77 Squadron RAAF

77 Squadron was formed at Pearce, Western Australia, on 16 March 1942 under the temporary command of Squadron Leader D.F. Forsyth. Squadron Leader R.E.P. Brooker, RAF, became the commanding officer a week later. He was replaced by Squadron Leader R.C. Cresswell on 20 April, and Cresswell had the distinction of commanding the squadron three times during its history.

The squadron was equipped with Curtis P-40E Kittyhawks and formed the main air defence for Perth until July 1942, when it was sent north and became the first Australian fighter squadron serving in the Darwin area. On 23 November the squadron drew its first blood when Cresswell shot down a Japanese “Betty” bomber, the first night kill over Australian soil.

On 23 November, with new P-40K Kittyhawks, the squadron moved to Milne Bay. The Japanese launched a large air strike on Milne Bay of 14 April; for the loss of one Kittyhawk, four enemy bombers and two fighters were destroyed, with five bombers claimed as probable.

On 15 June 1943 the squadron moved to Goodenough Island and several major raids were made on Gasmata airfield using the aircraft as fighter bombers. On 2 August Flight Lieutenant Daryl Sproule’s aircraft was struck by flak and crash landed on a beach. He was captured and killed by the Japanese.

The Americans landed on Los Negros on 29 February 1944. It was planned to establish air operations on the islands, with 76, 77, and 79 Squadrons providing fighter support. Resistance was heavy and 77 Squadron’s ground party, arriving by landing craft seven days later, walked straight into the front line. The squadron’s first Kittyhawks flew in six days later. Their main tasks was to cover supply shipping but strikes were made supporting the Americans on nearby Manus Island.

On 14 September 1944 the squadron transferred to 81 Wing, arriving at Kamiri airstrip, on Noemfoor. Wing Commander Cresswell returned on 26 September for his second tour as commanding officer. The squadron bombed enemy positions on the Vogelkop Peninsula throughout October. On 13 April 1945 the squadron arrived on Morotai.

81 Wing took part in the invasion of Labuan Island and Brunei and on 3 July 1945 the Squadron attacked Keningau and Sapong, North Borneo. The end of the war in August did not mean 77 Squadron was going home. It went instead to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, equipped with F-51D Mustangs.

The squadron remained in Japan for the next four years. In September 1948 all 81 wing units were disbanded, except 77 Squadron, which became directly responsible to Headquarters British Commonwealth Air Force. By 1950 it was the only squadron representing the RAAF in Japan. On 25 June 1950 77 Squadron was making ready to depart from Japan when North Korean forces invaded South Korea; the squadron was to serve with great distinction in the Korean War.

Glossary

Equipment

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 19 killed

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Second World War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

Collection Items

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References

  • Brown, Wayne; Cork, Andrew; Faggo, Colin; Donselaar, Annette, Swift to destroy : an illustrated history of 77 Squadron RAAF 1942-1986, (Newcastle, N.S.W : Norman Morris Pty Ltd, 1986)
  • Royal Australian Air Force Historical Records Section, Units of the Royal Australian Air Force : a concise history: volume 2 Fighter units, (Canberra : AGPS Press, 1995)