Fighter Squadrons' Branch - Kittyhawks Photos
Morotai Island Gallery
Morotai Island (Wama Airstrip)
The Squadron ground staff finally left Noemfoor aboard the Liberty ship Clarence Roberts on 2 April,1945 with only the pilots and aircraft remaining behind. The ship arrived at Morotai mid-day on the 7 April.
Morotai Island is situated in the Moluccas group in South East Asia. At the time, only the southern end of the island was controlled by the Allies. Outside the base perimeter fence the island was controlled by the Japanese. The two airfields, Wama and Pitoe, were hewn from coconut groves and when it rained the sites became a sea of mud. The constant muddy and temporary state of the airfield made operations there most uncomfortable.
The first of the Squadron’s Kittyhawks arrived from Noemfoor on 13 April 45. 77 Squadron flew its first sortie from Morotai on 21 April 1945. The mission was to protect an Allied convoy. On the return flight to Morotai Warrant Officer Leslie Hanson (A29-819) ran out of fuel and was forced to bale out at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Hanson was seen to get into his dinghy and he was covered until evening by aircraft from the Squadron.
Unfortunately, due to rough weather, the Catalina sent to rescue him could not land although the crew covered the area where Hanson was assumed to be.
The next morning no trace could be found of the pilot and Hanson was posted as missing. On 23 April, much to the delight of Squadron personnel, Hanson arrived back at camp with the story of how he had been rescued by a passing PT boat.
The same day that Hanson returned alive and well disaster struck. During take-off on a bombing mission, one of the bombs under A29-900 dropped and exploded, killing the pilot Flying Officer Ken McFadden.
Four days later, on 27 April, the Squadron suffered a further casualty. Flying Officer Herbert Krause (A29-808) reported that his engine had cut and he was bailing out. He was seen to leave his aircraft at an altitude of 400 feet and hit the water without his parachute opening. Searchers failed to find any trace of his body.
May brought the news that hostilities in Europe had ceased and in the words of the Squadron’s Temporary CO, Flight Lieutenant Taylor, ‘great jubilation prevailed’. On the 11th a victory issue of two bottles of beer per man was made from the canteen. This was the first issue for many weeks. As a result flying was cancelled for the rest of the day.
Towards the end of the month news was received that 81 Wing was to take part in a proposed invasion of Labuan Island and Brunei code named ‘Oboe 6’.
Preparation and packing for the move began immediately. The Squadron had spent two months at Morotai.
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