78 Squadron RAAF

78 Squadron was formed at Camden on 20 July 1943, equipped with Kittyhawks, and came under the command of Squadron Leader G.F. Walker on 14 August 1943. In October the advanced echelon travelled, via Woodlark Island, to Kiriwina Island. The squadron was under command of 73 Wing and participated in operations with 76 Squadron, dive bombing targets at Gasmata, New Britain, as well as escorting B-24 Liberators attacking Gasmata and Ring Ring Plantation.

Other missions from Kiriwina in December included top cover for Vultee Vengeance dive bombers and for Boston bombers striking at Cape Hoskins, where the airstrip was strafed by the Kittyhawks, leaving two Vals destroyed on the ground.

On 12 January 1944 the squadron deployed to Nadzab under the operational control of 78 Wing. From Nadzab the squadron bombed Japanese supply dumps at Erina Plantation and Mining Ridge, Kankiryo, as a precursor to an army attack on Shaggy Ridge. Other missions included escort to Mitchell and Vengeance aircraft striking targets at Mataloi Village, Gragat Island, Sia, Jomba, Jacob Island, and Miniri Village. Belly tanks were dropped on Isingham Village. A total of 368 sorties were flown in February 1944.

In March 1944 the squadron deployed to Cape Gloucester, New Britain, where dive bombing and strafing missions were flown against anti-aircraft positions, barges, jetties, and buildings on Garove Island. Armed recce missions were flown over Commodore Bay to Numundo Plantation, and Radar village was strafed.

In April 1944 the squadron deployed to Tadji airstrip at Aitape, in Northern New Guinea, and its aircraft patrolled over the beachhead at Hollandia. Strafing raids were made on targets at Kamti and Savago villages. In May 1944 the squadron moved to Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, where they were used to escort Liberators striking against Biak Island, and in conjunction with 80 Squadron covered the American landing on Wakde Island. Air cover was also provided for American forces landing at Biak. 575 sorties were flown during May 1944.

On 3 June a formation of enemy aircraft was intercepted over Biak. Six “Oscar” fighters and two “Kate” torpedo bombers were shot down and two enemy aircraft damaged. One Kittyhawk, flown by Flight Sergeant William Harnden, was lost in the encounter. A destroyer reported that Harnden had baled out of his aircraft but the chute failed to open. In June Flight Lieutenant D.R. Baker shot down a “Tony” Japanese fighter over Japen Island.

In July the squadron moved to Kamiri airstrip on Noemfoor Island. Patrols over the area were carried out, with sweeps and strikes over Geelvink Bay and the Jefman-Samate areas air cover was provided for American troops attacking Sansapor, and strikes against the Japanese airstrip at Balbao carried out. In September the airstrips at Samate, Jefman, Balbo, and Langgoer were bombed, with strikes against enemy airstrips in the Vogelkop and Bomberai Peninsulas and Kai Islands. These missions were designed to protect the flank of the American attack on the Phillipines.

In December 1944 the squadron moved to Morotai and targets in the Halmaheras and Celebes were attacked. In two weeks in January 1945 the squadron flew 267 sorties, dropped 153,630 lbs of bombs, and expended 77,000 rounds of ammunition.

In April 1945 the squadron was ordered to cease operations in preparation for the OBOE 1 landing at Tarakan planned for 6 May. The main echelon of the squadron disembarked at Tarakan on the night of 6 May but the condition of the strip made it impossible to operate aircraft until 18 July. In the meantime, the ground crew at Tarakan assisted army engineers with road construction and spent time in the front line with the troops.

The squadron was operational again on 20 July, operating in the Sandakan area of Borneo. In conjunction with 75 and 80 Squadrons, an attack was made on airfields at Banjarmasin, in southern Borneo. The last operational sortie was against Mastyn Estate, which was strafed and bombed on 9 August 1945.

After the Armistice the squadron dropped leaflets and flew recce missions. The aircraft were flown back to Australia in November. The squadron personnel arrived in Sydney on HMS Glory on 12 December 1945 and the squadron based at Deniliquin. It then moved to Williamtown, NSW, in August 1946 and was disbanded on 1 April 1948.

Glossary

Equipment

Casualties

  • 12 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

  • 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)