Japanese Attack on Port Moresby
During March 1943, attacks against enemy ships transporting reinforcements and supplies resulted in the 13th Squadron sinking a large (6,000-8,000-ton) cargo ship and a destroyer.
But, on 12 April 1943, the 13th Squadron was on the receiving end when over one-hundred Japanese planes attacked Allied airfields in the area of Port Moresby, New Guinea. The squadron had eight B-25s at this time, and all of them were damaged or destroyed, which temporarily put the squadron out of action until they were re-equipped with the modified low level strafer B-25's. Of note is that all R.A.A.F. personnel were withdrawn from American squadrons after this attack.
Here is my account of the 100 plane raid on the 89th squadron on April 12, 1943.
I believe my first air raid was the last daylight raid on Port Moresby April 12, 1943, and which had 100 Japanese planes. I was away from the squadron area at 6 Mile Drome picking up supplies when it occurred. The signal was always a pistol shot and the number of shots showed if it was a yellow (imminent) alert or a red alert. What I mostly remember is being scared, finding a slit trench to get into and seeing the hordes of Japanese airplanes overhead at about 20,000 feet. I also remember seeing all the ack ack and never seeing one Jap plane hit. This was also typical of many night raids I later watched in which there was gobs of ack ack and I never saw one plane hit by it even after the searchlights had picked up the planes. I believe our fighters took a serious toll on that raid because the Japs never again raided Moresby in the daylight.
I returned to the squadron area to find lots of excitement. A small flight of three planes split off to hit our(Kila) drome and were not noticed immediately by squadron personnel. The three planes dropped bombs that hit a pile of gasoline drums in the squadron area and set a good fire which was still blazing when I returned. They had also hit our drome with some daisy cutters but had not done much damage as our planes were in dirt revetments. I was told one of our airmen got caught by surprise as the bombs started falling. He couldn't find the slit trench and lay in a ditch. After the raid he found that the trench he was looking for had taken a direct hit. None of our personnel were hurt in that raid.
After maybe 3 to 5 months the group moved to Dobadura across the island so that our planes did not have to negotiate the mountains to hit targets on the north side. This is the same general area as Buna. The engineers built more and bigger airstrips in a slightly different location. We were driving the Japs back northwest along the north side of New Guinea, having driven them out of the Buna - Dobadura area.
At this time, Jack Heyn was a photographer, along with Marvin Culbreth, of the 13th Squadron Photo Section. This was as described by Jack, an unofficial unit. Here is an accounting of that day by him.
Apr. 12 '43, the 13th Squadron camp area was in a little valley about
a mile from 14 Mile Field. Our Photo Shack was in the camp
area. Marvin and I were working in the Dark Room about 10:30 when the
Red Alert sounded. We grabbed our cameras and headed for the top of a
hill next to the camp. When we spotted the Jap formation, it
was the biggest formation of planes we had ever seen, and was
headed right for our hill. We decided we'd be better off in a slit
trench and headed down the hill. About half way down the hill,
bombs started exploding and we just hit the dirt.
When they quit we continued on down. One formation had split off and hit 14 Mile and we could see plumes of smoke rising. We grabbed a jeep and headed out. The first three photos below were taken as we were going out, with my Kodak. The one of the formation in the sky (look close, you can see planes) and the ones of Fair Dinkum and Baby Blitz were taken with the Speed Graphic. We had 8 B-25s on the line, 2 took direct hits and burned to a crisp. 5 more were put out of action, only one survived unscathed.
The main body of the formation headed down and hit 3 Mile Field where the 8th and 89th were. The Headquarters camp area was on a rise overlooking the field, and next to it was a gas dump. They dropped a string of bombs through the gas dump and the Headquarters camp area. My friend, Tack Tackaberry, had been on duty the night before and was asleep in his tent. When he heard the alarm, he ignored it. When the bombs started exploding, he rolled out of his cot and just laid there. When it was all over, his tent was full of shrapnel hole – it just wasn't his day to die.
The 13th Squadron sat idle for a few weeks until we were resupplied with the low level strafer models.”
Courtesy of Linda Phillips, the daughter of Harry Boller who served as a bombardier with the 13th Squadron as well as with the 90th Bomb Group. I count Linda as another of my many good friends who have been totally supportive of the web site.