Aussies Join the 43rd

Among the new airmen flying with the 43rd were five crews of Australians. The Aussies were attached to the 65th Squadron, and the Squadron History had this to say about them: “These men have joined vigorously and whole-heartedly into squadron activities, taking their place promptly and efficiently in our coordinated, close formation-bombing attacks. Some of these men are veterans of the Philippines, Singapore, and Java Campaigns still showing great stamina and spirit. It is eventually planned for a complete group of Australian heavy bomber crews to be formed from this nucleus of men.”

The arrival of the Aussies was a tonic to some of the crews who felt that they had been called on to do too much, especially those near the end of their 300 combat hours. On the other hand, White wrote, “I guess they have really forgotten us down here. We get no replacements, so now we get five Aussie crews in to fly B-24’s.”

For his part, Australian Wing Commander J.B. Hampshire was happy to see the Aussie crews in the air at all. In a letter from 1990 he explained how difficult it had been to get the project going: “In November 1943, I was called to see the Air Member for Personnel, Air Force H.Q., Victoria Barracks, Melbourne. He told me I had been appointed O.C. of 5 crews who had been selected to train with the Americans. I was to proceed north and make the necessary arrangements. To cut the story short, I went to see the R.A.A.F. Commanders at Brisbane, Townsville and Port Moresby, none of whom knew what I was talking about when I mentioned Liberators. I met Air Commodore Shergen (RAAF) in Port Moresby (N.G.) and told him my troubles. He said, ‘How many bottles of scotch have you got?’ I said, ‘Two.’ He said, ‘Bring them along and I will introduce you to General Davies, Commanding General 5th Bomber Command USAAF.’ I met General Davies, we consumed the scotch and he issued orders to a Colonel Browthan at Charters Towers, Queensland that he was to train us. After training there, we proceeded to 43rd (H.B.) Group, 65th Squadron at Dobodura (N.G.) where we commenced our operational flying.”

In September 1944, the Aussie crews were incorporated under an RAAF administrative unit, although all training and operations remained under American control. One of the Australians flying with the 65th, F/L Mick Jacques, wrote an article about the experience in Wings, the official magazine of the RAAF: “The RAAF is an outfit full of surprises. To say that a bunch of instructors on up-to-date Australian reconnaissance bombers at a southern OTU were enchanted to find they had been posted to American B24 units in New Guinea is putting it extremely mildly. Emerging from a bout of Gargantuan Bacchanalian orgies engaged at in various spots on the eastern shores of our sunny land, the boys landed in a small town in North Queensland to begin training on what were to be our dream ships.”

“My instructor was a brand new shave tail straight from the States, with Zero combat experience and about 300 hours in his log book. I forget who was the more surprised when we discovered he was to teach me how to fly heavies. We certainly had loads of fun learning: after one night circuit this southern Alabama boy, who had mercifully sent me off solo in day time, decided he would quit with a whole skin. So, one night circuit dual, then off on our pat! Some fun, with a brand new co-pilot, as scared as you are! Our crews all graduated with no casualties, apart from severe losses by several members in a series of craps games. Now we are all due to go south after doing about 15 missions. We have had a grand spin from our Allies. Our squadron [the 65th] is one of the crack heavy units in the area … The American boys of the squadron to which we were attached were really good Joes. We had a fine deal from the CO [Maj. Hawthorne], a Texan rebel who frequently bitched us for various misdemeanors, such as not reading the bulletin board and making too much so-and-so noise, but who was a damn good guy nevertheless; to the quartermaster sergeant, a rotund gentleman named “Pappy” who gave us our generous cigarette ration once a month and anything else we could collect officially or otherwise.”

“We were all surprised to find that American officers below the rank of Major lined up at chow time with their utensils just like a bunch of rookies, served themselves and washed up afterwards. Our American friends were astounded when we asked: ‘Where are the mess stewards?’ ‘Well, Aussie, where do you think you are, the Waldorf?’ they asked. So that was that. And brother, believe me, while we’re on this food question, US food is NOT, repeat, NOT, what it’s cracked up to be. On the days we were on missions, we were hauled from our bunks at some ungodly hour, fed, briefed and usually took off soon after dawn. A big bunch of heavies is a sight for sore eyes, at least for us who were in Malaya and Darwin, when we were on the receiving end of the strikes.”

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2 thoughts on “Aussies Join the 43rd

    • Interesting, isn’t it? The 43rd wasn’t the only group to combine forces like that. Aussies also flew with the 3rd Bomb Group earlier in the war (starting in April/May 1942). The 3rd was short on personnel when their new B-25s arrived and asked the RAAF if they could help out as pilots and radio operator/gunners.
      Additionally, men from the RAAF flew with the 22nd and 19th Bomb Groups as well as the 21st and 22nd Transport Squadrons.

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