|Pilot F/O Lyle Manhire McLaren, 416874 (MIA / KIA) Largs Bay, SA
Navigator F/O Sydney Louis Anderson 410192 (MIA / KIA) Canterbury, VIC
WAG FSGT Francis Maloney, 410995 (MIA / KIA) Coolamon, NSW
WAG FLGOFF Raymond A. Graetz, 417175 (WIA, rescued) Mount Pleasant, SA
Ditched May 20, 1944 at 11:14am
Built by Australian Department of Aircraft Production (DAP). Delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Assigned to 100 Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On May 20, 1944 one of nine Beauforts that took off
from Tadji Airfield at 8:42am on bombing mission against Wom Point to Suain. Over the target, this Beaufort was hit by anti-aircraft fire and ditched into the sea in the vicinity of Wom Point. The crew deployed the life raft and paddled towards shore.
Fates of the Crew
Near shore, their raft was fired on by an an enemy machine gun. The first burst killed Anderson. The second burst holed the raft and the three remaining crew started to swim along side. The third burst collapsed the raft and killed McLaren, and wounded Graetz who started swimming seaward. The fate of Maloney is unknown, either died with the aircraft or was killed.
Eventually, Graetz was able to swim ashore and collapsed under a bush, suffering from loss of blood and exhaustion, and rested until the following day. Wandering in enemy territory, he attempted to walk westward back to Tadji. Passing But Drome, he inspected enemy aircraft and discovered a 37mm anti-aircraft gun and puts sand into the barrel and breech to foul the weapon.
He encountered many Japanese soldiers, but avoided being captured by posing as a dejected Japanese soldier. Along the way, he attempted to disable Japanese trucks by removing vital parts, or searching soldier kits. In total, he spent eight days behind enemy lines.
On May 28, 1944, he was rescued by PT-128 and PT-131 near the mouth of the Danmap River. Unable to swim to the boats or hold a tow line, Lt. William W. Stewart and Ens Gregory J. Azarigian paddled ashore in a rubber raft to rescue him, despite sniper fire.
Information regarding enemy positions and installations from Graetz's time behind enemy lines was relayed to intelligence and used to assist air raids in the area. Later, Graetz was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and resourcefulness behind enemy lines.
The other members of the crew were officially declared dead the day of the mission and are memorialized at the Lae Memorial at Lae War Cemetery. McLaren and Anderson on panel 6. Maloney panel 7.
NAA RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 100 Squadron Mar 42 - Aug 46 page 291-292
RAAF Honours and Awards Military Cross Citation FLGOFF Raymond A. Graetz
"Throught the entire period until his rescue Flying Officer Graetz, although suffering from illness and privations, showed outstanding courge, initiative and complete disregard for his own safety. His devotion to duty is worthy of the highest prise."
At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy pages 244
Great Air Escapes pages 84-91
"He Wandered Back from Wewak." Graetz states he was spotted by some P-39 pilots (Piper says 110th Tactical Recon. Sqdn out of Tadji) near the Danmap river.
". . . came across a soldier boiling six billies of tea. He came towards me calling out, but I waved my hand across my face, as if in pain and walked on."
"Just across another creek, in a clearing, saw six armed soldiers. Walked right past them. They merely looked and said nothing. Several more were met all walking eastward along the track. Every one seemed tired and disinterested with arms hanging down at their sides. Some grunted as we passed so I grunted back a reply."
Mayday! : A Journey Through Enemy Lines and Through Life by Don Bain
AFD Serials - Beaufort A9-571
Wikipedia - Syd Anderson "was an Australian rules footballer who played with Melbourne in the Victorian Football League."
Lyle Manhire McLaren
CWGC - Sydney Louis Anderson
RAAFDB - Beaufort A9-571
ADF Serials - A9-571
Mayday! WWII Escape Miltary Cross Award RAAF Papua New Guinea Japanese Snipers by by Ray Graetz
as told to Don Bain
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information
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May 3, 2016