According to the Australian Merchant Navy website the Tulagi did indeed carry some of the U.S. Army 1 Bn. 148 Field Artillery Regt. When the Tulagi returned to Darwin on the 18th the U.S. Army troops were still onboard the following day during the Japanese air raid. An extract from Tulagi's Log said that the Tulagi got underway "and ran aground on soft mud in Crocodile Creek, in order to save life and vessel. Immediate disembarkation of the U.S. troops still aboard commenced using lifeboats and rafts."
In the spirit of the holiday season (and because I did much enjoy the late 1930s photo of Houston at Pearl), I'll provide a bit longer answer to Melmoth the Wonker's question.
There are various sources out there that specify the distribution of the American and Australian troops aboard the four merchantmen in the February 1942 convoy bound for West Timor, but I'll cite Bill Heath and Gayle Alvarez, The 148th Field Artillery Story, World War II, 2nd edition. Heath was a member of 1st Battalion, 148th Field Artillery Regiment, and Alvarez is or was a staffer with the Idaho Military Historical Society. In Chapter II: "On February 14, the 148th packed its gear and boarded ships in the harbor. HQ, A, and Service Batteries were on the M.V. TULAGI and were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Patterson, who had been our commanding officer from the time we left Fort Lewis. B and C Batteries were on the S.S. PORTMAR and were led by Major George A. Whitely." 'Tis clear from the rank of the C.O. that Heath means the battalion commander, and the HQ Battery referred to is that of 1st Battalion. Now when this battalion shipped to the SW Pacific, it was specified as the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, less 2nd Battalion, which means the regimental HQ and HQ Battery went with 1st Battalion. Where that headquarters was and what its status remained in February 1942, I'm uncertain, so I don't wish to state more than I know. I expect Shelby Stanton's Order of Battle book can clear up that uncertainty and very likely I checked on this point previously, but I do not have the book with me and do not remember what the fate of this F.A. regimental HQ became. I believe it was abolished at the time its two constituent battalions were reorganized as independent F.A. battalions, or maybe even before, but perhaps someone with Stanton at hand can provide more reliable info.
As for the Australian troops, Heath writes, "....the U.S.A.T. MEIGS and M.V. MAUNA LOA carried the the 2/4 Pioneer Battalion, [2nd] Australian Imperial Force, and a troop of Australian anti-tank guns and gunners." That roster is clearly incomplete and perhaps even wrong. One of the sites for MV Tulagi
*Austr. Headquarters, Sparrow Force (11 all ranks)
*Austr. 2/4 Pioneer Battalion (1008 all ranks)
*Austr. 2/40 Infantry Battalion, reinforcements (50 all ranks)
*Austr. Sparrow Force Signals Section (31 all ranks)
*Austr. 2/12 Field Ambulance (11 all ranks)
*And their stores
There is no mention of an anti-tank troop, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. When the original Sparrow Force was landed two months before at Koebang, West Timor, it was built around 2/40 Infantry Battalion, with requisite signals and ambulance sections, and B Troop, 18 Anti-Tank Battery, among other units. These elements were doubtless decimated during the combat before Lieutenant Colonel Leggatt surrendered most of his force in West Timor in February, not long after the convoy carrying reinforcements, and escorted by USS Houston and three small boys, turned back to Darwin on 17 or 18 February 1942. Thus it 'splains the presence of such elements among the intended reinforcements, and I would not be surprised if another AT troop accompanied the Aussies, as Heath maintains, but to date, I've not been able to identify it. Kit? Anyone?
Two other points: After the February 19 air raid on Darwin, the badly damaged Portmar required substantial repairs at American army expense, and thereafter was commandeered and became USAT Portmar; she was sunk by a Japanese submarine off the Australian coast in mid-June 1943. Tulagi served as a USAT as well for a finite period, but was mustered out in January/February 1944, and was back in British service when torpedoed and sunk by in the Indian Ocean by U-532 in late March 1944. Her survivors experienced a long and terrible ordeal before finally being rescued.
In my investigations recently I came across a pleasing little anecdote re the cruiser and the F.A.--
When the ships were at Darwin in mid-February they were on either side of an L-shaped pier, with the F.A. embarking on an unnamed transport on one side, and HOUSTON tied up replenishing supplies on the opposite(either then from or left behind earlier by CHAUMONT and/or GOLD STAR; this included a lot of spare USMC uniforms destined for the Philippines which never made it, BTW--CA-30 had lost her laundry service facilities in the Feb 4th bombing, as it turns out, and her guys were short of clothing)...during the embarkation of the 148th, the F.A. band played non-stop, in their clean, neat uniforms...HOUSTON's replenishing took less time, and her bandmen, thrown into the role of temporary stevedores, dirty, sweaty, and in whatever they had that passed for uniforms (most likely T-shirts and shorts) couldn't endure standing by idly...They ran down to their compartments, grabbed their instruments, and coming back up, joined in the fun, playing along with the 148th F.A. band by looking over their shoulders to read the music...
Related (& sketched as well) by a CA-30 officer who was there as one of the rare lighter moments during this otherwise all-too-grim campaign, and certainly indicative of the spirit these young guys had even then.
> Related (& sketched as well) by a CA-30 officer who was there as one of the rare lighter moments during this otherwise all-too-grim campaign, and certainly indicative of the spirit these young guys had even then. >
Yeah, that should have been Koepang (nicht Koebang), West (or Dutch) Timor.
Turns out I have notes taken from Shelby Stanton's World War II Order of Battle on the history of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment and its two constituent battalions. Alas, two of the main questions, the location of the regimental headquarters and the identity of the formation's commanding officer during the first months of 1942, remain unanswered.
Until September 1940, the 148th Field Artillery consisted of two national guard battalions: 1st Battalion, Idaho National Guard, and 2nd Battalion, Washington National Guard. On the first of that month, 2nd Battalion, including HQ and HQ Battery and firing Batteries D, E, and F, and the regimental Medical Detachment, were transferred to the 248th Coast Artillery, Washington National Guard, becoming similar elements in that seacoast defense formation. See
That transfer of course necessitated the organization and training of a new 2nd Battalion, 148th Field Artillery, and very likely prevented its being ordered to the Philippines with the older and more experienced 1st Battalion in November 1941. Both the 148th F.A. Regiment and the 248th C.A. Regiment were inducted into federal service on September 16, 1940, with the former a part of the 65th Field Artillery Brigade, 41st Division, at the time a square formation, having four infantry regiments brigaded in pairs.
The 148th Field Artillery, less 2nd Battalion, was selected to be shipped to the Philippines, along with the entire 147th Field Artillery Regiment, formerly South Dakota National Guard, and 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, formerly Texas National Guard. Some sources show 2/131st Field Artillery attached to the command of the 148st Field Artillery as that formation's new second battalion, although such attachment may have been for administrative purposes only. The three former national guard F.A. battalions from the Pacific Northwest embarked on USAT Willard A. Holbrook, while 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, went aboard USS Republic (AP 33). All four battalions were armed with the M1897 75mm field gun mounted on the M2 split-trail carriage, which permitted not only high-speed truck towing, but much greater elevation and deflection than the older guns previously in national guard hands. Both transports departed the San Francisco Port of Embarkation in late November 1941, becoming part of the Pensacola convoy west of Oahu. Following their arrival in Australia in late December, the three F.A. battalions from the Pacific Northwest were deployed in the vicinity of Darwin, while 2/131st Field Artillery was sent on to Java aboard MV Bloemfontein and its eventual capture there by the Japanese army.
The participation of 1/148th Field Artillery in the would-be Timor expedition has been chronicled in my previous posting. The troops of the battalion suffered some casualties, including three men KIA, as they were still shipborne when the aircraft of the IJN struck Darwin on February 19, 1942. Some of the artillerymen, particularly from B Battery, took part in salvaging their guns and vehicles from the holds of the sunken or stranded vessels after the raid. In late April or May of that year, the artillerymen of the three battalions traded their 75mm guns for the new 105mm howitzers.
On June 17, 1942, HQ and HQ Battery, 148th Field Artillery Regiment, were disbanded. First Battalion became the independent 148th Field Artillery Battalion, and 2nd Battalion, which had arrived in Australia in April, became the independent 205th Field Artillery Battalion. [In his history of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, Bill Heath fixes the redesignation date as July 17, 1942, and this discrepancy needs to be clarified.] Both 105mm howitzer battalions would see action, among other places, in New Guinea and the Philippines; 148th F.A. Battalion ended the war in Manila, while 205th F.A. Battalion found itself at Zamboanga.
At this late hour I thought I would add to the confusion.
Courtesy of my former brother-in-law I own a copy of THE JUNGLEERS A HISTORY OF THE 41st INFANTRY DIVISION, by William F. Mcartney (1948). The reorganization of the division as a triangular division in January and February 1942 is discussed briefly at page 19, where it is said, "The 148th Regiment became the 205th Battalion, which remained with the 41st Division, and the 148th Battalion, which eventually became a part of I Corps Artillery in the Southwest Pacific Theater." No other dates, no other details.
FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALIONS OF THE U.S. ARMY - Volume 1, by James A. Sawicki (1977):
"148th Armored Field Artillery Battalion" (a postwar re-designation) - originally organized 1st Battalion, 148th Field Artillery, "1st Battalion reorganized and redesignated as the 148th Field Artillery Battalion and assigned to the 41st Infantry Division, 17 July 1942 [?]."
"205th Field Artillery Battalion" - originally organized as 2nd Battalion, 148th Field Artillery, "reorganized and redesignated as the 205th Field Artillery Battalion and assigned to the 41st Division (subsequently the 41st Infantry Division), 17 February 1942."
I note that Stanton gives the formation dates/places for
148th FA Battalion as 17 Jun 1942 Australia [1st Bn, 148th FA]
205th FA Battalion as 14 Feb 1942 Port Angeles Wash [2nd Bn, 148th FA] and doesn't depart from San Francisco Port of Entry until 22 Apr 1942.
and that 41st Division is redesignated as 41st Infantry Division on 17 Feb 1942
And if you want see a massive work about the prewar US Army, a prequel to Stanton's book, and a work still in progress, check out the CARL site (Volume 2 has an entry for 148th Field Artillery)
US Army order of battle 1919-1941, volume 1: the Arms: Major Commands and Infantry Organizations, 1919-1941, Steven E. Clay.
US Army order of battle 1919-1941, volume 2: The Arms: Cavalry, Field Artillery, and Coast Artillery, 191941, Steven E. Clay.
First, it's widely acknowledged that given the enormous amount of detailed information Stanton published, there are errors aplenty in his chronicling. Second, his first edition (a blue book) has rather more errors than the second edition (a red book), and my just posted info, alas, comes from the blue one. Third, as if that isn't bad enough, one of the errors made is mine, not Stanton's (see below). One mistake not mentioned by you is that when part of the old square 41st Division, there were included three field artillery regiments--146th, 148th, and 218th--totaling six battalions making up the 66th Field Artillery Brigade. Unfortunately, the entry for the 148th F.A. Regiment indicates the 65th F.A. Brigade, almost certainly a typo, which I didn't notice until after I had posted mine. The 146th and 218th F.A. Regiments' entries have the correct 66th F.A. Brigade, as does the Wikipedia site on the 41st Infantry Division.
> The 148th Regiment became the 205th Battalion, which remained with the 41st Division, and the 148th Battalion, which eventually became a part of I Corps Artillery in the Southwest Pacific Theater. >
Otherwise unadorned by the dates of occurrence, I believe this is the straight skinny. Of interest is that while the HQ and HQ Battery of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment were ostensibly abolished on June 17, 1942, according to Stanton, the HQ and HQ Battery of the 147th Field Artillery Regiment much later became those for I Corps Artillery when its former 1st and 2nd Battalions became the independent 147th and 260th F.A. Battalions. Yet another interesting assertion is that the 260th F.A. Battalion became in time a truck-driving outfit.
Thus James Sawicki's 1977 statement, "1st Battalion reorganized and redesignated as the 148th Field Artillery Battalion and assigned to the 41st Infantry Division, 17 July 1942," is simply wrong. When the old 41st Division was triangularized as the new 41st Infantry Division, it not only lost one infantry regiment, but two field artillery battalions, its artillery contingent now consisting of four independent F.A. battalions: 146th, 167th, 205th, and 218th (again see the Wikipedia website cited above).
Now what doesn't make sense is the survival of the old 148th F.A. regimental HQ and HQ Battery after that headquarters had been divested of its former 2nd Battalion (now the independent 205th F.A. Battalion) in mid-February 1942. Perhaps that would account for its seeming absence in the reinforcement convoy to West Timor, although by that time the convoy was in the Timor Sea under fierce enemy air attack. Some of these artillery headquarters became simply logistical commands, e.g., 26th Field Artillery Brigade HQ in Java (unlike 2nd Bn, 131st Field Artillery, it was evacuated to Australia at the eleventh hour).
And yes, 205th F.A. Battalion arrived in Australia in mid-May 1942, not April 22nd of that year, which was its date of departure from the SFPoE. My careless error.
Which leaves us the question of when 1st Battalion, 148 F.A. Artillery, became the independent 148th F.A. Battalion, either June 17, 1942 (Stanton), or July 17, 1942 (Heath & Alvarez, and Sawicki, among other sources), and intuition tells me that Stanton is once again wrong on this one.
My father, Patrick W. Campbell, who was a gunner with 205 F.A. Writes; Feb. 1942 41st Div. changed from square to triangular. Battery "E" 148th F.A. became Battery "B" 205th F.A. Became part of 162nd RCT. Sailed from San Francisco 25 April 1942, arrived in Melbourne, Australia 13 May 1942
It seems two things are being asked of me, on which one I'm going to fall down badly (but probably with some semblance of a good excuse). Despite extensive looking, I don't know which anti-tank troop accompanied the February 1942 reinforcements to Sparrow Force on the island of Timor. I did find confirmation of sorts at
This website devoted to SS MAUNA LOA, sunk shortly thereafter at Darwin, does indicate an AT troop was part of the February 1942 reinforcements for Sparrow Force, citing A.B. Feuer's AUSTRALIAN COMMANDOS: THEIR SECRET WAR AGAINST THE JAPANESE IN WORLD WAR II (Stackpole), an American book to which I have no real access.
Nelson is correct that B Troop, 18 Anti Tank Battery, was included in the original Sparrow Force arriving Timor in December 1941. Its sister C Troop was part of Gull Force at Ambon, and of course was lost there. To be complete, 17 Anti Tank Battery, less C Troop, went to Rabaul, New Britain, and Kavieng, New Ireland (I'm assuming the battery was distributed between the two garrisons). There remain two problems in "figuring out" much more.
Firstly, the Australian War Memorial has little on the AIF's anti-tank units: click on the Second World War "Artillery units" and you'll get only the field [artillery] regiments displayed. Secondly, although the usual organisation of an AT battery was four troops, there were lots of exceptions at different times during the war. Some batteries had the standard four, but others had three or five. Sometimes a troop had been detached for good purpose, while other batteries, particularly early in the Pacific war, simply lacked the necessary ordnance to be filled out to four troops. Assuming, however, that each AT battery involved with 23 Brigade in the islands defence phase beginning in December 1941 had the requisite four troops somewhere, then the most promising candidate in the reinforcing convoy would be either A or D Troop, 18 AT Battery, or C Troop, 17 AT Battery. I shall keep at this task.
A bit more on the sinking of USAT PORTMAR. She was part of Convoy GP55 - ten merchantmen, three LSTs, and five corvettes as escort - steaming between Sydney and Brisbane in June 1943. Likely because her repairs after the damage received during the Darwin raid of 19th February of the previous year had not restored her to full health, she frequently straggled. In attempting to regain her position on 16th June, she passed LST-469, making a sweet overlapping target for lurking I-174, which put a single torpedo into each vessel, easily sinking PORTMAR, laden with ammunition and petrol, and damaging the landing ship. While her sisters vainly attempted to find the enemy sub, corvette HMAS DELORAINE rescued the 71 survivors (two KIA) from PORTMAR and successfully took LST-469 in tow, which was subsequently repaired. There were two significant outcomes of this attack: a serious dust-up resulted from the poor intercommunication between the RAN and RAAF units on the scene, and this was the last enemy attack off Australia's east coast.
"Secondly, although the usual organisation of an AT battery was four troops, there were lots of exceptions at different times during the war. Some batteries had the standard four, but others had three or five."
Although in Appendix B12 of THE BRITISH ARMIES IN WORLD WAR TWO AN ORGANISATIONAL HISTORY: Volume Five, The Australian Army, by David A. Ryan et al, the anti-tank batteries of the divisional anti-tank regiment are shown with three troops each with 4x 2pdr AT guns (each regiment has four batteries).
This source also says 17th and 18th Anti-Tank Batteries were formed from brigade anti-tank batteries of the 8th Australian Infantry Division.
"Volume Five, The Australian Army, by David A. Ryan et al, the anti-tank batteries of the divisional anti-tank regiment are shown with three troops each with 4x 2pdr AT guns (each regiment has four batteries)."
Yes, that appears to be true, although there were always the exceptions to the rule. Also, there seems to have been more variation in the British Army in Europe as the war wore on, given the need to juggle 6 pounder and 17 pounder troops in the same battery, sometimes giving rise to six-troop batteries. In the Australian Army in the Pacific Theatre, however, with the interiority in both quality and quantity of Japanese tanks and the relative rarity in encountering them, the establishment you've described is correct. Whatever the organisation, there were the basic 48 anti-tank guns in each AT regiment, sometimes in three batteries of four 4x gun troops, but mostly (as you've revealed) in four batteries of three 4x gun troops.
4th Anti Tank Regiment (later redesignated 2/4 Anti Tank Regiment, and then 2/4 Tank Attack Regiment) is a good case in point. Three of its batteries, 13, 15, and 16 Batteries, each having three 4x gun troops, went to Malaya, whilst 14 Battery remained behind to defend Darwin. There is this interesting passage in the Fortress Singapore chapter of Neil Smith's TID-APA: THE HISTORY OF THE 4TH ANTI-TANK REGIMENT (1992): "A further adjustment saw 13th Battery rearranged as a four rather than three troop establishment with two troops of 2 pounders, one troop with Bredas and a troop with 75 millimetre guns.....On the 6th February, 13th Battery's fourth or X Troop as it was called, with its four 75 millimetre guns was placed under command of 15th Battery in the 22nd Brigade area." The designation of "X Troop" could imply the troop's transient, temporary, or "unofficial" nature as an add-on, or it could have been because of its ordnance, those elusive American 75mm guns. I'm dubious about the last suggestion, as other batteries in the regiment were equipped with a few of the same model 75mm guns, without the troop affected being designated X Troop. Rather, I think X Troop reflects its temporary nature: just an unofficial fourth troop being stuck on for the moment while the need persisted.
Yes, I should have realized all of the above as standard practise in the Australian Army.
Just been reading the comments in regard to 148th field artillery. I can remember my father talking about the 148 years ago. Have just checked my dads war service record and it shows that he volunterred on the 2nd of february 1942 to join Special Forces.
The unit my father joined in Darwin was the Composite Brigade Signals AIF. he was given a new service number DX693. I believe that the convoy that sailed on the 14th of february 1942 was either bombed on the way to Timor or on the way back to Darwin on the the 18th of February 1942.
My 92 year old father was there with the 148 FA.
Sgt. Edward C. Anderson was on ther Tulagi and saw the face of the Japanese pilot looking down into the Tulagi as he banked his plane over the ship to look into the cargo hold (it was full of troops from the 148th. Plane came back around and skipbombed the Tulagi. Did a radio interview with ABC News in Darwin just two weeks ago.
So sorry, just now read your posting (because Alex's reply moved this thread forward). Let me provide a precis of the events overtaking the Timor convoy, starting with a barebones of Houston's RECONSTRUCTED deck log. Go to
which has two reconstructed logs for Houston, apparently one "official" and the other not, perhaps taken from a diary. I trust the dates on neither one. The former has the convoy departing very early on February 15, 1942, and encountering a patrolling enemy four-engined flying boat later the same day, with a single run made by the aircraft, but no bombs dropped. The heavy air attack occurred the following day, with a near miss on SS Mauna Loa, wounding two men (both transferred to Houston's sick bay). The latter has the convoy departing on the 12th, with the four-engined flying boat picking up the convoy on the 14th and making its run, but dropping bombs, which fell far short. According to this account, the major air attack took place on the 15th, comprised of both medium land-based bombers (most likely Mitsubishi G4M 'Bettys') and flying boats (at this stage in the war would have been Kawanishi H6K 'Mavises'). The two accounts manage to agree on three things: (a) The single P-40 showing up after the single flying boat appeared overhead, in response to the request for air cover, was ineffectual. (b) The convoy was ordered back to Darwin on the 16th and duly reversed course same date. (c) The ships arrived back in Darwin on the 18th, Houston refueling and standing out same date (and we know what the following day would bring for Darwin).
I think the most reliable account for precise dates is by Walter G. Winslow (1984), The Ghost That Died at Sunda Strait, pp. 100-103. He reports Houston arriving at Darwin on Feb 11, 1942, and departing with the troop convoy--USAT Meigs, SS Mauna Loa, SS Port Mar [Portmar], and SS Tulagi, escorted also by USS Peary, HMAS Swan, and HMAS Warrego--on the 14th, which is the conventional belief. On the following day, "about noon", the convoy was spotted by the four-engined flying boat, which was a rude shock to all, as apparently they felt themselves safe within the confines of the Timor Sea. Winslow reports two bombing attacks by the [Mavis], its bombs falling well shy; the difficulty attracting the attention of the single P-40 sent; and finally the pursuit chasing the enemy aircraft toward the horizon (with the flash and a lot of black smoke indicating something had happened out there). Thus far in the account, Winslow makes only one obvious error, actually a repeat of one I've read several times: the American troop contingent included both the 147th and 148th Field Artillery Regiments, when it fact it was just 1st Battalion, 148th F.A., including the regiment's headquarters elements.
Everyone's fears were realized the next day, the 16th, when at about 1100 hrs the convoy was attacked, according to Winslow, by a total of either 45 or 50 bombers (difficult to discern which), 36 of which were twin-engined land bombers (likely Bettys). Near misses on Mauna Loa killed one man and wounded two others, which I believe is the correct version. Winslow corroborates that the 930-odd 5-inch shells obtained from damaged Boise (CL 47), after she had left SWPA, were far more effective than the old shells Houston had been lugging around for who knows how long. There were unconfirmed reports of several enemy aircraft shot down, almost certainly exaggerated, if not out and out untrue. The convoy did turn around later in the day (the 16th) and arrived at Darwin two days later. On a personal level, Winslow reports the successful launching of Lt. Jack Lamade's SOC to fly to Broome--the subject of another thread in this forum--but the shredding of the fabric on his own aircraft by the concussion of the AA guns before he could be launched, which of course doomed him and his observer not all that long afterward to capture and being PoWs for the remainder of the war. All in all, I think Winslow's lucid account is among the most reliable of those commonly available, which includes this cogent observation (p. 101): "....the Allies continually underestimated the enemy's capabilities, especially in the air."
Again, my apologies for this late response five and a half months later.
I called you "Alex" in my previous posting, so my second apology of the day.
> Sgt. Edward C. Anderson was on the Tulagi and saw the face of the Japanese pilot looking down into the Tulagi as he banked his plane over the ship to look into the cargo hold (it was full of troops from the 148th). Plane came back around and skipbombed the Tulagi. >
Just to point out that all reports, because of the effectiveness of Houston's 5-inch AA fire, confirm that the bombing was done from a fairly high altitude, including that done by the Kawanishi H6K 'Mavis' flying boats (the lone Mavis appearing on February 15th bombed from about 10,000 feet). Although introduced by the Italians in the Mediterranean in late 1941, skip bombing was something the USAAF developed rather more extensively two years later in the SWPA. I cannot affirm absolutely that the IJN did not already do something similar--we have all seen those photos of Mitsubishi G4M 'Bettys' flying in low to attack U.S. shipping in the Solomons, though I have always assumed they were torpedo attacks, not skip bombing--but I do think this tactic was an American innovation in that theater of war. Undoubtedly there are longer and more detailed histories of skip bombing, but Bruce Gamble's Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942-April 1943 (Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2010; ISBN 978-0-7603-2350-2) includes a decent account of its development. You do not declare one way or the other, but do let the record show that Tulagi was not damaged until three days later at Darwin. See
In my previous I wrote, "Winslow corroborates that the 930-odd 5-inch shells obtained from damaged Boise (CL 47), after she had left SWPA, were far more effective than the old shells Houston had been lugging around for who knows how long," but is ambiguous. I intended to state that the heavy cruiser FIRED 930-odd 5-inch shells at the high-flying enemy bombers. She obained rather more from the ordnance stock in Tjilatjap after Boise's departure for the States.
I found your comments to be interesting as I just recently purchase photo scrape book (someone in the 148th Artillery) that has photo's of the events that you have been writing about. it shows the ships in Darwin Harbor on 19 Feb 1942 under attach, photos of the USAT Portmar, the recovered guns being cleaned and other photo's of the 148th rail movement across Australia. It also has some photo's of some of the personnel later in the war. Overall a very interesting photo album. Feel free to contact me at my email address if you want to discuss the album.
"Waves of Japanese aircraft bombed a convoy escorted by HMA Ships SWAN, WARREGO, VOYAGER, ARMIDALE, and CASTLEMAINE, in the Timor Sea. Despite the concerted attack the convoy reached Koepang, (Dutch Timor), with urgent supplies and troop reinforcements."
My question is on the last sentence: is there any evidence at all that the convoy -- or parts of the convoy -- actually reached Koepang?
I've read in some Action Reports that the convoy dispersed on February 16, and then re-grouped later before heading back to Darwin. So I am wondering if some ships might have actually reached Koepang, before regrouping with the rest of the convoy.
The convoy--defended heroically by HOUSTON--turned back (allegedly on orders from ABDACOM) and nothing got through...The ships returned to Darwin where those remaining were attacked on the morning of the 19th, and "the rest is history..."
IIRC, there were quite a few Japanese heavy naval units at sea in and around Timor at the time--in addition to their clear air superiority--and they could have made mincemeat of any convoy so lightly protected in the region.
"Also destined for Timor were the 49th American Artillery Battalion allotted to Sparrow Force, the 79th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, less one troop that arrived at Koepang from Surabaya on 16 February."
The 49th and 79th were in the Darwin convoy I believe, but it appears a troop from the 79th might have been split off earlier and then shipped in from Surabaya on that same day. There's no citation given at the website, so it's not immediately clear where that detail comes from.
It now appears that two Troops (A and C) from the 79th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery were sent in from Java on the Ban Hong Leong on 9-Feb-1942, arriving on 16-Feb-1942, while being chased and attacked by Japanese subs and bombers enroute. The other Troop (B) stayed behind in Malang (West Java) to defend the airfield there.
This is supported by the wikipedia entries for the "79th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery" and the "Battle of Timor", wherein the latter cites the "Oxford Companion to Australian Military" by Dennis as its source.
So apparently, these two troops from the 79th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery are the re-inforcements that the Naval Historical Society of Australia may be referring to, though the Society seemed to think that the re-inforcements came from the Darwin convoy and not the Ban Hong Leong from Java.
If anyone has more to add to the above, I'd love to hear it.
in the February 17, 1942 entry, it states the following:
"Waves of Japanese aircraft bombed a convoy escorted by HMA Ships SWAN, WARREGO, VOYAGER, ARMIDALE, and CASTLEMAINE, in the Timor Sea. Despite the concerted attack the convoy reached Koepang, (Dutch Timor), with urgent supplies and troop reinforcements." >
Yes, the entry certainly does read that way, but Event 2 of the previous day, February 16, 1942, reads,
"HMA Ships SWAN and WARREGO, (sloops), and the US Ships HOUSTON and PEARY, fought off determined attacks by waves of Japanese bombers between Darwin and Timor. The convoy was recalled to Darwin when it was learnt that enemy surface forces were in the area."
So, allegedly USS Houston and Peary disappeared abruptly, and HMAS Voyager, Armidale, and Castlemaine arrived to replace them. Obviously, the NHSA website has confused three different events, which are alike in that they represent intended reinforcement and/or relief of Sparrow Force fighting in Timor (soon to be mainly 2/2 Independent Company in East Timor).
#1. As discussed more than once in this forum, the mid-February 1942 effort involved a substantial force, among other units an Australian Pioneer battalion and the American 1st Battalion, 148th Field Artillery (NOT the 49th Artillery Battalion), aboard USAT Meigs and merchantmen Mauna Loa, Portmar, and Tulagi, escorted by USS Houston, USS Peary, HMAS Swan, and HMAS Warrego.
#2. On September 23d and 24th, at attempt to replace 2/2 Independent Company with fresh troops failed with the grounding and sinking--by attacking hostile aircraft and the subsequent scuttling--of W class destroyer HMAS Voyager.
#3. A third, terribly botched attempt to achieve the same ends on December 1, 1942, commanded from corvette HMAS Castlemaine, saw sister HMAS Armidale sunk by enemy torpedoes. Many crewmen and soldiers aboard lost their lives in one way or another.
Brigadier R.J. Lewendon's "Gunners in Java, 1942", J. Royal Artillery, Vol. CVII, March 1981, pp. 43-48, indicates that one year earlier, Convoy WS 14 departed the Clyde estuary (on December 6, 1941), carrying three British AA formations: 21 and 48 Light AA Regiments and 77 Heavy AA Regiment. Specifically, 21 LAA Regt, from the Chester area, was a Territorial formation comprised of 48, 69, and 79 [Light] AA Batteries. The convoy's destination was originally the Middle East, but that would be changed twice, first to Singapore, then to Java. Thirty-one years ago, Lewendon had obtained perfunctory evidence that 79 LAA Battery had at some point gone on to Timor, but he offers no additional details, e.g., that it was less one troop.
"Thirty-one years ago, Lewendon had obtained perfunctory evidence that 79 LAA Battery had at some point gone on to Timor, but he offers no additional details, e.g., that it was less one troop."
FWIW, from HISTORY OF THE ROYAL REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY - THE FAR EAST THEATRE 1941-1946, by General Sir Martin Farndale
"On 20th February  228TH REGIMENT, which had fought at Hong Kong, landed on Timor. Two days before [February 18?] 79th LAA Battery, RA, less 'B' Troop, under Major Jack Dempsey RA, had arrived at Koepang (Kupang) in Dutch Timor after an adventurous voyage under air and submarine attack. Two guns of 'A' Troop went to Klapima to protect 2/1st Heavy (Coast) Battery RAA and 'C' Troop with the other two guns of 'A' Troop went to Penfui airfield. 'C" Troop deployed round the airfield and the two guns of 'A' Troop deployed to defend 'Sparrow Force' Headquarters on Force Hill, some 200 yards north of the airstrip...." at page 73
"On 20th February  228TH REGIMENT, which had fought at Hong Kong, landed on Timor."
it must be made eminently clear that this formation is the 228th Infantry Regiment, 38th [Infantry] Division, Imperial Japanese Army. The triangular 38th Division had participated in the assault on Hong Kong, and the 228th Infantry Regiment had been part of the invasion of Ambon, whence it was taken for the Timor operation. See
"At 0800 that same day, 9 transports carrying the 228th Infantry Regiment and 308 men of the 3rd Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Unit departed Ambon for Koepang, Dutch Timor. Although the latter unit consisted of the same naval paratroopers who had dropped on Menado, they undertook this operation in a seaborne role."
[Lawry opines that this passage is puzzlingly twice erroneous: (i) 1st Yokosuka SNLF dropped near the airfield at Menado (today Manado), Celebes, and (ii) 3rd Yokosuka SNLF also air-dropped during the West Timor operation, where after landing it was decimated by the Australian defenders. The confusion may have arisen because some accounts of the Japanese invasion of Timor, both East and West, include SNLF units coming ashore with the amphibious force. See my subsequent posting on this mystery.]
The IJA's 38th Division was subsequently caught up in the Guadalcanal meat grinder, where it was roughly handled, but gave as good as it got, particularly on the Gifu, Mount Austen (named by members of the division's 229th Infantry Regiment, who hailed from Gifu Prefecture in Japan) during the final weeks of the Guadal campaign. For a detailed and lucid account of the fighting there, in which the 228th Infantry Regiment was also heavily involved, see
"Battle of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse and the Sea Horse"
Unfortunately, the division's record is much soiled by its predilection for atrocity, beginning at Hong Kong and continuing at Ambon and Timor (I'm not ignoring the bloodthirsty role of the SNLF members as well in the Ambon murders). Postwar, the former divisional commander and at that time a major general, Takeo Ito, was convicted of war crimes at Rabaul, New Britain, and sentenced to death, but he escaped execution and died in 1965. Nearly three years ago, the discussion in this forum about the IJN's SNLF units--whether marines or not marines?--included the alleged role of General Douglas MacArthur in interfering with justice meted out to senior Japanese officers involved in the atrocities. A reopening with this disclosure of that particular can of worms?
Mystery involving seaborne participation of IJN's SNLF at Timor?
August 26 2012, 11:09 PM
Before I lay out the mystery of which, if any, SNLF unit made a seaborne landing during the IJN's Timor assault, I remind that one of the common tasks/tactics practiced during invasions involving SNLF units was the joining-up of units delivered separately by sea and air (with the paratroopers necessarily restricted to either the 1st or 3rd Yokosuka SNLF). An excellent example occurred on or soon after January 11, 1942, at Menado, Celebes, in which the 1st Yokosuka SNLF paratroopers, air-dropped near the airfield, married up with the Combined 1st and 2nd Sasebo SNLF, which had landed by sea.
Okay, in looking for some answers in the wartime history of the IJA's 228th Infantry Regiment, I came across this website and this passage:
"At 0800 that same day [February 17, 1942], 9 transports carrying the 228th Infantry Regiment and 308 men of the 3rd Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Unit departed Ambon for Koepang, Dutch Timor. Although the latter unit consisted of the same naval paratroopers who had dropped on Menado, they undertook this operation in a seaborne role."
Knowing that instead, it was the 1st Yokosuka SNLF that had landed at Menado, and the 3rd Yokosuka SNLF made an airborne assault on Koepang, Timor, I was ready to dismiss the entire passage as entirely in error. But something made me pause and look further for a seaborne SNLF component in the Timor amphibious force, and I found some things, none of them in agreement. As usual, I promise that in laying out this mystery there will obtain lots of straw-grasping.
"The 3rd YSNLF [Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force] conducted an airborne operation (parachute assault) at Koepang on West Timor on 21 February 1942. Among the units in the seaborne portion of this operation was the Kure 1st SNLF. I have no information about this Kure unit."
Three years ago in our own forum, during the SNLF discussion, Jim Broshot provided a comprehensive listing of the various SNLF units, including convincing evidence that after it had participated in the Ambon invasion ending in early February 1942, 1st Kure SNLF, still on that island in early March, was effectively disbanded and became the 4th Guard Unit. Thus I reject the notion that 1st Kure SNLF was the seaborne naval landing force in the Timor invasion.
III. in the "War Diary: Japanese invasion of the East Indies, 1941-1942":
"1st Battalion of Japanese 228th Infantry Regiment and Yokosuka Naval Air Landing Force land at Dili in Portuguese Timor."
This statement strongly implies that a contingent of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF made a seaborne landing at Dili in East Timor. But the main airborne insertion was made at Koepang in West Timor, thus obviating a joining-up of the two naval components, seemingly a violation of their usual tactics. It makes no sense and I reject the notion of a splitting-up of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF for the Timor invasion.
IV. Finally, in Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces, authored by Mike Yaklitch, Allan Alsleben, and Akira Takizawa
"....in late February 1942, the Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force were landed amphibiously and fought as ground troops in the battle for Koepang on Timor Island. Several days before, the 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (a naval parachute unit) was airdropped at Koepang, suffering heavy casualties in the forthcoming battles."
Although in this instance, we are confronted with a temporal rather than a spatial obstacle, such an assertion by three of the four known authorities on the IJN's SNLF--the fourth being barrister Broshot--of a LATER landing by the searborne SNLF is on the face of it convincing. Still, I need to know more to be entirely in the Sasebo Combined SNLF camp. Was there indeed an SNLF seaborne component landing at either or both West and East Timor in February 1942? Is the mystery solved?
Well, I think one coulda fooled the guys what claim that 1st Kure, 3rd Yokosuka, or Combined Sasebo SNLF joined in the seaborne assault on either Koepang or Dili, Timor.
Although I have no clue what Japanese transports were involved in the two Timor invasion forces, I will agree to the extent that I no longer believe there is a mystery here. In fact, I must conclude that none of the IJN's SNLFs was involved in the amphibious side of these landings. Here's why:
I. I went back to Jim Broshot's comprehensive list posted originally on January 30, 2009 (I've added a note simply to bring that older thread forward to access it more readily). Note that not only is the Timor operation NOT included among the campaigns attributed to either 1st Kure or Combined Sasebo SNLF, it isn't listed for any of the SNLFs other than 3rd Yokosuka (air-dropped).
II. Despite the impressively quick turn-arounds that Japanese invasion forces were capable of in the first third of 1942, the role of Combined Sasebo SNLF in the capture of Makassar beginning on February 9, 1942--even if this naval unit had handed over its responsibilites to the army within the week--was just too close for its putative involvement in the Timor operation one week later. Besides, after three virtually non-stop ops, wouldn't the unit have needed a rest?
III. Finally, looking again at the excellent map of the NEI campaigns, December 1941-April 1942, prepared by the U.S. Military Academy, at
the following realities are clear from the series of red dashed lines:
a. 1st Yokosuka SNLF (airborne) and Combined Sasebo SNLF (seaborne) were involved in the capture of Menado, Celebes, commencing January 11, 1942.
b. From Menado, Combined Sasebo SNLF (seaborne) was involved in the capture of Kendari, commencing January 24, 1942.
c. From Kendari, Combined Sasebo SNLF was involved in the capture of Makassar on February 9, 1942 (the first outlier landings were made on the 5th and 6th, but the SNLF troops were not injected until the 9th). The Broshot list, with concurrence by DMK,Jr, declares that both 1st and 2nd Sasebo SNLFs were disbanded and assigned new functions during the following month....at Makassar.
d. Finally, 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (airborne) was flown south from Kendari and dropped on Koepang on the night of February 20/21, 1942. The map does not show the involvement of either Combined Sasebo SNLF or any other SNLF in the seaborne assault and capture of Timor. Note that the IJA's 228th Infantry Regiment, 38th Division, came down from Ambon to assault both Koepang and Dili. I see no indication of the inclusion of SNLF troops therein.
To be fair and entirely disclosing, the only report of SNLF participation in the Timor invasion--other than by the air-dropped 3rd Yokosuka at Koepang--that I give some credence to is the web history of the SNLF by Yaklitch et al., to wit:
"Finally, in late February 1942, the Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force were landed amphibiously and fought as ground troops in the battle for Koepang on Timor Island. Several days before, the 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (a naval parachute unit) was airdropped at Koepang, suffering heavy casualties in the forthcoming battles."
Unfortunately, this report fails to cite primary source documentation for such participation by the Combined Sasebo SNLF.
It is of interest to look at the emerging pattern, according to the Broshot list submitted to this forum on October 30, 2009, of the several Special Naval Landing Force units deactivated between February and July 1942 (SNLF units organized and/or deactivated later in the war do not fit this early pattern). From said list:
1st Kure SNLF: last known assault, AMBON, late January 1942; deactivated AMBON, March 10, 1942
2nd Kure SNLF: last known assault, BALIKPAPAN, late January 1942; deactivated BALIKPAPAN, March 10, 1942
2nd Maizuru SNLF: last known assault, RABAUL, late January 1942; deactivated RABAUL, February 1, 1942
3rd Maizuru SNLF: last known assault, KISKA, early June 1942; deactivated KISKA, July 1, 1942
1st Sasebo SNLF: last known assault (as part of the Combined Sasebo SNLF), MAKASSAR, early February 1942; deactivated MAKASSAR, March 10, 1942
2nd Sasebo SNLF: last known assault (as part of the Combined Sasebo SNLF), MAKASSAR, early February 1942; deactivated MAKASSAR, March 10, 1942
For the two constituent units of the Combined Sasebo SNLF to have taken part in the late February 1942 invasion of Timor and NOT to have been deactivated there, i.e., to have been deactivated in the place of the next-to-last assault they made, would have required them to return to Makassar for the March 10, 1942 deactivation (I suppose not impossible). I do concede that a detachment of the Combined Sasebo SNLF could have been tapped for the Timor seaborne operation, and the main body thereafter deactivated back at Makassar. Yaklitch et al., however, do NOT declare such participation by a smaller detachment of this SNLF.
Again, my problem is that I can find no corroboration of such seaborne SNLF participation. The Yaklitch et al. web document is the only one thus far discovered claiming that Combined Sasebo SNLF was there in the thick of things at Timor, and I for one need confirmation from a primary source.
- covers Army operations. Some mention of Naval forces. The relevant monograph on Naval operations (not found on line) is noted as No. 101 Dutch East Indies Invasion Operations.
Note that the monograph states that Army invasion force for Ambon was joined by the Kure 1st SNLF (579 officers and men).
And for Timor, the participation of the Yokosuka 3rd SNLF via air drop is described and that a 118 man detachment (two platoons) from the "Sasebo Combined SNLF" was the "vanguard" of the Army landing at Koepang.
Well, I asked for primary source documentation, and the pen of Lt. Col. Susumu Tosuka is good enough.
Note on page 18 of the monograph, "Japanese army losses during this engagement totaled 67 killed and 56 wounded. No figures on enemy casualties are available." Also no figures on the naval casualties suffered by the paratroopers of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF, claimed to have been decimated by the Aussies. One does note that not long following the end of the invasion, the remnants of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF were incorporated into 1st Yokosuka SNLF, and apparently no mo' 3rd Yokosuka thereafter.