Limited Edition of 199 Giclee prints
Signed and numbered by the artist
Image Size: 28″ x 15″
Paper Size: 34″ x 22″
The objective of Imperial Japan in occupying the Dutch East Indies and Borneo was realized shortly after the initiation of hostilities against the Allies on December 8, 1941. The islands had vast oil resources; a resource that was unavailable to Japan, as prior to hostilities the Allies had denied Japanese access to the oil in hopes that the embargo would prevent Japan from its expanding pan-Asian ambitions that were too often being realized at the edge of a sword. The subsequent campaign by the Allies to either destroy or recapture these Dutch assets fell to General MacArthur and his Fifth US Army Air Force, commanded by Maj. General George C. Kenney. The ensuing campaign waged against the occupied oil facilities at Balikpapan on the east coast of the island of Borneo by Fifth Air Force commenced on August 13, 1943 and was not concluded until the raids commencing on June 1, 1945 in support of Operation OBOE were completed (in support of OBOE landing forces). Raids by heavy bombers of one or more of five heavy bombardment groups from both Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces commenced in earnest after the August ʼ43 raids on September 29, 1944 when two groups from the Jungle Air Force, the Bomber Barons and Long Rangers, and the Jolly Rogers from Fifth Air Force attacked Balikpapan, losing three B-24s in the process, but inflicting substantial damage. Subsequent raids took place on October 3rd, 8-10th, 14th and 18th – with the raids on the 10th and the 14th being the largest and most destructive.
Pictured are elements of the 403rd and the 65th Bomb Squadrons leaving the two burning target sites at Balikpapan on October 10th. The view is as described by Col. James Pettus after he led the 43rd Bomb Group on that day, looking out the lead Liberator's window. His left wingman is the nearest B-24, WOLF PACK which was usually flown by 403rd Bomb Squadron pilot Lt. Leonard Clark. Beyond Clarkʼs aircraft are elements of the 65th Bomb Squadron. Col. Pettus notes in his narrative that at this point, a Japanese float plane inexplicably made an oblique high-angle head-on pass through the group, without firing a shot. No aircraft of the 43rd Bomb Group were lost to the enemy defenses on this mission; however, one of the aircrew on Col. Pettus' aircraft was killed by Japanese defensive guns.
Taken as a whole, the raids were only partially successful, since the occupying Japanese could quickly repair damage and resume production, however in the meantime the construction of Allied airfields in the area allowed interdiction of petroleum shipments out of Borneo, achieving the desired effect of cutting off the Japanese war machine from the fuel it needed to continue.