PELL AIRFIELD, NT
Fighter Guide Map
Pell airfield was named after Major Floyd Pell, who was initially part of General Douglas MacArthur's air staff. Pell, a member of Brigadier General Clagett's 5th Interceptor Command Headquarters, had been instrumental in selecting Darwin as a stopover airfield for US air operations in the region. He was the first US Army Air Corps person to come to Australia, when he surveyed the airfields at Port Moresby and Darwin for their suitability for the thirty five B-17 Flying Fortresses that were ferried to the Philippines by the 19th Bomb Group from September 1941.
In mid February 1942, a group of 25 Kittyhawks left Amberley on their way to Perth to be partially disassembled and placed on ships for Java. Major Pell of the 33rd Provisional (Pursuit) Squadron, led the second flight of 15 Kittyhawks. When they reached Port Pirie, Major Pell and his group of 15 Kittyhawks were diverted to Darwin for convoy escort duty to Timor. They were then to be ferried to Koepang in Java. One of his aircraft crashed while at Port Pirie, killing the pilot and another 4 unserviceable aircraft were left behind.
Only 12 of the Kittyhawks made it to Daly Waters and of these only 10 made it to Darwin on 17 February 1942. After reaching Darwin, they had tried to follow the lead B-17 to Timor on 18 February 1942 but had to turn back due to fog. They stayed the night in Darwin hoping for clearer weather the next day.
On 19 February 1942, the first Japanese air raid on Darwin was carried out by a large force of Japanese aircraft.
By 8:45am the force of 188 aircraft led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida had been launched from 4 aircraft carriers located about 350 kms north west of Darwin. The Japanese force comprised:-
36 A6M2 Type
"O" fighter aircraft
71 D3A "Val" dive bombers
81 B5N "Kate" high level bombers
Nine Kittyhawks (Warhawks) were destroyed and four pilots, including Major Pell were killed by strafing Japanese aircraft.
Major Pell attempted to take off from the Darwin RAAF airfield but his aircraft was hit by a strafing Japanese fighter aircraft and was killed when he then parachuted out of the aircraft at about 24 metres.
Only the aircraft of Lieutenant Bob Oestricher survived the raid. He was credited with shooting down two Japanese aircraft. Eleven RAAF aircraft were also destroyed. Those killed were Pell, Peres, Perry, and Hughes.
NOTE:- Noel Tunny's book "Gateway to Victory" indicates that the 10 Kittyhawks arrived in Darwin on 17 February 1942 and then set out for Java on 19 February 1942, the morning of the Japanese air raid. They turned back when they lost their escort in bad weather, and on returning to Darwin, Major Pell kept 5 Kittyhawks on patrol while the others landed for fuel. The Japanese aircraft then arrived on the scene, catching five aircraft on the ground. Tunny indicates that Bob Oestriecher (sic) was a pilot left behind from the 3rd Provisional Squadron.
MILITARY AIRCRAFT CRASHES AT PELL AIRFIELD DURING WW2
|15 Jan 44||Pell||RAAF||Boomerang||A46-140|
|17 May 44||Pell airfield||RAAF||Boomerang||A46-143|
|abt Jul 44||Pell airfield||RAAF||Beaufighter||A19-143|
|6 Oct 44||6 miles NE of Pell airfield||RAAF||Beaufighter||A19-203|
JAPANESE BOMBING RAIDS
AT PELL AIRFIELD DURING WW2
|24 Oct 42 (04:52 am)||Pell airfield|
|21 Aug 43 (03:30 am)||Pell airfield|
"Protect & Revenge" (Page 21)
"The 49th Fighter Group in World War II"
by S.W. Ferguson & William K. Pascalis
By Noel Tunny
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"Australia @ War" Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 11 September 1999
This page last updated 14 September 2018