A true story of a daring rescue in the swamps of New Guinea, summer 1944
by Bas Kreuger
On 27 July 1944, a US B-25H Mitchell twin engined bomber attacked a Japanese barge in MacCluer Gulf, just south of the Birds Head Peninsula of New Guinea. As the Japanese anti-aircraft gunners hit the B-25 flown by 1st Lieutenant Ira M. Barnett in its left engine, he had to put the plane down in a safe spot not to get his crew captured by the enemy.
Flying over the jungle, he saw what seemed to be a open area of grass land and put the plane down. It was not grass, but a huge swamp area, the size of New York.
When the plane had slid to a halt and silence had returned, the four man crew was 350 miles behind enemy lines, in an unforgiving swamp, with Japanese soldiers, crocodiles and possibly hostile Papuan’s around them.
Native American air gunner “Chief” Harold Tantaquidgeon, with all his knowledge of bush craft, took control of the situation.
On the Allied island of Biak, 5th Air Force decided on a daring rescue mission: a US, Australian, Dutch rescue team was send into the jungle and swamp to bring the men out. River KAIS was their only way into the green hell of New Guinea.
For more than three years, Dutch aviation historian Bas Kreuger has researched the remarkable story of the crash, survival and rescue of the crew of the B-25 of the 418 Night Fighter Squadron in New Guinea in 1944.
The reports of the US, Australian, Dutch rescue team is an exciting read: fighting the Japanese in the jungle, working with collaborators and capturing Japanese soldiers, POW’s who try to capture a US flying boat, endless marches through mud and mosquitos to find the crew. It is all in this story. The main characters are colourful, a Native American Chief, Australian Army Captain Gillespie and Dutch Lieutenant Rapmund and even a future Hero of the Republic of Indonesia in the team.
In 2019, the author headed into the jungle himself, with a small team of researchers up the KAIS river to search for the wreck of the B-25 in the swamp. An expedition with a remarkable ending.
The book is available from the
Amazon Australian store
Amazon USA Store
both in e-book (Kindle) as well as paperback.
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn OAM 2020
This page first produced 2 April 2020
This page last updated 02 April 2020