DOBA DURA PART 2
JACK HEYN IN THE SOUTH WEST PACIFIC
(MEMBER OF THE 3RD BOMB GROUP)
Moving into the Photo Section was a new experience for me. The section itself was in a native-built facility on a small rise above a river. They also had a native-built barracks at the bottom of the rise, next to the river. The location near the river was necessary for a water suppy for the darkrooms. The barracks idea was to have the guys together, as the work involved a lot of nite time work processing the mission film when the planes came in, and getting it over to 5th Bomber Command. The river it was next to was a fast flowing, but very shallow one. You could walk across it if you didn't get swept off your feet. The guys had felled a tree that went out into the water about 30 to 40 feet. This provided us with a diving spot, and the fast flowing water around the tree kept an area about 4 feet deep on the down stream side of the log. We seldom used the showers, as the river was clean and cool and after soaping up you could shallow-dive to rinse off. If you forgot the shallow part, you came up with a face full of sand.
|Jack Heyn has now been transferred back to Hq. Sq. and the Gp. Photo Section. This is a photo of the section as of Nov. 1943 when they had five guys from the 71st Recon outfit temporarily attached to them.|
|Jack taking a break at his bunk in the native-built barracks of the Photo Section.|
|Jack Heyn printing mission film in one of the mobile trailer labs.|
|Officer's Club at Doba Dura|
|Officer's Club at Doba Dura with a heavy card game in progress|
|A shot of Gary Cooper whose troupe visited the 3rd Bomb Group at Doba Dura.|
This was a very different situation for me, as I was now processing mission film and seeing the results of our bombing missions. What with the low level attacks and the cameras in the tail we came up with some pretty spectacular photographs. And when we came up with something really special we would always print extra copies for ourselves. The aerial film came in 150 ft. 9 inch rolls in metal cans with a bag of silica gel to keep it dry. They made excellent mailing vehicles, and when we got a can full, we would have our Photo Officer sensor the package and ship it home. Of the 3 Photo Officers I dealt with they were pretty lenient, and as long as we didn't include the printing on the bottom of the mission photos he would pass them. Since making contact with some of the old outfit, I've been asked how I got my photos home, they had theirs confiscated when they tried to bring them home. I didn't try to bring any home with me, all 600 plus of them were in good hands waiting for me -- my parents.
In Oct.,'43 they started a concentrated effort to neutralize the big Jap Naval Base at Rabaul on New Britain. The heavies had been hitting it since early in the war. But the high levels just weren't getting the job done on the shipping in Simpson Harbour. Since it was out of range of both the A-20's and B'25's it had not been one of our targets. So once again they turned to auxiliary bomb-bay tanks for the B-25's and went off with half a load of bombs. Oct. 12, '43 we hit Ropopo air strip in a low level attack with parafrag bombs, where the Japs were concentrating some naval air power. For the next two months it was a pretty regular target, and after working over the air strip we started concentrating on shipping in the harbour. But it was a costly target. On one mission the Gp. sent 18 B-25's out and got six back. Six down over the target and six down on the way home. Most of the crews that went down on the way home, eventually got back to us having been picked up by the Catalina "Dumbos" on the water; or guided back by friendly natives if on land. Our only Cong. Medal of Honor came from a Nov. raid on Simpson Harbour. Maj. Raymond Wilkins drew the fire of two Jap cruisers to give the Sq. a better chance -- he received the honor posthumously, as his plane was shot down. These missions resulted in some pretty spectacular photographs.
For almost two years we had been pulling missions to the Lae, Salamaua area. About this same time the Aust. 9th Div. landed at Lae, and we flew air support for the operation. Ben Mancuzzo, a navy combat photographer went in with the Aussies. He brought his stuff back to our lab to be processed, and had some pretty good stuff. Needless to say we printed extra copies for ourselves. At the same time one of the Am. Airborne Div. landed at Nadzab, about 20 miles up the Markham river valley from Lae. Our 89th Sq. laid the smoke screen for that operation and brought back some pretty good photos of that operation. Unfortunately the photos were not always good ones. On one mission to Hansa Bay a B-25 came in too close behind the plane ahead of him, which had a camera working. He got caught in the bomb blast, lost a wing and nosed into the water -- no survivors. We had a series of photos of that incident, and those were not the type we liked to see.
There seemed to be a shortage of photo-techs in
the area, and in Nov.'43 the 71st Recon Gp. arrived from the states. While they were
getting set up and getting ready to go into action they farmed out their photo section
personnel to other groups. We got five of them, Fred Hill being one of them. They were
with us about two months, and after leaving never heard from them again -- until about 2
or 3 years ago Fred and I reconnected by mail. He lives in La Grande, Ore. and finally
decided to get into computers and we are in
regular touch now via Email.
In Dec. Gary Cooper and his entourage arrived to entertain the troops. He spent some time on the 90th Sq. line, and I was sent out to photograph them. Got a good selection of shots, including one of myself and two 5th Bomber Command cinematographers with Una Merkle. She was very friendly and a great personality. They were putting on their show that nite in the area and we had to get photos of that too. But Shemlance was scheduled to go to Nadzab the next day on advanced detail, so Jimmy let him take the camera. Unfortunately Shemmy hadn't had any experience with flash photos and drew a blank. Fortunately it was a two nite stand for Gary and his crew, so the next nite, having had a lot a flash experience in high school, I got the call. The results are in the album, which shouldn't be too far away from this account. We were about to come upon the Christmas Season, and I was about to spend my 3rd Christmas away from home. Never did get used to those Green Christmases.
We were about ready to make our next move, to Nadzab. That was a move I was going to miss. They had started a program where by you could get a 15 day furlough in Melbourne, the catch being you went by water transportation. Only two guys from a Sq. would get to go. I hadn't had a leave in two years, as they had turned Mackay into the leave area for ground personnel, and having been there I never had the inclination to return. So I lucked out and got the Melbourne deal.
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