24 Squadron RAAF B-24 Liberator Model
A carefully crafted wooden B-24 Liberator of the RAAF No 24 Squadron. Each model is carved from wood and hand painted to provide a uniquely crafted model. 18 inches
The story of this aircraft from the Pathfinder (Issue 222, May 2014) –
“By July 1944, five months after receipt of the first B-24 into service, RAAF crews of No 24 Squadron, the first RAAF unit to be equipped
with the B-24, were ready to commence operations to Australia’s north. The effects generated by the new long-range strike capability were immediate and obvious. Targets previously out of range were attacked and armed reconnaissance missions conducted over areas that had
only seen minimal Air Force presence in the past. These missions resulted in the destruction of several freighters, barges and shore installations While contributing to the overall tactical successors of the Allied air operations in the SWPA, the real capability of the RAAF’s long-range heavy bomber was still to be utilised to its full strategic potential. This changed in January 1945, when after extensive
planning and intelligence assessments, followed by two weeks of continual training, six B-24s of No 24 Squadron were dispatched on a 3700 km round trip from Truscott airfield in WA, to attack the Mendalan and Siman hydroelectric power stations at Kali Konto
in occupied Java. Responsible for providing nearly half of Java’s electricity requirements and one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the world, the strategic importance of the Mendalan and Siman power stations was first identified through assessments
carried out by the Central Intelligence Unit in Brisbane, and later through analysis of aerial reconnaissance
imagery obtained by the RAAF’s No 87 Squadron. It was determined that the loss of these power stations would disrupt Japanese manufacturing, industry and military operations throughout the Java region. The plan called for three waves of attacks, each of two aircraft, on the power stations to be conducted on 27 January 1945. The second and third waves were only to be conducted based on an assessment of the damage caused by the previous wave. As it transpired, only the first wave of attacks were made, with adverse weather causing the follow on attacks to be cancelled, althoughthis was sufficient to put the power stations out of action, at least temporarily, with the B-24 of GPCAPT Kingwell striking the transformer yard and turbine house of the Mendalan plant, while FLTLT Kirkwood and crew
damaged the generators and workshops at the Siman facility.
An interesting sidenote to Kirkwood’s post-operational report was the identification of a dummy facility constructed to the north of the Siman facility. Kirkwood noted: ‘Observation of the dummy power house north of the target showed the wall had not been continued to
the ground level and that it was possible to go through and under the building.’ This attempted deception and extensive camouflage of the primary targets were the only defensive measures taken to protect the targets, with both crews reporting that no anti-aircraft fire or enemy fighter aircraft were seen. However, if the fighters known to be in Java had failed to disrupt the mission, the weather
which had prevented the second and third waves from taking off nearly put paid to a successful return to base of the two B-24s and crews. Severe thunderstorms marked the return trip to Truscott, delaying the RTB by nearly two hours. On landing, Kirkwood’s port engine stopped due to fuel starvation. Post-flight inspections found only 22 litres of fuel remaining in the aircraft.
The fuel needed to reach the power stations was in fact an issue throughout the planning process. The standard fuel load of the B-24s was insufficient for the mission, however crews with experience in the RAF’s Coastal Command were aware of the B-24’s ability to carry additional fuel tanks in lieu of bombs in its rear bomb bay, while still leaving the forward bomb bay free to carry six 250-kg bombs. This inherent flexibility of the aircraft provided the key to being able to push ahead with the mission planning, and resulted in the
3700 km bombing raid becoming the longest mounted from the Australian mainland during World War II.
In the post mission debriefs it was determined that a second attack should go ahead within 24 hours; however,the weather once again prevented this plan from being executed. Instead, the target was granted a nine-day reprieve. On 5 February the second attack was launched,
once again from Truscott. The key difference this time was that it was planned for four aircraft to attack simultaneously. While hits on the wider infrastructure were observed, little significant damage was achieved on the power stations themselves. Consequently, a third
attack was planned and conducted on 8 February. This last attack was spectacularly successful, with good hits observed from all four aircraft on both the Mendalan Siman power stations. With post operation analysis confirming that the power stations were now expected to
be out of commission for a prolonged period of time, no further attacks were considered necessary.
The RAAF’s B-24 crews were to continue flying for the remainder of the war, carrying out attacks on Japanese garrisons, supply vessels and supporting Allied landings in Borneo. While other, smaller RAAF aircraft were able to conduct similar raids, none could achieve the reach, penetration and effect as simply or as effectively as the
long-range, hard-hitting B-24 Liberators”
Formed at Amberley, Queensland in June 1940, No 24 Squadron moved to Townsville in October and began maritime patrols off the Australian East Coast, until the unit was deployed to New Britain in December 1941.
As Japanese forces advanced, the base at Rabaul soon came under constant attack. On the 20 February 1942 over one hundred Japanese aircraft struck the island. No 24 Squadron Wirraways took off to intercept the raiders but were immediately attacked by a large force of “Zero” fighters. Against such odds no effective defence could be offered – three Wirraways were shot down, two crash landed and another was damaged. With only two Wirraways and one Hudson remaining, the sick and wounded were evacuated, while the remainder of the Squadron’s personnel trekked through dense jungle until their eventual rescue by Empire flying boats.
In July 1942, No 24 Squadron moved to Bankstown, New South Wales, where it operated an assortment of aircraft, including Airacobra and Buffalo fighters, Wirraways and Vengeance dive-bombers.
By August 1943, the Unit had standardised with Vengeances and was soon deployed to New Guinea, where dive-bomber operations commenced from Nadzab. Accurate attacks were made against enemy occupied towns and on Japanese positions at Shaggy Ridge. The Vengeances also supported the Cape Gloucester landings before being withdrawn to Australia in March 1944.
After re-equipping with Liberator heavy bombers No 24 Squadron moved to the Northern Territory and commenced anti-shipping strikes, armed reconnaissance missions and bomber attacks against enemy occupied territory. Strikes, particularly against Balikpapan, continued until Japan’s surrender in August. After the war No 24 Squadron Liberators were used to ferry POWs and other personnel from Morotai to Australia. RAAF Museum