Ja­pan’s raids bombed out

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - RAY HOLYOAK

IN JULY 1942, only eight months af­ter the sur­prise at­tack on Pearl Har­bor, Ja­pan’s sup­ply chain for the 14th Koku­tai ( Naval Air Wing) in Rabaul Har­bour was fail­ing. Al­lied raids on ship­ping were starv­ing the unit of fuel and spare parts.

Equipped with an air­craft so new that Al­lied air­craft recog­ni­tion posters did not yet fea­ture them, the Kawan­ishi H8K1 Emily fly­ing boat was well de­fended with many ma­chine­guns and car­bon- diox­ide fire ex­tin­guish­ers. Aside from its pro­tec­tive ar­mour, its fuel tanks were par­tially self- seal­ing and de­signed that if punc­tured, fuel was pumped into an un­dam­aged tank.

With a range of more than 4100km, this meant a 15- hour flight to Townsville and re­turn­ing to base was pos­si­ble.

High- level re­con­nais­sance air­craft had been fly­ing over Townsville since March. This oc­curred around mid­day over the port and Gar­butt so fu­ture “tar­gets” in the city would not be hid­den by shad­ows. Ma­jor Mis­aburo Koizumi de­vised a bold plan; un­der­take night raids on the har­bour and air­fields at Townsville, a 3500km round trip.

Five raids would oc­cur over con­sec­u­tive nights with four air­craft on each raid. These new air­craft and their crews would be pushed to their lim­its with each plane car­ry­ing eight 250kg bombs.

What even­tu­ated was con­sid­er­ably less: three raids on Townsville with a fourth started; this air­craft ex­pe­ri­enced en­gine prob­lems near Moss­man and was forced to jet­ti­sonj its bombs, in­jur­ing a babyb on a farm at Miallo. The fifth raid was can­celled.

On all four mis­sions, ac­com­pa­ny­ing air­craft had to re­turn due to en­gine is­sues. Only on the first raid on the night of July 25- 26, 1942, wouldw there be two with the re­main­der­rema be­ing sin­gle air­craft.

Radar di­rec­tion find­ing units tracked the air­craft on all mis­sions and a se­cret unit that in­ter­cepted Ja­panese trans­mis­sions in French St, Pim­lico, picked up the air­craft’s de­par­ture from Rabaul.

On this oc­ca­sion they were sur­prised to hear the lead air­craft trans­mit­ting in un­coded Ja­panese; call sign “Eight ball”.

Less or­gan­ised was the re­lay­ing of this vi­tal in­for­ma­tion to lo­cal com­man­ders on the first raid. No one was in­formed and they were nei­ther in­ter­cepted nor fired on.

Roam­ing over Townsville, they used the op­er­at­ing Cape Cleve­land light­house as a guide point to bomb the har­bour with all bombs fall­ing harm­lessly in the vicin­ity of the Ross River mouth.

It was bla­tant pro­pa­ganda for the Ja­panese in The Bangkok Times: “Tokyo. First Ja­panese raid on Townsville by the Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Navy Unit. Many ves­sels an­chored in Port and along the Quay were set on fire. Bombs found their mark on re­spec­tive ob­jec­tives. The en­tire area, it was as­cer­tained by the re­turn­ing air­men, was re­duced to a sea of flames with col­umns of black smoke shoot­ing to the sky.”

The sec­ond raid on July 28 was a sim­i­lar fail­ure with bombs drop­ping on Many Peaks Range. Anti- air­craft gun fire near Three Mile Creek hit the nose of the air­craft, but Al­lied air­craft couldn’t in­ter­cept the plane due to the in­tense fire.

The fi­nal raid on the 29th came close to suc­cess for the Al­lies.

Hav­ing again re­ceived ad­vanced warn­ing, US P39 fighter pi­lots Robert Har­riger and John Main­war­ing were al­ready cir­cling Mag­netic Is­land. Kingo Shoji and his co- pi­lot Fukuki Mori­fuji in Emily W- 47 were at­tacked be­tween the is­land and the har­bour, jet­ti­son­ing their bombs near the ship­ping chan­nel.

Div­ing to gain speed, they were at­tacked mul­ti­ple times with ex­plo­sive can­non fire killing their rear gun­ner. One bomb had been stuck in the rack; this ex­plo­sion shook it free where it det­o­nated in a pad­dock at Oonoonba. Shoji sent a mes­sage to Rabaul: “The Em­peror’s ship has been at­tacked from both broad­sides and dam­aged.”

The US fight­ers fol­lowed the air­craft un­til the Palm Is­lands, when low fuel and ex­hausted am­mu­ni­tion forced them to re­turn.

Dam­aged, Shoji re­turned to Rabaul the fol­low morn­ing. With no dam­age or fa­tal­i­ties to Townsville, these at­tacks would yield lit­tle more than pro­pa­ganda for the Ja­panese.

Cap­tain John Main­war­ing and Lieu­tenant Bob Har­riger of Rose Bush, Michi­gan were two of the US Air Force fighter pi­lots who en­gaged the Ja­panese raider on July 28, 1942. Sub Lieu­tenant Kiyoshi Mizukura raided Townsville twice and Moss­man once, in his Emily

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