102ND COASTAL ARTILLERY (AA SEPARATE) BATTALION
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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102nd Coastal Artillery Battalion (AA Separate) left San Francisco, USA on the Troop Transport "Matsonia" (former luxury liner) on 18 February 1942. The 208th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment was also on board the "Matsonia".

The 102nd arrived in Brisbane on 9 March 1942 and anchored overnight, possibly part of the same convoy as the 197th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment which was on the SS Monterey. The "Matsonia" pulled into docks on 10 March 1942. They moved to Camp Ascot. On 11 March 1942, orders were received from Brigadier General Clark, the Commanding Officer of 41st Coastal Artillery Brigade that the battalion would move to Darwin.

The 102nd CA Bn comprised:-

HQ Battery
Battery "A"      3 platoons, each with 4 guns
Battery "B"      3 platoons, each with 4 guns
Battery "C"      3 platoons, each with 4 guns
Battery "D"      3 platoons, each with 4 guns

The 102nd CA Bn was issued with 48 only .50" calibre machine guns when they arrived in San Francisco on their way to Australia. 

On 13 March 1942, the 102nd commenced a major air movement to Darwin and by 8 April 1942, 31 officers, and 560 enlisted men and 49 only .50" calibre machine guns, four units of fire and required field kitchen and necessary equipment had been flown to Darwin. This was the first large scale American airborne operation of the war and the first time an anti-aircraft unit had flown into combat. The planes were piloted by American, Australian and Dutch pilot using every available transport aircraft. Two enlisted men of the 102nd CA Bn were killed in a Qantas Short Empire flying boat on 22 March 1942 while landing in Darwin Harbour. The trucks of the 102nd were driven by road to the Northern Territory via Mount Isa.

A six man detail lead by Lt. Julian from Battery "A" was selected to greet General Douglas MacArthur when he arrived at Batchelor Airfield on 17 March 1942 after his escape from the Philippines. General MacArthur came directly from the plane to the small group of American soldiers, before turning to the other waiting groups. Apparently the welcome went like this:-

Julian - "Glad to have you here Sir."

MacArthur - "Glad to be here Lieutenant. So these are the new helmets."

Three minutes later the 102nd honour guard were back in the gun pits or unloading the battalions incoming planes.

50 calibre machine guns of the 102nd were also based at Livingstone airfield in the Northern Territory. When they left their positions were taken over by the 40mm Bofors guns of the Australian 161st Light Anti-aircraft Battery (LAA Bty). 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Russell Miller and Dave Spethman for their assistance with this home page.

 

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 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 3 April 2004

This page last updated 11 August 2004