June 11, 1944

Sunday

One full week of fatigue. Am so tired it’s an effort to drag myself out of bed.

Flew missions on the 9th1 and the 11th,2 number 19 and 20.   30 more to go and we can go home to the good old United States and my good, good wife. Only 8 more months to go.

Have received a dozen letters and written as many if not more. Everyone’s good about writing. Have been very lonesome all week and nerves a little on edge.

Nakajima_Ki-43-II Oscar from Wikipedia

Nakajima_Ki-43-II
Oscar
from Wikipedia

Yesterday, two Japanese Oscars3 were seen as well as several grounded on Rapopo airdrome4. So we had a fighter escort this morning. TBFs also hit target today as did Lightnings, P-38s. Slow weeks to be sure.

Now for the sack if I can get these Poker players off my sack.

Notes & Commentary

1 The 75th Bombardment Squadron was tasked with bombing Rabaul on June 9 from a medium altitude with 100 lb. general purpose bombs at 1040L.

The mission aircraft took off from Stirling Island from 0845 to 0851L and were over the target at 1045L. The mission dropped 144 bombs in the target area. Two fires with dirty yellow to black smoke which rose to 300 ft or more were started in the target area. One smaller but more prominent column of smoke was also noted. Aircraft 112 had one bomb fall out unexpectedly when its bomb bay doors opened.

All 12 mission aircraft recovered at Stirling between 1225 and 1232L.

No enemy aircraft intercepted the mission. Two 75 ft. barges, stationary in the water between “The Beehives” and the west shore of Simpson Harbor were observed during the mission. Keravat Airdrome appeared serviceable and the damaged Betty had been removed from the north end of the strip. The current in St. George Channel was flowing at 5 kts.

Mission Report, Mission No. 150, 9 June 1944, 75th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 9 June 1944, microfilm A0565, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 766-767.

Missions were far more complicated than is apparent from that described above for the 75th Bombardment Squadron. That was just the 75th Bombardment Squadron’s portion of a larger operation involving US Navy and Marine Corps bomber and fighter aircraft as well as another B-25 squadron from the USAAF’s 42nd Bombardment Group.

While on 9 June the 75th Bombardment Squadron was tasked with being over the target at 1040L, the actual attack was scheduled to begin at 1000L:

At 1000L, PBJs (the Navy version of the B-25) flown by US Marine Corps Bombing Squadron VMB-423, then operating out of Stirling Island, attacked Rabaul. At 1020L, Navy/USMC fighters bombed Talili airfiled at 1020L. Throughout the strike, Four Navy/USMC fighters provided coverage over the target.

At 1040L, 12 B-25s from the 75th Bombardment Squadron bombed Rabaul targets. This was followed at 1050L by bombing by 12 B-25s from the 69th Bombardment Squadron. Altogether, these two squadrons  dropped 288 general-purpose, 100 lb bombs on their targets.

Such coordinated strikes were common and required extensive coordination as to flight routes, communications procedures regarding frequency usage and call signs, IFF (identification friend or foe) signals, friendly shipping positions, and rescue aircraft to name just a few items.

Flight Order 335, Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 8 JUNE 1944, microfilm B0131, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 1745-1746.

2 On 11 June 1944, Rabaul antiaircraft positions were attacked by 75th Bombardment Squadron B-25s.

The 12 mission aircraft launched between 0832 and 0838L. At 0930L, aircraft 645 piloted by 1st Lt. Scruggs, returned to base due to engine trouble. Aircraft 108 piloted by 1st Lt. Forand toggled its bombs at Cape St. George when they wouldn’t release over the target. It is likely that Wayne was a member of this aircraft’s crew.

Escort for the mission was provided by at least six fighters which were observed by the mission aircraft.

General purpose 100 lb. bombs were dropped from medium altitude. Three small fires adjacent to the northerly gun positions and two just east of the southerly positions were observed all emitted dark gray smoke 50 to 100 ft. high. Two large fires were started immediately north of the radar station at Cape St. George. One of these fires emitted dirty yellow smoke and the other black smoke all rising to about 500 feet and visible from 30 miles away.

At Rapopo Airfield six aircraft were noted in the northwest revetments one of which was possibly a silver Betty. Eight possible twin-engine aircraft were observed in the southwest revetments. The runway appeared unserviceable.

Mission Report, Mission No. 151, 11 June 1944. 75th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 11 June 1944, microfilm A0565, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 768-769.

3 Oscar was the Allied codename for the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon) used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakajima_Ki-43. Although heavily attacked, the Japanese appear to have salvaged parts from more severely damaged aircraft to keep some aircraft in service. Among these is the re-built Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa salvaged from Rabaul, New Britain and currently held by the Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, Washington.  See http://www.flyingheritage.com/TemplatePlane.aspx?contentId=21.

In June 1944, Rabaul-based fighter aircraft were still present and the Japanese were capable of mounting a minimal defense. One mission of USMC VMB-423 was to maintain an aircraft on station over the Rabaul area during night time hours. This aircraft dropped bombs on any lights seen and monitored, using its airborne radar, any ship or aircraft movement. On 9 June 1944, the VMB-423 aircraft on station was attacked by two A6M Zeroes.  Scutts, Jerry. PBJ Mitchell Units of the Pacific War. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2003. pp. 22-23.

4 Rapopo Airfield was located southeast of Rabaul.  The airfield’s antiaircraft defenses were attacked by 12 B-25s, 20 P-39s, and 20+ US Navy dive bombers on 10 June and by 130+ B-25s, P-38s P-39s and USN dive bombers pounded its antiaircraft positions on 11 June. On 12 June, B-24s bombed the runway at Rapopo.

American missions against Rapopo and Rapopo Airfield, January 26, 1943 – June 23, 1944. PacificWrecks.com (http://pacificwrecks.com/airfields/png/rapopo/missions-rapopo.html : accessed 9 June 2014)

 

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7 Responses to June 11, 1944

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Very well documented.
    Quite amazing research.
    GP calls me her master.
    I have found mine.

    Like

  2. It’s a detailed list. I’m curious of your perceptions of these bombings. Even more so decades later. Very interesting.

    Like

    • a gray says:

      In 2010 according to the United States Census Bureau, the United States had a population of 308,745,531. Of that total, 39,519,428 or almost 13% of the population was over 65 years of age. Of those 39,519,428 people, . . .

      — slightly more than 4,000,00 men and 7,000,000 women were born before 1930,

      — about 3,100,000 men and 4,100,000 women were born in the years 1930 through 1934,

      — roughly 4,200,000 men and 5,000,000 women were born in the years 1935 through 1939

      — nearly 6,000,000 men and say 6,500,000 women were born in the years from 1940 through 1944.

      Only 11,000,000 people alive in 2010 were 15 years or older when World War II ended. There were 7,200,000 million who were between 10 and 15 years of age when the war ended. This suggests that in 2010 we had about 19,000,000 men and women, slightly more than 8.5% of the United States population, who had very vivid memories of World War II and how it affected their lives as children or young adults. They likely had a member of their family, male or female, who served in the military in some capacity. They read the reports of the missing and the dead in their local newspapers. They listened to the war news on the radio. They lost family members and knew those in their communities who had lost family members. They knew the dread that a Western Union messenger arriving at the door could bring. They listened to older people talking. They knew anxiety.

      Those who were born between 1940 and 1944, some 12,500,000 men and women or 4% of the population, also likely had a member of their family who served in the military in some capacity. They can only have less vivid memories than their older cohort, but I am sure they could feel the anxiety and tension that arose in those around them when no letters arrived. They were there when grandparents talked of those who were killed or lost. They were also there when their fathers and other relatives came back from the war. They heard their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives talking among themselves about the war. They might not have known all the little details, but they felt the sense of loss and struggle. They were also, as were those born between 1935 and 1939, the group most likely to have been “war orphans”, those who had lost a parent in the war.

      The numbers cited above are as of 2010. They are smaller today and grow smaller with each passing year. Fewer and fewer people have any direct, tangible experience with World War II.

      You noted that you were curious of my perceptions of the bombings of Rabaul.

      First, I would observe that Wayne’s Journal is the record of one man’s journey into war as a gunner on a B-25 medium bomber. He writes that he maintained his aircraft’s machine guns, of letters received, of movies seen and of boredom and loneliness. He writes that he flew a mission to such and such place, but the details are missing. Only very rarely does he note when they landed or took off, bombs dropped, weather, or other details that he experienced. As I noted at the beginning of Wayne’s Journal, to understand the lives of individuals and their relationships one must know something of the history that swirls about them, the context of their lives. To understand Wayne’s life, one must understand the bombing missions that he flew. The bombing of Rabaul was part of the context of his life.

      Second, it is important to remember that Rabaul was a huge Japanese Naval and Army base established to control the South Pacific. It has been noted that Rabaul was Japan’s largest naval and army base in the South Pacific. Some have called it Japan’s Gibraltar because of it underground fortifications. It was also the location where the Japanese had stockpiled weapons, munitions, and supplies as well as thousands troops for the invasion of Australia. Rather than attack and capture Rabaul, the Allies decided to bypass it. If you want to pursue the history of the campaign against Rabaul, Bruce Gamble’s books, especially Target Rabaul: The Allied Siege of Japan’s Most Infamous Stronghold, March 1943-August 1945 would be a worthwhile read.

      Last, my perceptions. I am one of that small, 4% group of the population born in the period from 1940 through 1944. Over the years, I’ve read many books about World War II. I have been frequently amazed at what I have read. I am equally amazed at the perceptions fostered by our entertainment industry and by our news media. I abhor terms such as “The Greatest Generation”, the “Good War” and others. These are the terms of those who weren’t there. They are the terms of authors seeking to capitalize on the war. The war was horrible. People did what they had to do based upon the information that was available to them and based upon the evidence provided by their enemy. They did what they had to do so they could go home.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I appreciate the statistics and the information. I was born in 1963. My step-father was a UDT for the Korean War. My biological father served in the Vietnam War. I served in 1981 when there was no war to serve. My son served in Iraq, 2 tours, my daughter served in the Navy as well as my niece on aircraft carriers. I was the fortunate one of everyone who served on a communication station in Scotland as a Radioman, sending and receive messages from sub-tenders and anyone in the region. I’m an AP US History teacher and Holocaust Studies teacher these days, and it fascinates me not just the statistics, but the stories behind them. As time has moved forward and WWII is so far in the past, many do not have vivid memories of WWII. This is sad. I enjoy your post as well as friends who commemorate the bravery of recent WWII veterans. When someone much younger is inspired to inquire and solicit details, it must be dealt with compassion because of course how could they know? Statistics mean little to someone who has not the foundation to interpret the statistics like a veteran can. I am one who has heard about The Great Generation and admire films like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and enjoy all perspectives to ascertain “what really happened”. Naturally, every veteran has their own version and certain themes rise to the surface based upon repetitious accounts. I respect your service.

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      • a gray says:

        I have a friend whose father is now in his early 90s and having cognitive problems. During World War II, he was dental technician with an Army hospital unit. His unit was one of the first that came to Ebensee Concentration Camp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebensee_concentration_camp) in Austria.

        Over the years, we have talked of what his wartime experience was like. Nothing seems to have had such an impact on him as the smells and sounds associated with Ebensee. One can read about the horror of such places, but to actually talk with some one and watch their physical reactions as they describe their experiences is another. There aren’t many of those guys left. I am also pleased that more and more attention is being paid to the experiences of women who served in the military and to those who stayed at home. I hope that their family members will treasure (and publish) the letters and other documents that they have.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I have read all the posts…
    I will be eagerly waiting for the next post.

    Like

  4. a gray says:

    Shortly after midnight in New York, Americans who were awake at that hour and listening to their radios began to learn of the D-Day landings. Surely, these broadcasts must have been heard by the troops in the Pacific: https://archive.org/details/Complete_Broadcast_Day_D-Day/. I find it odd that Wayne does not mention this momentous event in his journal.

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