The town that would later become the capital city of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, was a major staging base for the Allies during World War II. Port Moresby’s air fields, named for their distance from the city, included: 3 Mile (Kila Kila), 5 Mile (Ward), 7 Mile (Jackson), 12 Mile (Berry), 14 Mile (Schwimmer), and 17 Mile (Durand). It was crucial for the Allies to hold onto this territory, as it was the last piece of land between the Japanese to the north and Australia to the south. The city’s occupants were subject to many Japanese bombing raids until September 1943. Postwar, Port Moresby transformed from an Australian territory to the Papua New Guinea capital in 1975. Today, all that remains of World War II are artifacts and steel matting from the runways.
By August 1944, Utarom was the last major Japanese operational airdrome in Dutch New Guinea. On August 11, 1944, Maj. William S. Pagh, the Group Operations Officer, led the 386th and 387th Squadrons in an attack against it and was shot down and killed. (Claud C. Haisley Collection)
Find this photo in our book Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s.
The artwork for BIG NIMBO was almost certainly put on the aircraft back in the States by the crew that ferried it overseas. The cartoon character was from the Lil’ Abner comic series in the newspapers of the time. This plane was one of the original B-24Js assigned to the 19th Squadron at Charters Towers, Queensland, during February, 1944, and was one of the few in that unit to carry nose art. It was written off in a landing accident at Owi Island on July 25, 1944, with 2/Lt. James H. Shipler at the controls. (Claude V. Burnett Collection)
This photo and BIG NIMBO’s profile history can be found in Appendix V of Revenge of the Red Raiders.
After its service with the Group, CAP’N & THE KIDS was transferred initially to the 433rd Troop Carrier Group. It continued to serve as an armed transport until August 1944, when it was overhauled and turned into a VIP aircraft. The nose of the plane was adorned with a red rose and it was renamed MISS EM, after the wife of the 8th Army Commander Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, who used it as his personal transport. Maj. Charles B. Downer, former C.O. of the 403rd Squadron, became Eichelberger’s pilot, heading a crew of 43rd Bomb Group veterans. From left to right: Maj. Charles B. Downer, pilot; 2/Lt. Sidney Webb, co-pilot; Capt. Thomas E. Porada, navigator; M/Sgt. Charles R. Cole, crew chief and engineer; S/Sgt. Alfred Goldman, radio operator; Sgt. F.T. Sullivan, waist gunner; S/Sgt. Brian J. Marcorelle, assistant engineer and tail gunner. (Howard K. Anderson Collection)
Find this photo in Chapter 18 of our book Ken’s Men Against the Empire, Vol. I.
TEMPERMENTAL LADY flew the last of her more than 70 missions for the 408th Squadron on April 14, 1945. While 2/Lt. Rudolph L. Riccio was piloting the Liberator over Tainan Airdrome, Formosa, flak bursts put shrapnel through the pilot’s window, in the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, and damaged the hydraulic system. While landing back at Clark Field, it ran off the runway and into a ditch. Lieutenant Greenburg is shown here on top of the fuselage of the B-24. (Raymond W. Freece Collection)
This story can be found on page 399 of Revenge of the Red Raiders.
ARKANSAS TRAVELER, piloted by Jack Manders, is seen exploding violently after it skipped off the water a hundred yards beyond a Japanese ship in Hansa Bay on January 30, 1944. (John B. Nusbaum Collection)
Find this photo on page 117 of Warpath Across the Pacific.
B-17C #40-2074 was one of the 170 American aircraft destroyed in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The B-17, one of 12 bombers from the 38th and 88th Reconnaissance Squadrons being flown from California to Hickam Field, was jumped by Zero fighters before it could land safely. As pilot Capt. Raymond T. Swenson searched for a landing zone at Hickam Field, two Zeros shot up #074 and ignited a box of magnesium flares in the radio compartment, forcing Swenson to crash-land, whereupon the aircraft split in half. It was the first B-17 shot down by Japanese fighters. (Air Force Association Collection)
This photo can be found in Ken’s Men Against the Empire, Volume I.
After being claimed by the Germans in 1885, Buka was turned over to Australia in 1920. The Japanese seized Buka on March 9, 1942 and built an air base that grabbed Allied attention in June 1943 when preparations for Operation Cartwheel were in the works. A small canal separated Buka from the island of Bougainville, which was to be the site of a major invasion, and up-to-date reconnaissance of the two islands was required beforehand. That reconnaissance mission turned into one of the most dramatic moments of the Pacific war when Capt. Jay Zeamer, Jr. and his crew were attacked during their photomapping mission on June 16, 1943. In the end, Zeamer and his bombardier, 2/Lt. Joseph R. Sarnoski, were awarded the Medal of Honor (Sarnoski’s was posthumously awarded) and the rest of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for getting those photos while under fire. Contrary to internet lore, this photo was not taken during that mission. Buka remained under Japanese control until September 1945. It later gained independence from Papua New Guinea in 2005.
Scattered among the taxiways at Nadzab, New Guinea in 1944, 32 B-24 Liberators belonging to the 22nd Bomb Group can be seen in their revetments in the foreground. Can you find them all? Nadzab’s runway #3 bisects this photo, and above it, several more aircraft are preparing to take off for a mission. In the distance at upper right, another, similar sprawling taxiway system for another unit can be seen. (Albert H. Regis Collection)