Moving to New Guinea

Over the preceding weeks, Wayne has made occasional entries in his journal about an impending movement of the 42nd Bombardment Group to a new location. He has speculated that the move might be to New Guinea, Burma or even China.

In August, the move is finally underway. His journal entries for August will seem incongruent with those of the preceding period. There are no combat missions. He writes of jeep trips to see the sights, construction projects, ping pong tournaments, coffee with friends, etc. It sounds like a continuation of the rest leave that commenced when his unit, then the 75th Bombardment Squadron, rotated back to Banika Island from Stirling Island in early June. That rest leave continued after he was transferred to the 100th Bombardment Squadron and posted back to Stirling Island.

What has changed? The war was moving westward from the Solomon Islands.1

On 20 July 1944, the 5th Air Force submitted a plan to the Commanding General of the 13th Air Force for the movement of the air echelon of the 42nd Bombardment Group. This plan had been developed previously at a conference between 5th Air Force and 13th Air Force representatives. The move to the new area was complicated and would involve various air groups as well other forces.

The 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelon was to be staged at BEWITCH2 with complete housekeeping equipment necessary to maintain the Group while staging in that area. The plan provided that due to weather, maintenance, and other factors all units must be ready to move on short notice. It also noted that movement of the 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelon might be delayed if the 347th Fighter Group was called upon to move prior to the 42nd Bombardment Group.

The movement of the 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelon was scheduled to be by C-47 with each of the 42nd’s five squadrons allocated five flights a day for four days. The first squadron would complete its move over a four-day period, followed by the second squadron, etc. Based upon the schedule, it appears that the 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelons were to be completed moved by 15 August. This would then allow for ample aircraft to move the 347th Fighter Group, the 419th Night Fighter Squadron, and the 18th Fighter Group. The movement of the 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelon on the 1400-mile hop to BEWITCH would be via AUTOMOBILE.3

The 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelon was to be moved whenever needed from BEWITCH to a final destination which was not disclosed in the Plan for Movement.4 This final movement the 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelon was to be by the 54th Troop Carrier Wing.

The 100th Bombardment Squadron’s air echelon, i.e., the aircrews of which Wayne was a part, left Stirling Island by C-47 over a period of three days from 4 August through 6 August. Their destination was Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea.

On 14 August, the 100th Bombardment Squadron’s ground echelon departed Stirling Island aboard Army Transport Service ship Sea Perch. After calling at Finschafen on the 15th, Hollandia on the 17th, it arrived at Cape Sansapor where the ground echelon disembarked on 24 August. The Sea Perch was accompanied by other ships carrying equipment and personnel of the 42nd Bombardment Group. It took the ground echelon nearly three weeks to load the ships.

The following describes the movement in August of the ground echelon and its activity at the new base in New Guinea: 5

This is been a rather hectic bonds for everyone in the squadron. During the first two weeks of the month preparations were being made for move to New Guinea where we will participate in the New Guinea campaign. As is usual with a pending movement and its ensuing turmoil of preparation everyone was more than busy packing up personal equipment and getting their respective sections packed.

As usual we were divided into three sections, the flight, air and ground echelons. The air echelon was the first to leave and traveled by C-47 to Hollandia. Second to leave was the ground echelon which left Stirling Island on the 14th, traveling on the United Fruit Lines freighter Sea Perch and arriving at Cape Opmarai on the 22nd. Some troops went ashore that evening but the majority didn’t disembark until the next day. The flight echelon is expected to arrive about the 20th of September.

For several days we were busy unloading our gear from the Sea Perch. At present we only have our headquarters and housekeeping equipment with us. The remainder, along with our motor equipment will arrive shortly on another ship. At present we have our jeep and water trailer. Since we have to clear out a jungle area to set up camp the lack trucks is a hindrance in getting the felled trees and brush hauled away. We have one truck which was borrowed from a signal outfit nearby.

Every precaution is being taken to protect the men against the many diseases found in this theater. The medical section has supplied everyone with liquid repellents and powders in an effort to guard against the bites of disease carrying insects. All men are wearing leggings and remaining fully clothed throughout the day as a further means of combating this menace. Once the underbrush is cleared away it will be easy to control this problem. Although malaria is prevalent in this part of the Pacific, our own area is relatively free of mosquitoes. However everyone is taking one Atabrine tablet each day and sleeping under netting to keep malaria at a minimum. To date our squadron has been fortunate in not having one case of malaria since arriving overseas.

Water has not presented any problem here as it did at our last station. The water table here is 16 feet below the surface on an average and we have already dug a well and should have it in operation in a day or two.

We have had a few accidents in the process of setting up camp. One man fell from the tree but fortunately was not injured. Possibly six men have cut themselves with machetes but none were serious. Major Stephens probably has had the toughest luck. He had a tooth that the dentist attempted pull while we were in route here and the effort was highly unsuccessful as the tooth broke off leaving the roots to raise hell. Yesterday the major had the roots removed but his jaw is still swollen and sore. He should be admired for keeping his good spirits all during this time as I know his nerves were on edge because of the pain.

Our meals on board ship were terrible. We can only hope that Lieutenant Colonel Whitneybell6 reported this to higher headquarters so an investigation will be made and some action taken. It’s the worst food I’ve eaten in 44 months of Army life. However since we have landed, conditions along this line have improved considerably

To date living conditions here at our new home have been pretty rough. We have just set up tents on a temporary basis, after the area is cleared more permanent quarters can be constructed. The only convenience we have today is a crude shower. The mess section has been a great contribution to the morale of everyone. The mail situation at present is very poor much to the disgust of all. As yet we have no recreation facilities but that is not any problem at present as the men are usually only interested in hitting the sack after a long day of clearing away the jungle. From the 25th through the 31st we have had eight night air raids and seven conditions read make came at all hours and succeeding in breaking up our rest. We hope this condition will soon be eliminated.

During an air raid by three enemy light bombers the night of August 27, five officers of the headquarters section of the 42nd bombardment group were wounded by fragments from a medium caliber antiaircraft shell which exploded on the ground near them. Two of these were returned to duty within three days and three received moderate injuries that incapacitated them for several months.

The 42nd Bomb Group Historical Report for August 1944, presents further details regarding the movement from the Solomon Islands to New Guinea:7

Change of Station:

The long expected move to another forward station and began to materialize, and during the first days of August a small number of the advanced air echelon of the headquarters section departed Stirling Island via C-47 planes. This air echelon stopped at Hollandia, New Guinea, until the group ground echelon of the various squadrons arrived at the new station at Cape Sansapor on the western tip of New Guinea

The ground echelon and equipment of the 42nd group headquarters and its five squadrons were transported in five separate USAF ships. The organization equipment of the 75th and 390th squadrons was shipped aboard the Mandan Victory and the Ripley. The equipment of the 69th and 70th squadrons and some of the headquarters equipment was shipped on the George Boutwell. The personnel of the 70th, the 75th, and the 390th squadron traveled via the Xtavia. The remainder of the equipment of Headquarters and the personnel of the Headquarters, the 69th and the 100th squadrons traveled via the Sea Perch.

The last of the group’s flight echelons departed Stirling Island on September 4th and proceeded to Hollandia where they set up a camp area and flew combat missions until the 14th of September. They then joined their ground echelons at the newly constructed Mar airfield near Cape Sansapor.

Setting up Camp at Hollandia:

The campsite of the various squadrons had landed, New Guinea, were set up mainly by members of the air and-flight squadrons, their ground echelons having gone to Cape Sanspor. A consolidated mess for the five squadrons was built. However, each squadron had its own campsite. One of these, the 69th squadron under the direction of Capt. Roy Harris, adjutant, received special commendation as being by far the best campsite the Fifth Air Force had seen to date.

A feature greatly appreciated by the men was the shower facilities. This consisted of diverting a part of a mountain stream into a series of troughs which were perforated and provided a continuous shower bath.

Camp life at Hollandia, on the whole, was pleasant enough. By the time the units of this organization arrived there the base had been well established. The officers of the 42nd Group built an attractive officers club where occasionally dances were held.

Setting up Camp at Cape Sansapor:

Conditions at Sansapor were in decided contrast to those at Hollandia. The area marked off for the future campsite of the 42nd group was a virgin jungle. The first men to disembark arrived on the shore in the late afternoon. Areas large enough for pup tents were hardly cleared off by dark. The rain that night did not make conditions any better.

The three weeks that followed was a period of hard work with the axe, machete and crosscut saw. Finally the area began to shape up and by the time the flight echelons from Hollandia began arriving on September 15 the worst of the job was finished.

Scrub Typhus had been reported as being a real menace in this area. Accordingly, preventive measures against the disease such as the use of leggings, insect powder and repellents, and impregnated clothing were taken. So far no cases of typhus or malaria have been found in this group at this area.

The airfield developed at Sansapor would be called Mar Airfield.

Notes & Commentary

1 United States Army Air Forces, The Crusaders: a history of the 42nd Bombardment Group (M). (Baton Rouge, La.: Army & Navy Pictorial Publishers, 1946). World War Regimental Histories. Book 113. pp 103-104 : digital image (http://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/ww_reg_his/113 : PDF download 17 April 2014).

2 BEWITCH code name for Hollandia, New Guinea.

3 AUTOMOBILE code name for Nadzab, New Guinea.

4 Plan for Movement of Air Echelons of 13th Air Force Units. Headquarters 5th Air Force, 20 July 1944, microfilm B0131, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 1818-1820.

5 100th Bombardment Squadron (M) Historical Report, 1 August 1944 – 31 August 1944, Office of the Commanding Officer, 1 September 1944, microfilm B0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1037-1038.

6 Lt. Col. Theron H. Whitneybell, 42nd Bombardment Group Executive Officer.

7 42nd Bomb Group Historical Report for August 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 15 September 1944, microfilm B0131, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1928-1931.

For an excellent description of the Pacific Islands involved in World War II, see Gordon Rottman’s World War II Pacific Island Guide: A Geo-Military Study, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

For a sense of what it was like for a Japanese soldier caught up in the New Guinea campaign, you might read The Toy Salesman: http://theamericanwarrior.com/2015/03/31/the-toy-salesman/.

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13 Responses to Moving to New Guinea

  1. Larry Huggins says:

    WOW! Thank you.

    Like

    • a gray says:

      The move from the Solomon Islands to New Guinea marks a change in missions for Wayne. The time at Hollandia is a time of peace that will not be repeated during the ensuing months . . .

      Like

  2. Scott Penner says:

    Did they leave aircraft behind?

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    • a gray says:

      As the 42nd Bombardment Group’s squadrons stood down from combat missions, the ground echelon’s engineering sections installed half bomb-bay gas tanks in the individual aircraft to enable long-distance flights. The squadron’s flight echelons began flying their B-25s to Hollandia on 15 August with the last arriving on 4 September. I believe the 42nd Bombardment Group moved 82 B-25s to Hollandia.

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  3. suchled says:

    I have been wondering if you are going to publish these diaries as a book. Not just a blog?
    As an Aussie I am interested because the New Guinea campaign was the toughest our soldiers went through.

    Like

    • a gray says:

      That question has been asked a number of times. We’ve still got eight months to go. Wayne’s entries in his journal end in April 1945. I think whether or not they will be published as a book is something that will have to be decided then. The publication of his journal entries in the current format probably reaches a greater audience than a book might.

      Liked by 2 people

      • suchled says:

        True, but maybe his old outfit would like a hard copy at least.

        Like

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        What I like about blogs is the instantaneous interaction with readers who can add what information they know.

        Publishing a book serves another purpose and is a daunting task to say the least. It takes sometimes just the simple pleasure of writing.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. gpcox says:

    So interesting to read what the squadrons were doing. My father was around Lae, New Guinea at this time.

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    • a gray says:

      So many people are interested in combat-related history that all that leads up to it is often ignored. The movement of an entire air group to an airfield that had to be developed was a extraordinary event. It is a “dry” topic that few will read and about which few might write. Those who managed the support of the combat units returned from the war with incredible communication, coordination and management skills. They were the 40+ year old guys who put men on the moon. Those engaged in combat learned leadership skills that also contributed to the vibrancy of the post-war world.

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      • gpcox says:

        You know how it is, some people need “the action,” but it takes every man and every different post in every unit to get the job done. The pieces of the puzzle have to fit perfectly together – almost doesn’t cut it. Those “dry topics” are very important! Take a look at Dan Bjarnason’s shared link, a comparison of uniforms, etc. thru the ages; a dry topic, but it is very interesting and extremely important to the soldier.

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  5. Seems like we have something in common! Thanks for stopping by. I will be reading!

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    • a gray says:

      Just as in February and March when Wayne was on Guadalcanal waiting for an assignment, rumors will be rampant. The 42nd Bombardment Group’s air echelon has little to do but wait while the ground echelon moves toward Sansapor where it will begin developing their air field. The flight echelon is still preparing for the movement to Hollandia. If you have them time and inclination, you might go back to February 12, 1944 and begin reading. I would also encourage you to follow the links in the Notes & Commentary section of the posts. They provide a great deal of context to what Wayne in writing in his journal. They may also provide you with information that you might not know. Thanks for following Wayne’s Journal.

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