40TH FIGHTER SQUADRON
35TH FIGHTER (PURSUIT) GROUP
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

40th Fighter Squadron
The Fightin Red Devils

 

The 40th Fighter Squadron was started at Selfridge airfield in Michigan, USA on 22 December 1939 and was originally part of the 31st Pursuit Group with the 3rd and 41st Pursuit Squadrons. By the autumn of 1941 the 40th Pursuit Squadron was flying P-39 Airacobras.

The 40th Squadron moved to Baer airfield in Fort Wayne on 7 December 1941 and three days later they relocated to Port Angeles, WA. The 31st Fighter Group was recalled to Selfridge and with half of the 40th Fighter Squadron it became the 308th Squadron. The rest of the 40th Fighter Squadron left San Francisco by ship and arrived in Brisbane on 25 February 1942. Once in Australia, the 40th Fighter Squadron became part of the 35th Fighter Group in the 5th Air Force, USAAF.

In March 1942 they moved to Ballarat and then Mt. Gambier. Teddy W. Hanks was a member of the 40th Fighter Squadron and did not know the movements and/or locations of the other two squadrons during the early months after their arrival in Brisbane. While at Mt. Gambier, Teddy Hank's squadron received the first influx of personnel, namely 8 pilots and 16 enlisted men who had served in Java in the 17th Pursuit Squadron, Provisional, a P-40 organisation. 

In the early evening of 31 March 1942, they departed Mount Gambier via train and arrived at Camden in New South Wales, late on the 2 April 1942. Because of the difference in the width of rails, at Albury they were compelled to change trains. As Teddy recalls, they were sent to Camden to afford aerial protection for Sydney in case the Japanese should manage to send aircraft carriers close enough to launch an attack. They departed Camden on 14 April 1942 and, after changing trains at Brisbane, reached Townsville at mid-day on the 17th April 1942. They were transported to Antil Plains that same day. 

Teddy W. Hanks very brief diary entry simply reads:-

"Went on out to Antil Plains."

The 40th Squadron moved in with the 36th Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group. Within a very few days, the 36th packed up and departed for Port Moresby. Within walking distance of their camp was an airfield (pasture?) being used by the 33rd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, a B-26 Martin Marauder unit. Teddy W. Hanks knew one of the gunners in the 33rd, and soon located him. His friend in the 33rd Bomb Squadron explained that it took three days for them to make a strike against the enemy. 

Day One: Fly to Seven Mile (now Jackson International Airport) at Moresby and refuel the aircraft by hand pumping fuel out of 55 gallon barrels. 

Day Two: Fly to Rabaul, make attack and return to Moresby where the aircraft was refueled. 

Day Three: Return to Antil Plains. A strike consisted of six B-26s -- no fighter escorts because none were capable of flying the distance. My friend said they were losing an average of one plane per strike. The day Teddy visited him he had just returned from a mission on which the squadron commanding officer was lost. A few days later the 33rd moved to another location believed to be Woodstock.

Around the end of April 1942, and the first part of May 1942, the 40th Squadron was brought up to authorised strength when a large contingent of enlisted men joined the squadron. Almost all of them had enlisted after the Pearl Harbor attack. Very few were trained to do the various jobs required of a fighter squadron. It was up to the existing men in the squadron who knew a little, to train those who knew nothing. With few exceptions, they learned and performed well. On 2 June 1942, the 39th and 40th squadrons were sent to the Port Moresby area to relieve the 35th and 36th Fighter Squadrons, of the 8th Fighter Group, that had been sent up in April 1942.

They returned to Townsville in July 1942 to recover and re-arm. In November 1942 they returned to Port Moresby. The 35th Fighter Group replaced the 8th Fighter Group in Port Moresby. The 8th Fighter Group were moved back to Townsville for rest and re-equipment.

After arriving in Australia and before arriving at Antil Plains, Teddy Hanks and his fellow 40th Squadron men had received only partial pay. Following their arrival at Antil Plains, their pay records were brought up to date and they were paid back pay. Teddy went to a camera shop in Townsville and told the man he wanted the best camera he had in stock. He brought out a Kodak 616 folding type. Teddy went next to a shop and had a heavy leather case made for it. Teddy still has both items, although the bellows of the camera is split due to age. 

Teddy had no exposure meter and no experience with a camera that required setting of aperture opening and shutter speed. Consequently, some of his hard-to-get film was either over or under exposed. Practically all of Teddy's shots were of squadron personnel or of aircraft; virtually none of scenery. Most of Teddy's two and a half years in the Southwest Pacific was spent in New Guinea. He was on the island of Kiriwina for a couple days in early November 1943 while their P-38s were flying escort for the bombers hitting Rabaul. Teddy was on Biak Island for three or so months before departing the end of August 1944 en route home. A few of Teddy's photos were of Charles Lindbergh, a civilian technical representative for the makers of the Corsair Marine/Navy fighter, who flew 35 combat missions in the Pacific -- mostly with the 475th Fighter Group, the all-P38 group that was formed at Amberley Field in mid-1943. McGuire was the second ranking American fighter ace of all time with 38 confirmed kills.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ross Whistler for his assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 5 July 1998

This page last updated 5 July 1998