Sunday History Photo / NT

Submitted: Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 07:12
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Works on Manbullo airfield were initially undertaken by the 43rd Engineer Regiment (US Army) in April 1942. The Allied Works Council completed the works and the airfield was operational by 19 May 1942. The runway was 6,499 ft × 98 ft.




On 22 March 1942, nine Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betty" bombers of the Japanese Navy's Tokao Kokutai, 23rd Koku Sentai appeared over Katherine at 12.20pm and circled the area. They then disappeared. A local eyewitness Dorothy Hall said they came back about a quarter of an hour later and dropped their bombs. Local farmer Bert Nixon saw the nine bombers in formation coming in from the north east. Most of the bombs dropped on the Katherine airfield and nearby areas but two bombs landed near Manbullo airfield
34 Squadron RAAF move from Hughes airfield (32 Mile) to Manbullo airfield on 27 August 1942. On 13 December 1942, the aircraft of 34 Squadron RAAF were allocated to 6 Communications Flight RAAF. 34 Squadron RAAF reformed at Parafield in South Australia on 3 January 1943.





The B-24 Liberators from the 529th and 530th Bombardment Squadrons moved to Manbulloo shortly after arriving from the United States in April 1943, with Headquarters of their parent unit, the 380th Bomb Group being at Fenton Airfield. With the Northern Territory being subjected to the occasional Japanese air raid at the time, it was decided to disperse the operational squadrons over several airfields. From Manbulloo Airfield the squadron attacked Japanese airfields, ground installations, shipping, and industries in the Netherlands East Indies and the Bismarck Archipelago. Other missions included disruption of enemy sea channels; dropping photoflash bombs and propaganda pamphlets. Both squadrons were reassigned to Long Airfield in late 1943.






Photo above: B-24 Liberator of 24 Squadron RAAF being loaded with 300lbs bombs in about September 1944 at Manbullo Airfield. LAC L.J. Evans and LAC C.J. Allen are carrying fins to be attached to the bombs.




The airfield was closed in 1944 and apparently abandoned. Today from the air no wartime buildings, taxiways or hardstands are evident, only the remains of the main NW-SE runway exist which is being used as an access road to an irrigated mango plantation, which was planted in 1972, the first commercial mango plantation in NT, it is now owned by Manbulloo Limited who export mangoes around the world. The remains of what appears to be a second runway (NNW-SSE) is faintly visible in aerial photography, along with some roads possibly a part of the airfield are also faintly visible. No evidence of a containment area is visible.
An access road to the airfield is joined to the Victoria Highway, however, the airfield is on private property as part of the million hectare cattle property Manbulloo Station.
Units based at Manbulloo Airfield
529th Bombardment Squadron (380th Bombardment Group), (28 April-7 November 1943)
531st Bombardment Squadron (380th Bombardment Group), (28 April-5 December 1943)
No. 24 Squadron RAAF
No. 34 Squadron RAAF

Google Earth Co-Ords 14°36'1.36"S 132°11'27.14"E
I have included details of 2 of the many B-24's operated by the USAAF to give an idea where they came from, and where and when they arrived in Australia and what happened to them

380TH BOMB GROUP AIRCRAFT SERIAL NO.: 42-40979 NOSE ART NAME: “ROBBIE L”
MODEL: B-24D-120-CO MFR: Consolidated-San Diego
OVERSEAS FLIGHT DATE: 07/31/1943 DEPARTURE PLACE: Fairfield, CA
OVERSEAS ARRIVAL DATE: 08/09/1943 DESTINATION: Amberly Field, Brisbane, AUS
MOD COMPLETED OVERSEAS: Nose turret OVERSEAS MOD PLACE: Townsville
STATION: Manbulloo
FIRST MISSION: 08/29/1943 WHERE (1ST MISSION): Babo, New Guinea
NO. OF MISSIONS: 57 TERMINATION DATE: 08/08/1944 WHY TERMINATED: Salvaged
WHERE TERMINATED: Townsville, Australia

In the top photo below, the whited out area was done by the WW2 censor to block out the Radar Antenna system ,





380TH BOMB GROUP AIRCRAFT SERIAL NO.: 42-40485 NOSE ART NAME: “FYRTLE MYRTLE”
MODEL: B-24D-65-CO MFR: Consolidated-San Diego
OVERSEAS FLIGHT DATE: 04/26/1943 DEPARTURE PLACE: Hamilton Field, CA
OVERSEAS ARRIVAL DATE: 05/13/1943 DESTINATION: Amberly Field, Brisbane, AUS
MOD COMPLETED OVERSEAS: Nose turret OVERSEAS MOD PLACE: Townsville
STATION: Manbulloo
FIRST MISSION: 07/18/1943 WHERE (1ST MISSION): Macassar, Celebes
NO. OF MISSIONS: 17 AU TERMINATION DATE: 10/26/1943
WHY TERMINATED: Shot Down by Fighters
WHERE TERMINATED: Celebes




Took off from Manbulloo Airfield on a bombing mission against Pomelaa on the southern tip of the Celebes. Intercepted by enemy fighters from head on and tracers observed impacting the bomber. Other bombers in the formation observed this B-24 turning to the left and eight parachutes were observed. The bomber continued to fly until the wings collapsed upward and it exploded and crashed into the sea.
Fates of the Crew
Seven of the crew were taken prisoner near Kabena Island. All were liberated at the end of the war and returned to the United States. Lovett and Mc Ferren were liberated from the Tokyo POW Camp (Shinjuku) at the end of the war. Holman was liberated from Tokyo POW Camp Branch #2 (Kawasaki).




Note: I have been informed by Linda Phillips of Byron, Minnesota that the huge Willow Run B-24 plant has been saved from demolition by the determination of an 88 year old Rosie The Riveter woman that worked on the B-24's during the war, I guess those Rosie the Riveters never give up.

Link to Willow Run


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Reply By: Nomad Navara - Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 10:01

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 10:01
Great reading, thank you again Doug.
AnswerID: 532252

Follow Up By: Peter W - Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 11:24

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 11:24
Wonderful read.
Thanks.

Peter
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Reply By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 14:15

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 14:15
Thanks Doug
Much appreciated
We were up that way last winter and I was amazed at how much WW2 stuff is around. While I knew about the bombing of Darwin and places to the west around the coast, and the building of the N/S road, I was not aware of the amount of infrastructure built south of Darwin - airfields, staging areas for troops, rail-heads, fuel depots, etc - for example, at Barrow Creek, Larrimah, Daly Waters, Katherine (the museum out on the gorge road is a cracker). We camped on the SE end of Gorrie Airfield and the surface of the runway is still in remarkably good condition considering it is ~70 years old!
Cheers
Andrew
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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 15:44

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 15:44
Hello Andrew.
Thanks for your reply , When I was living at Mt Bundy I discovered more than most people knew about and a lot of it was right on Mt Bundy Station, I have added 4 links, all on Mt Bundy for you to have a read and the web pages are part of my main web site, I love the Duty Pilots Tower in the RAAF airstrip on Mt Bundy , had a big debate with the AWM in Canberra over that...I won. Yes Gorrie was used by the smaller B-25's , a friend in Darwin with a Jabiru 120 landed on Mt Bundy strip to pick me up and we went down and landed on Gorrie after flying over Butterfly Gorge.

US Fleet Radio Unit

RAAF Adelaide River


WW2 Camps on Mt Bundy

Stati-chute Experiments

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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 19:20

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 19:20
Thanks again Doug
It is always interesting to read/hear/see first hand accounts as often the official record is edited / sanitised.
The story of the lead up to the Battle of Midway has always fascinated me - the serendipitous events, past relationship coming into play again and of course, afterwards, the bastardry of the Redman brothers. To think it took until 1985 to recognise the injustice is simply amazing! I wonder where Nimitz stood on that issue when the original recommendation was made?
Cheers
Andrew
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Reply By: Quickboats - Monday, May 12, 2014 at 17:53

Monday, May 12, 2014 at 17:53
Good to know all these..thanks Doug!
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Reply By: BunderDog - Monday, May 12, 2014 at 18:18

Monday, May 12, 2014 at 18:18
Hi Doug,

My Dad was stationed in Darwin from Jan 1942 to 1945. Here is a photo of him with an unexploded Japanese bomb somewhere in the Darwin area a few days after the first raid. Any ideas where it might be.

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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Monday, May 12, 2014 at 19:59

Monday, May 12, 2014 at 19:59
Wow this photo is a treasure , thanks , I have no idea where in Darwin the photo could have taken , but I will have a guess , on the corner of the building is a number, it could be from a Military base .

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