380th Bomb Group Association
NEWSLETTER #40 -- Fall 2009
"A GODFORSAKEN SPOT"
The email that follows was forwarded to our members with emails, and to date, Phillip has received several emails back in response to his August request. If you would like to share your experiences with him, please feel free to contact him.
Part of the Preface to Phillip's book follows below.
date: Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 11:28 PM
I'm in the process of writing a book on the WW2 involvement of 2 Northern Territory of Australia airstrips, namely RAAF Fenton and RAAF Long.
I am aware that the 380th was the main operator of the bases and I was hoping to gather some information from you guys regarding these strips.
I'm looking for personal diaries/photos/publications etc. of the life and operations out of Fenton and Long; any help and or leads would be greatly appreciated.
Phillip Hoare, Managing Director
Arnhem Contracting (NT) Pty Ltd
"A Godforsaken Spot"
by Phillip Hoare
I headed out one Saturday morning to a small private airstrip just south of Darwin, to those of you whom served in the NT, half-way between Straus and Sattler Fighter Strips. Upon arrival, I pulled out the small Cessna 150, preflighted it and taxied out for take-off. I had a rough idea of where to find Fenton, to the extent of finding Adelaide River and heading directly south, overflying the flat top mountain range approximately 10 nm to the south of the township.
Here I am at 1500 ft doing 85 kts over the ground trying to find a 6000 ft runway. You would think that it would stick out like a pimple on a pumpkin, but to no avail. I eventually saw a very distinguishable twin hill, with two peaks about 1/4 mile apart. I blasted straight towards the hill thinking it may be close by and then bam!, there she was, 6000 ft by 100 ft wide, sealed runway, looking as good as the day she was built. I joined upwind on the western side of the strip and did a few low level passes to check the condition of the runway. "Perfect," I said to myself, except for the piles of manure scattering the strip, so I reefed the plane round for a short final, dropped 20 degrees of flap for the approach followed by 40 for the landing, flared, stall warning, and bang! I locked the brakes on the loose gravel and pulled her up to a walking speed in about 25 m. I taxied under power to the old tower site, pulled off the runway into the remains I believe of the emergency vehicles park and pulled the mixture.
I sat around for a few minutes, drank some water, strapped on my 45 and then went for a bit of a wander. I was hoping to find the old tower but I didn't fancy walking through waist-high grass in snake and wild pig ridden country on my own, so after about 30 minutes, I returned to the aircraft and checked the fuel. Hmmmmm, perhaps I don't have enough, 25 lph and I've got 35 l on board. I need 45 fixed reserves to remain legal and I'll punch back probably at 95 kts due to tailwind. "Hmmmm, let's just go," I told myself, so I jumped in, started her up and taxied out to join the imaginary centre line once followed by aircraft whose engines weighed more than my whole plane. Full brake, full forward deflection, 10 degree of flap then release, slowly I picked up speed. 30 kts, 40 kts, 50 kts, rotate, ground effect, flaps up, barely hitting 65 knots and then reefing her up of the pillow, through 500 ft as the speed washed off. I pictured myself at the controls of a B-24, with all 4 twin wasps singing in harmony.
I turned right and levelled out at about 650 ft and did a few circles around what I now know to be Fenton camp. I leaned the engine out to conserve fuel and headed direct to MKT strip. I picked up the GPS and hit the DCT button, only for it to flash low battery and then quit on me. So I picked up the chart, measured 80 nm and put some of those old, nearly-forgotten dead reckoning skills to the test. As I watched the fuel gauge hit empty on the right wing, I looked at my watch and said a quick prayer, "please make this 11 minutes to run go quickly." Sure enough at 5 miles final I called traffic inbound and landed. I'd made it and I survived. After packing away the aircraft and stopping at the bottle shop to grab some beers, I pulled over on what remains of Sattler Strip and thought to myself: "Imagine how the boys of the 380th felt. Flying with no GPS, probably very little radio comms, the threat of getting shot down and aircraft with uncertain engines and equipment. Wow... and think, I thought I had it tough!"
That night I sat at home listening to the rubbish on TV these days and decided that it was time to escape all of that and get out and do something worthwhile with my time. It was at that moment that I decided that there was a story to tell, one that probably hasn't been revealed, one that needs to be written so that the future generation can see what their forefathers endured, for whatever price, at that God forsaken place. So that draws me here to you, the remaining brothers and sisters that keep alive the rich history of the men of the 380th BG.
Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 12:21 AM
I am writing a book, which I hope will portray the part of your lives that you spent on my soil, defending my country and my freedom. I want this not only to portray the 380th, but the 82 Wing RAAF and the support units as well. A timeline from conception to disposal of the Airfield and surrounding assets. Something that people can read and appreciate the hardships and the joys that you all experienced.
Just my two cents worth; I hope I didn't bore you and I look forward to hearing from you in the future.
I am looking for any info whatsoever in the form of memoirs, anecdotes, unit histories, photographs and anything else relevant. At this stage I am aware of the following unit present in the Fenton area at the time:
Fenton: 380th BG (528th and 530th)
1/310th, 309th, 319th Radar
895th Chemical Company
82 Wing Raaf
21st and 23rd Squadron RAAF
808th Engineering Construction
Long: 380th BG (529th and 531st)
24th Squadron RAAF
Brocks Ck: No 1 BIPOD
Burrells Ck/Green Ant Ck/88 Mile:
No 5 Supply Depot Chemical Warfare Unit
I'm also looking at organising a 7-10 day trip next year combining a road tour vehicle and aircraft from Darwin through the bases and locations of the 380th. Some of your members may be interested; there is a lot of interest from the Aussie contingent already.
Many Thanks and God Bless
PO BOX 36217, Winnellie, NT, 0821 Australia
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Last updated: 10/05/2009 01:03 PM