The other squadrons of the 6th Photographic Group, Reconnaissance were:-

- 25th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron
- 26th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron
- 20th Combat Mapping Squadron          


8pr01.jpg (37062 bytes)

8th Photo's patch
(photo from Lawrence Packard)

The meaning of the 8th Photo's emblem

"The Indian represents the first reconnaissance squadron to  leave the US after the outbreak of WWII. (A Flight of the 8th PRS departed for Australia in April 1942.) The Camera represents the squadron's photo mission. The Hatchet is for the Japs and the Lightning Bolt represents the P-38 (F-4). The Palm Trees are for the Pacific Islands. The 8 ball is for the squadron's number."


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8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron
(Above patch supplied by Bill Hilliard)


A.L. Fishman told me that the original emblem designed by Sgt. Anthony L. (Tony) Cartwright of 8PRS, due to security restrictions did not include the numeral 8 in the ball. Fishman indicated that the correct description of the Emblem as intended by Tony Cartwright is as follows:-

"The clouds in the background represent the Air Corps. (Now Air Force). The lightning bolt superimposed on the cloud represents the type of airplane our squadron flew, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. The Young Indian Brave is representative all of the men in the squadron. The hatchet that the Brave holds describes our mission, war. The Indian Brave standing on an island with Palm trees denotes the area in which we served."


8ball.jpg (21956 bytes)

The Eight Ballers: Eyes of the Fifth Air Force
The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron in World War II

By John Stanaway & Bob Rocker


The 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8PR) of the 5th Air Force was formed at March Field, California, on 1 February 1942 with 3 Officers and 28 enlisted men. Nine more officers from the 4th Mapping Squadron joined 8PR on 7 March 1942. Another 40 volunteer enlisted men from the 102nd Observation Squadron at Morrow Field also joined 8PR at March Field. The squadron originally consisted of three Flights. A, B, and C. The three flights were united in Australia after the unit left March Field, in March and February of 1942.

"A" Flight was hurriedly transported to Australia aboard the S.S. President Coolidge on 19 March 1942. "A" Flight arrived in Camp Pell, Melbourne on 7 April 1942, and departed for Camp Doomben, Brisbane on 24 April 1942. They only had four F-4 Lightning aircraft which were operational in late April and early May 1942 under the command of 1st Lieutenant Karl L. "Pop" Polifka. He commanded 8PR until November 1942 when he was posted to Europe.

In April 1942, Polifka acquired a B-24 Liberator and crew, which he used to photograph the gathering of the Japanese fleet at Rabaul.

"A" Flight left Camp Doomben for Townsville on 2 May 1942. "B" and "C" Flights arrived at Camp Murphy, Melbourne, on 16 July 1942 aboard the S.S. Matsonia, and departed for Townsville on 27 July 1942. When they arrived in Townsville "A" Flight was attached to the 19th Bomb Group for administration purposes.

The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron were flying out of the Stock Route airfield while they were in Townsville. Jim McEwan described it as "a little dirt field that was located down a short road leading from the front of Garbutt field. It was farm land but later when I came down to Townsville from Port Moresby to have our B-17 repaired there were a few large hangars on that little road."


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F-4 Lightning #25 at the Stock Route airfield


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Photo Lab in a high set house at 630 Sturt Street, Townsville


The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron set up their photographic laboratory in a high set house at 630 Sturt Street, Townsville. Bud Sowers was the officer in charge of the photo lab.

A number of pilots from the 8th Photo Recce Squadron were living in a house at 38 Stokes Street near the centre of the Townsville business area. Bill Groves from Mount Isa told me that his mother, who lived at 30 Hale Street just around the corner, used to do the washing for a number of the pilots including, the Commanding Officer Karl Polifka, and pilots Ralph Watts, Weller, Gorton, Rogers and Ludtke of "A" Flight. Bill Groves remembers playing with their .45 calibre guns on a few occasions. He also remembers that Lt. Ralph Watts gave him a belt with beading on it and the word Mexico written on it. Bill Groves told me that Lt. Ralph Watts had a small Koala Bear which was his good luck charm that he took with him on his missions.

I rang Ralph Watts on 7 June 2001 to confirm whether he was the pilot who made a forced landing of his F-4 Lightning on the salt pan at Pimlico after taking off from the Stock Route airfield. I also spoke to his wife Minnie. Ralph confirmed that he was indeed the pilot and that he had been involved in another more serious crash about 4 days beforehand when returning from New Guinea to Townsville after a mission. He could not remember the exact location of this earlier crash but guessed it may have been 100 miles north of Townsville.   Some time later, as a result of this first crash, Ralph Watts discovered that he had received a minor fracture of one of his vertebrae. I mentioned Bill Groves to Ralph and he very clearly remembered him and his mother. Bill Groves told me later that when he rang Ralph on about 10 June 2001, Ralph said the crash may have been at Toonpan just outside Townsville. He apparently dug the nose wheel in when he made the forced landing.

On 5 September 1942, 3 Officers and 80 enlisted men left Townsville for Port Moresby. By mid-October the whole of the Squadron was operating from Schwimmer Drome north of Port Moresby.

The 8th lost an F-4 on 2 May 1942. The plane was flown by Captain Louis J. Connely, and was reported MIA over Lae, New Guinea. It is believed that Captain Connelly did not survive.

On 5 January 1944, 8PR moved to Durand Field. From 16 July 1942 until 23 February 1943, 8 Photo Recon Squadron operated as part of the 19th Bomb Group. This was despite the fact that the 19th Bomb Group had left Australia for the States late in 1942. Towards the end of 1943, 8PR became part of the 6th Photo Reconnaissance Group.

Ron Cuskelly <cuskelly@powerup.com.au> is researching details of two F-4 Lightnings which were possibly loaned by the 8th Photo Recon Squadron to 75 Squadron RAAF towards the end of 1943.


Ron is trying to match USAAF serials to the "Malaria Mabel" and "Map Happy Pappy".


8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 16
12 December 1943
(copy provided by Jim McEwan)

8newsa.jpg (378313 bytes) 8newsb.jpg (410100 bytes) 8newsc.jpg (460952 bytes) 8newsd.jpg (358585 bytes)


F-4 Lightning flown by Captain Conolly
lost on a mission from Townsville
to Rabail on 4 May 1942


Forced landing of an F-4 Lightning
flown by Lt. Ralph Watts
or near Toonpan on 4 May 1942


Forced landing of a P-38 Lightning on the salt pan
at Pimlico in Townsville in about September 1942


Loss of P-38 #2125 between Horn Island
and Port Morseby on 13 August 1942
Lt. Paul Staller Missing in Action.



E-mails from Lawrence Packard
son of photographer Francis M. Packard in 8 PR Squadron

E-mails from John H. Tinkle
of 8 PR Squadron

E-mails from Capt. Dave Korzun
of the 8th Flying Training Squadron

E-mails from Jim McEwan
of the 8 PR Squadron
Now archivist and historian for
the 8th Photo veteran's association
E-mails from Laban West
son of Gordon West of the 8 PR Squadron
 E-mails from William Hilliard
Of the 8th PR Squadron


I am interested in details of the forced landing of a P-38 Lightning
in a saltpan behind where I lived in Townsville. Could this have been
a P-38 from the 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron?

Can anyone help me?


Update:- Larry Packard has been able to confirm that this was a P-38 from the 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron. Larry has referred me to Jim McEwan who has provided me with more details.



Historical Records of the 8th PRS, on microfilm from Maxwell AFB
Details supplied by Michael Moskow (steelydanman@worldnet.att.net)

The Eight Ballers: Eyes of the Fifth Air Force
The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron in World War II
By John Stanaway & Bob Rocker



I'd like to thank Kevin Parkes for his assistance in determining the location of the 8th PR's Photographic Laboratory in Sturt Street. I'd also like to thank A.L. Fishman for his assistance with this home page.


Can anyone help me with more information?


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


Please e-mail me
any information or photographs

"Australia @ War"
8GB USB Memory Stick

This page first produced 26 April 1999

This page last updated 04 March 2020