4TH AIR DEPOT GROUP, USAAF
LOCATED AT DEPOT # 2 TOWNSVILLE
Also known as the Townsville Air Depot (TAD)

 

An advance party comprising 9 officers and 192 airmen of the 4th Air Depot Group arrived at Wagga Wagga on 30 March 1942. Their Commanding Officer was Captain Milton B. McGuire. The remaining 15 officers and 296 men arrived at Wagga Wagga on 15 April 1942.

On 7 August 1942 General George C. Kenney appointed Colonel Donald W. Benner in charge of the supply and maintenance activities in the Townsville area. One month later Kenney appointed Colonel Victor E. Bertrandias, a previous Vice President of Douglas Aircraft, as the Commanding Officer of the 4th Air Depot Group in Townsville and responsible for building Depot No. 2. It was also known as the Townsville Air Depot.

The United States 4th Air Depot Group moved from Melbourne, arriving in Townsville on 2 October 1942.  They formed part of Depot # 2 of the 5th Air Service Command.

The 5th Air Service Command was responsible for assembling, modifying, overhauling and carrying out major repairs on aircraft.

Depot # 2 Townsville was established at the base of Mount Louisa not far from Garbutt aerodromeTownsville was chosen because of its nearness to New Guinea.  Aircraft were able to carry out bombing missions to New Guinea from Townsville.  Other factors were Townsville's port facilities and its access via the rail network.

 


Photo:- James F. DeYuliis, 4th Air Depot Group via Gloria Burnley

The 4th Air Depot Group was based at No. 2 Air Depot Townsville. Their Camp is in the
foreground and the Air Depot area in the background. The photograph was taken from
Mount Louisa. Garbutt Airfield is out of shot to the left. Castle Hill can be seen in the distance.

 

Units of the 4th Air Depot were as follows:-

- H.Q. & H.Q. Squadron 4th ADG
- 4th Depot Repair Squadron
- 2nd (Air) Service Squadron

- 83rd Depot Repair Squadron
- 4th Depot Supply Squadron
- 911th Signal Company Dept. Aviation
- 1125th Military Police Company Aviation

The Second (Air) Service Squadron was not always attached to any one group. The Squadron would trouble shoot and repair all kinds of aircraft. While in Townsville, they fitted aircraft with machine guns, etc., under the direction of civil engineers from the aircraft companies based in the United States

 

4adg01.jpg (11325 bytes)

Sign outside the 4th Air Depot Group Mess
at the base of Mount Louisa in Townsville

 

Part of the 4th Air Depot Group in April 1944. 
Bayswater Road is the one running diagonally upwards to the right.

 

4adg03.jpg (367297 bytes)

A much larger version of the above photograph

 

Mount Louisa - Then and Now
A series of photos taken in 1959 and 1992
You can compare the differences
and see the remains of the
5th Air Service Command camp accommodation

 

Helton Hall
Located at the base of Mt. Louisa
Many famous movie and singing stars appeared there

 

4th Air Depot Group assists the Australian Chemical
Warfare Research and Experimental Section, Innisfail

 

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The following is an excerpt from Rod Cardell's book "Wings Around Us"

 

THE 4TH AIR DEPOT GROUP

This Group, the first ever, consisting of Headquarters and Headquarter's Squadron, the 4th Repair Squadron and the 4th Supply Squadron was activated on April 1st, 1941 at Patterson Field, Ohio, U.S.A. It began with a complement of two officers and one hundred and twenty-four enlisted men.

Initially formed as an experiment, the purpose of the Group was to act as an entirely mobile workshop, settling only long enough to perform some necessary task of repair or retrieval, before pulling up stakes and accompanying the 'front' elsewhere. The 4th participated in the Louisiana manoeuvres of late 1941, and later in the Carolina manoeuvres, demonstrating greatly improved efficiency during the latter.

They became the first such Group to depart from America for overseas assignment, arriving at port of embarkation, San Francisco, December 15th 1941, sailing on January 12th aboard the U.S. Army transport, President Coolidge, arriving Melbourne on February 1st 1942.

 

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)

 

For various logistical considerations, the Group was dispersed. Repair depots were established at Wagga and Tocurnwal, the latter becoming the largest and most technically comprehensive of any unit in Australia to that date, and it was capable of complete aircraft assembly and maintenance. The 4th Depot Supply Squadron was sent to Brisbane, Queensland, where for convenience, some of their supplies were unloaded, but for safety, in case of possible and probable enemy air raids, the bulk of the supplies were unloaded in Melbourne. This necessitated the establishment of an additional depot at West Footscray in Victoria.

Later that year it became apparent that to reach its full operational efficiency, a unit of this type was required closer to the 'front', in order to expedite the war against Japan. Thus Townsville, and in particular, Mount Louisa was chosen, where they arrived on October 2nd 1942, under the command of the fiery, but colourful Lt/Col Victor E. Bertrandias, one time crew chief of the famous WWI aviator, Eddie Rickenbacker, and later a Vice President of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. He was reputed. to know 'one hell of a lot about aeroplanes'.

Personnel of the 4th were able to gaze on their prospective camp site, and see the gently sloping foothills on the eastern side of Mount Louisa, which spread across Louisa Creek, to incorporate the stock route and that part of Dalrymple Road as far as Garbutt's slaughter yard to the east. They would acquire the unspoilt bushland extending from near Aitkenvale in the south to Garbutt in the north. Principally they would be limited to the east by Duckworth Street, with a few exceptions, notably our back paddock in which they erected two igloos and parked many of their aircraft. They sliced the south west corner off our side paddock to improve the exit from the strip. The area they chose was indeed almost virgin bush, supporting a few 'milkers', some beef cattle, a few horses and very many chine-apple trees. I don't recall the goats they specifically mentioned in their history. I trust they weren't being facetious!

While the enemy were metaphorically knocking at Australia's front door, construction crews under the directive of Captain Antovini were bulldozing down trees, levelling roads and building sites, commencing October 12th, 1942. By November 11th, with roofs only half completed on the machine shops, another crew began installing the machinery, and on the 13th the first jobs were being turned out.

Eventually, by dint of hard work, this vast expanse of bush was transformed into the new encampment containing all of the facilities necessary for the purpose of rapid assembly, repair and modification of bombers and fighters for the 'front', and all had been achieved in record time. The first aircraft for repairs arrived on November 15th 1942, and engine overhaul got under way on December 8th 1942.

The all important Post Office Exchange was built and designated APO 922.

The workshops operated nine hours a day including Sunday, and the engines being 'run in' after erection or reassembly, ran continually day and night for weeks on end without regular breaks - and on that subject I am an authority, because the so-called 'sound proofed' concrete test stands were only three hundred yards from my home, being located across the strip, just beyond the Tamarind tree. The only thing in which the Americans lacked expertise was 'sound proofing'.

The 2nd Service Squadron consisting of 7 officers and 240 enlisted men were attached to the 4th ADG in October 1942.

On October 20th 1942, Lt/Col Victor E. Bertrandias was appointed Air Service Command Representative for the Townsville area. My good friend Lt/Col Richard J. Kirkpatrick replaced him as Commanding Officer of the 4th Air Depot Group. In truth, it was not until ten days later that he became my 'good friend', when on that day he asked (not ordered, as he wasn't that type of officious person) his younger colleague to take me flying in the Tiger Moth. I have mentioned before what a great guy I considered him to be. I won't labour the point, except to reiterate just once more, he was a great guy!

By the close of 1942, the 4th Air Depot Group was the principal tenant of the area, and they occupied four (4) repair hangars and five (5) supply warehouses. This was the complement of Phase 1 of their building programme. Phase 2 called for the erection of nine (9) further supply warehouses in 1943. On January 26th 1943, an Advanced Echelon of the Air Service Command, Fifth Air Force was established, and Lt/Col V.E. Bertrandias assumed command.

The 83rd Depot Repair Squadron was assigned to the 4th ADG on February 6th, 1943.

The 336th Service Squadron arrived in Townsville in north Queensland on 8 September 1943. After two days in uncomfortable days at Armstrong's Paddock they started work at No. 2 US Air Depot near Mount Louisa where they set up camp. While at Townsville, the men were visited by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the USA, Franklin D. Roosevelt. This visit was apparently on the first day that the men of the 336th Service Squadron worked on the "line" at the Townsville Air Depot. In the following month they had a visit from Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, the Commander of the Fifth Air Force.

 

tad01.jpg (170378 bytes)

Photo of all the Townsville Air Depot Officers taken in late 1942 or early 1943 in front of "The Tropics," the Officers' Club.

Col. Bertrandias, the Commanding Officer is sitting in the center of the front row with a cap on. Robert Bolton is 9th from the right in the back row. Most of the others to Robert's left are members of the 911th Signal Co.

 

Cleaning messing utensils outside the Messing Tent at the 4th Air Depot Group in 1943

 

Crash of a Brewster Buffalo on Mount Stanley in Victoria
on 1 July 1942 - flown by Lt. Henry O'Null of 4 ADG

 

Crash of a P-40 Kittyhawk on 10 March 1942
flown by Captain Joseph P. McLaughlin of 4ADG

 

Crash of an A-20A Boston on a beach
near the Townsville Town Common on 30 Dec 1942

 

B-17 Flying Fortress, #41-24353, “Cap’n and the Kids”
cannibalised at the 4th ADG and then in Nov 43, modified
to serve in the capacity as an armed transport 

 

Chuck Hathorn, Photographer
with the 4th Air Depot Group

 

Arthur Houseman's Photos
of the 4th Air Depot Group

 

E-MAILS FROM EX 4TH AIR DEPOT MEMBERS OR THEIR FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Nat Kipner

Nat Kipner went on to launch Spin Records, which signed the Bee Gees up for their first label deal.

Robert Bolton
of the 911th Signal Company

attached to the 4th Air Depot Group

Sherman Freer

Faye Petro Gargiulo
daughter of Joseph Michael Petro of the 4th Air Depot group

   

 

If you were a member of the 4th Air Depot Group
or you are a relative or a friend of an ex member
I would love to hear from you

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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This page first produced 26 January 1999

This page last updated 13 January 2017