On the strip at Noemfoor Island

78 Squadron KittyHawk Fighters RAAF

Narrative Summary:


24 Nov 1943 Sixteen Kittyhawks from the squadron along with 76 and 77 Squadrons provide air escort for B-24 Liberators as the latter bomb targets in New Britain.


21 Dec 1943  Two Kittyhawks from the squadron chase a Val dive bomber over New Britain. Although shots are fired the Val escapes into cloud. The squadron's first   encounter with enemy aircraft.


Jan   1944    Several scrambles early in the month but to no avail as no contact is made. Also this month they become one of the original squadrons to form 10 Group  under  A/C Scherger.


18 Jan 1944 Escort for Vengeances softening up Shaggy Ridge before the AIF's assault.


10 Feb 1944 Kittyhawks provide low level escort for USAAF Mitchells to Lae and strafe targets there.


2 Mar 1944   78 Squadron's first operational casualty, F/O “Polly” Weber is shot down attacking ack-ack positions. His all metal Kittyhawk is marked by Japanese gunners.


22 Apr 1944 The squadron's ground personnel land behind the Marines who attack and take the airstrip at Aitape. For the squadron's part in this assault they receive the US Presidential Unit Citation.


7 May 1944   S/L Brydon leads 16 Kittyhawks of the squadron to Hollandia to carry out air patrols from there. The pilots sleep under the wings of their aircraft and carry their  own rations for four days due to poor supplies at that airstrip so soon after the capture.


3 Jun 1944   While on CAP patrol over Japen Straits near Biak Island 15 Kittyhawks of 78 Squadron run into a mixed force of Zeros and Judy dive bombers that out number the Australians 2 to 1. In the ensuing combat the Australians shot down 7 fighters, 3 dive bombers and damage a fighter for the loss of 1 Kittyhawk and its pilot F/Sgt Harnden. It is the highest number of Japanese aircraft shot down in a single combat that the RAAF is involved in in the SWPA in terms of enemy aircraft shot down. Also, F/O White is the highest scoring RAAF pilot in the SWPA in a single combat.


10 Jun 1944  Again while carrying out an air patrol near Biak Island F/L Denny Baker and F/O Roger Giles chased a Judy reconnaissance aircraft and shot it down. The claim being awarded to Baker, who also had a claim from the week before. In both cases he was flying his Kittyhawk “Black Magic”. This was the last enemy aircraft shot down by the RAAF during the New Guinea campaign.


Jul 1944  Towards the end of the month most of the original pilots of the squadron had their tours expired and new pilots are coming in to replace them.


8 Aug 1944   The squadron lose two pilots during the month to enemy action. F/O Gordon White on 8th and two days later F/Sgt Robert Brown. They are 22 and 20 respectively.


Sep 1944 Early in the month a forward compartment was constructed in a belly tank to take a K21 camera for reconnaissance work. This was used extensively until the end of the war.


Oct 1944   During the month 78 Fighter Wing were to lose six pilots killed or missing in action. From 78 Squadron there was one MIA W/O Bill Gilmore and one KIA F/O Dick Boyce.


6 Nov 1944   On this day a F/Sgt Len Waters along with Frank Smith and the new CO Dick Sudlow arrived at 78 Squadron to begin their tours. Len was, and is to this day,  the only Aboriginal pilot in the RAAF.


Dec 1944  The move to Morotai Island meant a short flight time to targets of 20-30 minutes but they were greeted with mud, mud and more mud at their new airstrip.


  

5 Jan 1945  Shipyards were hit at Cape , then the shipyards at Cape Papoetoengan on 7th and both these operations were very successful. Also during the month 78  Fighter Wing carried a record 317 missions against the Japanese in the Celebes.


Feb 1945  Despite having the oldest Kittyhawks of the three squadrons of 78 Fighter Wing and some still not set up to carry bombs. 78 Squadron managed to drop ,130  pounds of bombs during the month on an ever decreasing number of targets.


24 Apr 1945   Most of the ground crew pack their kit and are shipped off to Tarakan with the pilots and aircraft to follow in about a weeks time. However the squadron is to be split like this until July of that year.


20 Jul 1945    78 Squadron's first operational mission since April.


15 Aug 1945   At war's end the squadron celebrates with a big dinner in the mess.


Sep 1945 The main operations is dropping of leaflets to advise the pockets of Japanese the war is over.


Dec 1945 The squadron arrives home by boat and for some by Kittyhawk as the pilots flew the serviceable ones to Oakey, Queensland.


Feb 1946    The squadron is now reduced to one Officer and six Airmen as caretakers of the unit.

Aug 1946   A final move for the squadron to Williamtown, NSW which is to be the base that they rebuild at.


17 Feb 1947   S/L “Congo” Kinninmont is appointed CO of the squadron which now has just three pilots, which includes Kinninmont.


Mar 1948    Confirmation comes through that it and sister squadron 75 are to be disbanded. 78 Squadron is never reformed.