Other than a mission on April 8, 1944 while temporarily assigned to the 69th Bombardment Squadron, Wayne flew no combat missions until May 1944. He had been in South Pacific for two and a half months when he began flying combat missions with the 75th Bombardment Squadron.
The reduction and isolation of Rabaul during the previous months had reduced Japanese effectiveness in New Britain, New Ireland and the Solomon Islands. During May, none of the missions flown by the squadrons of the 42nd Bombardment Group were intercepted by Japanese aircraft. Although still dangerous, the effectiveness of Japanese antiaircraft defenses continued to erode. Only 3.6% of the sorties flown during May suffered any sort of damage from antiaircraft fire, down from 13% in March. Only one aircraft was lost during May and that was due to an engine fire on take-off and not enemy action. The engine fire forced a water landing. One man drowned when he was unable to exit the aircraft.
The 75th Bombardment Squadron was based on Stirling Island during May with two other squadrons of the 42nd Bombardment Group. The Group’s operations on Stirling Island and its combat activities are described in the following paragraphs:
During the month of May, the 42nd Bombardment Group (M) was operating out of Stirling Island approximately thirty miles southeast of Bougainville Island in the Solomon group. There was no change of station for the group or any of the five squadrons (the 69th, 70th, 75th, 100th, and 390th squadrons) with the exception of the rotation of the combat crews of three squadrons. The ground echelons of the 69th, the 70th and the 100th squadrons were stationed at Stirling Island (in the Treasury group) during May while the ground echelons of the 75th and the 390th squadrons were stationed at the Russell Islands which by now had become to be considered part of the rear area.
It has been the policy of this group to keep the air or combat echelons in the forward station at Stirling Island for sixty days and then move them back to the Russell Islands for about 40 days of rest and training. During the forty day period the combat crews were given a nine day rest leave in Auckland, New Zealand. Because the ground echelons of only three squadrons are kept forward, and the air echelons of five squadrons rotated it of course became necessary that occasionally the ground echelon of one squadron must service the air echelon of another squadron. This has presented no serious problems and has worked quite well. At the beginning of the month the air echelons of the 70th and the 75th and the 390th squadrons were in active operations at Stirling. On the 8th of May, the 390th Squadron was relieved by the 100th Squadron air echelon. On May 27th, the 70th Squadron was relieved by the air echelon of the 69th Squadron. The combat crews of the 75th Squadron were operating out of Stirling for the entire month of May. Therefore, at the end of the month the three air echelons in the forward area were from the 69th, the 75th and the 100th Squadrons.
The month of May was marked more or less by a general slowing up of bombing activity. Although this group averaged more than one mission per day for the month, these missions had become routine runs with no enemy fighter interception, and the antiaircraft fire has eased up slightly. The job of keeping Rabaul and the surrounding areas under control had been left to medium bombers and fighter bombers, the heavy bombardment groups having left the immediate area for other objectives. By this time the town of Rabaul had been largely reduced to rubble and the efforts of this group were directed to keeping the airfields around Rabaul unserviceable and bombing the dispersal areas which had spread out from Rabaul Town into the nearby area. The fact that these airfields, namely, Lakunai, Vunakanau, Tobera, Rapopo, and Keravat, were kept unfit for staging areas for enemy planes is proved by photo reconnaissance which at no time during May showed more than two or three enemy planes in the Rabaul area, and by the fact that no “condition red” was sounded during the month on Stirling Island. In addition, several medium altitude bombing attacks were made against coast gun positions on Borpop, New Ireland, and at Buka Passage on Bougainville Island.
The group was particularly fortunate at this station in regard to quarters and camp areas. The efficient and workmanlike Navy Construction Battalion had begun work on the island before we arrived in January and had built mess halls and sufficient office space and had cleared off enough of the jungle for quarters for the men. One disagreeable feature which is present at most new camp sites fortunately was missing on Stirling Island. This is the presence of mud. Stirling Island being a coral island there was very little mud to hamper operations even in the early days of our stay here. Before this month of May arrived we had a well drained camp site with good roads and sufficient pipe lines for water, all of which helped to keep the morale of the unit up.
A large outdoor theater with two 35 mm projectors and a well built projection booth (thanks again to the C.B.s) provided the biggest part of the entertainment on the island. Satisfactory seating capacity for approximately 2,000 people was provided by the use of bomb-fin crates.
42nd Bomb Group Historical Report for May 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 4 June 1944, microfilm B0131, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 1615 – 1616.
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The striking force of the Group for the month was comprised of five Squadrons each equipped with B-25 Mitchell bombers. Three Squadrons were based at Stirling Island (Treasury Group, Solomon Islands) while two were in the rest and training area on Banika Island (Russells Group, Solomon Islands). The Squadrons at the advance base flew missions on two successive days and were idle on the third day. Under this system, the Group put two Squadrons (twenty four airplanes) over an enemy target each day.
Principal targets for the month were supply areas, gun positions and airstrips. The concentration of supplies in the vicinity of Rabaul town were hit often and well. Aerial photographs indicate that the majority of the stockpiles not too far underground to escape damage by aerial bombardment have been destroyed. The enemy continues to repair portions of his airfields; rather than face the threat of an aerial task force which could conceivable be staged through an airdrome which had been conditioned for such a purpose these airdromes are blasted periodically.
The two night attacks (May 9 and 10) executed during the month caused a break from the routine of daily medium altitude strikes. The low altitude attack staged in the early evening of May 9 was outstanding. Designed as part of a coordinated action its purpose was to serve as a diversion for other activities in the area. Its success depended on split second timing, precise execution according to plan and withdrawal along an exact route which would preclude the possibility of collision with other aircraft. The complete success in each phase was a compliment to the officers of all organizations participating who had a part in preparing the Operations plan.
The strikes dispatched against various gun positions which had harassed both aircraft and surface vessels during the preceding months were comparatively successful. Medium altitude bombing can only cover the area containing the emplacements and must rely on good fortune to guide one or more bombs directly into the emplacements (approximately 18’ inside diameter) to permanently silence the position. Photo interpretation revealed two of the coast guns located at Hahela Mission as well as three automatic anti-aircraft guns in the area were neutralized by our bombs.
The weather during May forced the cancellation of several missions and frequently made it necessary to bomb secondary targets. No enemy interception was experienced by the strikes. The percentage of sorties damaged by anti aircraft was 3.6 % as compared to 5.7% in April and 13% in March. The figures evidence the continued disintegration of New Britain defenses.
The Group’s activity was reduced during May as compared to the preceding month. It flew 37 missions during May as opposed to April’s 76. With reduced Japanese coastal barge transport activity, the Group flew no barge searches. During April, the Group flew 27 missions in search of Japanese barges. There was only one photo reconnaissance mission flown in May while 13 were flown in April. Two missions in search of survivors from lost aircraft were flown in May while six were flown in April.
In April, 1,565,400 lbs of bombs were dropped on targets, but May saw a 23% reduction. Only 1,205,358 lbs. of bombs were dropped. During April, 50,100 rounds of .50 caliber machine gun ammunition and 334 rounds of 75 mm cannon ammunition were fired into enemy areas. No rounds of either caliber were fired into enemy areas in May.
During the month of April, 5 men from the 42nd Bombardment Group were injured while on missions and 15 were lost. Three of the Group’s aircraft were lost while on missions and 37 were damaged. In May, one man was injured, one man was lost and one aircraft was lost. This loss occurred on May 11 when shortly after take off a plane’s engine caught fire and a water landing made. The plane sank quickly and took one crew member with it.
Periodic Activities Summary, 1 May 1944 – 31 May 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 1 June 1944, microfilm B0131, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 1622 – 1625.