The 345th and Operation Postern

For a number of weeks, General Kenney had been working on a plan to take Lae out of Japanese control. Operation Postern, as it was known, was approved by Gen. MacArthur and put into effect in early September 1943. The 345th Bomb Group took part in the huge raid on Nadzab on September 5th. That morning, 48 B-25 crews from the 345th were joined by two more B-25 squadrons to soften up the area. They completed bomb runs from approximately 1000 feet and also released 20-pound fragmentation bombs. The B-25s were followed by A-20s from the 3rd Bomb Group’s 89th Bomb Squadron, which laid down a smoke screen to cover the 82 C-47s that were dropping paratroopers from the 503rd Parachute Regiment. Kenney and MacArthur observed the entire operation from above in B-17s that circled the area.

Paratroop Landing on Nadzab

As the paratroopers jumped from the C-47s, the B-25s dropped down to 100 feet and strafed whatever targets that might hinder the regiment as it moved towards Lae. Some of the 499th’s pilots were having trouble keeping their eagerness in check as they almost overran another squadron while they strafed vehicles and buildings. While the 498th Squadron’s 1/Lt. Ralph R. Robinette was making a second pass on a target, the right engine on his plane, VULTURE’S NEST, was hit from behind by .50-caliber tracers. With a faltering engine, Robinette pulled away from his attack and headed for home, followed by the rest of his flight. He managed to get back to Jackson Strip without incident, but Robinette knew he was in for a rough landing. His hydraulic system was severely damaged and the right landing gear would not lock. As a result, Robinette landed on two wheels, damaging the tail and the right wing. VULTURE’S NEST was salvaged. The pilot later found out that Robinette’s tent mate, 1/Lt. Theodore O’Rear was the culprit who had accidentally shot out Robinette’s engine.

Overall, Operation Postern was a success. A landing strip was ready for C-47s by the 7th, with two more strips added during the following week. U.S. and Australian forces worked together to flush the Japanese out of the Lae area. Within a few months, Nadzab became a major staging base for the Allied forces in New Guinea.

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13 thoughts on “The 345th and Operation Postern

  1. Pingback: The Same Places, 70+ Years Apart—Six WWII Bases Then and Now | IHRA

  2. Doh! I always wondered how often someone in their own plane damaged it by inadvertently shooting it. Wow, what a close call, and what an amazing pilot Robinette proved to be by getting back to the landing strip! Lol. If I were O’Rear, I definitely would’ve kept my mouth shut until all was safe 😀 What a nail biting scene that must’ve been! My husband’s in the Air Force Reserve, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, WA and he enjoys stories like this gem. Thanks for sharing it!

    Like

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