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.