On October 6, 1944, Lt. Col. Spencer was returning to Mar Airfield from a night heckler mission. The night was stormy and Col. Spencer’s radio compass appears to have not been operating reliably. Around 0215, he set his aircraft on a course with a 240° heading. The heading was received from an unidentified station after Col. Spencer’s radio operator, Sgt. LoPresti, transmitted a QDM, a request for bearing. QDM is one of many Q codes, a brevity code system, used by Morse operators for efficient communication. See “Q code”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_code.

After Sgt. LoPresti sent the QDM, three radio stations started sending and despite a request for all stations to stay off the air except Mar Airfield. Stations that were unknown to Sgt. LoPresti continued to send and jammed the frequency. Reception was most likely problematic due to signal interference from tropical thunderstorms and further exacerbated by hostile jamming. These conditions had caused problems with the aircraft’s radio compass and its exact position was unknown to its pilot and navigator.  The aircraft was on a heading 80°, over Dampier Strait, and possibly, about 90 miles west of Mar Airfield.

In response to the QDM (What is magnetic course to steer with zero wind to reach you?) transmitted by Sgt. Lopresti, a response of QNN 165° (The approximate magnetic course is 165°) was received. This was rejected by the Col. Spencer because it did not seem right, but eventually on the advice of the navigator, 2nd Lt. Burns, with information supplied by Sgt. LoPresti, Col. Spencer set a course of 240°. This course had been provided by an unknown transmitting station.

The decision to take on a heading of 240° took the aircraft from an eastward course to a course to the southwest, a near reversal of the course that would have taken them to near Mar Airfield, their base. Instead, the course to the southwest brought them to an airfield on the north coast of Ceram Island, which was held by the Japanese. In fact, it brought them to an airfield at Boela, which was occupied by the Japanese in March 1942. They almost landed there.

As was later reported in a debriefing report filed by Major Matthias Little (https://waynes-journal.com/2014/10/13/october-14-1944/):

The plane flew down a nearby landing strip and observed a flashing green light evidently inviting a landing. The strip looked serviceable and one crew member suggested landing although all now realized that the strip under them was Boela airdrome. The pilot vetoed this suggestion as he did not feel they could destroy the airplane in time to prevent compromise. A 90° turn to the left carried them out to sea and into a rainstorm. No anti-aircraft fire was received from Boela which, along with the flashing green light, suggests that the enemy was expecting one of their planes or knowing the predicament of this plane, hoped to capture it.

They had been spoofed.

Slightly more than ten days later, another attempt to spoof another 42nd Bomb Group aircraft occurred. Unusual radio activity occurred on October 17, 1944 during a mission flown by the 100th Bombardment Squadron. The situation s was nearly identical to the of October 6:

Radio operator called for QDM. There was at the time QRM (interference) and reception was difficult. A station having the call letter of 25X did provide QTE (true bearing) of 179 deg. when he plane was at Gomoemoe Island at 1015. When called 25X was challenged for proper authentication. He was unable to reply with proper authentication. In discussing the matter with the communications officer of this squadron and referring to current S.O.I.’s we are of the opinion the station is a bogey, as no such station is listed. Further the communication section has for some time been somewhat suspicious as to enemy jamming because of recent radio compass irregularities. In our opinion the irregular procedure is worthy of investigation.

Final Mission Report, Mission No. 120, 17 October 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 17 October 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1197 – 1199.

Jamming of the signal used by the radio compass along with the transmission of false headings strongly suggests that the Japanese were attempting to lure Allied aircraft into their controlled zones or send them into the open ocean where they might run out of gas eventually.

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3 Responses to Spoofed

  1. Mike Hoover says:

    I didn’t realize spoofing was such s problem!


  2. Mustang says:

    Night flying is scary enough without losing confidence in your navaids. Gad … I’ll bet a dollar Colonel Spencer became more careful about maintenance and preflight checks.


    • a gray says:

      In today’s world of computer-driven navigation and communications technology, it is difficult for people to understand what night flying was like during World War II. We live in such a different world. We travel on jet aircraft at 35,000 feet or on cruise ships, both of which isolate us from the world around us. They are piloted to avoid “bumps” and “bounces”; the environment is stable and calm. All are equipped with an incredible array of navigation and communications systems with backups. It wasn’t like that on Lt. Col. Spencer’s B-25. Being in a rainsquall on the open ocean at night on a 70’ boat with an inoperable radar and a failing GPS is as close as I can come to the tension that Lt. Col. Spencer and his crew must have felt.

      The signal on which his aircraft’s radio compass depended was being jammed. It was stormy. It was dark. His radio operator, Sgt. LoPresti was trying to secure a heading from Mar Airfield, but with QRM (manmade interference, e.g. jamming) and QRN (static) present, he would have struggled to tease a signal out of the atmosphere. The Japanese appear to have been jamming frequencies on which Allied radio compasses relied. I suspect that the Allies were also jamming Japanese communications too. It was a very hostile communications environment. On top of that, there would have been static created by tropical thunderstorms. Very few people who read Wayne’s Journal will have ever listened to shortwave radio transmissions nor attempted to copy a Morse signal. It is hard to imagine what it is like..The B-25’s radio operator, Sgt. LoPresti, had a difficult job to say the least.

      “The pilot was hesitant to follow this course as it did not seem correct for the position in which he believed he was but on the advice of the navigator he turned to the new heading.” What puzzles me about the entire incident is why the navigator, Lt. Burns, advised the pilot, who was following an eastward course, to turn toward the south. The navigator died in the water landing, and we will never know why he advised the pilot to so radically change course. To me, it is inexplicable.

      Human error and Japanese signals warfare appears be the cause of the loss of the aircraft and the deaths of Lts. Burns and Fiezl and that of Sgt. Joyce. Sgt. Sutton’s leg was broken in the water landing and Lt. Ivey’s hand was badly cut in the fight with the Japanese soldiers on the beach. None of this would have happened if Lt. Col. Spencer had not changed course on the advice of the navigator. Given the circumstances, all who survived were very lucky. Ivey and Sutton were evacuated to hospitals in the rear; Spencer, Ingram, and LoPresti remained with the unit. I feel certain that the standard preflight checks and maintenance continued. I am certain that higher headquarters also had a lot of questions about exactly what happened and how.

      Liked by 2 people

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