Platoon, the first of three doctors that would serve the platoon during their 18 month stay at Paluma. They also set up their SCR 270 Radar station made by Westinghouse. The radar unit was set up on three trucks. Two of these trucks had closed in bodies. One of these two trucks was the power van. The antenna was carried on the third truck.

The Antenna on the truck looked like a giant Hills Hoist. It formed a rotating tower 60 feet high and about 15 feet in diameter. There was a ring of numbers about 4 inches high on a band around the base of the antenna to aid in determining which direction the antenna was pointed. An emergency radio telegraph station was established at Witt's Lookout in case the telephone line failed.

The radar unit was located in the area that is now the picnic area at McLelland's Lookout. Four men would work a four hour shift monitoring a 180 degree sweep of air space towards the Coral Sea. During the Battle of the Coral Sea between 4 - 8 May 1942, the radar station tracked a target aircraft early one afternoon coming in from the ocean and crossing the coast about 30 miles north of Paluma. Later that night a few trucks stopped at their camp at Paluma. They were carrying the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress that had crashed somewhere to the west of Paluma. They fed the crew and the trucks left for Townsville accompanied by the 565th's doctor. The B-17 had been involved in operations to do with the Battle of the Coral Sea.

In July 1942, the radar unit detected Japanese aircraft on three occasions headed to bomb Townsville. They were able to track the aircraft for about 150 miles and give 3 Fighter Sector Headquarters (3FSHQ) in North Ward, Townsville, an hour's notice of the 3 bombing raids. They were also able to track them on their return journeys to Rabaul.

Lt. Stuart documented their success in tracking the Japanese aircraft in his memoirs:-

We had picked up a multiple target at about 100 miles north of us or about 160 mile north of Townsville. We had tracked it to about 15 miles south of us where we normally lost contacts. We had also tracked a multiple target coming out of T'ville a little while later and gad followed it to about the same 100 miles north of us. I next called the CO at the plotting centre who confirmed the above but didn't want to give me much more info over the phone .... To give the complete story of the Townsville raids there were three all told. They all occured late at night approximately 0100 hours. I think they occured over a period of four days with no raids on the second night. Bombs were dropped each night but none an damage .... I do  not know anything as to the local counter measures but I do know exactly what we tracked from Mt. Spec....The next four or five nights I was in the van most of the night or in call when I went back to quarters. As I said nothing happened on the second night but at about 0100 on the following night we picked what looked like a weak multiple target as about 175 miles. (This exceeded our design range of 150 miles but if conditions are good and the target is multiple there is a fair chance of picking up targets on what we called a double hop). In any event in a few minutes this was identified as an "unfriendly" and we tracked it in to near T'ville. The third raid was about the same time the next night except that I think we made the initial contact at a little over 100 miles. In each case we also tracked the return flights to at least 100 miles north of us...In summary we warned of all three raids on Townsville, we gave at least 45 minutes on most and something over 60 minutes on one. I don't know which raid it was but the next day I listened to a newscast from San Francisco which concluded by saying that the Japs were last seen losing altitude. I could only think "bully for the newscast" but if they were losing altitude they sure had a hell of a lot of it left when they were 160 or so miles north of Townsville. I got quite a few slaps on the back for the warnings we had given which I passed on to the men.

Not long after the Japanese air raids on Townsville, an Australian Army Lieutenant came to Lt. Stuart's tent and asked him to go to Cavill's Guesthouse to see the Colonel. Stuart was told by the Colonel that he was going to take over the entire mountain and that he would be working for him. Lt. Stuart told the Colonel that he would wait for orders from his Commanding Officer. The orders never came.

Major O.G. Quanrud from Aircraft Warning, GHQ SWPA, which was located on the 6th Floor Commonwealth Bank Building, Queens Street, Brisbane, visited Paluma in October 1942. Lt. Stuart told the Major of his research into the effect of temperature inversions on radar waves. The Major was most impressed and Lt. Stuart and a few men from his platoon flew the Sydney on Christmas Day 1942, to assist with the obtaining of the new LW/AW (Light Weight Air Warning) Radar station that was being developed by AWA. They spent several weeks at Parramatta in Sydney learn how to assemble and test the new man transportable radar unit. It was able to be broken down into small enough components that could be carried by manpower, mules or small trucks. It had its own transportable petrol generator.

They brought one of the LW/AW Radar units back to Paluma in March 1943 to carryout comparative testing against their existing radar unit. The LW/AW had about one third the power of the SCR 270 and a much smaller antenna, and hence its range was not as much as the larger unit. 

Lt Stewart made friends with Joe Clay, the local Policeman from Ewan. Lt. Stuart was transferred to Sydney in September 1943 to supervise the ongoing procurement of electronic equipment.

The US Army and later the RAAF installed reticulated water supply and electricity to the areas of Paluma that they occupied. The US Army installed telephones within the camp and direct wired a telephone line to 3 Fighter Sector Headquarters (3FSHQ) at the Grammar School in Townsville where the RAAF plotted aircraft and other locations.

The men eventually found that living in tents in the wet tropical environment was quite unbearable. The tents were eventually replaced by portable barracks and homemade "log cabins". The tropical environment was also unkind on their electronic radar equipment. They laid down boardwalks through their camp to avoid walking through the mud. They also built a suspension bridge across the creek between their camp and the mess hall. The foundations of the mess hall can still be seen today across from Cavill's guesthouse.

In late 1942, the men built a large 40 ft x 20 ft log cabin and lined it with their old tents. It had a hardwood floor and was complete with a stone fireplace. Due to its elevation above sea level, Paluma can be quite cool at night time. The cabin also had a Bar and some furniture made from local timbers.

May 1944, men of 6 Convalescent Depot RAAF refurbishing a log cabin previously
used by the 565th Signal Battalion.
It was converted into a week-end hut for use
by WAAAF or women visiting the Depot in concert parties. 

Equipment, supplies and fresh rations for the Platoon were sent daily from Townsville by railmotor to Rollingstone and then unloaded on to trucks to climb up the steep road to Paluma. 

The men were regular visitors to the Saturday night dances in the local Shire Hall in the township of Ingham. They would also travel to Ingham for Sunday church services. The men formed a baseball team called the Paluma Pythons. They played in the volleyball court near Cavill's guesthouse. Their mascot was a huge 12 foot long scrub python.

The Cavill family at Paluma were well liked by the men of the 565th. Bert and Grave Cavill had built their guesthouse called "Cavilcade" at Paluma in the late 1930's. Their guesthouse is now owned by the Sisters of Mercy. Grace Cavill would play the piano and sing, while the Americans played cards and rolled dice.

Private Joseph "Joe" Raschak was also a member of Company "E" of the 565th at Paluma during WW2.

Sgt Anthony Rudnick, of Company "A" of the 565th Signal Battalion was killed in the crash of a B-17 Flying Fortress at Bakers Creek just outside of Mackay in Queensland on 14 June 1943. His remains were finally buried at New Jersey, Beverly National Cemetery, Beverly. Can anyone tell me where Company "A" was based?


 

The following information is available from the "Mobile Military Radar" web site owned by Gene Hellickson:-

 

565th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion (Seperate)

Activated: 30 March 1942, Drew Field, Tampa, Florida
Deployed: Arrived 18 June 1942, Australia
Deployed: New Guinea (Port Moresby)
Note:- Units of the battalion are continually moving up to places like: Noemfoor, Sansapor, Maffin Bay, Moratai Island, Cape Obmarai, Amsterdam Island and Raoe Island.
Re-organised: 16 May 1944
Subordinate to: 86th Air Defense Wing

Subordinate Units:-
694th Signal Aircraft Warning Company
699th Signal Aircraft Warning Company
708th Signal Aircraft Warning Company
709th Signal Aircraft Warning Company
710th Signal Aircraft Warning Company
711th Signal Aircraft Warning Company
723rd Signal Aircraft Warning Company
723rd Signal Aircraft Warning Company
725th Signal Aircraft Warning Company

Inactivated: 13 June 1945 as an operational battalion. What was left of the unit functioned as an Air Warning Squadron, Heavy, under the 5277 Aircraft Control and Warning Group (Provisional).
Reactivated: 10 September 1945, the battalion went back to its original status.
Subordinate to: October 1945, XII Air Force
Located: September 1945, East Mabalacat Strip, near Clark Field, Pampangas, Luzon, Philippine Islands.

Campaigns & Foreign Service Awards:
Bismarck Archipelago 15 December 1943 - 27 November 1944 (Company A only)
Luzon 15 December 1944 - 4 July 1945
New Guinea 24 January 1943 - 31 December 1944
Papua 23 July 1942 - 23 January 1943 (Detachment only)
Distinguished Unit Citation 23 July 1942 - 23 January 1943
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation 7 December 1941 - 10 May 1942 or 17 October 1944 - 4 July 1945

Company A
Notes: 16 May 1944, Company made up of personnel and equipment from:
Company F, 565th SAW Battalion
1st Reporting Platoon 725th SAW Company
1st Reporting Platoon 709th SAW Company
Transferred: 16 May 1944, Company A, 574th SAW Battalion
Equipment: 3 each SCR-270, 2 each SCR-527, 1 each SCR-588, 1 each SCR-615
Note: Biak Island Assault, May 1944. "Co A, 565th Sig AW Bn, less Plot Plat (unreadable) 565th Sig Bn and Det. "C" 8th FC Sq will land at (unreadable) Z+10. They will establish the 33rd FCC (Perm) at (unreadable) Drome beginning on Z+10 and being completely operational by Z+20.

1st Platoon
Mission: Biak Island Assault, May 1944. "1st Plat, Co A, 565th Sig AW Bn (RS 410) will land on Owk Island Z+2 and erect the LW/AW immediately. The SCR-270 will be installed as a soon as possible for early warning to the South and West."
RS-408 Location - Celluloid
Equipment: SCR-270

2nd Platoon
Mission: Biak Island Assault, May 1944. "2nd Plat, Co A, 565th Sig AW Bn (RS 411) will land at Cape Snerissori(sp) Z+10. It will be sited to provide warning to the West."
RS-409 Location Backhander
Relocated: July/ September 1944, from Cape Gloucester, New Britain to Sansapor Village, Cape Sansapor, Dutch New Guinea.
Note: March 1945, Platoon along with 5th platoon, withstands a direct attack by 170 Japanese, at Sansapor Village, Dutch New Guinea.
Equipment: SCR-270

3rd Platoon
RS-414 - Location Backhander
Equipment: SCR-270

4th Platoon
RS-525
Equipment: SCR-527

5th Platoon
Redesignated: 8 March 1945 as the 11th Platoon, Company B, 595th SAW Battalion
RS-530 Location Washstand
Note: March 1945, Platoon along with 2nd platoon, withstands a direct attack by 170 Japanese, at Sansapor Village, Dutch New Guinea.
Equipment: SCR-527

20th Platoon
Mission: Biak Island Assault, May 1944. "20th Plat, Co A, 565th Sig AW Bn (RS 529) will land at Moxmer Drome Z+2 and begin GCI operation as soon as possible."

Plotting Platoon A
Notes: 16 May 1944, personnel and equipment transferred to Company C, 574th SAW Battalion.

Company B
Notes: 16 May 1944, Company made up of personnel and equipment from:
Company B, 565th SAW Battalion
1st Reporting Platoon Company B, 574th SAW Battalion
3rd Reporting Platoon, 709th SAW Battalion
5th Reporting Platoon, 709th SAW Battalion
1st Reporting Platoon, 723rd SAW Battalion
Equipment: 3 each SCR-270, 2 each SCR-527, 1 each SCR 516, 1 each SCR 615

12th Platoon
Redesignated: 8 March 1945, as the 13 Platoon, Company B, 595th SAW Battalion.

Company C
Notes: 16 May 1944, Company made up of personnel and equipment from:
Company C, 565th SAW Battalion
3rd Reporting Platoon, Company A, 574th SAW Battalion
4th Reporting Platoon, Company A, 574th SAW Battalion
2nd Reporting Platoon, 725th SAW Company
Relocated: June/August 1944, from Lae to Noemfoor Island, to set up new Fighter Control Center

15th Platoon
(Less Detachment) - Finschhafen - Kamiri
Equipment: SCR-270

Detachment 15, Company C
LW/AW Platoon
RS-412 -  Finschhafen

16th Platoon
(Less Detachment) - Finschhafen - Sowor
Equipment: SCR-270

Detachment 16, Company C
LW/AW Platoon
RS-417 - Finschhafen

17th Platoon
RS-418 - Finschhafen - Kilkar Point
Equipment: SCR-270

18th Platoon
RS-526 - Finschhafen - Jenmano
Equipment: SCR-527

19th Platoon
RS-532 - Finschhafen - Soewer
Relocated: June/August 1944, from Nadzab, New Guinea to Noemfoor Island
Equipment: SCR-527

Equipment Company C
Provisional Fighter Control Center
Finschhafen - Kamiri
Equipment: 3 each SCR-270, 2 each SCR-527, 2 each SCR-615

Company D
Notes: 16 May 1944, personnel and equipment transferred to Company B, 574th SAW Battalion

Company E
Notes: 16 May 1944, personnel and equipment transferred to Company C, 574th SAW Battalion

Plotting Platoon E
Notes: 16 May 1944, Personnel and equipment transferred to Company A, 574th SAW Battalion

Allotted: 24 May 1946 to National Guard
Redesignated: 24 May 1946 as 156th ACWG
Notes: Equipment was referred to as "heavy long range units" in 583rd SAW Bn history, page 35.

 

If you were in the 565th Signal Battalion I'd love to hear from you

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thanks Piet G.M. Truren and Gene Hellickson for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Paluma The First Eighty Years 1870s-1950s
by Linda Venn

 

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This page first produced 12 June 2004

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