Operation Reckless

Hollandia, located on the northern coast of Netherlands, New Guinea, was an isolated town captured by the Japanese in April 1942. From there, they built the Hollandia, Cyclops and Sentani airdromes and a satellite strip at the nearby village of Tami. Although Hollandia had its strategic value, it was not a major target until 1944. Fifth Air Force finished pounding Wewak, the main base for the Japanese Army Air Force, in mid-March of 1944. The Japanese turned Hollandia into their major base and started a tremendous build up to try and take New Guinea back from the Allies. The Japanese Army High Command figured that Hollandia was out of the Allies’ reach and that they were safe from any attacks.

Operation Reckless was in the works when the Americans broke the Japanese military code and discovered that the enemy felt secure. The Japanese had no idea that the newest P-38 Lightning, the J model, was equipped with wing tanks that enabled the planes to fly all the way to Hollandia. Fifth Air Force modified 75 older Lightnings to carry long range fuel tanks as well.

General MacArthur planned to invade Hollandia with the use of surprise and deception. With the help of Gen. Kenney, Fifth Air Force was able to lure the Japanese into the trap. Kenney told the P-38 pilots that they could not fly farther than Tadji, a village at least 100 miles away from Hollandia, and that they must not stay in the area for longer than 15 minutes if the pilots became engaged in combat. He also began ineffective night raids to make the Japanese think the Allies did not dare fly daylight raids without escorts. This worked so well that Tokyo Rose began mocking the Allies, and the Japanese started parking their planes near the runways because there were not enough revetments.

Kenney wanted to make a low-level strike, but there were many antiaircraft guns that would have to be taken out by the B-24s first. On March 29th, a message from the Japanese Army High Command to Lt. Gen. Kumaichi Teramoto was intercepted by the Allies. This message was ordering Teramoto to move the airplanes stationed at Hollandia because of Fifth Air Force’s planned attack, which made the timing of the B-24 assault urgent. Maj. Gen. Ennis C. Whitehead would be the man in charge of carrying out the attack.

Read the rest of the story in Operation Reckless: Part 2

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