|Preface||Chapter 23||Chapter 25|
With the end of these Mindanao road-strafes, the business of the Crusaders in the Philippines seemed about to narrow down to living on the southernmost island, with full combat attention turned to Borneo and the China coast.
Vast and largely unexplored, Borneo divides politically into four units-British North Borneo, Dutch Borneo, Sarawak, and Brunei. All of Borneo was once ruled by two native Sultans: the western half by the Sultan of Brunei, and the eastern half by the Sultan of Sulu. Dutch and British empire-building changed this and prior to the Japanese occupation, Sarawak and Brunei were administered by the "White Rajah" and Sultan, respectively, and Dutch Borneo by the Netherlands Colonial Administration. British North Borneo was administered by the British North Borneo Company, only survivor of the British chartered companies.
All Borneo is generally mountainous and heavily forested, with mountain ranges rising to 13,000 feet. Level ground is restricted to broad belts of swamp along the coast and to occasional lowlands behind the swamps and coastal rivers.
Many Chinese had settled in northern Borneo before the war, some 50,000 in British North; 100,000 in Sarawak; 3000 in Brunei. Hundreds of small Dyak tribes live in self-sufficient colonies throughout Borneo. Among these are the Sea Dyaks, Kayans, and Maruts, all tribal warring natives. Other tribes along the coasts are the Kedayans, Tutongs, and Dusans, and in the interior, the Bajaus or Banjans. The tribes are generally Malays.
The coastal population, however, is predominantly Mohammedan, efforts of Christian missionaries over many years apparently having met with little success.
The unique government of British North Borneo is rivalled for oddity and interest by that of Sarawak. When the British returned, the ANS carried the following news release:
"New York, (ANS) The 32-year old White Rajah of Sarawak, British Lieutenant Anthony Brooke, hopes soon to hang an 'Under New Management' sign above his South Pacific empire. Accompanied by his wife and their
children, Brooke will return to Sarawak as soon as the Japanese collapse.
"An independent state ruled by an English family since 1841, Sarawak lies in northwest Borneo. It has its own flag, currency, stamps, and civil service and a populatilon of half a million Dyaks, Malays, Chinese, Eurasiaris, Tamils, Sikhs, and 150 Japanese.
"Young Brooke actually is a nephew, not a son, of the retiring Rajah, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, but the law denies succession to any of Sir Charles three daughters.
"Lieutenant Brooke, an intelligence officer with Lord Mountbatten, has maintained wartime offices for his government in London, intended to stir interest in and
attract capital for developing the country along modern lines.
"James Brooke, first of the family to rule over Sarawak, established his rights to the country by driving out other pirates of nearby China Sea waters more than 100 years ago. He attained respectability by offering to relinquish land (as large as England and Wales) to the British Crown. Prime Minister Gladstone regarded it as a liability, however, and not until 1888 did England grant Sarawak its present treaty of protection. Until then the country's defenses had rested in Brooke's own yacht, armed with eight six-pounders.
"Almost solidly jungle, Sarawak is rich in rubber gold, timber, condiments; and some gems and metals. By happenstance, all of the Brooke family were away when the Japanese struck. Sir Charles was in Australia and had returned as far as Java when his capital, Kuching, fell on Christmas Day, 1941."
British North Borneo, the most developed state, has rubber and other plantations and boasts the only railroad in Borneo-100 miles of track. This latter was a novelty indeed to our pilots on their first missions over this territory.
The Japanese utilized Brunei Bay as a major fleet anchorage and haven; substantial elements of the sea forces which took a beating in the second battle of the Philippine Sea retreated there to lick their wounds.
Borneo is among the world's richest oil reservoirs. The Japanese had had their slant eyes on Borneo's oil for many years before the actual start of the war, and when the island came into their hands, they quickly organized its oil resources to fuel their war machine. In April, 1945, a well-integrated system of producing fields, refining and storage facilities existed.
The most extensive installation was at Balikpapan, which had already been taken under siege by the history-making strikes of 13th AAF Liberators staged through Sansapor, but there were many smaller and proportionately as productive oil centers that had not yet felt Allied Air might. These were centered in the Japanese Borneo Fuel Depot Headquarters at Mirl and at Seria. There was also a refining operation at Toranguru, and in a class by itself was the small island of Tarakan, 15 by 11 miles in size, off the northern east coast. Beneath its sandy surfaces lies some of the finest crude oil in the world, oil so pure that it can be piped directly into ships' bunkers without refining.
No wonder indeed then that Tarakan was one of the first points seized by the Japanese in their advance through Makassar Strait in January, 1942.
The softening up of Tarakan at this stage was assigned to Palawan-based aircraft, with the Group as the general utility outfit. From the 16th, which saw a strike on sup-
ply-personnel concentrations, and each day thereafter at least one formation was over Tarakan. Major Hedlund with the 69th, Colonel Harvey and Lieut. H. F. McElroy with the 75th and 100th and Lieut. J. E. Hanna with the 390th, hit Lingkas Tank Farm, barracks and supplies, the Pamoesian Field, and gun positions.
Lieut. Milton F. Fadeley and crew were lost, crashing over the target, on the mission of the 20th.
So it went up to the 30th, with fires, explosions, wrecked and burning derricks, and gaping craters attesting our effectiveness. Meantime, our interminable shipping sweeps were being flown, additional Mindanao ground support was being given, and important entries in the log of Crusader activity against French Indo-China and the tiny fortified islets of the South China Sea were being made. The 70th's mission of the 20th, led by Captain Weston, was a four star entry in this Journal. The flight was nearing Cecir Mir Island when an impenetrable north-south front with driving rain was encountered. The planes had to turn back and were ordered to hit a secondary at Itu Aba. Twenty-eight bombs were dropped, and 15,000 rounds strafed, which produced large fires in the building area and a large explosion, believed to have been an ammo dump, that sent brilliant red flames and smoke to 2000 feet.
The exploding dump rocked Lieut. Henry S. Dutch's plane. The floor skin was ripped off, bomb bay doors were torn off, instruments were knocked out and the engines began to run rough. Corp. J. R. Lohmeler, engineer, received shrapnel wounds in his buttocks and Lieut. Jack Tabock, navigator, a broken leg. The interphone went out.
Lieut. C. E. Stein, Jr., co-pilot, waved to ttie tail gunner to prepare to ditch. The plane was set down for a good landing in four feet of water at Sand Cay barely three miles from Itu Aba. By kneeling with one leg braced against the base of the turret and the other leg bracing the navigator's back, the engineer protected Lt. Tabock from further injury during the landing. The impact took away the remaining flooring and also removed the tall assembly. Equipment was strewn everywhere. In the crash, the radio operator, Sergt. Irvin J. Tripp, suffered a compound fracture of the jaw and lost several teeth. Corp. Wilbur M. Bender, gunner, was deeply scratched on the underwater coral. Lieutenant Dutch and Lieutenant Stein towed the three enlisted men ashore in the life raft, and Lieutenant Dutch applied first aid to the radio operator's jaw. Corporal Lohmeler returned to the plane to help the navigator, who was stretched out on the wing. Using an oar and his shorts, he splinted Lieutenant Tabock's leg and got him ashore, where the splint was bound with parachute shrouds. The break was too high to apply a tourniquet, but Lieutenant Stein, skilled at first aid, did a good job with compresses.
Lieutenant Dutch and Lieutenant Stein returned to the plane to salvage whatever could be found, but met with little success. Gasoline had spread over the water, and it was too dark inside the fusalage to see and too dangerous to strike a match. They had no flashlights. They had hoped to find additional morphine and blood plasma to administer to the suffering members of the crew, for all supplies of these had now been exhausted.
At 1800 a B-25 flew over leading a PBY, and dropped a raft, while the Cat landed just outside the coral reef. Before the survivors could inflate this raft, the PBY pilot took off and circled the island, dropping a note which said that the waves were too high for him to get off with additional weight. Additional rations and a first aid kit with morphine and blankets were dropped.
Shallow trenches were dug in the sand but no one was able to sleep; the wounded were in too much pain and the uninjured had to stay awake to attend their comrades. It was feared that the navigator would not be able to hold on.
During the night, land crabs formed a circle about 25 feet from the party, and an occasional one would venture in for a curious nip and had to be repelled with a handful of sand. A light passed by the island. Fearing it might be a Jap patrol, the men dug their holes deeper. During the digging one of them accidentally fired a shot, but apparently the wind carried the noise away from the vessel, for it continued on past the island.
At 0800 next morning, another B-25 and a PBY appeared. An uneventful pick-up was made and once aboard, the injured received additional morphine and plasma. Upon their return, ashore, the hospital surgeon examining the navigator said little remained for him to do other than remove a few pieces of bone. "The prompt emergency treatment ... saved this man's life."
Compared to many of our past and future targets, the AA thrown up at Tarakan was not impressive, being chiefly light and MG fire, but the Nips made the most extensive use we had yet encountered of electrically controlled mines as an anti-strafing defense.
The preliminary pounding of the island done, the next problem was the beachhead, to be made by Australian and Dutch troops. The Nips had prepared elaborate, tight beach defenses and were going to make a determined stand behind them.
To enable an Australian Engineer Demolition unit to blast a path through the offshore obstacles, the Group flew smoke screen missions off Tarakan April 30. Carrying the 886th's chemical tanks in their bomb bays, Lieut. Gerald M. Lauck of the 70th led Lieut. R. W. Wilson of the 69th, Lieuts. M. R. Martin and Paul E. Cyphers of the 75th, Lieut. G. J. Dutt of the 100th, and Lieut. Everett H. Lundby of the 390th along the beach while Aussie sappers lay just off the invasion beach. On the same mission was a Crusader photo ship taking pictures of the smoke and the Australians on the beach.
"HEADQUARTERS 13th AAF, PHILIPPINES
April 30-Working with split-second timing, Mitchell bombers of the 13th AAF and combat engineers of the Australian Imperial Forces cooperated today to spearhead the Allied invasion of Borneo.
Beach wire and underwater obstacles offshore at Tarakan Island blocked the single landing beach available to
the Australian Ninth Division, the famous 'Rats of Tobruk.'
Flying from distant Philippine bases, B-25s of the crack Crusaders of the 42nd Bombardment Group, veterans of ground support actions at Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Zamboanga, and Cebu, reached their target area just as the TNT-laden craft of the engineers arrived within range of Jap shore installations. At the same instant Allied warships shelling from off the coast ceased fire. One at a time the planes hurtled down the beach at roof-top level, while streamers of impenetrable white smoke poured from their bomb bays to hide the approaching sappers.
As the final plane pulled off the target, the ships again took up their shelling. Huge shells whistled over the heads of the men on the beach and in the water as they set and fired the charges that destroyed the Nip beach defenses. Within 88 minutes after the first plane loosed its smoke, the engineers retired, their mission completed, still hidden by the clinging vapor."
The almost unopposed attack by the twin-engine Mitchells climaxed two weeks of pre-invasion bombing and strafing. Jap planes, supplies, fuel and ammunition dumps were destroyed in low level attacks that covered every available North Borneo base from which the Nips could hope to counter the long awaited invasion.
'I'he next item on the list shows the fine attention to seemingly small details that saves lives in a beachhead operation. The 70th drew the assignment of an all night heckle of Tarakan, designed to keep the Nips up and sleepless, and consequently less energetic for D-Day, May Ist. The first pair, Lieut. J. E. Coleman and Lieut. W. G. Hathaway, used frag clusters and empty beer bottles, and from 8000 feet started a fire that burned all night. The third man in, Lieut. J. S. Hale, was unable to reach the target and was trying to contact the controller when his radioman picked up this message: "There is an enemy plane in the area. Will you please turn on your lights?" Thinking it was an enemy, Lieutenant Hale asked for authentication, and receiving an obscure reply, kept his lights off. Proceeding back to base at Palawan, he heard another message, also in good English: "This is your heckler relief; turn on your lights." Hale knew that his relief was not due for half an hour and that the voice was not that of Lieut. Clarence P. Rich, scheduled to take over from him. The requests continued for half an hour and the crew was certain that there was a loquacious Jap in the sky near them.
Their surmise was correct, for Hale reached the strip and taxied into his revetment just before an alert was sounded. The invader turned away from base without attacking, however.
The 42nd's Public Relations Officer gave this incident attention in an item quoting Lieutenant Hale: "That Jap spoke such good English it made me suspicious. I knew it couldn't be the other pilot on the mission. He would have said, "Hey Hale, where the hell are you?"
April 28th brought an alert, Red 0253, all clear 0412. One bogey, approaching from the south, became a bandit and dropped an unknown number of anti-personnel bombs, wounding two men and pitting the runway. AA engaged the intruder ineffectively, and the night fighter made contact but lost it in evasive action.
Corroborating the 70th pilots, radar reported bogies at 0037 May Ist. Condition Yellow was declared at 0045 and one P-61 was scrambled, but could not make contact because of the low approach of the intruders. The Nip pair closed in from the southwest, and at 0115 dropped anti-personnel bombs and strafed the length of the strip. Several planes were damaged. Tents in the Sixth Service Group and 14th Portable Hospital areas adjoining the Group were holed by 20MM and 12.7 fire, but without personnel lnjuries. The 70th S-2 building roof was holed by 20MM, and one of the squadron ambLIlances received holes in its fender and hood. All clear did not sound until 0200.
Intelligence oddities continued to drift in.
Tokyo Comments on the Bombing of Japan: Things That Make Our Hearts Bleed.-April 1-"According to an article in the March 29th issue of 'Time,' Tokyo looks worse now than in 1922 after t'~ie earthquake. It ]*S true, the blind bombing of the city has caused great damage to residential sections. The Americans claim they bit military targets but this is untrue. It is brutal and inhuman, the way the city is being bombed."
Famous Last Diary Entries
(Last entry in a diary captured at Burlran, P. I.)
"23 April. We have entered the area occupied by guerillas. Everywhere the houses of the inhabitants are occupied by guerrillas."
How It Starts
(From a notebook belonging to a member of the First Propaganda Base in the Baguio area)
"Visited the Ota Platoon. Distributed Manila paper, Domel News, and Southern Cross to Second Lieutenant Ota. Discussed the war situation and left after spreading rumors.
How It Spreads
(From a Lance Corporal's Diary, found in Tayabas Province)
18 April. An MP told me the following: He says there are no enemy warships near Japan, and that two enemy divisions which landed on Okinawa have been pinned down and will be automatically destroyed. According to him, the Shimbu Group (Shudan) is to commence a great offensive before the rainy season, and the Fuji Group is to await them in Southern Luzon. It seems that the Shimbu Group is a very strong group and is taking positions to smash through the surrounding area of Manila and then advance southward."
ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING . . .
Off into the night sky or into bright daylight, Crusaders went into the air when the Field Order demanded it. Most of them returned . . . but low loss figures do not tell the story of some of those struggles.
An airplane flown with controls shot away, a ditching within sight of the strip, getting home safely after the pilot and co-pilot had been blinded by an AA burst-those are the things that made the story.
"Off at 30 second intervals, out six minutes, then turn. Pick up your formation and come back over the field on course." And off into the grey dawn flew the strike.
Six men were in the plane at take-off; these three survived a crash landing in the water off Borneo.
Air-Sea Rescue Squadron's Dumbo picked them up, brought them back. Willing hands help the pilot from the PBY.
The 390th's Lt. Thompson was in the left seat when he stopped this one. Both he and the co-pilot were temporarily blinded by the burst. The navigator had a hand severed. Nose light trim kept them in the air until the radio operator came up to take
This G almost made it, but you can't lower your wheels for an "almost."
Lt. O'Neill, Texas pilot. checks on rescue charges. Dumbo crews never get arguments about rates.
|Preface||Chapter 23||Chapter 25|