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On 2 July 1944, six R4D-5 aircraft of Naval Air Transport Squadron Thirteen, VR-13 of the US Navy took off from US Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Oakland, California headed for Brisbane, Queensland, via Honolulu. Each aircraft was equipped with eight 100 gallon cabin fuel tanks and had a total of 1,600 gallons of fuel onboard. They landed at the US Naval Air Station, Honolulu after a 13.6 hours flight with an average of 480 gallons of fuel left.

During the two and a half day stopover at Honolulu the cabin fuel tanks were removed and the aircraft were given a thorough check over by the Engineering Department of Air Transport Squadron Ten. Gear, spares and various supplies were loaded on board. The six aircraft left for Australia by noon on Wednesday 5 July 1944.

They landed at Palmyra, Canton in Phoenix Islands, Funafuti in Ellice Islands and Espiritu Santo in New Hebrides. The first of the six aircraft arrived at Eagle Farm Airfield at 1430 hours on Monday 10 July 1944. The remaining five aircraft had all arrived by 1500 on the same day. The squadron immediately moved into two hangars at Eagle Farm Airfield. Considerable construction work was carried out inside the hangars to establish offices and shops. In the first ten days there whilst these works were in progress, administrative duties were conducted from sea chests and boxes as procurement of furniture had been slightly delayed.

Their role of VR-13 was to serve the Pacific Fleet and advanced bases with scheduled air transportation of high priority cargo, mail, and passengers.


Photo:- via Bob Livingstone

Douglas R4D-5s at Eagle Farm Airfield with Hangar No. 7 in the background. This
was a C-47A variant with 24-volt electrical system replacing the 12-volt of the C-47.


Photo:- via Bob Livingstone

Close-up of the Naval Air Transport Service insignia


VR-13 inaugurated its first schedule on 18 July 1944, a daily round trip between Brisbane and Manus Island in the Admiralty Islands. The service operated via Townsville, Milne Bay in New Guinea and Finschhafen in New Guinea. The scheduled departure and arrival times were changed on 5 August 1944.

Increased demands for transport services saw five additional R4D-5 and four RY-2 aircraft assigned to the Squadron during August and September 1944. Two RY-2 aircraft were received from Air Transport Squadron Eleven on 6 August 1944, namely Bu. No. 39015 and Bu. No. 39016. Another RY-2 from Air Transport Eleven was received the following day, namely Bu. No. 39013. Two R4D-5 aircraft were received on 23 September 1944, namely Bu. No. 17237 and Bu. No. 17238. Another R4D-5 was received on 24 September 1944, namely Bu. No. 17213. Two more R4D-5 aircraft were received on 26 September 1944, namely Bu. No. 17235 and Bu. No. 17236. Another R4D-5 aircraft was received on 3 October 1944, namely Bu. No. 17225.

On 24 August 1944, Commander J.W. Thornburg, A-V (T), USNR was relieved of his command as Squadron Commander and ordered to return to the USA for medical treatment and disposition. Lieutenant Commander C.E. Lamplough, A-V (G), USNR, assumed command as acting Squadron Commander on pending his official assignment to that role on 7 September 1944.


RY-2 at Eagle Farm Airfield. The RY-2 was the Navy version of
the C-87, which was the transport version of the B-24 Liberator


Photo:- via Bob Livingstone

RY-2 (BUA #67797)


A new schedule was approved on 7 September 1944 to include the following service:-

(a) Seven round trips per week between Brisbane and Manus Island, using R4D-5 aircraft

(b) Three round trips per week between Brisbane and Manus Island using RY-2 aircraft

(c) Seven round trips per week between Manus Island and Hollandia, using R4D-5 aircraft


The rapid growth and increased operations can be seen by the statistics below:-

DATE Scheduled
Actual Miles
Cargo (lbs) Mail (lbs) Passengers (Number)
31 Jul 44   35, 730 41, 400 6 46, 980 37,190 334
31 Aug 44 113, 280 117, 478 10 54, 191 157, 809 1, 289
30 Sep 44 180, 320 185, 454 15 120, 528 268, 738 2, 299
TOTALS 329, 330 344, 332   221, 699 463, 737 3, 922


During the period 29 August to 8 September 1944, thirteen special non scheduled flights to transfer Commander 7th Fleet Com7thFleet and his staff from Brisbane to his new advance base headquarters in Hollandia.

A Flight Training Department was established on 15 August 1944 to meet the requirement for additional Line Plane Commanders.

As of 30 September 1944 there were the following pilots available:-

4    Administrative Pilots

3    RY-2 Line Plane Commanders

21  R4D-5 Line Plane Commanders

22  Co-pilots


At the end of October 1944, there were 57 Officers and 150 Enlisted Men attached to VR-13 at Eagle Farm Airfield.

A novel dispatch board was invented by VR-13 Operations personnel to help meet the demand for immediate information with respect to progress of flights, position and type of aircraft, etc. The Dispatch Board consisted of plexiglass (perspex) plates fitted into slots and all pertinent data on each flight was recorded on the plates, which were moved along the board to follow the progress of each flight. Flight logs were prepared under the direction of the Squadron Navigation Officer, using radio fixes as check points. Strip charts were also made available, indicating courses and distances between check points, navigational aids such as homing beacons, radion ranges, and broadcast stations.

A Squadron Detachment was established at Momote Airfield, Los Negros in the Admiralty Group on 25 August 1944 to lay the ground work for the eventual transfer of Squadron Headquarters to that location. Within a short time there were 5 officers and a large number of Enlisted Men at Momote as planning and construction of the new headquarters progressed.

Operations, Flight, Navigation and Communications Departments transferred to Momote on 9 November 1944 and Squadron Headquarters transferred to Momote Airfield on 19 November 1944.



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This page first produced 9 January 2017

This page last updated 09 January 2017