7.Letter 7th August, 1989 (Extracts) GOODENOUGH ISLAND
After the big Jap air raid on Milne Bay 14th April, 1943, 105 planes, it was with some trepidation (and a platoon of Commandos) that we pushed out to Goodenough Island to get our fighters nearer to Gasmata and Rabaul. We expected great Japanese reaction to this move, and although we did have regular hit and run raids, we did not get the mass raids, or the Japanese invasion that we all expected. The only Japs we saw were the survivors from the Bismarck Sea Battle and our Commandos quickly disposed of them or rounded them up. They were placed in barbed wire cages and then sent down to Cowra. The natives told me many interesting stories of what they had witnessed. They spoke with awe, how they had seen two Australians wipe out about twelve armed Japs in one encounter. The natives had a secret telephone line to the Commandos and informed them when they saw any Japs. In one instance six Japs seized a native lakatoi and were evidently making for Buna. The Commandos contacted the R.A.A.F. at Milne' Bay and a Kittyhawk blew the canoe to pieces. It was remarkable how we were so well informed about what was going on about us; our wireless, the "Guinea Gold", newspapers from home, and personal contact with Yank Marines etc. Yes and even the news broadcast by Tokyo Rose. I remember one broadcast she made, it was just after the big raid on Milne Bay (14/4/43) she said "we will raid you like this until we invade you again, and have our revenge on you "Butchers of Milne Bay". The 75th R.A.A.F. Kittyhawk Squadron has the last bit on the banner they carry on Anzac Day marches in Sydney. We met many American Marines coming over from BOUGAINVILLE (we built the wharves and landing ramps to trans-ship them at Goodenough from Liberty Ships to L.S.Ts.) They were under the command of Admiral Halsey who worked in perfectly with General MacArthur. When Halsey would make a move Mac would have all Jap 'dromes under continuous attack, so they could not interfere with "Halsey's" operation. When MacArthur made the move to the north coast of New Guinea, Aitape, Madang, Hollandia etc., Halsey's aircraft carriers supplied supporting planes and so it went on all the way to Tokyo. With the Japs it was entirely different, the commanders of the Army Air Force and the Navy Air Force seemed only interested in their own little corner. For instance the commander at Rabaul expected the Americans to invade there and was loth to release any planes for use anywhere else, perhaps the reason why we did not get the expected doing over on Goodenough Island. The Commander of the combined Allied Air Forces under General MacArthur, was General Kenney who had great respect and admiration for R.A.A.F. flying squadrons and their Mobile Works Squadrons but was impatient with the Wings etc. He was once reported as saying "they can't send a plane until they get permission from Melbourne".
8.Letter 4th September, 1989 (extracts) GOODENOUGH MARKHAM VALLEY NADZAB LAE
Our move from Milne Bay to Goodenough Island I believe was the first forward movement we made in pushing the Japs back from our beloved homeland. R.A.A.F. Units accompanied by some Commando guards moved back to Goodenough Island in February. 1943, yet I watched American forces coming ashore on the wharves we built in June 1943, and I read General MacArthur's communiqué which said " To day American Forces occupied Goodenough Island, there was no resistance." I was asked to stand aside while they were filming the brave invading force coming ashore. The troops themselves were just as mystified as they thought they would have to fight their way ashore against fanatical Japanese resistance. We all realised it was for American home consumption, and an American Sergeant with whom I was very friendly was standing with me on a half finished wharf we were building. The Yanks coming off the ship anxiously asked him "do you get much bombing from the Nips (we called them Japs) here?" The Sergeant said "sure do see that wharf the Aussies have
been trying to complete it for months. As they finish one end the Nips blow the other end off." and he pointed to the end we had not finished. The questioners went off expecting to see a Jap behind every coconut tree. I was posted to Goodenough on Anzac Day 25th April 1943. There were no wharves and the only way we got off the little coaster we came over on was by an A.I.F. bloke in a rowing boat, very likely a Commando. Airstrips had been also built at Kiriwina Island about forty miles west of Goodenough, and at Woodlark Island further out. This area was being built into the most powerful Allied Base in the South West Pacific Area and everybody was surp¬rised that we did not get an attempted re invasion or more frequent and sustained bombings. The main reason put forward was that the Japs were expecting an invasion from Admiral Halsey's forces, Navy and Marines and wanted to conserve their forces and planes to meet that attack. The invas¬ion never took place, our forces moved around it and it was left to wither on the vine until they surrendered in August 1945. The Americans were look¬ing for an area where they could build many airstrips so as to have control of the air and dominate the north coast of New Guinea, Manus Island, Admiralty Islands etc., where Halsey's forces were moving around. They found the ideal site at Nadzab about twenty miles west of Lae in the Markham Valley level plains ideal for strips, and the harbour at Lae for unloading ships, stores, aviation fuel etc. One could write a complete story about Lae and Nadzab. The 9th Australian Division A.I.F. and American forces were fighting their way up the coast and the Japs had gradually fallen back to Lae. General MacArthur had a great and decisive plan, although a bit dicey, to take the Nadzab plains with a massive parachute landing. This took place on 5th September 1943. (Refer letter 5 13/6/89). I have a copy of General Kenney's letter to General Arnold describing the operation: 302 aero planes of all sorts, 1700 parachute troops and some batteries of A.I.F. field artillery dropped by parachute formed a perimeter, the kunai grass burned off and later C47s landed the A. I. F. 7th Division, which began driving towards Lae. The Japs put up some resistance at Heath's plantation halfway between Nadzab and Lae, which was quickly overcome and the Japs retreated to Lae where their other forces had been driven back from Salamaua, Wau etc. As the 7th and 9th Australian Divisions closed in on Lae the Japs, after losing the big Convoy in the Bismarck Sea Battle, knew they could not hold Lae so they withdrew under cover of darkness and decided to make a stand at Finschhafen later. The 9th Division occupied Lae first but the 7th Division artillery did not know this and continued shelling until the 9th was able to let them know that the Japs had gone. We arrived at Lae in December, 1943 and had to fight our way through mud jungle up to Nadzab to get our own fighters up, as the Yanks, as could be expected, were concerned mainly with their own squadrons and were building strips only for them. That is the reason why our four Mobile Works Squadrons (2,5,6 and 7) were moved from Kiriwina and Goodenough Islands. On December 1st 1943, on two L.S.Ts. when a Convoy sailed to Buna, where a large Convoy was formed to sail to Lae on 2nd December, with seven L.S.Ts., four destroyers and three sub chasers. We arrived at Lae on 3rd December and the L.S.T8. Ran up on the beach and dropped their ramps. I was the first off and with a dozen dozers we pushed sand up and made a ramp. The American captain told me in half an hour they would pull out irrespective. As each truck, bull dozer, grader etc. pulled out all I could tell them was” to follow the truck in front of you". I did not see an Officer, W.O., or other Sergeant. We were about half unloaded when I saw an Air Force Officer approaching. He came up to me, I saluted him, he said, "who is in command here Sergeant?" I could only answer " I can't see any Officer, W.O. or Sergeant about sir, so I must be". He was not very pleased and said " get them off the beach as soon as possible, we are expecting an air raid”. I saluted him and he saluted back and walked away. He was then Wing Commander and later Group Captain Dale who were to be appointed by General Kenney to be in command of all engineering Units, white and black Yanks and Australians in their area from Aitape on. When the last truck came off I climbed aboard and said, " Follow that truck". The Yank ship pulled out, we finally arrived at an old Japanese camp where we had to stop for a while as the mud prevented us from getting through. The C.O. was not happy when I reported about Wing Commander Dale