Title: The Decisive Factor – 75 and 76 Squadrons – Port Moresby and Milne Bay 1942
Author: Wilson, David
Condition: Near Mint
Edition: 1st Edition
Publication Date: 1991
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 210 pages
Comments: The history of No. 75 and 76 Squadrons during World War 2.
75 Squadron was formed at Townsville, Queensland, on 4 March 1942, under the command of Squadron Leader Peter Jeffery. On 21 March the squadron’s first four Kittyhawk aircraft landed at the Seven Mile Strip, Port Moresby. During the afternoon Flying Officer Barry Cox and Flight Lieutenant John Piper shot down a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. Two hours later Squadron Leader J.F. Jackson, the newly appointed commanding officer, led the remainder of the squadron to the Seven Mile Strip.
The squadron was the sole fighter defence of Port Moresby during its 44-day deployment from 21 March to 3 May 1942. Thirty-nine enemy aircraft had been destroyed in the air or on the ground, and 54 damaged, for the loss of 12 pilots and 24 aircraft.
The squadron returned to Townsville, and then moved to Kingaroy and Lowood to complete re-equipment and recuperation. Aircrew strength was supplemented by pilots who had seen service with Spitfire squadrons over Europe.
On 21 July 1942 the squadron flew to Gurney Field, Milne Bay, where it operated with 76 Squadron in the defence of Milne Bay. Milne Bay was being developed to protect the left flank of Port Moresby and to enable the Allies to project air power over the north coast of New Guinea and the Louisiade Islands.
On 24 August 1942 a Japanese force was sighted heading for Milne Bay. On the same day, the two squadrons fought Japanese raiders, claiming three enemy aircraft for the loss of three pilots. The Japanese troops landed in the early hours of 25 August and, in the ensuing Battle for Milne Bay to 3 September, the squadrons strafed Japanese troops, barges, and stores. Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell, the commander of New Guinea Force, noted in his report that the effort of the fighter squadrons was “the decisive factor” in the ultimate victory over the invading forces.
After the victory at Milne Bay, the squadron withdrew in September 1942 to Horn Island and Cairns, before returning to Milne Bay in January 1943, from where patrols were flown over the bay and Goodenough Island. In July 1943, in its last large air-to-air operation of the war, five enemy aircraft were shot down.
Thereafter, the squadron was deployed to operate from numerous bases. From Goodenough Island dive-bombing strikes were carried out on Gasmata, New Britain. At Nadzab the squadron flew close escort missions for American Liberator and Mitchell bombers on strikes on the north coast of New Guinea. From Cape Gloucester, in New Britain, close support missions to assist ground troops and anti-shipping and convoy protection patrols were undertaken.
In April 1944, 75 Squadron’s ground crew were among the first to land at Aitape, where they assisted in rebuilding the Tadji airstrip, from where combat patrols over the Hollandia invasion force and close support missions for army operations in the area were carried out. Later the squadron operated from Biak, dive bombing Japanese soldiers ensconced in caves and bunkers, and interdicting barges attempting to reinforce the Biak garrison.
Other deployments included Noemfoor and Morotai, from where the squadron operated over the Halmahera Islands, attacking Japanese airstrips and anti-aircraft sites. On 1 May 1945 the squadron’s ground crew were part of forward troops landing at Tarakan. The squadron’s aircraft also bombed Japanese facilities at Sandakan and supported Australian landings at Balikpapan.
During August 1945 the squadron undertook general flying and reconnaissance flying over prisoner-of-war camps. The aircraft were then flown back to Oakey, in Queensland, and the ground crew returned to Australia aboard HMS Glory, arriving in Sydney in December 1945. The unit was disbanded at Williamtown on 28 March 1948.
76 Squadron was formed at Archerfield, Queensland, on 14 March 1942, equipped with Kittyhawk P-40E aircraft and under the command of Wing Commander P. Jeffrey. During April the squadron transferred to Weir strip, near Townsville, and during July personnel and equipment were moved by ship to Milne Bay. On 19 July aircraft took off from Townsville for Seven Mile Strip, Port Morseby, via Cairns. On 22 July the commander of the squadron, Squadron Leader Peter Turnbull, led six Kittyhawks on a strike against enemy positions at Gona Mission.
In August 1942 the aircraft moved to Milne Bay, where 76 Squadron operated with 75 Squadron in the defence of Milne Bay. Milne Bay was being developed to protect the left flank of Port Moresby, and to enable the Allies to project air power over the north coast of New Guinea and the Louisiade Islands.
A very intense but difficult period of operations began, as the strip and dispersal areas were not completed. The squadron carried out defensive patrols, strafing of enemy troops and gun positions, and bombing transports and barges. On 27 August Squadron Leader Peter Turnbull was killed while strafing enemy troops.
On 24 August a Japanese force was sighted heading for Milne Bay. On the same day the two squadrons fought Japanese raiders, claiming three enemy aircraft for the loss of three pilots. The Japanese troops landed in the early hours the next day and in the ensuing battle for Milne Bay, from 25 August to 3 September, the squadrons strafed Japanese troops, barges, and stores. Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell, the commander of New Guinea Force, noted in his report that the efforts of the fighter squadrons were “the decisive factor” in the ultimate victory over the invading forces.
76 Squadron aircraft moved to Strauss Field, Northern Territory, via Batchelor on 9 October 1942, and convoy patrols and escort duties were carried out. Personnel disembarked at Darwin on 5 October. On 21st January 1943 four P-40’s made a head-on night attack on three Japanese Betty’s.
In February 1943 operational training and seaward and coastal patrols were conducted from Onslow and a US Naval facility at “Potshot”, Western Australia. On 28 March Truscott, flying a Kittyhawk, struck the water and was killed. Patrols were also flown from WA strips at Carnarvon, Geraldton, Minderoo, and Yanrey.
In late April 1943 the squadron moved to Bankstown and was re-equipped with 24 new P-40M Kittyhawks. In June it was deployed to Goodenough Island and formed a unit of 73 Wing. It was successively based at Kiriwina, Momote, Noemfoor, Morotai, Tawitawi and Labuan, engaged in bombing-and-strafing attacks on enemy troop and gun emplacements, enemy airfields, supply points, shipping (particularly barges and small craft), and as escort for bomber aircraft. In its final mission of the war, on 14 August 1945, four P-40s strafed Japanese aircraft in revetments in the north Keningau area on Borneo.
In September 1945 the squadron re-equipped with Mustang aircraft. The main body left Labuan by sea on 11 February 1946 and disembarked in Japan on 21 February. The Mustangs took off from Labuan for Japan (via Clark Field) on 26 February for its permanent base at Borfu, Japan. In February 1948 the squadron moved from Borfu to Iwakuni, and on 29 October 1948 was officially disbanded at Iwakuni, Japan. It was destined to be reformed in 1949.
Includes Nominal Roll