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Allied missions against Ballale Island and Ballale Airfield
January, 15, 1943–October 19, 1944

January 15, 1943
(13th AF) A single B-17 attacks Ballale.

Click For EnlargementJanuary 16, 1943
(13th AF) B-17s bomb Ballale. Aerial reconnaissance photo taken from 22,500'.

January 18, 1943
(13th AF) B-17s, P-38s and P-40s bomb Ballale

January 25, 1943
(13th AF) B-17s attack Ballale

January 26, 1943
(13th AF) B-17s bomb Ballale, escorted by P-39 piloted by McCulla and P-39 piloted by Fiedler

Click For EnlargementJanuary 29, 1943
(USN) Photographic reconnaissance photo of Ballale

February 1, 1943
(Japanese)  Population on Ballale February 1943: 8th Construction Group : about 1,200 (including 665 factory workers) The army : 1,560 Islanders : 300.

February 14, 1943
(13th AF) Zeros from Ballale take off to intercept nine PB4Ys and P-38s attacking shipping in the Buin-Shortland area. Lost in the area is P-38G piloted by Rist (MIA).

Americans lost a total of 10 planes: PB4Y-1 31948 and PB4Y-1 31970, P-38G piloted Finkenstein (MIA), P-38G piloted by White (MIA), P-38 piloted by 2nd Lt. Huey (MIA), P-38G piloted by John R. Mulvey Jr. (rescued), and P-38G piloted by Wellman H. Huey (POW) and F4U 02187 and F4U 02249 and F-5A Lightning 42-12678 (MIA).

February 15, 1943
(13th AF) B-24s, hindered by effective AA fire at Kahilli and Ballale, 2 B-24s are lost:

February 17, 1943
(13th AF) Single B-24s bomb Ballale

February 19, 1943
(5th AF) B-17s bomb Ballale
(RAAF) Four PBYs took part in a raid on Ballale. Carried out what was one of our most successful raids ('the night Ballale was set on fire'). Some of the other Cats had already arrived and started 'work' (times were usually staggered due to operational reasons) and six big fires were already burning. We stayed over the target at 8000 ft for about an hour dropping two 500 lb, four 250 lb and twenty 20 lb and some leaflets (which probably didn't hurt as much). We started one huge explosion, four very large fires, and seven or eight small ones. There was intense heavy ack-ack (and quite accurate), intense but inaccurate light ack-ack, and two very well operated searchlights. We saw two of the Cats over the target. We also copped some flak from the Buin anchorage when they felt we were trespassing on their air space. I found it fascinating watching the tracer ack-ack coming at us. Every shell seems to be coming straight at me and seemingly at the last moment they zip to one side or the other.

February 20, 1943
(13th AF) B-17s and PBYs bomb Ballale
(5th AF) B-17s bomb Ballale

(Japanese) 6th Kure Toku  [Heavy Gunnery Group]) More than 7 machines of B-17, 24 and PBY-5A in total attacked on February 19 at 23:25 until 2:23 on the 20th.We took strong bombing. By the Our Koukaku [cannon], B-24, one machine shot down. Exhaustion of ammunition: Koukaku cannons: 176  High sky firing cannon: 140. Damage does not occur in us.

(Japanese - another account):  Late at night, some times of bombing was taken for three hours. An airport, entai-gou (Storage place where it is reinforced )and a barracks were destroyed. The drum (600) of the aviation fuel stored around the barracks exploded. It couldn't extinguish the fire. As for us, it was as much as possible to run away. Two fighters are went up up in flames, two machines damage. Wounded person is a small number. Death in battle is zero. It was a miracle that there was no death. The soldier watching it from Buin said "Ballale burned out at last, too"

(Japanese - another account):  There was much night bombing. A factory worker couldn't sleep, and grew weak. They had to sleep in the air-raid shelter. Sick persons increased because the environment of the air-raid shelter was bad.

Click For EnlargementFebruary 22, 1943
(Japan) Islanders assisting on the island were ordered to be sent home, all were evacuated by the end of March.

February 26, 1943
(13th AF) Photographic reconnaissance over Ballale from 25,000'.

Click For EnlargementFebruary 27, 1943
(13th AF) F-4 from the 6th PRG, 8th PRS makes a photographic reconnaissance over Ballale at 32,500'.

February 28, 1943
(13th AF) B-24s hit Ballale.

March 3, 1943
(USN) Nine PBY4 of VB-101 took off from Henderson Field at 1:30am to bomb Kahilli Airfield, Ballale Airfield and Vila AIrfield. They proceeded through searchlights and AA fire to drop 500 lbs bombs from medium altitude. Lost are PB4Y-1 31946, PB4Y-1 31947 and PB4Y-1 31950.

March 4, 1943
(13th AF) B-24s hit Ballale Airfield.

Click For EnlargementMarch 5, 1943
(USN) Seven PBY4 of VB-101 took off from Henderson Field at night. Only five hit the targets of Kahilli, Ballale, Vilu and Munda. Two aborted: one suffered mechanical problems, the other severe weather.

March 6, 1943
(13th AF) B-24s bomb Ballale

March 9, 1943
(13th AF) Single B-24 bombs Ballale

March 12, 1943
(13th AF) B-24 raid on Ballale

May 12/13, 1943 (night)
(13th AF) B-24 on snooper missions bomb Ballale Airfield

March 16, 1943
(13th AF) B-17s and B-24s on harassing raids bomb Ballale.

March 17, 1943
(13th AF) B-17s continue harassing raids on Ballale

March 19, 1943
(13th AF) B-17's and B-24's on armed recon bomb Ballale Airfield.

Click For EnlargementClick For EnlargementMarch 30, 1943
(13th AF) Aerial reconnaissance photo taken from 21 ,700'
The photo notes surfacing runway (repairs), damaged bomber revetments, damaged fighter revetments, medium bomber 'nell', medium bomber 'betty' on the apron on the north-eastern end of the strip.

March 31, 1943
(IJN) Vice Admiral Jinichi Kusaka Visits Ballale

April 7, 1943 (Operation I-GO)
There was a major assembly of fighters on Ballale on April 7, 1943. Fighters from Junyō, Hiyo and Zuihō landed that day. Allied F5 Lightings performing aerial photography spotted 64 aircraft (40' span, 30' length) that were fighters there that day in addition to dive bombers. The heavy concentration of fighters seen at Ballale on the morning of April 7 did not remain there. By 1715 photos showed only 25 fighters present (some may have been misidentified DBs). Other sources indicate the heavy concentration of aircraft returned to Rabaul for raids against other targets in New Guinea during Operation I-Go. Thanks to Richard Dunn for this information.

April 11, 1943
(13th AF) B-17's bomb Ballale Airfield.

April 18, 1943
(IJN)Yamamoto Mission: G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 with passenger Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto plus G4M1 Betty Tail 326 with passenger Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki took off from Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul on a flight bound for Ballale Airfield but both bombers are shot down over southern Bougainville by intercepting P-38G Lightings "Operation Peacock".

April 27, 1943
(13th AF) B-24's hit Ballale.

May 6, 1943
(13th AF) B-24's carry out harassing strikes Ballale.

May 12, 1943
(13th AF) At night, two B-24s and 6 B-17s attack Ballale and Kahili in two separate waves.
( Cross Check?)

May 13, 1943
(13th AF) 5 B-17's again hit Ballale Airfield in the evening.

May 14, 1943
(13th AF) Single B-24 on snooper missions hit Ballale Airfield.

May 19 , 1943
(13th AF) During night of 19/20 Four 13th Bomber Command B-17s and two B-24s mount light harassing raids against Ballale and Kahili

May 20-21, 1943 (night)
(13th AF) B-24's on snooper missions hit Ballale

May 22-23, 1943 (night)
(13th AF) Five B-24's hit Ballale

June 8, 1943
(13th AF) B-24'a on armed reconnaissance bomb Ballale

June 15, 1943
(13th AF) B-24's bomb Ballale Airfield.

June 18, 1943
(13th AF) 42nd BG B-25's hit Ballale.

June 24, 1943
(13th AF) Photo recon of Ballale showed 12 operative twin-engine bombers, 1 operative dive bomber, 5 operative VF ("These planes have been in the same position for approximately 2 months and may be inoperative, although there is no apparent damage"), and 4 inoperative VF.

(USN) At night, PB4Y's of VB-102 bomb Ballale dropping 20 x 120 lbs fragmentation cluster bombs, attacking singularly in staggered formation at an altitude of 11k, 14k 15,000'. Coming over Nusave, the first bomber was picked up by searchlight at inaccurate anti-aircraft fire, and dropped its bombs thinking that was the target. The other two found the target, circled and bombed the Island successfully.

June 25-26, 1943 (night)
(13th AF) B-24's pound the airfield on Ballale

June 27, 1943
(13th AF) B-25's hit Ballale. 3 PB4Y of VB-101 bomb Ballale from 10,000'.

June 30, 1943
(USN) Task Group 36.2 commanded by Rear Admiral A. S. Merrill bombards Ballale and mining operations in Shortland area. Including cruisers: USS Montpelier (CL-57), USS Cleveland (CL-55), USS Columbia (CL-56), USS Denver (CL-58) and destroyers: USS Philip (DD-498), USS Saufley (DD-465), USS Renshaw (DD-499) and USS Waller (DD-466). At 01:55 the force opened fire with main battery with full radar control on selected targets on Ballale at range of 16,400 yards. While a mine laying group of USS Pringle, USS Preble and USS Breese and USS Gamble laid mines 6000 yards ahead. No enemy gunfire was observed. The bombardment force sustains no casualties of material other than jamming of projectiles, and temporary failure of FH radar after opening fire.

July 4, 1943
B-24's over Buin fail to find shipping and bomb Ballale instead.

July 5, 1943
(13th AF) B-24s hit Ballale

July 6, 1943
(13th AF) B-17's and B-24's pound airfields. Lost is B-24D 42-40230 (MIA).

July 10, 1943
(13th AF) F-5A Lightning piloted by 1st Lt Lt. Eugene R. Brown took off on a photo reconassiance mission over Kahili, Ballale and Shortland was intercepted by two Zeros from 582 Kokutai from Buin that shot out the left engine, but managed to dive to 500' and escape landing safely.

July 12, 1943
(13th AF) 17 B-24's bomb Ballale Airfield

July 14, 1943
(13th AF) B-24's and B-17's bomb Ballale Airfield

July 19, 1943
(13th AF) B-17's and B-25's bomb Ballale Airfield

July 20, 1943
(13th AF) B-24s hit Ballale Airfield

July 26, 1943
(13th AF) During night of 26/27, six 13th Bomber Command B-24s attack both Ballale and Kahili.

(USN) Two PB4Ys of VB-102 bomb Ballale under glare of searchlights and moderate but inaccurate A/A fire. One plane mistook Nusave for the target, and bombed it.

July 27, 1943
(13th AF) B-17's bomb Ballale Airfield

July 30, 1943
(13th AF & RNZAF) 9 B-24's, with an escort of 16 P-38's and 16 RNZAF 16 Squadron P-40's and 40+ US Navy F4U's to bomb Kahilli Airfield, but found it covered in clouds. Instead they hit Ballale Airfield. A6M Zeros took off from Ballale before they reached the island, and released two phosphorus bombs into the formation.   Flak over target was severe, but the bombers dropped 22 tons of bombs. Zeros attacked when the formation left the target. RNZAF made no claims and had two planes slightly damaged. Lost is F4U Corsair 02375 (MIA).

August 13, 1943
(13th AF) Eight B-24 bomb Ballale Airfield at night, while 13 others bomb Kahili Airfield. Returning, one B-24 returning is hit by friendly anti-aircraft due to a Japanese air raid over Guadalcanal.

September 4, 1943
9 B-24's, 15 AAF fighters, and 20+ USN fighters hit Ballale Airfield.

September 14, 1943
(13th AF, USN) P-39's join USN fighters and dive bombers in attack on Ballale Airfield. Lost are F6F Hellcat 8979 (rescued) and F6F Hellcat 09024 (MIA).

September 15, 1943
(13th AF) During the night, heavy bombers bomb Ballale Airfield. During the day, Ballale Airfield is also hit by USN dive bombers, supported by AAF, USN and US Marine Corps (USMC) fighters; a bivouac area, revetments, supply dumps and gun positions are hit; the runway appears badly damaged by the strikes. Lost are F6F Hellcat 25883 (MIA), F6F Hellcat 26009 (survived) and PV-1 Ventura 33214 (rescued).

September 16, 1943
(13th AF & USMC, USN, RNZAF) US Navy 24 SBD and 31 TBF strike Ballale Airfield, while a mult-service escort, with 13 F6F from VF-38 and 11 F6F from VF-40 (first mission for Hellcats in theater) took off from Guadalcanal's Fighter One. Also, 13th AF and RNZAF P-40s. In addition, 23 F4Us of VF-214 "The Black Sheep" including Boyington took off from Banika at 1pm and rendezvous over New Georgia with the formation. In total, more than 100 aircraft proceeded to the target.  Weather was partly cloudy, the attack began around 14:50. There were a total of 71 escorts in the air. Over the target 40-50 Japanese fighters including Zeros and Tonys and heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered.  The 204th Kokutai launched 26 Zeros. A large, sprawling dog fight ensued over hundreds of miles. Greg Boyington scored victories over several Zeros, he landed at Munda with only 10 gallons of gas, 30 rounds of ammo, and minor damage from flying through the debris of a Zero that exploded in mid-air. After refueling, he returning to Banika.  VMF-214 were credited with 11 Zeros and 8 probable. Three F6Fs were lost: F6F 25839 and F6F ????? (two pilots rescued, third MIA, F6F Lt. Riley. One Hellcat was damaged, landing at Munda, then flown back to Fighter One for a week of repairs. Two F4Us suffer minor damaged from VMF-214 and one plane lost, F4U 17527

Click For EnlargementOctober 11, 1943
(USN) Aerial reconnaissance photo taken of Ballale and Shortland area.

October 16, 1943
(13th AF) 6 B-25's hit the airfield on Ballale

October 17, 1943
Over the past two days (16-17) Japanese records indicate the loss of 15 Zeros in the air, and deaths of 13 pilots (half a squadron). They claim 4 planes shot down and two damaged, lost is F4U 17557 went MIA, and two F4Us minor damaged.

Click For EnlargementOctober 18, 1943
(13th AF) 24 SBDs and 12 TBFs escorted by 56 fighters hit Ballale. Eight minutes later, 28 B-24's with cover of 50+ fighters including P-39s, 17 P-38s, F4U Corsairs of VMF-214 and VMF-221, hit Ballale from 18,000' Some of the 202 x 1,000lbs bombs hit the runway and dispersal areas. Lost is F4U 17557. [Stills from newsreel]

Black Sheep One, page 265-266
"Boyington again led Corsairs towards Bougainville, this time as medium cover for an SBD strike on the notorious antiaircraft gun positions at Ballale. In a perfectly coordinated attack, TBFs simultaneously dive-bombed the runway, followed by B-24s that released their bomb loads from high overhead. Everything came together like clockwork. SBDs plastered the AA sites, the Avengers’ bombs crisscrossed the strip, then the ordnance from the heavies walked right down the runway centerline. Because the island was so small, the effect was like blasting an anchored carrier. Two clusters of Zeros were sighted, but Boyington held his Corsairs close to the SBDs and the Japanese never, challenged, probably because an overwhelming number of P-38s, P-39s, and New Zealand P-40s also maneuvered nearby.”

October 19, 1943
(USMC) A single F4U flown by George Ashmum from VMF-214 strafes Ballale's revetment area for 10 seconds
(USN) VB-140 PV-1 Ventura piloted by Willard attacks Ballale Airfield at low level, disabling planes in revetments and starting large fires.

October 28, 1943
(USN & 13th AF) 13th AF P-40's and P-39's join USN fighters and dive bombers in attacks on Ballale.

October 1943
(IJN) 23 photo sorties during October 1943 saw a maximum of 8 and an average of 4 fighters at Ballale, zero/zero dive bombers, and 1 twin engined bomber with an average of zero. Thanks to Richard Dunn for this information.

November 1, 1943
(USN) Task Force 38 (R. Adm Frederick Sherman) USS Montpelier CL-57, USS Cleveland (CL-55), USS Denver (CL-58), USS Columbia (CL-56) and eight destroyers hit Japanese defenses on Ballale and Poporang.

(USN) VF-17 flights of eight F4Us patrol Empress Augusta Bay and strafe Ballale before returning to base at Ondonga. (1) The first , led by Lt. Lem Cooke strafes Ballale on their way home around 11:15am. (2) The second, led by Johnny Kleinman's flight strafes Ballale on their way home around 12:30. (3) The third, led by Halford's flight strafes Ballale on their way home around 18:00. Ballale responds with intense anti-aircraft fire, F4U piloted by John H. Keith is hit and begins to smoke heavily. He ditches his plane 5 miles SE of the island at 1810, and is observed to swim clear of the fighter. His wingman Ens Country Landreth (Landrew?) circles Keith until after sunset, when he loses sight of him in the darkness. Keith is not observed to deploy his life raft. A PT boat and a PBY search for Keith through the night and into the next day, with no success.

VF-17 The Jolly Rogers, page 107 Tom Blackburn recalls:
"Dubbed 'Ballale Postgraduate School for Frustrated Anti-Aircraft gunners'. On the way home from missions we would strafe Ballale. I was never convinced that we did enough damage to warrant the risks, but I am certain our on going efforts inflicted psychological damage. Still I am not sure that it was worth the deaths sustained at the hands of their anti-aircraft gunners."

November 2, 1943
(USN) VF-17 F4U strafe Ballale on the way back from their mission. Tom Killefer caught a 20mm shell in the cockpit, that blew up his oxygen bottle and started a fire in the cockpit and wounded him. His F4U made it back to base, the radio transmitter was damaged by the hit.

November 7, 1943
(USN) VF-17 F4Us strafe Ballale on the return from their mission to northern Bougainville. Tom Killefer [plane damaged on November 2] is again damaged in his right wing by 20mm shell.

November 9 , 1943
13th AF P-39's join USN aircraft hit Ballale Airfield

November 10, 1943
(13th AF) B-25's carry out strikes on Ballale Airfield

November 14, 1943
(USN) Eight F4Us of VF-17 escort 54 SBDs and eight TBFs that proceeded through very bad weather, to bomb anti-aircraft positions on the island. Anti-aircraft fire was intense, no fighters were hit, and no bombers shot down.

November 16, 1943
(13th AF) P-40's and P-39's hit targets in on Ballale
(RNZAF) 12 P-40s from 18 Squadron strafe anti-aircraft positions on Ballale. F/O Lindsay David Hutton in P-40 NZ3166 was hit by fire from the east side of the island. Streaming oil, he dived into the sea six miles south of Fauro, a parachute was observed to open but only just above the water, he was seen to tread water, but then sank and disappeared, no further trace was seen after 20 minutes of searching.

November 19, 1943
(13th AF) B-25's bomb Ballale Airfield.

November 26, 1943
(13th AF) One B-25 bombs the airfield on Ballale

November 30, 1943
(13th AF and USN) fighters hit the SE coast of Ballale

December 1, 1943
(13th AF and USN) USAAF fighters and USMC VMF-214 "Black Sheep" lead by Pierre Carnnagey provide an eight plane F4U escort for bombers. After discovering their primary target Chabai Airfield covered in clouds, the formation of 48 Navy SBD dive bombers, and 24 TBFs perform strikes on Ballale supply areas. They met and observed no fighters at Ballale, only anti-aircraft fire. Two SBDs were lost, SBD 11002 and SBD 35976.

Click For EnlargementClick For EnlargementDecember 6, 1943
(USN) Bombing attack by VD-1. Photos issued by Interpron one (Navy Photo Intelligence Unit). The photograph from west side ("4 Dual Purpose") is the first VD-1 #41, and the photograph from east side ("Damaged Betty") is the second VD-1 #42.

February 15, 1944
(USN) Ens George Keller, flying a single TBF flying from Guadalcanal over flies Ballale area and is hit by heavy antiaircraft fire, damaging the plane, and the supply of beer and liquor its carrying back to Piva strip for men of VF-17. Hydraulic system was shot out, requiring him to fly with the gear down by successfully landed at Torokina, but all the alcohol had been destroyed in the bomb bay. Ballale was dubbed 'Ballale Postgraduate School for Frustrated Anti-Aircraft gunners.'

March 1, 1944
(13th AF) P-38s hit Ballale

May 26, 1944
(13th AF) 40+ P-39s and P-40s hit barges NW of Ballale

May 28, 1944
(13th AF) Fighter bombers hit AA guns on Ballale.

October 1, 1944
(USN) Two TDR-1 Assault Drones from Special Task Air Group One (STAG-1) target anti-aircraft guns on Ballale. One drone hit a heavy anti-aircraft battery on western Ballale. The second drone hit the southwest end of the runway at Ballale within 100' or less of an area of heavy anti-aircraft and automatic AA guns.

October 19, 1944
(USN) Two TDR-1 Assault Drones from Special Task Air Group One (STAG-1) target anti-aircraft guns on Ballale. The first, one drone misses its target during its run; in the second, the drone drops part of  its ordnance [the two four-100-pound bomb clusters on the target before it crashes.

USAAF Combat Chronologies January 1943 - May 1944
VF-17 The Jolly Rogers
The Black Sheep
Black Sheep One
The Seige of Rabaul

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