27TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP (L)
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

CHARTERS TOWERS AIR STRIP

 

The 27th Bomb Group (L) comprised:-

  • 16th Squadron

  • 17th Squadron

  • 91st Squadron

  • HQ Squadron

  • 2nd Observation Squadron

  • 454th Ordinance

 

In February 1940, the 27th Bomb Group was formed from a Cadre of the 3rd Bomb Group. On 1 November 1941 they sailed for the Philippines. They were equipped with A-24s, but their planes never arrived, and were diverted to Australia after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. 

The Commanding Officer, Col James H. Davies, and 20 pilots were flown to Australia to get their aircraft and only got as far as Java because of the deteriorating situation in the Philippines. In March 1942, 42 officers, 62 enlisted men and 24 A-24s were assigned to the 3rd Bomb Group stationed at Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia. They were assigned to the 8th Squadron.

A number of important officers and enlisted men whisked out of the Philippines in 5 submarines just before it was overrun by the Japanese.  The last submarine, the "Spearfish" captained by James Dempsey, left the Philippines two days before it fell on 4 May.  Left behind on Corregidor were 173 officers, 2317 sailors and 4 nurses who all became prisoners of war.

"USS Seawolf" captained by Freddy Warder took 12 army pilots including Glenwood Stephenson and Jim McAfee of the 27th Bomb Group and 13 others who were delivered to Surabaya.

"USS Seadragon", captained by Peter Ferral, took 4 officers including Harl Pease and Pinky Hoevet, and 20 enlisted men of the 19th Bomb Group.

"USS Sargo", captained by Tyrrel Jacobs, took the Codebreakers with their Red and Purple Machines.

"USS Swordfish", captained by Chet Smith, made two trips.  One of the was to bring out President Quezon and the United States Ambassador Sayre and his wife.

 

27bg01.jpg (38617 bytes)

16th Squadron, 27th Bomb Group (L)
on board the President Coolidge

 

1.   A.G. Hilley
2.   R.E. Thomas
3.   D.A. Hochman
4.   ?
L.W. Cowart (Jr.)?
5.   P.E. Mitcheler
6.   R.F. McClure
7.   C.M. Cannon
8.   H.R. Roth
9.   Bob G. Ruegg
10. Jim B. McAfee
11.
Glenwood Stephenson
12. Capt. W.G. Hipps (CO)
13. Olly C. Doan
14. Pete E. Bender
15. C Savage
16. R.E. Donnewald
17. A.S. Ose
18. Samuel H. Dillard III
19. R.L.L. Schmidt
20. H. (Henry) J. Rose
21. G.E. Maccani

Above photo supplied by Noel Tunny

 

The entire 16th Squadron arrived on the Coolidge at Pier 7, Manila, on Thursday, 20 Novembe 1941. Hipps gave the orders for the 16th Squadron and HQ. to evacuate to Bataan on Christmas Eve, 1941;  Ruegg (and others were among those pilots who were flown  out of the Philippines on Decembere 17;  McAfee and Stephenson left the Philippines aboard the submarine, Seawolf, etc.

 

coolidge.jpg (10702 bytes)

SS President Coolidge

 

The Lady and the President
A book on the S.S. President Coolidge lost off Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
(Link to another site on the Internet)

 

b-18.jpg (65289 bytes)

B-18 of Transport Command arriving at Eagle Farm air base in Brisbane.  This aircraft was one of the B-18's used by the 27th Bomb Group when they fled from Clark Field in the Philippines.

 

The Pensacola Convoy bound for the Philippines was diverted to Brisbane on 13 December 1941. 

The 27th Bomb Group was initially equipped with B-18's.  They escaped in these B-18's from Clark Field in the Philippines through Tarakan to Darwin arriving on 22 December 1941, the same day that the Pensacola Convoy arrived in Brisbane.

Gustave M. Heiss, Jr., was one of the members of the Group who flew out of Manila the night of December 17/18, 1941, in two B-18s and one C-39. Heiss was the pilot of one of the B-18s, and one of his passengers down to Tarakan, Koepang, and Darwin was Col. James H. Davies. Heiss's co-pilot was Tim Timlin. Gus Heiss also piloted one of the B-25s on the Royce Mission to the Philippines. His co-pilot then was Ed Townsend. Townsend died in a non-combat crash in Australia. Guss Heiss was eventually killed when his B-25 went down in the Coral Sea between Hood and Kepple points returning from a mission to Milne Bay on 4 September 1942.

Pilots of the 27th Bomb Group and the 24th Pursuit Group (see table below) landed on the Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River near the ships of the Pensacola Convoy.  They had departed Darwin on 23 December 1941 in the RAAF short Empire flying boat "Centaurus"  A18-10 of 11 Squadron RAAF, which travelled to Brisbane via Groote Eylant, Townsville, Rockhampton, arriving at the Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River on 24 December 1941. A18-10 was flown by Squadron Leader Norm Fader and co-piloted by Squadron Leader Mile Seymour.

 

Maj. Davies HQ
Cpt. Backus HQ
Hubbard HQ
Birnn HQ
Schwartz HQ  **
Ruegg 16th
Schmidt 16th
Rose 16th
Doan 16th
Lowerey 17th
Mangan 17th
Talley 17th
West 17th
Townsend 17th
Tubb 17th
Walker 17th
Galusha 91st
Smith 91st
Summers 91st
Hambaugh 91st
Wienert 91st
Wesley E/M
Mahoney 24th PG
Strauss 24th PG
Kennan 24th PG
McCallum 24th PG

 

** Mary C. May provided the following comment on 1 Sep 2001:-

"In your list of pilots who were flown out in December, you show a "Schwartz, HQ."  According to the only Officer named Schwarz (note spelling) in Hq. did NOT fly out.  He later was shipped on the Shinyo Maru to Japan.  I will be visiting with this Schwarz next week to discuss the period on Bataan. The Shinyo Maru was torpedoed by the USS submarine Paddle.  A few of the men  managed to swim-float-drift, etc., and made it to shore some 2 l/2 miles from the ship.   Out of the 700 or so men aboard, only about 82 survived and have been accounted for.  (I have the exact numbers somewhere, but don't want to look them up right now.)  Bert Schwarz was one of those men. They finally were picked up by submarine and safely delivered to Australia!"

Gus Heiss's name does not appear on the manifest of those who were aboard the Qantas flying boat. When he and Tim Timlin landed at Batchelor in the Northern Territory with a plane load of men from the Philippines in one of the two B-18s, Heiss and Timlin were immediately directed to fly ammunition back to the Philippines. They immediately took off in the same B-18 to carry that cargo back north.

Gus Heiss's nephew, Gus Breymann has copies of the radio transmission from the Philippines ordering this return flight. They were going to retrace their route back to Borneo and then northward. However, Heiss and Timlin flew into a storm off Borneo that forced them to turn back. They landed in Koepang and spent Christmas on the Koepang airstrip. Shortly thereafter they returned to Australia, unable to deliver the ammunition. That explains why the Heiss and Timlin names do not appear among the names of those on the flying boat, in spite of the fact that they were pilot and co-pilot of one of the B-18s that had escaped from Nichols Field in the Philippines the night of December 17/18.

The 27th Bomb Group members who arrived in Brisbane on the flying boat were expecting to ferry the A24's and P-40's off the ship USAT Meigs to the Philippines.  Colonel James Hubert Davies and the pilots of the 27th Bomb Group were quartered at Lennons Hotel in the city.  During their stay in Brisbane they ran a dive bombing school for the incoming pilots.  They also recruited some mechanics from the 7th Bomb Group as gunners and line crews for the 27th Bomb Group.

 

"Gateway to Victory" function at Bretts Wharf

 

The above arrival of the 27th Bomb Group and the 24th Pursuit Group pilots was commemorated on 15 August 1998 when a Memorial was unveiled at Bretts Wharf Seafood Restaurant.  Historian Noel Tunny erected the memorial and organised a "Gateway to Victory" luncheon at Bretts Wharf.  Brigadier General William G. Hipps (retired) unveiled the memorial which commemorated the joint operations of the RAAF, QANTAS and the USAAF.

On 16 January 1942, seventeen P-40's that arrived on the USAT Meigs left Brisbane as the 17th Provisional Squadron on their way to Java via Rockhampton, Townsville, Cloncurry, Darwin and Koepang.  These pilots, led by Pappy Gunn, had all served previously in the Philippines.

 


The following story was received by mother of LWSims341Camp17@aol.com in 1944 from Washington. D.C.:-

 

FIGHTER PILOTS WITHOUT PLANES
FINALLY GET IN LICKS ON THE JAPANESE

Washington, January 16, 1944 (AP)- Fighter pilots without planes that was the 27th Bombardment Group in the Philippines.

They had pistols which were not much good against Japanese air strikes. They manned machine guns and antiaircraft guns. They supplied a detail to fly P-40's but there weren't enough P-40's. They made up the crews for three old transport plans, operated Neilson Field for the interceptor command and drilled with rifles to make themselves useful as ground troops.

Finally, a few......27 out of more than 400..... escaped to Australia expecting to bring back the group's dive bombers which had arrived "down under". But that wasn't in the cards either, although they did come back at last, for a successful and satisfying raid on the Japanese in the Islands.

The story of the outfit, the first complete war history of the Army Air Forces group was made public today by the War Department. It was compiled under the direction of Capt. James B McAfee, of Charlotte, N. C., intelligence officer of the group, from the diaries and officials reports of the handful who reached Australia.

Only 19 survivors of the 27th are still active. Most of the 400-odd were left in the Philippines and Presumably are prisoners. Of the twenty-seven that got away, eight have been reported killed or missing in action. But the 27 who reached Australia battled the enemy in the air and more than a score of decorations for gallantry.

The group was created in February, 1940 at Barksdale Field, La., and as its commanding officer was Col. (later major General} Clearance L. Tinker, who was lost in the battle of Midway. In October the group moved to Savannah for training in dive-bombing and ground strafing. Its operations officer then was Maj. John H. Davis of Oakland, Calif., who was a Colonel and Commanding Officer of the group by the time the 27th sailed for the Philip-pines after the Maneuvers in Louisiana.

The men arrived in Manila late in November but their planes still had not arrived when the Japanese attacked the Philippines, December 8.

"As we had no planes," one of the pilots wrote, "our main action was getting mad at the ack-ack. The guns covering the triangle of Nichols Field, Neilson Field and Fort McKinley got so hot from constant use they had to cease firing in the middle of a raid to cool off.

Then a telephone call came that our A-24's had arrived and were waiting at the dock. A frantic rush to the dock revealed nothing except that there were probably a fifth columnist or two in Luzon.. and that they had our telephone number!"

On December 17 some officers of the group were called to headquarters and instructed to collect 30 pounds of personal baggage and report to Nichols Field. There they were informed their destination was Australia. For transportation they had a C-39 cargo plane and "two dilapidated B-18 bombers", all well ventilated with shrapnel holes.

"Came 3 A.M.. The band moved as one to the field, talking quietly and trying not to notice the stench of dead horses and people buried in the wreckage of the native dwellings.

"They took off from a blacked out, 2,500 foot bomb torn runway, overloaded, and with a mechanic at the end of the strip with a flashlight.

But they reached Darwin, where a flying boat picked them up and took them to Brisbane."

The men got their A-24's and opened an operational training school.....they dubbed it "Little Randolph".....to instruct young pilots. The first of the planes were flown by Captain (then Second Lieutenant) (now Lt. General, retired ) Robert G. Ruegg of Boring, Oregon.

The Japanese progress on Luzon made it impossible to get the planes to Luzon. But the remnant of the 27th did take badly needed drugs to Americans on Mindanao. They went to Java, and in February sank a cruiser and a destroyer. Toward the end of February they participated in an attack on a huge Japanese invasion fleet off the east coast of Java. They fought over New Guinea and.....after being reassigned to a medium Bombardment Group..... participated in raids on the Philippines April 12 and 13.

Now flying A-20's, the surviving members of the 27th strafed the Japanese along trails of the Owen Stanley Mountains of New Guinea, at Salamaua, Burma and Gasmata.

"For the want of airplanes," says the preface to their story, "the 27th Group lost its life.....however, Tojo, there might not have been enough airplanes in the Philippines for the 27th group, but don't you wish you had captured us all? God give us strength."

 


 

Subject:    27th BG(L)
Date:            Sun, 25 Jun 2000 10:02:07 -0700
From:           Terence Geary <wreckfinder@earthlink.net>

Peter:

I was looking at history of 27th Bombardment Group(Light), they were not in Australia very long. Info from Air Force Combat Units of WWII, USAF Historical Division.

Constituted as 27th Bombardment Group (Light) on 22 Dec 1939.

Activated on 1 Feb 1940. Sailed for the Philippine Islands on 1 Nov 1941 and arrived at Manila on 20 Nov 1941. The groups planes (A-24's), which had not arrived by 7 Dec 1941, were diverted to Australia after the Japanese attack on the Philippines. The groups commander and 20 pilots who were flown from Luzon to Australia to get the aircraft did not return because of the deterioration of the situation in the Philippines; some of the pilots saw service in Java, Feb-May 1942, before they were assigned to another group. The men left on Luzon served as infantrymen in the battles of Bataan and Corregidor; The 27th group was transferred, without personnel and equipment, from Australia to the US in May 1942.

Remanned and equipped with A-20's. Trained in the US until Nov 1942. Moved to North Africa. Converted to A-36 (P-51A) aircraft. began operations with the 12th Air Force in June 1943 served in the Mediterranean theatre till the end of the war.

Squadrons:
15th: 1940-1941
465th: 1942
522nd (formerly 16th): 1940-45; 1946-1952
523rd (formerly 17th): 1940-1945; 1946-1952
524th (formerly 91st): 1941-1945; 1946-1952

Stations:
Barksdale Field, Louisana, 1 Feb 1940
Hunter Field, Georgia, & Oct 1940-21 Oct 1941
Philippine Islands, 20 Nov 1941
Batchelor, Australia, Mar to 4 May 1942
Hunter Field,Goergia, 4 May 1942
Key Field, Mississippi; Jul 1942
from here they went to Algeria, Morocco, etc.

 


 

Subject:     17th Sqdn. 27th Bomb Group
Date:              Thu, 7 Dec 2000 18:41:44 -0800
From:             "Robert Rivers" <RWRIVERS@prodigy.net>

Hello,

My name is Bobby Rivers. I am doing some research on my uncle Francis J. Cronk who was a member of the 17th Squadron, 27th Bomb Group. He travelled on the President Coolidge to Manila making a stop in Hawaii. He died in Cabanatuan Prison Camp in September 1942. I have been trying to locate anyone that might have survived the atrocities of those camps and might have known him. He was from Savannah, Ga. he received his training at Scott Field in St. Louis and shipped out of San Francisco in October of 1941. My family received only one letter from him in February 1942. (several before the war) If you have any information about what his group did during that time or any suggestions that might aid my research I would be grateful.

Thank you so much for your time.

Bobby Rivers Savannah, Ga.

 


 

Subject:   27 FW at Cannon AFB
Date:           Fri, 15 Jun 2001 14:13:34 -0600
From:          Witt Paul E TSgt 27FW/HO <Paul.Witt1@cannon.af.mil>

Sir,

I am the historian for the 27th Fighter Wing here at Cannon AFB NM. I am putting together a slide show on the history of the 27 FW here at Cannon. It's heritage dates back to the 27th Bomb Group prior to WW-II. I found the information on your page fascinating and would like permission to use some of your images, in particular the photo of the 16th men on the USS Coolidge and the B-18.

Thank You

TSgt P. Eric Witt
27 FW Historian

 


 

Subject:   27th Bomb Group
Date:           Mon, 18 Jun 2001 16:04:52 -0400
From:          cknop@catocorp.com

I was thrilled to see your web site. My father, John N. Culp, was a member of the 17th. I used to attend their reunions but have been unable to do so of late. If you have information on the individual members I would appreciate any you have on Sgt. Culp.

Thanks

Charlene Knop

 

Reference Books:

"Gateway to Victory" by Noel Tunny
"Fight Back from the North" by Noel Tunny

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Diane  Rhine (nee Dillard) for her assistance with this home page. Diane's father is in group photo above.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

"Australia @ War" Research Products

I need your help

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 9 April 1999

This page last updated 14 January 2017