CHARTERS TOWERS PART 2
JACK HEYN IN THE SOUTH WEST PACIFIC
(MEMBER OF THE 3RD BOMB GROUP)
It didn't take Pappy Gunn and the powers that be too many of those costly mission to come to the conclusion that both the A-20's and B-25's were as useless as a third tit as high level bombers. Pappy came up with the idea of turning them into low-level attack planes. Along with Jack Fox, a N.A. factory rep they started experimenting with eliminating the bombardier and putting guns in the nose. They did most of the experimenting and testing at our base in Charters Towers. They came up with several different configurations. They put two 50 cal guns in pods on each side of the fuselage. The they tried different combinations in the nose. One had four 50's, one had a 20mm canon and three 50's, and the last had a 75mm canon in the nose. This was known as Pappy's Folly or Pappy's Flying Tank. The final conversions were done in Brisbane, and then they started coming out of the factory that way. Counting the two turrets when they were swung forward, they could have 12 forward firing 50 Cal guns, and that was some fire power. The pilots started practicing the new skip-bombing technique on a derelict ship in the Moresby Harbour. Becoming very proficient at their trade.
Street scene in Charters Towers in the summer of 1942
In Aug. Tack (Geo. C. Tackaberry, from Bangor, Ma.) and I got a 7 day furlough. It wasn't time enough to go too far, so we went to a little town of Ingham up the coast from Townsville. Went by train. It was a sleepy little town that hadn't been spoiled yet by G.I.'s. We met a Chinese girl who took us home to meet her family. Very nice folks. Found a roller skating rink and spent some time there. Tried a little horse back riding; but Tack's favorite spot was the Pub at the hotel were we stayed. as he was quite a drinker. Had to take him up to the room one day about noon -- he woke up the next morning. He had also found himself a girl friend in Charters Towers and more than once I had to put him to bed when he came home a bit pixilated.
Enlisted Men's Club at Charters Towers
Along about this time we started hearing rumors of personnel being transferred out of Hq. Sq. In Aug. it happened, they deactivated Hq. Sq. as a tactical unit and transferred all the mechanics, armorers, combat crews, etc into the other four Sqs. Also decided they had more help in Operations than they needed. Being the low man on the totem pole, I was transferred to 13th Sq. Operations. They had a C-3 camera outfit (4x5 Speed Graphic) in the office but nobody knew how to use it. Maj. Evanoff (the Mad Russian), the Sq. Com. was an avid amateur shutter bug. I wasted no time letting him know all I needed to operated that camera was some film and the where-with-all to process it. Marvin Culbreth, the Sq. painter, had some photographic background also. The Maj. made a trip to Brisbane in a B-25 and came back with the equipment and supplies for a complete dark room set-up. He set Marvin and myself up in the 13th Sq. Photo Shack. His rationale was that the men needed someplace to get their film processed with out depending on the locals. And of course we were on beck and call whenever he wanted some photos taken.
This decrepid old shack located at the Charters Towers airfield was the 13th Squadron
Photo Shack. It was set up with darkroom equipment Major Evanoff acquired in Brisbane.
In Sept. he lined up all 13 of the Sqs. B-25's with their combat crews and ground crews in front and we photographed each individually and then got some long shots. Also the only time I flew over there was when he wanted some formation photos - I called them glamour shots. But for the next year Marvin and I had a sweetheart deal. In Nov. the Mess Sgt. made a deal with some guy in Mackay to get our thanksgiving turkeys. The catch was we had to go get them. The Mess Sgt., an asst. cook, the driver and myself made that trip to Mackay in a G.I. 6x6 truck, one of us always having to ride in the back. That proved to be quite a trek, the road to Townsville was hard surfaced and pretty good. The road to Mackay was what we in the States would call a cow-path. At times we weren't sure we were on the right track, but we did get there and found a very nice little town. Stayed in a nice hotel, and got acquainted with some of the locals. I spent a little time in the local photography studio. For some reason it took a week to close that deal. Need less to say we enjoyed every minute of it and I came back with some beautiful photos of Mackay. Also brought back turkeys for our Thanksgiving dinner. Just one problem, I never got to eat any of them. A day or two before thanksgiving I got sick, and wound up in the hospital with Dengue Fever and ran a temperature of 104 for about 4 days. They say once you get it you are immune for 2 years. Very prophetic, I was in the hospital again with Dengue Fever thanksgiving day 1944 on Leyte Is., P.I.
Charley Valade, one of Jack's tent mates who
was on 8 Ball Esquire
when it it ditched in the Coral Sea. He got back and lived to fly another day.
Jack Heyn in the South West Pacific during WW2 - The Full story
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 1 January 2001
This page last updated 08 December 2017