348TH FIGHTER GROUP
IN AUSTRALIA
DURING WW2

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340th Fighter Squadron

341st Fighter Squadron

342nd Fighter Squadron

460th Fighter Squadron

Personnel of the 348th Fighter Group boarded the Army transport ship Henry Gibbons and left the wharf at Weehawken, New Jersey on 15 May 1943. Amongst them was Otto Carter of the 340th Fighter Squadron. They all thought they were heading for the European theatre of war. They went through the Panama Canal and crossed the Pacific Ocean reaching Brisbane, Australia on 14 June 1943. They moved to Archer Field (Archerfield airfield) and waited for their aircraft to arrive.

Their P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolts began to arrive in Brisbane in the same month, and by the end of July after they had "run in" their engines, the 348th's three squadrons under the command of Lt. Col. Neel Kearby, had made the 1,200-mile flight from Brisbane to Port Moresby. I believe a small number of P-47s had been assembled at Eagle Farm in Brisbane and the majority being assembled in Port Moresby.

James Curran, a P-47 pilot, arrived in Brisbane with the first group of replacement pilots for the 348th Fighter Group on 21 July 1943, at Eagle Farm Airfield, in Brisbane.  The next day the carrier USS Saratoga arrived with a deck load of P-47 Thunderbolts.  The aircraft were offloaded and towed over to Eagle Farm airfield where due to the shortage of USAAF personnel, RAAF personnel assembled them.  Technical representatives from Pratt & Whitney, Curtiss Electric Propeller and Republic Aviation supervised the assembly.  James Curran remembered that the aircraft had to have the propeller, ailerons, elevators and rudders installed. Curran and the other pilots were then ordered to slow time the engines on the new aircraft, which lasted into the first week of August, after which they were sent north to Townsville and then Port Moresby.

There is a bit of confusion about where the P-47 Thunderbolts were assembled. Another source indicates that the P-47s were assembled in Townsville. Michael Claringbould's book "The Forgotten Fifth" states that twenty five P-47D-2-RAs were assembled at Wards Drome in Port Moresby. The Thunderbolt was given the nickname of "Jug".


Photo:- via Gordon Birkett

Republic P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolt of the 348th Fighter Group
with a Squadron #20 aka #42-8053, at an unknown location.

 


Photo:- via Gordon Birkett

P-47D Thunderbolt #42-75332, of the 348th FG thought to have been assembled
at Eagle Farm airfield in Brisbane possibly after September 1943.

Maurer shows the 340th arriving at Westover Field, Mass. on 26 April and leaving for Australia on 9 May 1943. Maurer then shows the 340th arriving in New Guinea on 23 June 1943.

Maurer shows the 341st arriving at Westover Field, Mass. on 29 April and leaving for Australia on 9 May 1943. Maurer then shows the 341st arriving in New Guinea on 23 June 1943.

Maurer shows the 342nd arriving at Westover Field, Mass. on 28 April and leaving for Australia on 9 May 1943. Maurer then shows the 342nd arriving in New Guinea on 23 June 1943.

The 340th Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group, transferred from Port Moresby to Finschhafen, New Guinea on 13 December 1943. Headquarters group of the 348th Fighter Group transferred from Port Moresby to Finschhafen on 16 December 1943. The 341st and 342 nd Fighter Squadrons, moved from Port Moresby to Finschhafen on 17 December 1943.

The 460th Fighter Squadron was also later attached to the 348th Fighter Group on 23 September 1944 which was stationed at Noemfoor, New Guinea at that time.

The Thunderbolts assembled in Brisbane used two 165 gallon drop tanks designed for the P-38 Lightning. These tanks were not big enough for General Kenney who ordered his engineering staff to come up with a design for a new external drop tank. Ford Australia were then contracted to make the new tanks. The first of the new tanks arrived by the middle of August 1943. The new tanks were bulky and they held 200 gallons. This almost doubled the P-47's combat range. Michael Claringbould's book "The Forgotten Fifth" states that the P-47s arrived with 200 gallon tanks "caused bad tail buffeting so the 27th Depot Repair Squadron at Port Moresby was ordered to design one more suitable." An new design of 200 gallon tank was built in Brisbane in August 1943 and was fitted with electric booster pumps. The new design proved successful.

Lt. Col. Neel Kearby, the Commanding Officer of the 348th Fighter Group shot down his first Japanese aircraft on 4 September 1943. He shot down a second Jap  on the 15September 1943. He flew a mission on the 11 October 1943 which eventually earned him the Medal of Honor. Kearby went on to score 22 Jap aircraft. Another pilot, Lt.-Col. William D. Dunham, scored 16 kills.

 

Crash landing of a P-70 Havoc at Garbutt Airfield, Townsville on 29 March 1943

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Gordon Birkett for his assistance with this web page.

I'd like to thank Terrence Popravak, Jr. for his assistance with the information on pilot James Curran. Terrence is a USAF veteran who is assisting the family of the late Mr James Curran.

 

REFERENCES

World War II Combat Squadrons of the United States Air Force
edited by Maurer Maurer

"The Forgotten Fifth"
by Michael Claringbould

Pacific Wreck Database

Otto Carter

 

The timing and location of arrivals and the
location of assembly of their P-47s is not that clear.

Can anyone help me with more accurate information?

 

 

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This page first produced 24 February 2007

This page last updated 01 April 2013