Google Earth and Airfield Locations

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Funta
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Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:12 am

Hi, My father flew with 76 Squadron (Kittyhawks) from Noemfoor (in the old Dutch New Guinea). I'm trying to locate on Google Earth places that he attacked. It is usually fairly easy to see old overgrown airfields, but I'm having trouble precisely locating the following Japanese Airfields - Ransiki, Moemi (Mumi), and Waren. I've checked the lat/long positions given on Pacific Wrecks, but they don't tie up - possibly because the references used have changed for the lat/long grids between when the values were derived for PW, and the WGS reference Google Earth uses (I think WGS84 by default). Can anyone help with the Google Earth values? Rgds, Funta.

RSwank
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by RSwank » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:25 pm

Here are some maps that may help you. Some of the roads shown are still there today. You can work out the locations from the latitude and longitude scales given on the bottom of the page "index to sheets" sections.

Ransiki
http://media-kitlv.library.leiden.edu/i ... 08da206380

Waren
http://media-kitlv.library.leiden.edu/a ... n+airdrome

Moemi
http://media-kitlv.library.leiden.edu/a ... ield=moemi

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Fri Apr 15, 2016 5:00 pm

Many thanks for this, RSwank. These airfields no longer clearly visible in Google Earth, but suspicious absences of foliage in the right places show the story. I've been able to mark them on digital maps 1:500,000 ex US Army of the right period, downloaded from Austin University, which suit my purposes. I did make a post several years ago about my Father's bailout, after being hit by ground fire during an attack on Ransiki, 8th Dec 1944. Spent the night in a dinghy some distance short of Noemfoor. A PBY located him but did not land the first day. A second PBY the next day, 9th Dec 1944, stove in its nose wheel door after landing and became u/s. Everyone picked up by a US Army LCM later that day. An attempt to tow the damaged PBY back failed when it sank. My attempts to find out more about the PBY came to naught when various contacts told me they could not find any trace of a lost PBY on that day in their records. It was definitely a US aircraft, and I have short video from the air of the LCM towing the PBY, sourced from newsreel footage held in the Canberra War Museum, Australia!

RSwank
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by RSwank » Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:20 am

Funta,

What was your father's name and rank. Are you sure the PBY's involved were US Navy planes? The Army Air Forces also flew PBYs in their Emergency Rescue Squadrons. Can you tell anything from the video as to possibly colors and markings on the towed PBY? I would guess the LCM was from Neomfoor, maybe from an Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. I assume he was taken to Noemfoor?

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:12 pm

My father was Flying Officer RJA (Bob) Hunter 425664 RAAF.

The 76 Squadron Record Book entry (edited):

"Dec 9 (1944): 4 Peters divebombed RANSIKI. F/O R.J.HUNTER (425664) had engine trouble and was forced to bail out over the water 20 miles s.w. of NOEMFOOR..... The pilot was covered until last light. A Catalina was alerted but was unable to alight on the water owing to a heavy swell. Thereupon an LCM under the command of Lt. Y.James U.S.Army set out in the direction of the dinghy..... "

"Dec 10 (1944): F/O/ HUNTER was located at 0930 hours. The Catalina detailed to pick him up unfortunately crashed at the end of its landing run and could not effect a rescue. The pilot and the members of the Catalina crew were then compelled to await the arrival of the rescue craft, when they were all picked up. An attempt to salvage the flying boat by towing it to shore was nearly crowned with success, but had to be abandoned when still some miles form Noemfoor."

From the above we know that the LCM was commanded by Lt. Y.L. James. From p.403 of the US Army Official History "The Approach to the Philippines" is seems his unit was Company A of the 543rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. Over a period of years I tracked down and spoke by phone to US members of this Unit who remembered Yancey. Further research by my brother tracked him post-war to Alaska (engineer on the DEW Line construction), and California, where he died appox 1960 with no direct descendants. I had been hoping he was still alive, to be able to contact him... His real name was in fact John Howard Pugh. A relative was unable to supply reason(s) for the name change from "Yancey Lee James".

"Yancey" also participated in another earlier 76 squadron pilot rescue on Dec 1 1944. I quote a commendation in the Squadron Record Book: "The commander of the barge was Lt.Y.L.James US Army and his cool leadership played a great part in the rescuing of the pilot."

As far as the PBY goes, video is from brief aerial passes. It's distant, black & white, and grainy. It clearly shows 2 LCM's, one towing the Cat, the other trailing. But I don't think there is any useful ID detail. I don't know if the Cat was Navy or Army Air Force. I do know for sure it was US as one of the few times my father talked of the experience he referred to the "Yanks" in the Catalina.

A fun postscript to my researches: Many years later after my father had passed away, I asked my mother if any other family members had the name of "Peter." She said no. I asked why I'd been called "Peter." She asid "it was a bit popular at the time." I then mentioned that the allied code name for P-40s was "Peter" (see above in the Record Book). I suggested my old man had a private reason for naming his first son "Peter." After a moment she nodded, grinned and said "Probably!"

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:23 pm

Sorry, my line in the fourth-last-paragraph should have read "for the name change TO "Yancey Lee James."

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:31 pm

I've also just noticed a discrepancy in dates between the Squadron Record Book and my father's Logbook. The Logbook entry reads "Dec 8 Kittyhawk A29-381 Self Bomb & strafe RANSIKI 1hr 15min 1x1000lb Engine hit, baled out 20 miles form base 19 1/2hrs in dinghy."

Given that the previous entry was also dated Dec 8 and was also an attack on RANSIKI, I think his Logbook should read Dec 9 for this incident, and the Record Book is correct in stating Dec 9/10. Any dated recorded for loss of the Cat should also read Dec 10 1944, I would think.

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:47 pm

Further research in his Logbook - I've looked at 4 typed pages recording the incident, pasted in the back of his Logbook. Obviously the "Official" report as disctated to the Squadron Intelligence Officer. The dates are given as 8th & 9th Dec!! See attached pages, 1st 2 of 4, this post.
Attachments
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_2.jpg
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_2.jpg (93.77 KiB) Viewed 7972 times
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_1.jpg
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_1.jpg (90.3 KiB) Viewed 7972 times

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:48 pm

Here are pages 3 & 4.
Attachments
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_4.jpg
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_4.jpg (73.24 KiB) Viewed 7972 times
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_3.jpg
Hunter RJA 425664 FlyOff - Baleout_Page_3.jpg (86.52 KiB) Viewed 7972 times

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:54 pm

Many years ago now I located three surviving 76 Squadron pilots who were overhead at various stages of the rescue. One was a gent who dropped the replacement dinghy. He said it was difficult removing his dinghy from underneath all his other gear. Then after opening his cockpit hood, the talc powder the dinghy was packed in to preserve it in the tropics blew all over his face in the slipstream & temporarily blinded him - other talked him around via radio till he could see again! It was one of the rewards in tracking down all these guys - to hear these sorts of stories that'll never make it into the official histories!

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:00 pm

One of the other guys said the second Catalina - the next morning - was also reluctant to land. Allegedly certain "threats" were made over the radio that the PBY might join my Dad in the water if it didn't attemp to land & pick him up. Can't vouch for the truth of this bit of "Inter-Allied Cooperation." Given the end result was sufficient damage to the PBY that it couldn't take off again, the PIC in the Cat might have been justified in his caution! Discussing this with members of a local museum who have a flying PBY, their opinion was probably the nose doors of the (amphibious) Cat were stove in with a heavy inpact, which they say was the weak point, if any, of a Cat.

RSwank
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by RSwank » Sun Apr 17, 2016 6:59 am

Funta, very interesting info.

I am sure you already have this but your father's 33 page RAAF file is available on fold3.com. Surprisingly not much information in it and lots of hand written pages.

There is also information on the web regarding the 593rd EBSR which had a Lt Yancey L James in Company A. (I assume that this was the EBSR involved, not the 543rd?

For example, here there are 4 references to Yancey L James on this page (search for Yancey).
http://ebsr.net/593rdEBSR.htm

He was wounded twice and awarded a Bronze Star and Soldier's Medal


By December 1944, much of the military effort had moved to Leyte. It is hard to track what units (both Army and Navy) were still operating on or near Neomfoor.

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:47 pm

You're quite correct it was the 593rd. It was through mention of a reunion of theirs on the Web I managed to contact & chat to members whilst briefly in the US many times in my flying career. They described Yancey as an 'enthusiastic warrior' who felt if he HAD to go to war he might as well get on with it and hopefully 'get a medal.' They didn't necessarily share his sentiments! Hence I guess it made sense his being the one who jumped at opportunities such as setting off in LCMs rescuing downed pilots from near enemy held coastlines.

Yes, that's the difficulty with finding the PBY. There were a lot of units in passage to the 'real war' up in the Philippines. Likely it was based either on land at Biak or (more likely) on water in a small group of islands at the east end of Biak.

Regarding fold3.com, it seems I have to sign up with a credit card to even get the 'free' trial and I am wary of passing such details. If not much info I may not bother.

On another front, I have two other friends, also retired Captains from the same airline as I, whose fathers were also in 76 Squadron RAAF, but in an earlier period - Milne Bay to Kiriwina to Goodenough to Momote. Both of them had signed up earlier, been trained in Australia and Canada, and served in the UK on Hurricanes & Spitfires before returning to Oz as 76 Sq founding members. One eventually became Squadron leader. [Comment: the flying business seems fairly incestuous; in my ex-airline there are now third generation Tech Crew of both sexes getting promoted!]

Mostly their strikes appear to have been on New Britain - Gasmata, Hoskins, Talasea... The Leiden site you passed me before for the Dutch New Guinea fields, which I have used extensively, understandably doesn't seem to cover eastern New Guinea / New Britain. Do you have a site which shows maps of this area at these precise levels of details ie at strip plan level? The Uni of Austin site has maps but I can't find them there down to this scale.

You'll have seen my Topic on storing Logbooks on-line. I've had no reply on this from anyone, which surprises me.

RSwank
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by RSwank » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:26 pm

It looks like your National Library has the maps you seek, but they are not all digitized, so this probably does not help you much.

Here is the "top" index map.
http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-233366531/view

Here, for example is Gasmata Airdrome link (but not the map):
http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/162312968? ... =176895979

I will search around on the web a little and see what else I can find.

Funta
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Re: Google Earth and Airfield Locations

Post by Funta » Sun Apr 17, 2016 10:09 pm

It's about a four hour drive to Canberra. I'll have to talk to them to check whether they would allow digital photography of the originals they hold.

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