43RD ENGINEER GENERAL
US CORPS OF ENGINEERS
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2
The 43rd Engineer General Services Regiment (43rd EGSR) was activated in April 1941. They had taken part in the US Army's manoeuvres in Tennessee, USA during June 1941.
23 January 1942 the 43rd sailed for Australia along with the 46th Engineer General Services Regiment as part of Task Force 6814. Both unit's equipment was to be shipped 3 weeks later.
On 26 February 42 the 43rd commanded by Lt. Colonel Heston R Cole landed at Melbourne and camped at Royal Park (later Camp Pell). After a few days their task was to unload war materials ships because the Australian wharfies were on strike.
In February 42 the 43rd began working on Camp Seymour at Melbourne getting the camp ready for the U.S. Army's 41st Infantry Division.
By mid-March the 43rd received it's equipment. The 1st Battalion of the 43rd Regiment left Royal Park on 19 March 1942, the day that General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Melbourne after escaping the Philippines. The 1st Battalion moved to the Northern Territory to join the 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion in the Darwin area. Its 2nd Battalion moved to Adelaide to work on camps for the U.S. Army's 32nd Infantry Division due in by May 1942.
The 1st Battalion of the 43rd Engineer General Services Regiment arrives at Katherine on 26 April 1942. Carson's Field (later called Tindal Airfield) was originally built in 1942 by the 43rd Engineer Battalion, US Corps of Engineers and the Civil Construction Corps (CCC). It was located 17kms from Katherine in the Northern Territory and was located about 320kms by road south east of Darwin.
The 43rd Engineer General Services Regiment started to construct Manbullo airfield in the Northern Territory in April 1942. They had gravelled 915meters of the eventual 1,981 meter long runway by 19 May 1942. The Allied Works Council (AWC) then bitumened the runways and taxiways.
On 4 May 1942 Company E moves to Port Moresby Papua New Guinea to work on the airfield called Rorona. The First Battalion remained in the Northern Territory building airfields between Darwin and Birdum along the railway line.
On 8 August 1942, Companies D and F move to Milne Bay Papua New Guinea.
On 17 October 2008, Robert A. Pine, a former member of the 43rd told me about his time in Australia during WW2 as follows:-
After the 43rd & 46th landed in Melbourne, we learned we were the 2nd US troops in OZ. A very small US medical group beat us landing in Sydney. The 46th went somewhere for further training. The 43rd camped at Royal Park. After a few days our task was to unload ships of war materials. Know why? The OZ men who normally did this were on strike. It didn't take long, we saw how great you people were. I know, because we've been back 3 times. In late March 1942, we learnt Gen. MacArthur would be coming & some of us were detailed to prepare his headquarters. An old school. On 4/19/42, we were ordered to leave for NT. We left the same day MacArthur arrived. Mac. chose a hotel for his Hdqtrs. instead. We found we were going to Alice Springs. The train locomotives were so small, they could hardly make the hills. One time, we had to get off & grab the car handles to push. Getting to the top we stopped & wondered why. In walking up ahead, we saw the train people were preparing tea time. You know, 10 & 4. We all had to laugh. After arriving at Alice Springs, Equipment & men were loaded on many trucks & rode over dusty trails to Daly Waters & reboarded a train for our destination - Katherine."
I'd like to thank Melvin Haba and Robert A. Pine for their assistance with this web page.
© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 14 August 2004
This page last updated 05 May 2013