Tag Archives: Rabaul

5 September 1942-5 January 1943

Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker, United States Army Air Forces. (Air University Press)

MEDAL OF HONOR

KENNETH N. WALKER (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Army Air Corps, Commander of V Bomber Command.

Place and date: Rabaul, New Britain, 5 January 1943.

Entered service at: Colorado.

Birth: Cerrillos, New Mexico

G.O. No.: 13, 11 March 1943.

Citation:

For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. As commander of the 5th Bomber Command during the period from 5 September 1942, to 5 January 1943, Brig. Gen. Walker repeatedly accompanied his units on bombing missions deep into enemy-held territory. From the lessons personally gained under combat conditions, he developed a highly efficient technique for bombing when opposed by enemy fighter airplanes and by antiaircraft fire. On 5 January 1943, in the face of extremely heavy antiaircraft fire and determined opposition by enemy fighters, he led an effective daylight bombing attack against shipping in the harbor at Rabaul, New Britain, which resulted in direct hits on 9 enemy vessels. During this action his airplane was disabled and forced down by the attack of an overwhelming number of enemy fighters.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) parked in revetments at 7 Mile Drome (Jackson Airfield), Port Moresby, 31 December 1942. (U.S. Air Force)

On the morning of 5 January 1943, six Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and six Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers departed 7 Mile Drome, an airfield near Port Moresby at the eastern end of the island of New Guinea. Their mission was to attack an enemy shipping convoy believed to be approaching the Japanese military base at Rabaul on the neighboring island of New Britain.

Leading the attack force was B-17 41-24458, San Antonio Rose, flown by Major Allen Lindberg, commanding officer, 64th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) and Captain Benton Hayes Daniel, Jr.  Also on board as observers were Lieutenant Colonel Jack Bleasdale, the executive officer of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), and Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker, commanding general, V Bomber Command, Fifth Air Force. There were a total of 11 airmen on board.¹

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) en route to attack Rabaul, New Britain, 5 January 1943. (U.S. Air Force A–23272 A.C.)

The bombers arrived over Rabaul at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) at 12:00 p.m., local time, and the formation broke up to make individual attacks against the ships in the harbor. Anti-aircraft artillery fire was light and ineffective. The bomber crews claimed several ships sunk and damaged.²

As the bombing force left the target, it was attacked by enemy fighter aircraft, which were described as Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 (Allied reporting name, “Zeke,” but best known as the “Zero”) or Nakajima Ki-43 Army Type 1 Fighters (the Hayabusa, Allied reporting name, “Oscar”).

Enemy shipping under attack in Simpson Harbor, 5 January 1943. (U.S. Air Force E-23272 A.C.)

One of the B-24s had been badly damaged and diverted to Milne Bay. Four of the five B-17s which returned to Port Moreseby were damaged.

San Antonio Rose, the B-17 carrying General Walker, was seen trailing smoke and diving through clouds. A Fifth Air Force message stated, “Later B-17 was observed heading south just east of Vunakanau [10 miles (16 kilometers) south-southwest of Rabaul] at about 5,000 feet, left outboard engine smoking but later appeared alright, was being closely pursued by four to five Zekes and last seen going into clouds.” A Japanese fighter pilot wrote that the B-17 was seen flying to the south, about 25 miles south of Rabaul. It was not seen again.

San Antonio Rose and its crew never returned from the mission. Searches over the next several days were unsuccessful. The 11 airmen were listed as Missing in Action.³

On 12 December 1945, the crew of San Antonio Rose were reclassified as Killed in Action.

An 8 minute, 34 second, film of the 5 January 1943 mission from the National Archives and Records Administration is available on YouTube:

Kenneth Newton Walker was born 17 July 1898 at Los Cerrillos, a tiny community along the “Turquoise Trail” in the Territory of New Mexico. He was the son of Wallace Walker and Emma Helen Overturf Walker. His father abandoned them when he was very young. Mrs Walker took Kenneth to Denver, Colorado, and later to Kansas City, where he attended Central High School. He graduated from the Omaha High School of Commerce in Omaha, Nebraska in 1915. Ken Walker studied business through a college extension course.

The United States entered World War I on 6 April, 1917. Ten months later, 10 December 1917, Kenneth Newton Walker enlisted in the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, United States Army, at Denver, Colorado. Walker was 5 feet, 8 inches (1.73 meters) tall, with a high forehead and ruddy complexion. He had brown hair and green eyes.

Walker was promoted to private first class, Aviation Section, Sig. E.R.C., 7 March 1918. Pfc. Walker was then assigned to the University of California School of Military Aeronautics, and in June 1918, he began flight training at the Air Service Flying School, Mather Field, near Sacramento, California. On completion of his flight training, Pfc. Walker was discharged from his enlistment, effective 1 November 1918, to accept a commission as a second lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, the following day.

2nd Lieutenant Walker was sent to Brooks Field at San Antonio, Texas, where he trained as a flight instructor. He was then assigned to Barron Field, south of Fort Worth, Texas. In 1919, Walker was reassigned to Post Field at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Under the National Defense Act of 1920, the Aviation Section became the Air Service, a distinct combatant branch of the Army, and was no longer a part of the Signal Corps. This resulted in changes in officers’ commissions.

2nd Lieutenant Walker’s commission was vacated on 15 September 1920. Retroactively, he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920, and was promoted to 1st lieutenant with the same date of effect. The new commission was accepted 15 September 1920. His rank as 1st lieutenant was accepted 13 April 1921.

Lt. and Mrs. Kenneth N. Walker. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas P. Walker)

2nd Lieutenant Walker married Miss Marguerite Potter, 28 September 1922. The ceremony was performed by Rev. H. Leach Hoover at St. Andrew’s Church, Lawton, Nebraska. The Walkers would have two sons: Kenneth Newton Walker, Jr., born in 1927, and Douglas Potter Walker, born in 1933.

Also in 1922, Lieutenant Walker graduated from the Air Service Observation School, as a qualified aerial observer. On 15 December 1922, Walker was discharged as a 1st lieutenant, A.S., U.S.A., and appointed a 2nd lieutenant.

Lieutenant Walker was assigned to Nichols Field, south of Manila on the island of Luzon, in the Philippine Islands. He was once again promoted to 1st lieutenant, 24 July 1924.

1929, Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, 1929; faculty, senior instructor

1934 Divorce

Second Lieutenant Kenneth N. Walker, Air Service, United States Army, circa 1924. (National Archives and Records Administration)

On 18 August 1934, Lieutenant Walker married Ms. Juliet G. Wimberly in Madison County, Alabama. This was the second marriage for both. A second wedding ceremony took place in Franklin County, Tennessee, 8 September 1934, officiated by L.J. Sisk, Justice of the Peace. They would have one son, John W. Walker. This marriage ended in divorce at Reno, Nevada, in February 1940.

Captain Kenneth Newton Walker, Air Corps, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)

Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1935. Promoted to captain, 1 August 1935, then less than three months later, 20 October 1935, to the rank of major (temporary).

Douglas B-18 BG-23 after accident at Denver, Colorado, 23 December 1937. (UP)

On 23 December 1937, Captain Walker was piloting one of three Douglas B-18 twin-engine bombers which had picked up recent graduates from the Air Corps Technical School at Rantoul, Illinois, and were returning them to Hamilton Field, Novato, California. After a stop at Denver Municipal Airport (now Stapleton International Airport, DEN), Captain Walker’s airplane was the second to takeoff. Just after becoming airborne, the B-18 crashed.

Captain Walker said,

“We were about 20 feet off the ground and going about 80 miles an hour when the ship just seemed to lose power,” he said. “I kicked hard on the left rudder and we swung around at right angles after sliding across that little gully,” indicating a ravine at the roadside.

The Billings Gazette, Vol.. L., No. 50, Friday, 24 December 1937, Page 2 column 1

The B-18 hit the runway, slid about 200 feet (61 meters) then cut through a fence and came to rest on a roadway between a ravine and railroad tracks. None of the nine men on board ⁴ were injured but the B-18 was seriously damaged. It had flown just 49 hours since new. (49:00 TTSN)

Major Walker commanded the 18th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), Wheeler Field, Territory of Hawaii.

Major Walker’s Curtiss-Wright P-36A Hawk, in flight over the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 8 February 1940. (Hawaii Aviation)

Attended the General Staff School from 10 March 1942 to 1 July 1942. Walker was promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier General, Army of the United States, on 17 June 1942.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart.

General Walker’s remains have not been recovered. There is a cenotaph in his memory is at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. His name, along with the other airmen of San Antonio Rose, appears on the Walls of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Taguig City, Philippines. In 1948, Roswell Army Air Field was renamed Walker Air Force Base in his honor.

“Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker, commanding general of a bomber command in the southwest Pacific, who has been reported missing in action after leading a flight against Japanese shipping. This is the most recent photograph of General Walker, taken in front of his tent-office in the field.” (Library of Congress LC-USW33-000979-ZC [P&P] )
A Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, 42-30243, the same type heavy bomber as San Antonio Rose. (U.S. Air Force)

San Antonio Rose was a Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, c/n 3143, Army Air Corps serial number 41-24458. The bomber was built during the summer of 1942, in the same production block with another famous B-17, Memphis Belle (41-24485). It was delivered to the United States Army Air Corps 8 July 1941.

Deep within my heart lies a melody
A song of old San Antone
Where in dreams I live with a memory
Beneath the stars all alone

It was there I found beside the Alamo
Enchantment strange as the blue, up above
A moonlit path that only she would know
Still hears my broken song of love

Moon in all your splendor knows only my heart
Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone
Lips so sweet and tender like petals fallin’ apart
Speak once again of my love, my own

Broken song, empty words I know
Still live in my heart all alone
For that moonlit pass by the Alamo
And Rose, my Rose of San Antone

—”New San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills, 1941

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24458, San Antonio Rose, parked in a revetment at 7 Mile Drome, Port Moresby, New Guinea, with all engines running. (U.S. Air Force via b17flyingfortress.de)

¹ Major Allen Lindberg, Pilot, Aircraft Commander; Captain Benton H. Daniel, Jr., co-pilot; 1st Lieutenant John W. Hanson, Navigator; 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Hand, Bombardier; Technical Sergeant Dennis T. Craig, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner; Staff Sergeant Quentin W. Blakeley, Radio Operator/Top Gunner; Sergeant Leslie A. Stewart, Gunner; Private 1st Class William G. Fraser, Jr., Gunner; and Private Leland W. Stone, Gunner.

² Postwar analysis found that one ship, the transport Keifuku Maru, 5,833 tones, had been bracketed by two bombs and sank. Another freighter, Kagu Maru, and the Minikaze-class destroyer Tachikaze, were damaged. (Tachikaze had been damaged in an earlier air attack, 27 December 1942, and its commanding officer killed.) On 5 January 1943, the destroyer was alongside Yamabiko Maru, a passenger-cargo steamer which had been converted to a repair ship for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Keifuku Maru, 5,833 tons, photographed during the 1930s, was sunk during the Allied air attack on Rabaul, 5 January 1943. (Wikipedia)

³ It is possible that two airmen, Lieutenant Colonel Bleasdale and Lieutenant Daniel, bailed out of the bomber and were later captured and held as prisoners of war. Neither survived the war, however.

⁴ Captain Walker, pilot; Lieutenant William Capp, co-pilot; Staff Sergeant William J. Oglesby, crew chief; Corporal Burton Vanderwerhen, gunner; with J.D. Rhodes, H.E. Perkins, G.J. Ambrose, J.S. Doherty, and J.S. Chamberlain.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 January 1944

Major Gregory Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps. (USMC)
Major Gregory Boyington, United States Marine Corps Reserve. (U.S. Navy)

3 January 1944: Major Gregory Boyington, United States Marine Corps Reserve, commanding VMF-214 at Bouganville, Solomon Islands, led 48 fighters in an attack against the Japanese naval base at Rabaul on the island of New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago.

Flying a Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 ¹ Corsair, Bu. No. 17915, Boyington shot down four enemy airplanes, bringing his total score to 28.² He was then himself shot down.

Major Pappy Boyington with a Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. 17740, at Torokina Airstrip, Bougainville, 1943. (U.S. Navy)

Wounded by bullets and shrapnel and with his Corsair on fire, Boyington parachuted to the ocean only 100 feet (30 meters) below. He was rescued by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-181 a few hours later, and was eventually taken to Japan and imprisoned for the next 20 months under the harshest conditions.

Kaidai VII-class submarine I-176, the same type as I-181. (N. Polmar, D. Carpenter, via Wikipedia)

Believed to have been killed, Major Boyington was “posthumously” awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Gregory Boyington was born 4 December 1912 at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was the son of Charles Barker Boyington, a dentist, and Grace Barnhardt Gregory Boyington.

Boyington studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was a member of the school’s boxing team. He graduated in 1934 and then went to work at Boeing Aircraft Company.

Gregory Boyington (then known as Gregory Hallenbeck, after his stepfather) married Miss Helene Marie Wickstrom at the Plymouth Congregational Church, Seattle, Washington, 29 July 1934. They would have three children, Janet, Gregory and Gloria, but divorced in 1941. (Boyington was awarded custody of their children by a court in 1942. While Boyington was overseas, the children lived with his parents.)

Greg Boyington had been in the Reserve Officers Training Corps during college, and had served as an officer in both the Coastal Artillery Corps, United States Army, and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

On 13 June 1935, Boyington enlisted as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was accepted as an aviation cadet 11 February 1936, and trained as a Naval Aviator at NAS Pensacola, Florida. He graduated and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Marine Corps Reserve, 2 July 1937. Boyington was promoted to first lieutenant, 1 July 1940. He served with the fleet until 1941.

Greg Boyington was a flight leader with the 1st American Volunteer Group in Burma, 1942. The airplanes in the background are Curtiss-Wright Hawk 81s.

Lieutenant Boyington resigned from the Marine Corps 27 August 1941, when he joined the 1st American Volunteer Group in Burma, better known as the “Flying Tigers.” The AVG was fighting in defense of China in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Flying the Curtiss-Wright Hawk 81-A3, Boyington claimed six enemy aircraft destroyed (though he is officially credited with 3.5) in combat.

In 1942, Greg Boyington returned to the United States and was reinstated in the Marine Corps with the rank of major. After serving with several squadrons in administrative positions, he was placed in command of Marine Fighter Squadron Two Hundred Fourteen (VMF-214, “Black Sheep”), a squadron based in the Solomon Islands. Older than most of the pilots in his squadron, he was given the nickname, “Pappy.”

Major Gregory Boyington, United States Marine Corps Reserve, 29 December 1943. (Associated Press)

During an 84-day period, VMF-214 pilots destroyed or damaged 203 enemy airplanes. Eight of these pilots became aces, with a total of 97 confirmed air-to-air kills.

General Alexander Archer Vandergrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps, presents the Navy Cross to Major Gregory Boyington USMCR, 4 October 1945.

Following his repatriation to the United States, Major Boyington was presented with the Navy Cross by General Alexander Archer Vandergrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps, 4 October 1945. The following day he was presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in a ceremony at the White House.

President Harry S. Truman congratulates Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Boyington on the award of the Medal of Honor, 5 October 1945. (U.S. Navy)

Lieutenant Colonel Boyington married Mrs. Frances Baker (née Frances Reiman) at Las Vegas, Nevada, 8 January 1946. They divorced 13 October 1959.

Major and Mrs. Gregory Boyington (the former Mrs. Frances Reiman Baker), 9 January 1946. (International Soundphoto via SCV History)

Gregory Boyington retired from the United States Marine Corps on 1 August 1947 with the rank of Colonel. For the rest of his life, he would struggle with depression and alcoholism.

Boyinton’s autobiography, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, was published by G.P. Putnam, New York, in 1958. He also wrote a novel, Tonya, which was published by Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1960.

Boyington married his third wife, Mrs. Dolores Tees Shade (also known by her stage name, Dee Tatum), at Denver, Colorado, 27 October 1959; Las Vegas, Nevada, 16 February 1960; and Los Angeles, California, 22 December 1960. (There had been concern over the legality of the first two marriages due to the status of the couples’ divorces.) This marriage also ended in divorce, in 1972.

On 4 August 1975, Pappy Boyington married his fourth wife, Mrs. Josephine Wilson Moseman.

For his service during World War II, Colonel Gregory Boyington, United States Marine Corps, was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, Purple Heart Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with bronze star (two awards), Prisoner of War Medal, American Defense Service Medal with bronze star, American Defense Service Medal with bronze star, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with silver star, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Colonel Gregory Boyington, United States Marine Corps (Retired), died at Fresno, California, 11 January 1988, at the age of 75 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Vought F4U-1A Corsair of VMF-214, Torokina, 1942. (U.S. Navy)
Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 Corsair circa 1943. (U.S. Navy)

VMF-214  flew the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division F4U-1 Corsair. The Corsair was designed by Rex Buren Beisel, and is best known for its distinctive inverted “gull wing,” which allowed sufficient ground clearance for its 13 foot, 4 inch (4.064 meter) diameter propeller, without using excessively long landing gear struts. The prototype XF4U-1, Bu. No. 1443, had first flown 29 May 1940, with test pilot Lyman A. Bullard in the cockpit.

The F4U-1 was 33 feet, 4.125 inches (10.163 meters) long with a wingspan of 40 feet, 11.726 inches (12.490 meters) and overall height (to top of propeller arc) of 15 feet, 0.21 inches (4.577 meters). The wings’ angle of incidence was 2°. The outer wing had 8.5° dihedral and the leading edges were swept back 4°10′. With its wings folded, the width of the F4U-1 was reduced to 17 feet, 0.61 inches (5.197 meters), and increased the overall height to 16 feet, 2.3 inches (4.935 meters). When parked, the Corsair’s 13 foot, 4 inch (4.064 meter) propeller had 2 feet, 1.93 inches (65.862 centimeters) ground clearance, but with the fighter’s thrust line level, this decreased to just 9.1 inches (23.1 centimeters). The F4U-1 had an empty weight of 8,982 pounds (4,074.2 kilograms) and gross weight of 12,162 pounds (5,516.6 kilograms).

Major Gregory Boyington, USMCR, commander VMF-214, boarding Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. 17883, at Barakoma Airfield, Vella LaVella Island, 1943. (U.S. Navy)

The F4U-1 variant of the Corsair was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp SSB2-G (R-2800-8) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engine, with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The R-2800-8 had a normal power rating of 1,675 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. and 44.0 inches of manifold pressure (1.490 bar) at 5,500 feet (1,676 meters); 1,550 horsepower at 21,500 feet (6,553 meters); and 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with 54.0 inches of manifold pressure (1.829 bar) for takeoff. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 13 feet, 4 inches (4.064 meters) through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-8 was 7 feet, 4.47 inches (2.247 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,480 pounds (1,125 kilograms).

The F4U-1 had a cruise speed of 186 miles per hour (299 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its maximum speed at Sea Level was 365 miles per hour (587 kilometers per hour). During flight testing, an F4U-1 reached 431 miles per hour (694 kilometers per hour) at 20,300 feet (6,187 meters) with War Emergency Power. The service ceiling was 38,200 feet (11,643 meters) and its maximum range was 1,510 miles (2,430 kilometers) with full main and outer wing tanks.

Three Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns and belted ammunition installed in the left wing of a Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 Corsair, 11 August 1942. (Vought-Sikorsky VS-6015)

The Corsair was armed with six air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, three in each wing, with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun.

A total of 12,571 Corsairs were manufactured by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division (F4U-1), Goodyear Aircraft Corporation (FG-1D) and Brewster Aeronautical Corporation (F3A-1). The Corsair served the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in World War II and the Korean War. Corsairs also served in other countries’ armed forces. Its last known use in combat was in Central America in 1969.

Major Gregory Boyington, USMCR, commander VMF-214, seated in the cockpit of Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. 17883, at Barakoma Airfield, Vella LaVella Island, 1943. (U.S. Navy)

¹ Boyington’s Corsair is usually identified as a “F4U-1A.” F4U-1A is not an official U.S. Navy designation, but is commonly used to distinguish late production F4U-1 Corsairs with their blown plexiglas canopies and other improvements from the earlier “bird cage” Corsairs.

² The United States Marine Corps History Division biography of Colonel Boyington states that he was “credited with the destruction of 28 Japanese aircraft. . . .

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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