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Mission To Rabaul January 5, 1943 Altered Documents
Research notes by Lex Mcauley

Another example of high command interference in official records is by General Kenney. The mission report of the daylight bombing attack on Rabaul on 5 January 1943 did not claim much damage to shipping, but there is a typed note on the bottom to the effect that, 'by order of General Kenney' a list of ships sunk and damaged was inserted. This was to back the citation of the award of the CMOH to General Walker.

The amendment to the mission report is at the bottom of the page, with the beginning: 'By order of General Kenney...' and a list of ships sunk or hit, which clearly is in contradiction of the mission report itself. The copy I saw was in the Australian War Memorial collection of ' Allied Air forces Attack and Reconnaissance Reports', which are in hard-covered volumes by month, in daily chronological sequence. Presumably other copies of these reports will be available in US archives, perhaps the MacArthur Memorial collection, but probably at the US Archives at College Park, MD.

Taking a pace back and looking at the wider scene, North Africa was the scene of hard fighting and Rommel had dealt some hard blows to the recently landed Allied forces in Tunisia; after enormous battles Guadalcanal was still not decided; MacArthur and Kenney needed some 'good news' from the SWPA. The 'bad news' they were covering over was that the Allied air effort was failing to halt frequent Japanese convoy runs to and from New Guinea, due to a combination of bad weather and failure of the peacetime bombing techniques, and also that US infantry was not successful in action against the Japanese, due to a combination of bad leadership and peacetime training techniques.
Colin Kelly's CMOH was a year in the past. Ira Eaker flew on the first US heavy bomber raid into Occupied Europe, but Germany itself had not been attacked by US bombers in daylight. A daylight raid on Rabaul led by a general officer was newsworthy, and it was possible that the officer would be found and rescued.

Kenney continually had to find ways to keep his air force in the public arena, to counter the overwhelming presence of the ETO forces, and CMOH was only one of his tactics - not to denigrate the achievements of any of those medal recipients; far from it. Kenney used his fighter aces to keep the 5thAF in the public eye, and as long as they shot down Japanese they would be given special attention. This is why some were attached to 5thAF HQ and could fly on missions they chose, with any squadron they chose.

At command level, Kenney always had to nurture three relationships - one with MacArthur and one with Hap Arnold, along with one to the pr presence in the SWPA and USA. When officers up to general rank were being relieved in all theaters, in January 1943 even Kenney was not yet secure, so the best use had to be made of Ken Walker's actions on a combat mission to the biggest enemy base in the region. It's one of the harder parts of military service, especially so at command level.

Ken Walker was a foundation member of the daylight bombing clan, presumably still determined to demonstrate to Kenney that it would still work (in the ETO they lost hundreds of airplanes trying to 'make it work'), so, on reflection, I think this is why he altered the timings, to give the bombardiers a better chance, and, as a senior officer and proponent of daylight precision bombing, went on the mission, to lead and direct over the target, and then return with a success to present to Kenney. Unfortunately, the x-factor was the accuracy of the puny machine guns in the JAAF fighters.

If you cannot find the Attack and Reconnaissance reports in any of the US archives, please get back to me and I'll ask someone in Canberra to go to AWM and look for the file. I've sort of lost touch with AWM over the years and with those registered as researchers, but can revitalize the link if needed.



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