The D-1 strikes have gone off as scheduled. Not a life lost and only two planes forced down. Woody Hampton got hit by AA and had to land in the drink in Tanahmerah Bay. I got the job of escorting a couple of SOCs in to pick him up. Von Sprecken came with me. I practically had to lead those SOCs in which was tough to do in an F4U. Their max speed is about 110 and that’s as slow as I like to get. However we made it without trouble and found Woody in his rubber boat rowing like mad and tossing dye marker over the side. The SOC went down for a nice landing and picked him up. The pilot had to climb out on the wing to help him aboard. After the rescue I took a look along the shoreline and couldn’t see a sign of enemy defenses – just a little native village. Searched up the coast for possible survivors as far as Humboldt Bay and then back to the ship. Found a little jap tanker at Humboldt which had been hit and was burning. I straffed it once and then came on home. Good landing aboard. Quiet evening and to bed at 2100.
SOC planes are SOC Seagulls.
Information on Operation Reckless:
In early 1944 the Allies decided to bypass Wewak, and it was determined that Hollandia was the best site short of Geelvink Bay for developing a major base. However, this would be the longest leap along the coast yet attempted by 7 Fleet. Pacific Fleet carrier support could be provided only for the first few days of the landings, and the nearest Allied airfield was at Nadzab, 500 miles (800 km) away. MacArthur therefore ordered a simultaneous landing at lightly-held Aitape, on the coast 125 miles (200 km) east of Hollandia, to capture the Tadji airstrip and establish a blocking position for any movement westward by the encircled Japanese army at Wewak (Operation PERSECUTION). The landings were scheduled for 22 April 1944.
The Japanese meant to make western New Guinea an important link in their inner defense perimeter, and in December 1943 2 Army (Teshima) at Manokwari was assigned a new infantry division and 7 Air Division. In March 1944 two more divisions were ordered to 2 Army from China. Adachi’s battered 18 Army in eastern New Guinea was put under Teshima’s command at this time, and Teshima ordered Adachi to move west. Adachi ignored the order because he was convinced the Americans meant to land at Hansa Bay. The Americans carried out heavy bombing raids, ship bombardments, and patrols against Wewak in order to reinforce this impression. However, on 12 April Anami, who was senior over both Teshima and Adachi, sent his chief of staff to Wewak to build a fire under the recalcitrant general. As a result, two regiments of 18 Army were already headed west by 22 April.
Preparations for the landings at Hollandia began on 30 March – 2 April 1944 with a deep carrier raid against Palau, where Combined Fleet posed a threat to any move against Hollandia. This was successful at forcing Combined Fleet to retreat to bases further west. At the same time, 5 Air Force struck Hollandia with over 80 B-24 Liberators escorted by P-38 Lightnings modified for greater range. By mid-April Hollandia was finished as an air base complex, and over 340 wrecked Japanese aircraft were later found on the runways, with an estimated additional 50 aircraft shot down over dense jungle. As a result of this debacle, the commander of 6 Air Division, Itahana, was relieved in disgrace.
More information and photos:
Hollandia was the principal Japanese rear supply base in New Guinea. A sheltered but undeveloped harbor located on Humboldt Bay, it provided the only protected anchorage of any size between Wewak and Geelvink Bay. The airfield area, shielded from the sea by the high Cyclops mountain range, was near Lake Sentani, about twelve miles from Humboldt Bay and midway to Tanahmerah Bay to the west. The bulk of the enemy’s remaining New Guinea air strength was based on three large airdromes in this area. Hollandia also served the Japanese as a important trans-shipment point for the unloading and transfer of personnel and cargo from large transports to smaller coastal vessels. A considerable backlog of supplies was observed on the beaches and in the vicinity of the airfields. Intelligence estimated the number of Japanese troops in the Hollandia-Aitape area at the end of March to be 15,000; at Wewak-Hansa Bay, 30,000; at Wakde-Sarmi, 5,500; and in the Manokwari-Geelvink Bay area, 11,000. A large Allied task force was gathered in expectation of a difficult campaign. The closest teamwork of all participating components would be required to accomplish the largest operation and the longest amphibious move yet attempted in the Southwest Pacific Area. The projected operation involved a distance of 985 miles from Goodenough Island, the principal staging area, and over 480 miles from Cape Cretin, south of Finschhafen, the advance staging point.
Feel free to add comments or to suggest corrections on errors that I made transcribing.
Tomorrow, April 22, 1944…