JACK HEYN IN THE SOUTH WEST PACIFIC
(MEMBER OF THE 3RD BOMB GROUP)
In Jan. '43 we packed up, traveled to Townsville and boarded a tramp (?) steamer and headed for Port Moresby, Papua, New Guinea. Papua is the east end of the second largest island in the world. a British Colony. The west half is Dutch New Guinea. The island pretty much straddles the equator, so we figured we were in for a hot time - and we were not wrong. We only spent 4 months in Moresby, but left with a very low opinion of the place. It was just as hot at midnite as it was at noon, and there were just as many mosquitoes at noon as there were at midnite. It was not affectionately known to us as the A--hole of creation.
A group of 3rd Bomb Gp.
tourists riding a luxury cruise ship
approaching the beautiful resort city of Port Moresby, N.G.
-- favorite target of Jap Betty Bombers.
There were a number of airstrips, and they were designated by their distance from the town of Port Moresby. Hq. & 89th Sqs. were stationed at Three Mile; if my memory serves me right the 8th was at Twelve Mile; the 13th at Fourteen Mile and the 90 at Seventeen Mile. Our camp area was about a mile (as the crow flys) from the strip. So we had a 14 mile haul getting our equipment unloaded and out to our area. The first couple weeks we started calling ourselves the 13th Sq. Cement Mixers. We laid concrete floors for mess hall, orderly room, etc., etc. Once again one of our first chores was digging slit trenches, and this time they would come in handy. The reason we had operated out of Charters Towers all that time is that Moresby was a favorite target of Jap bombers. We were considered in a combat zone in Charters Towers, but never had a raid -- now we would deserve the designation.
Home sweet home!
Once we got settled in and Marvin and I got our Photo Shack back in operation things got back to normal, except for some nite air raids. In early March there was considerable excitement around the place. Seems like a large Jap convoy was coming down from Rabaul, headed for Lae to reinforce the garrisons there. The heavies (B-24's & B-17's and B'26's) had been having at it but hadn't had much luck. High altitude bombing of shipping is just not too effective. On Mar. 3, 1943 it came within range of our low-level B-25's and A-20's and there was a break in the weather. For two days we clobbered it. You might say this was the coming-out party for Pappy Gunn's low-level skip-bombers. There were 20 ships in the convoy - all 20 ships sunk. They estimated there were 6,000 troops coming to the Lae garrison, all 6,000 wound up in the drink. That was known as the Bismark Sea Battle, and for all practical purposes it ended the Jap advance in the South West Pacific and started our two year trek back to the Philippines.
Decoration formation where our combat crews
for "Above and Beyond".
"Fair Dinkum" burning after the heavy daylite raid of April 11
April 11th we found out for sure, we were in a combat zone. Marvin and I were working in the darkroom about 10:30 A.M. when we had a red-alert. Our camp area was nestled between two hills, so we grabbed our cameras and high tailed it to the top of one of them, where we could see the airstrip. When we got to the top we could hear the planes, looked up and saw the biggest formation of planes we had ever seen, they figured there were about 100 planes in that raid, and they were headed right for our hill. We both decided that was no place for us without a slit trench to dive into. We started down the hill, about half way bombs started going off, and we just hit the dirt and buried our faces in the dirt. All my life I had gone to war movies, and when they dropped bombs they whistled -- not so. They rustle, like running thru a field grain.
"Baby Blitz" burning after the heavy daylite raid of April 11
As it turns out the formation had split, one segment going over 14 mile field where the 8 B-25's of the 13th Sq. were sitting ducks. They put 7 of the 8 out of commission, burning two of them to cinders. That is where slit trenches proved their worth. There were roughly 100 men, mechanics, armorers, radio men etc. on the line that day - one guy got a shrapnel wound. But it put the 13th out action for several weeks before we could get replacement aircraft. As usual the Pacific War, was the step-child in this war. Most everything was going to that little skirmish they had going in Europe.
The second segment of the formation headed for 3 mile field where Hqs. and the 89th with their A-20's were stationed. My old buddy Tack had been on duty in Gp. Operations that nite and was asleep in his tent. When the red-alert sounded he ignored it. The planes came over and missed the strip and the A-20's, but they laid a string of bombs thru a fuel dump near the Hq. camp area and another string of bombs thru the camp area. When bombs started going off Tack just rolled out of bed and laid on the ground. When it was all over several tents in the area, including Tack' were riddled with shrapnel holes - just wasn't Tack's day to die.
In May we packed up once again boarded LST's and headed for Doba Dura on the north side of the island.
Jack Heyn in the South West Pacific during WW2 - The Full story
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 1 January 2001
This page last updated 08 December 2017