The forgotten Air Force : the establishment and employment of Australian air power in the North-Western area, 1941-1945

by Peter Helson

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: History
Year: 1997
Keywords: Pacific War; North-Western Area; NW Area; Australian air power; World War Two; 1941; 1942; 1943; 1944; bombing offensive; seaplanes; fighter squadrons; NEI; Netherlands East Indies; air defence; Darwin; Australia; Second World War; New Guinea; Japanese; Japan; RAAF; Royal Australian Air Force; air raids; North-Western Area; World War 2
Record ID: 1032094
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/38719


The air campaign conducted by the RAAF in the North-Western Area during the Second World War has been largely ignored by historians yet it contributed significantly to the outcome of the Pacific war. This thesis sets out to discuss the campaign by considering various factors that impacted on the RAAF in the lead up to and during the course of the Pacific war and their relevance to the campaign. It looks at the way air operations were conducted in the North-Western Area between 1942 and 1945 and describes the role played by the flying squadrons based in the area. Using primary sources such as operational record books, documents and files at archives and libraries and interviews with veterans and experts the thesis found that the campaign was conducted in several phases. It started with the defence of Darwin. In keeping with overall allied strategy the RAAF then went on an offensive into what was then the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) using medium and heavy bombers and mine laying sea planes flying from bases in Australia��s north west. The NEI was vital to the Japanese war effort as a source of essential raw materials such as oil, timber, and rubber. To defend this part of their new empire the Japanese had amassed large military garrisons on the islands. The vessels used to transport troops and materials became the most important targets for the RAAF��s bomber squadrons. As General MacArthur��s forces advanced along the north coast of New Guinea the North-Western Area based units conducted raids into the NEI to deceive the Japanese into thinking an invasion would be launched from Darwin. As the New Guinea campaign gained momentum the RAAF��s task was to protect its western flank, to prevent the Japanese from moving troops and aircraft east to the Philippines. The thesis concludes the campaign was successful because Darwin was defended, it denied the Japanese vital materials for the conduct of the war and it kept hundreds of aircraft and tens of thousands of troops away from the allied advance.