Crash Landing at Gusap

Nadzab was drenched by heavy rain the night before Fifth Air Force’s big raid on Hollandia on April 16, 1944. When the men of the 22nd Bomb Group rose on the morning of the 16th, they were greeted with overcast skies and plenty of humidity. Six B-24s from each of the four squadron were to be sent to Hollandia, but takeoff was delayed by an hour after the sun broke through the low clouds.

Lieutenant Raysor took off with the 408th Squadron around 0900 hours and everything was running smoothly. About 80 miles in, the Squadron passed Gusap and Raysor pulled away from the rest of the 408th. His airplane’s engines were having trouble and he had to get back to Gusap. The engineer, Sgt. Milford H. Cummings, was told about the engine trouble and jettisoned the bombs and closed the bomb bay doors as the B-24 descended. Cummings warned the crewmen to ready themselves for a crash landing (they were too low to safely bail out), then went back to the cockpit where Raysor told Cummings that he had shut down three of the four engines because the superchargers weren’t working properly.

Cummings knew the pilot had made the wrong decision: the superchargers were not as important to the engines at low altitudes. Unfortunately, it was too late to fix the mistake and the single working engine couldn’t keep the plane in the air. The aircraft kept losing altitude and crashed about a mile from the north end of the runway. Cummings was ejected from the plane and not seriously injured. Only two other crewmen survived the crash. The rest, including Raysor, were killed.

408th Squadron B-24 crash

The 22nd Bomb Group dispatched 24 Liberators on another major Fifth Air Force strike against the Hollandia area on April 16, 1944. Although predicted weather conditions were marginal when the planes departed, the raid was deemed essential since Hollandia was targeted for a surprise invasion by ground forces on April 22nd. Raysor pulled out of the 408th formation with mechanical problems shortly after takeoff and tried to land at Gusap. The plane flew into the ground a mile short of the strip, killing all but three aboard. (Milford H. Cummings Collection)

These men would be the first casualties in what was to be a dark day in the history of Fifth Air Force, although this was the only crash in the 22nd Bomb Group not affected by the terrible weather later that day. Click on the Black Sunday tag if you want to read more stories from the 22nd or other units that were involved on the April 16th Hollandia raid.

 

This story can be found on p. 237 of Revenge of the Red Raiders.

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Black Sunday: The 345th’s Perspective

April 16, 1944 would go down as a dark day for Fifth Air Force. It started out uncertain, with a big mission to Hollandia delayed because of weather. Finally, the 345th’s B-25 bombers took off at mid-morning to combine forces with other groups and all reached Hollandia without issue. The area was thoroughly pounded by more than 200 bombers as they took out antiaircraft positions, camp areas and supply dumps. With the mission complete, the crews turned for home, only to encounter a large frontal boundary over the Markham Valley that cut off their route.

New Guinea weather was not to be trifled with. Not only were there issues with wind and rain, the crews now had to proceed cautiously in order to avoid flying into cloud-covered mountains. Twenty-seven planes from the 499th, 500th and 501st Squadron had bombed supply dumps along Jautega Bay and in Pim Village met the same front over the Ramu Valley. Led by Capt. Dale Speicher, the 345th plunged into the clouds and flew on instruments until they managed to find a clear spot from Madang to Bogadjim that was about ten miles wide. The clearing was crowded with B-24s, A-20s, P-38s and B-25s looking for a break in the clouds to make the flight home.

One of the 345th’s squadrons, the 501st, got separated while they were in the clouds and popped out near Bogadjim. Those crews also saw planes circling as they waited for an opening. Lieutenant Kortemeyer, who had the only navigator in the eight-plane formation on board, lead the Squadron through the chaos and down to sea level. They turned east towards Finschhafen, flying just above the water in low visibility and through the occasional downpour. Low on fuel, one of the B-25s broke from the formation and landed at Saidor, which was overwhelmed with other planes also nearly out of fuel. The crew landed safely.

Continuing through the storms, the rest of the 501st finally crossed the frontal boundary at Umboi Island, located north of Finschhafen. The airfield at Finschhafen was also quickly overwhelmed with aircraft needing to land quickly before running out of fuel. Lieutenant T.K. Lewis and his wingman noticed their fuel tanks were low, but instead of joining the chaos at Finschhafen, they made for the base at Cape Gloucester. Two other 501st B-25s took a chance and were able to land at Finschhafen, refuel, then headed back to their base at Nadzab. None of the 501st’s planes disappeared that day, a distinction among the many squadrons that participated in that Hollandia strike.

Meanwhile, the 499th and 500th Squadrons had split up, each looking for the best way back to Nadzab. The 500th Squadron flew 50-100 feet above the water in a trail formation, eventually breaking through the storm. A new transfer from the 498th Squadron, a B-25 nicknamed TINKIE, and its crew had disappeared. First Lieutenant James A. Waggle and his crew were never found. The rest of the Squadron made it back to base safely.

Captain Dick Baker led the nine B-25s from the 499th Squadron down to a break in the clouds near Madang. One plane disappeared during the 7000+ foot dive from their previous altitude to the opening below. Two stuck with Baker as he followed the coastline back to Finschhafen. The rest arrived at Finschhafen shortly afterwards. First Lieutenant Bill Graham landed with all of six gallons of gas left in his tank. STINGEROO, flown by 1/Lt. James H. MacWilliam Jr., was the B-25 that disappeared. The right engine of his plane had been leaking oil ever since the crew left the target area. Rather than risk getting lost in the storm, MacWilliam decided to stick with the rest of the Squadron as long as possible, which was up until the dive to sea level when the prop ran away and the engine caught fire.

MacWilliam crew

The 499th’s 1/Lt. James H. MacWilliam (left) was forced to ditch his B-25 nicknamed STINGEROO off Karkar Island when he got lost in the storm on April 16, 1944. The crew was picked up by a Catalina the next morning after the men spent 19 hours in a life raft near the Japanese-held island. MacWilliam is shown in front of a different bomber, #379. The others are: 1/Lt. Leo E. Fleniken Jr., co-pilot, and 1/t. Gail R. Holmes, navigator. The names of the rest are not known. Fleniken was with the downed crew on April 16th.

MacWilliam ditched in the choppy water, then STINGEROO sunk right after the crew escaped with their lives, a raft, radio and rations. Once in the raft, the men took in their surroundings and saw the faint outlines of two mountain peaks that they could have crashed into. Not knowing if they were in Japanese or Allied territory, the crew elected to stay away from the nearby islands and spent a rainy night in the water. The next morning, they found that they had drifted about two miles away from Karkar, which was in the hands of the Japanese. They quickly started paddling away from the island.

Allied planes flew overhead, though it wasn’t until the middle of the day when the downed crew was spotted by three Allied fighters, who radioed for a Catalina. The rescue plane landed near the men an hour later and they were soon back in the air and heading for home.

 

Find this week’s story on page 156 of Warpath Across the Pacific. For more Black Sunday stories, read these posts.

A Convoy Meets Its End

Around the middle of March 1944, Allied intelligence was monitoring reports about the movements of the 21st Wewak Resupply Convoy. Three subchasers were escorting three medium-sized merchant ships and a small “sea truck” from the Palau Islands for Wewak. The convoy’s position was accidentally betrayed by the Japanese, who did not know that the Allies had intercepted their communications, then detected by a couple of radar-equipped B-24s that had been sent to destroy the convoy before it reached Hollandia. The B-24s put one ship out of commission and the rest continued on to Wewak, reaching the base on the 18th, six days after leaving the Palau Islands.

With their location compromised, the Japanese worked through the night to quickly unload supplies and nearly 400 troops, then reload the ships with soldiers moving rearward to Hollandia early on the 19th. They hoped to avoid any further run-ins with Allied aircraft, as the convoy was carrying valuable cargo. In addition to the large number of passengers (1000), aboard one of the ships was a new radar system to detect enemy aircraft that was being moved to Hollandia, where the Japanese were building up their forces. At that time, the Japanese had very few of these radar systems.

B-24 crews from the 90th Bomb Group arrived at Wewak later that morning, only to find an empty harbor. They flew on, staying near the New Guinea coastline, and eventually found the convoy about 50 miles west-northwest of Wewak. Bombing the convoy from a medium altitude turned out to be mostly unsuccessful, although the crews may have sunk one of the escorts. Crews from the 22nd Bomb Group caught up to the convoy later that morning and were greeted by puffs of flack that stood between them and the convoy.

A three-plane element from the 19th Bomb Squadron attacked the Yakumo Maru, dropping 72 bombs around the ship, some of which landed within 50 feet of the ship. The 19th’s first attack was followed by an attack by the 33rd Bomb Squadron, then the 19th once again. Japanese fighters joined the fray in an attempt to defend the convoy below. During the chaos, the B-24s of 2/Lts. Ralph L. Anderson and G. Hill and 1/Lt. Chester G. Williams were holed by fighters. Hill’s plane suffered the most damage with a hit to the turbo-supercharger, damage to the outer left engine, the left wing and vertical stabilizer, as well as damage from a 20mm cannon shell to the fuselage.

Destroying the 21st Wewak Resupply Convoy

Following the sinking of the Yakumo Maru by the 22nd Bomb Group on March 19, 1944, the Taiei Maru picked up survivors from the sunken ship, and, along with a small transport and two escorts, resumed the dash for Hollandia at top speed. A-20 and B-25 units back at Nadzab scrambled around noon and raced each other to the scene, where a wild engagement with almost no flight discipline. This photo shows the Taiei Maru after being set afire by bombs dropped by a B-25 from the 345th Bomb Group. Note the attacks from several directions at once.

After the fighters let up their attacks and the B-24s had dropped all their bombs, an explosion rocked the Yakumo Maru, which began listing dangerously. The two squadrons left the smoking convoy behind as they departed the area. Word of the convoy spread through Fifth Air Force and about 80 B-25s and A-20s converged on the convoy that afternoon. This time, the attacks on the convoy were completely uncoordinated. As an A-20 from the 3rd Bomb Group made its attack, it was accidentally shot down by an overexcited B-25. The 3rd also lost another A-20 after it hit the ship’s mast and had to ditch nearby. Both the pilot and gunner were rescued by a Catalina the following day.

In the end, the convoy was thoroughly destroyed, with only three members surviving the attack. As a result of the attack, the Japanese ceased sending convoys to reinforce the Japanese 18th Army, now trapped in northeastern New Guinea.

A Fiery Landing

Nine planes took off for Utarom, a Japanese air base on the west coast of Dutch New Guinea, on the morning of September 28, 1944. The mission was soon cancelled due to bad weather over their target and the A-20 crews headed back to base. Shortly into the return journey, 2/Lt. Kenneth S. DuFour lost oil pressure in one engine of his plane. He shut it down, jettisoned his bombs and told his gunner, S/Sgt. Thomas E. Smith, to bail out if the other engine quit. For the time being, things were stable, and DuFour continued flying back to Hollandia. Above him, 2/Lt. Walter F. Hill kept a watchful eye on DuFour’s A-20.

As DuFour approached Tanahmerah Bay, he followed the common landing procedure of switching from the bomb bay tanks to the wing tanks, only to have vapor lock shut down the remaining working engine. His A-20 went into a spiral dive and DuFour worked furiously to regain control of his plane by easing off the rudder trim and switching on the booster pumps. The engine restarted and the pilot got his plane back in control. For a short time, Hill thought DuFour’s A-20 would plunge into the water and was relieved after he pulled out of the dive. During the chaos, Smith bailed out with Hill watching him float towards the cliffs on the west side of the bay.

DuFour slowly took his aircraft up to 3000 feet in order to clear the mountains that stood between him and Hollandia. When he could not contact the tower, he decided to land on a dirt strip next to the runway. As he attempted to lower his landing gear, only the nose wheel came down. DuFour aborted the landing, determining that he would be better off ditching in nearby Sentani Lake. The descent to the lake was too difficult to control, leading the A-20 to crash into nearby trees instead. During the landing, the pilot was knocked unconscious.

When he woke up, he was surrounded by fuel and fire. DuFour attempted to escape the inferno through the canopy, but it wouldn’t open. Instead, he used a pistol to break the Plexiglas and climbed out of the plane. Soon after getting out, he heard the ammunition exploding. This worried the pilot, as he was unaware that his gunner had bailed out and thought Smith was still trapped.

Meanwhile, Hill landed at Hollandia and headed for a PT boat where he and others would search for Smith. A member of the 25th Liaison Squadron, T/Sgt. James D. Nichols, would help him with the search from the air. As they began looking, they saw a native canoe with Smith sitting in it. Other than minor cuts and bruises, he was uninjured after landing at Cape Korongwabb.

Back in the jungle, DuFour was certain that he landed near Hollandia and walked back in the direction of the base, which happened to be five miles away. After a six hour walk that included several stream crossings, the pilot heard an engine and began walking towards the sound for about 25 yards before he emerged from the jungle surrounding the base. DuFour walked into the closest tent, waking the occupant from a sound slumber.

The soldier drove the pilot to the hospital where he was treated for first, second and third degree burns over 30% of his body. All of his hair and part of his ears were burned off, as well as half the skin on his forehead. His hands and arms were also badly burned. At the hospital, skin grafts failed and he was transferred to the plastic surgery center at Northington Hospital in Alabama, where he stayed for six months. Once he recovered, he returned to flying status near the end of the war.

This story can be found in Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s.

Black Sunday: Part 2

The little-known 25th Liaison Squadron was instrumental in the rescue of many downed crews, especially on Black Sunday. Mainly enlisted men flew Stinson L-5 Sentinels and Piper L-4A Grasshoppers, which could takeoff and land on much shorter runways than the bombers. Piper L-4A Grasshopper

The L-5 JUG HAID.

Because of this capability, A Flight, the group based at Gusap, received the nickname of the “Guinea Short Lines.” Their symbol of a kangaroo was very fitting for this squadron that hopped all over New Guinea. The “Guinea Short Lines” would play a key role in the rescue of three Roarin’ 20’s crews.

———–

Out of the four crews that had not been accounted for by the end of April 16th, one would never make it back. After ditching in the sea near Yalau Plantation, Smart and Music waited to be picked up by a Catalina. They were never seen or heard from again. The other three crews, 1/Lt. Glen Benskin and S/Sgt. Winifred F. Westerman of the 387th Squadron, 2/Lt. Joseph E. Gibbons and Cpl. Orville J. Rhodes of the 388th Squadron, and 2/Lt. Charles H. Davidson and Sgt. John J. McKenna also of the 388th, had their own stories of survival in returning to the 312th.
Lt. Benskin was flying back from the Hollandia raid with the rest of the 312th when he discovered his radio did not work and he lost contact with his wingmen. Benskin spotted Smart’s plane, THE TEXAN, and followed him for awhile. Smart soon appeared to head for Wewak as he turned towards the Ramu River, so Benskin thought Smart might be lost and flew off on his own. Benskin’s gunner, Westermann, told Benskin that their aircraft BENNY’S BABY did not have much fuel left and that they needed to land. Benskin made a gear-up landing and set down in a kunai grass swamp 200 yards from the Ramu River and 20 miles north of the Japanese-occupied village of Annenberg. The grass spun their plane around and the nose ended up bent sideways, which did not let the canopy of the cockpit open. Benskin was helped out through a window by Westermann. The landing site of BENNY'S BABY

Benskin’s plane in the kunai grass.

The two men spent the night battling mosquitoes and leeches in the swamp. The next morning, a search plane spotted the men and dropped supplies. With that came a note saying they should walk west ten miles to a native village, but that was nearly impossible due to the thick kunai grass that was up to ten feet tall in some areas.
While the men were building a shelter a few hundred yards away from the crash site, Benskin accidentally cut his knee with his folding machete. It wasn’t long before the wound became infected. At this point, the chance of being rescued was not good. With the Japanese so close by, a rescue plane could not risk landing on the river. After some searching, a suitable site that could be turned into an improvised landing strip was spotted about a mile and a half downstream. The area was cleared by P-40s from the 49th Fighter Group dropping belly tanks and setting them on fire with tracer rounds and then the men received supplies for making the 225-foot strip. Fifteen days after Benskin had landed in the swamp, the men were back at Gusap. They were rescued by S/Sgt. Walter A. James of the 25th Liaison Squadron. James first took Benskin to Gusap and then returned to the crash site for Westermann about an hour later. Benskin had scrub typhus, malaria and blood poisoning due to his leg wound and spent six weeks in the Gusap Field Hospital. His gunner fared much better and was in good condition when the two were rescued.

Lt. Benskin

Lt. Benskin recovering at Gusap.

It’s not over yet. Read part three of the Black Sunday raid.

Black Sunday: Part 1

The 312th was back to attacking Hollandia with bombers from the rest of Fifth Air Force: B-24s from the 22nd, 43rd and 90th Bomb Groups, B-25s from the 38th and 345th, and A-20s from the 312th, 3rd and 417th (a new bomber unit). These 216 planes with 76 P-38 escorts from the 8th and 475th Fighter Groups would be in the air once again on April 16, 1944. The only 312th Squadron not flying along was the 386th.

Bad weather at Hollandia delayed the Group from leaving Gusap until 1055. The crews bombed their targets of barges, stores and fuel dumps in between Sentani Lake and Jautefa Bay. After making their runs, the 312th formed up and headed for Gusap. With decent weather for the first half of the journey back, the men were able to grab a bite to eat while they flew home.
Hollandia
This photo from the Black Sunday raid shows the attacks going on behind the Japanese officer quarters.

As they flew on towards the Ramu Valley, conditions rapidly deteriorated. The planes were near Amaimon, 78 miles north of Gusap, when the weather completely closed in around them. Col. Strauss was in the lead and had to decide what the best way back home would be. He rejected flying to Saidor because he did not know what the weather was like there or if Saidor would be able to handle the number of planes since this base was only a few weeks old.
Strauss and the rest of the formation circled for about an hour in hopes of spotting a break in the clouds. As they circled, visibility improved enough for the hilltops to be seen, and Strauss thought there might be fair skies on the other side. Sure enough, he was right. At 1715, the Group began landing at rainy Gusap. Not everyone stayed with Col. Strauss. There were still 16 312th aircraft somewhere out in the stormy weather. The 312th wasn’t the only group with missing crews. By the end of the day Fifth Air Force could not account for 70 planes.

By nightfall, 12 Roarin’ 20’s aircraft had landed at Faita, Saidor and Finschhafen, four at each base. There were still four crews missing: Capt. Frank P. Smart with gunner T/Sgt. Michael Music, Lt. Glen Benskin and S/Sgt. Winifred F. Westerman, 2/Lt. Joseph E. Gibbons and Cpl. Orville J. Rhodes, and 2/Lt. Charles H. Davidson and Sgt. John J. McKenna.

Smart had been granted permission from Col. Strauss to leave the formation and fly to Saidor. He left with four other planes piloted by 1/Lts. Donald J. McGibbon and Robert J. Findley, and 2/Lts. Robert C. Smith and James L. Knarr.
James Knarr Landing
Knarr landing his plane at Gusap in April 1944.

As they flew, the weather improved and Smart, Findley and Knarr decided to fly five miles offshore to avoid enemy ack-ack, while  McGibbon and Smith stayed near the coastline. At 1730, McGibbon heard Smart contacting a Catalina about ditching. As Smart descended, Smith noted that the propellers were working and thought Smart wanted to ditch while he could still control his plane. Smart and Music made it out of the plane safely, McGibbon and Findley radioed Smart’s position to Saidor and two PT boats that seemed to be on their way to the ditching site. Feeling confident that Smart and his gunner would soon be in good hands, the remaining crews flew off to Saidor. The next day, there was still no sign of Smart or Music. The four planes flew over the ditching site and saw the submerged plane, but neither crew member. Their fate is still a mystery.

To be continued in part two

Operation Reckless Part 2: Pounding Hollandia

Fifth Air Force began attacking Hollandia on March 30, 1944 with B-24 Liberators escorted by 80 Lightnings. They met 40 enemy aircraft, but did not lose any planes. The next day, the heavy bombers went back and finished softening Hollandia for the low-level A-20 attacks scheduled for April 3rd. The 312th’s A-20s would not be alone in this endeavor. They would be joined by B-24s from the 22nd, 43rd and 90th Bomb Groups, B-25s from the 38th and 345th Bomb Groups and A-20s from the 3rd Bomb Group. The 234 bombers would be escorted by 76 P-38s, which would make this the largest formation of Fifth Air Force aircraft at this point of the war. The 900 mile roundtrip mission would be the longest yet for the 312th. Col. Strauss gave his intelligence officers, operations officers and squadron commanders a thorough briefing the night before Operation Reckless was to commence. He warned the pilots to closely monitor their fuel supply because this mission was close to the 950 mile range of the A-20, and he showed them how to switch between fuel tanks.

The Group left Gusap at 0850 on April 3rd, formed up over Dumpu and met up with their fighter cover. The 312th, recently choosing the nickname of the Roarin’ 20’s, flew to Hollandia with the 3rd Bomb Group. When the planes were about two miles away from Hollandia, a Ki-43 Oscar tried to attack the formation, but was quickly taken care of by the P-38 fighters.

The B-24s started pounding Hollandia with 1000-pound bombs. The B-25s and A-20s made their runs after the heavy bombers came through. The 312th’s goal was to destroy as many Japanese huts, camps, airstrips, storehouses, antiaircraft gun positions and aircraft dispersal areas as possible. While hitting the targets at 30 second intervals, the A-20s dropped bombs and fired their .50-caliber guns, damaged or destroyed several aircraft on the ground and started many fires.

Maj. William Kemble led the 388th Squadron through the heavy barrage of antiaircraft fire, flying his plane up and down to dodge the flak. His gunner, Sgt. William Ernst, had a close call during the flight. A metal fragment from a burst hit a .50-caliber bullet in the chain-feeding mechanism of the right hand gun, causing the bullet to explode and hit Ernst’s dog tag. Ernst was sure he had been shot, but examined himself when he did not see any blood. He looked at his dog tag and realized that had taken the bullet for him. The dog tag was never bent back into shape, but remained a good luck charm for Ernst.

After the day’s mission, the pilots of the 312th discovered they did not need to be so worried about the A-20 fuel supply. They had plenty of gas left, so there would be one less thing to worry about on future flights to Hollandia.

Fifth Air Force attacked Hollandia again on March 30th, March 31st and April 3rd. During that time, they lost one P-38, but destroyed over 300 Japanese aircraft. Sixty Japanese fighters came to meet the groups on April 3rd and, to the dismay of the Japanese, 26 of them were shot down. Gen. Kenney was congratulated by Gen. MacArthur in an uncoded telegram to further dishearten their foe.
Hollandia Before

Hollandia before Operation Reckless.

Hollandia After

Hollandia after Operation Reckless.

Kenney continued organizing missions to Hollandia on April 5-8th. The 312th was sent to Humboldt and Jautefa Bays to take out various military targets including Japanese ships and barges. The Roarin’ 20’s left the bays enveloped in a plume of black smoke that rose over 1000 feet. The Group was not able to attack Hollandia on the 8th because of the infamous bad weather.
Wrecked Japanese Planes

Some of the Japanese aircraft after Fifth Air Force bombed Hollandia.

MacArthur wanted to invade Hollandia on April 22nd, however, Kenney wanted to make sure none of the Japanese planes survived the previous attacks and that reinforcements had not arrived. He chose April 16th as the day for the last attack on  Hollandia. This day would come to be known as “Black Sunday.”

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