|Airfields of the United States Army Air Force|
|Part of World War II|
During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces established a series of airfields in Australia for the collective defense of the country, as well as for conducting offensive operations against the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. From these airports and airfields in Australia, the Fifth Air Force was able to regroup, re-equip and begin offensive operations against the Empire of Japan after the disasters in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies during 1942.
Following the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, the remnants of the USAAF Far East Air Force relocated southwest to bases in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). United States Army Air Force units in Australia, including the Fifth Air Force, were eventually reinforced and re-organized following their initial defeats in the Philippines and the East Indies. After those islands also fell to Japanese forces early in 1942, FEAF headquarters moved to Australia and was reorganized and redesignated the Fifth Air Force on 5 February 1942 under General George Brett in Melbourne. On paper, Brett had several hundred military aircraft of all types, but only a few of them were operational,although replacements were in the logistics pipeline inbound on freighters
Headquarters, Fifth Air Force, was re-staffed at Brisbane, Australia on 18 September 1942 and the Fifth Air Force was placed under the command of 52-year-old Major General George Kenney on Tuesday, 28 July 1942, which had immediate impact. Within a month, he had his command striving for, or at least seriously thinking about, seizing air superiority over New Guinea and parity over the Solomon Sea, and September 1942 saw the Fifth placing several dozen bombers over New Britain and Rabaul, whereas in July 1942 only mere handfuls could be fielded.By the end of August 1942, before the retreat began of the Japanese attacking over the Owen Stanley Ranges, he'd established five airfields at Port Moresby, more than necessary for its defense, but a good start for staging to forward bases.
General Kenney encouraged MacArthur to conduct a forward defense and meet the Japanese along the choke-points among the jungles of New Guinea, and provided planning for airlifts to put the ground forces in forward positions and supply them by air-transport if necessary.This model would be utilized throughout the coming two years of offensives as MacArthur's ground forces conducted Leapfrogging maneuvers and used combined arms tactics while strategically bypassing Japanese strong points and forcing them to attack his defensive works as he placed forces astride their supply lines. The Fifth Air Force kept pace, moving from forward air base to forward air base, repressing daylight activity by the Japanese on Land, Sea and Air. When he first proposed air supply (since sea-lanes were not safe because of the position of the Japanese bases in the Solomon Sea) to an objection that his C-47 airlift units could not move trucks as well as men and materials, Kenney immediately responded that they could, by cutting the truck frames in half with torches and welding them together again in Papua. By November the Fifth was in forward Headquarters in Port Moresby, though the official HQ remained in Brisbane.
In addition to the Air Force units, many United States Army forces embarked in Australia, using it as a base of operations prior to their deployment to New Guinea in 1942, and other islands in the Southwest Pacific, driving the Japanese forces north towards their home islands. As the ground forces moved forward, the tactical air units of the AAF moved with them, providing the necessary air support for the ground operations.
Throughout the Pacific War, Australia remained an important base of operations, but with the advance of the Allied Armies, the air-bases in Australia were returned to the Royal Australian Air Force once the Allied forces deployed north during 1942 and 1943. Today, most of the airfields in the Northern Territory have returned to their natural state, being abandoned after the war, but most of the airfields in Queensland and the other Australian states and territories still exist as civilian airports or military bases.
Later, during the Cold War, the United States Air Force assigned a small number of personnel to Australia for communication duties and logistical support. Today, USAF units routinely visit Australia for joint exercises with the Australian Defence Force, with a few personnel assigned for military liaison duties.
The initial USAAF units assigned to Australia in late 1941 and 1942 were ones which had withdrawn from the Philippines, leaving their ground echelons in Bataan as part of the 5th Interceptor Command to fight as infantry units. Later in 1942 and 1943, additional units arrived from the United States as replacement and argumentation to the Fifth Air Force for offensive operations. Known units assigned were:
In cooperation with the Royal Australian Air Force, (RAAF), the Fifth Air Force was able to use many existing Australian airports and airfields to carry on the war effort. In 1942, additional new military airfields were constructed by Australian and United States engineering units to accommodate the increasing number of USAAF groups and personnel being deployed. The Air Force groups and squadrons moved frequently from airfield to airfield, and often group headquarters was located away from the operational squadrons, as the squadrons were dispersed over several airfields for defensive purposes.
Known airfields of the Fifth Air Force units and squadron assignments are as follows:
Note: Airfield locations shown on map above
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
NEW SOUTH WALES
In 1978, Australia and the United States established a Joint Geological and Geographical Research Station (JGGRS) in Alice Springs.The US Air Force "Detachment 421" was centred there, and were granted Freedom of Entry to the Town in 1995.
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This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/ .
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