JAPANESE BOMBING RAID
ON DARWIN TOWN AREA
ON 16 JUNE 1942
At 12.01pm on Monday 16 June 1942, the Japanese made another bombing raid on the Darwin town area. There were 27 Japanese bombers and an equal number of Zero fighters.
A USAAF Warhawk (Kittyhawk) flown by Lieutenant Chester Namola of the 8th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group, USAAF from Strauss airfield was shot down during this raid. Lieutenant Namola was listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Namola was hit by a Zero in the Japs first pass over Darwin. His Kittyhawk was last seen spiralling down into the harbour. After several days of extensive searches, no trace of him was ever found.
Lieutenant Chester Namola was involved in an earlier accident when his USAAF P-40E Warhawk (Kittyhawk) of the 8th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group, made a forced landing at Berridale in New South Wales on 28 March 1942.
2nd Lieutenant Harvey Martin of the 8th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group was hit by the Japs in their first pass towards Darwin. He had to execute a very steep dive in his Kittyhawk to escape an even worse fate at the hands of the Jap Zeros. He burnt out his engine in this steep dive. He made a perfect flaps-down belly landing in the surf on the southern shore of Melville Island.
The Kittyhawk sunk immediately in the water and he struggled ashore in the quickly rising tide. He became lost in the dense jungle. He spent the night in a tree with his parachute wrapped around him to protect him from the thousands of mosquitoes. He fired his pistol to signal help, but none came. The next morning he headed for the beach where he found his wrecked Kittyhawk. The tide had receded. He headed inland to find some fresh water and returned to his Kittyhawk. The next morning a Royal Navy launch reached the downed Kittyhawk and took him back to Darwin.
2nd Lieutenant Bruce Harris was also forced to dive away from the Jap Zeros in their first pass towards Darwin. He then climbed back up after the Japs heading west over Cox Peninsula. He caught up with the Takao formation about 75 miles past the western shore. He was positioned about 2,000 feet above the Japs when he crossed over their line of flight. He banked over in a diving attack on the trailing right flank of the last Vee in the triple chevron Japanese formation. He fired on the last Jap aircraft until his guns jammed.
Harris broke away and headed back to base. But his fuel was too low and he was not going to make it back to Strauss airfield. He attempted an emergency landing on the west coast of Cox Peninsula but his landing gear collapsed. He quickly escaped from the Kittyhawk after the residual fuel from the fuselage tank ignited.
Harris stayed near his burnt out Kittyhawk for the rest of the day waiting to be rescued. Eventually he realised he was further south than where he had intended to land. He cut a piece out of his parachute to fashion a crude mosquito net and started to head north across the mud flats. He left a note in the Kittyhawk to advise of his plans to head north.
The next day Harris came across the mouth of the crocodile infested Finis River. He decided to conserve his energy and stay near the sandy ocean shore. The following day Harris was spotted by an RAAF Wirraway which soon returned to drop him rations and provisions, including a .45 calibre pistol to help protect him from the crocodiles.
On the third morning (19 June 1942) an RANAF deHavilland Tiger Moth landed on the long grassy area inland from the sandy beach. He took Harris on board and flew him back to the RAAF airfield at Darwin.
The 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group had also scrambled from Livingstone airfield to attack the Japs. While Lt. Joe Kruzel led his Yellow Flight in a battle with the Jap Zeros, Reynolds, Sauber, Landers and Donalson were able to reach the Japanese bombers. 2nd Lt. Tom Fowler from Yellow Flight managed to shoot down a Jap Zero.
Lt. Reynolds, the Blue Flight Leader, caught up with the Japs over Cox Peninsula. Reynolds was about a mile above the Jap formation which was at about 21,000 feet. Above Point Charles, Reynolds and his Blue Flight dove down on the Japanese Mitsubishi G4Ms. The rear two G4M's burst into flames. The Jap Zeros immediately attacked Reynolds and the rest of Blue Flight.
Landers was forced to head back to base, while Donalson and Sauber managed to shoot down two Zeros which spiralled down into the sea.
Lt. Reynolds headed back to base after he was hit by a turret gunner in one of the G4Ms. His vision was blocked by oil and radiator coolant streaming down the cowling and covering the windscreen of his Kittyhawk. He was forced to shut down his engine and attempt a dead stick landing in a clearing on central Cox Peninsula. He made a perfect landing, ending up near the road to the Point Charles lighthouse. After the Japanese formations had left the area, Reynolds radioed in his position and he was picked up by a truck later that afternoon. The 43rd Air Maintenance Unit recovered his Kitttyhawk on a large truck the next day.
Lt. Bob McComsey of Yellow Flight (9th Pursuit Squadron) was hit by a Zero and he did a belly landing on the artillery range west of the Track, 20 miles south of Livingstone airfield. He was trying to reach Adelaide River airfield and the 43rd Air Maintenance Unit strip at the time.
I'd like to thank Harvey Martin III, first son of 2nd Lt. Harvey Martin, Jr. for his assistance with this home page.
In Nov 2002, 2nd Lt. Harvey Martin, Jr., was 87 years old and living in Clearwarer, FL. Harvey continued his career with the Air Force and retired a Lieutenant Colonel. Harvey was stationed in Australia from January 1942 until August 1942. He was then was reassigned to the 374th Troop Carrier Group, 22nd Squadron and was stationed out of New Guinea. He had also been involved in another crash on 16 June 1942 off Melville Island during a Japanese bombing raid on Darwin.
"The 49th Fighter Group in World War II"
By S.W. Ferguson & William K. Pascalis
A Schiffer Military History Book
"The Unit History of 14 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery"
by Jack Mulholland
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"Australia @ War" Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 13 March 2000
This page last updated 02 September 2018