U.S. Army Air Force bombers return to the Philippines for strikes April 12–13, 1942
The "Royce Mission" led by General Ralph Royce with eleven B-25C Mitchells from the 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG) led by Colonel "Big Jim" Davies and three B-17E Flying Fortress from the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) led by Captain Frank Bostrom flew from Australia to the Philippines for two days of bombing missions then evacuate military and diplomatic personnel to Australia.
On April 8, 1942 eleven B-25C Mitchells from 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG) were selected for the mission (eight from 13th Bombardment Squadron and three from 90th Bombardment Squadron) are selected for the mission and flown from Charters Towers Airfield to Archerfield Airfield for installation of 12,000 gallon axillary fuel tanks in the bomb bay for the planned flight to the Philippines. On April 9, 1942 by the afternoon all the tanks were installed and tested for leaks while Col Davis met with General Ralph Royce. On April 10, 1942 in the morning the Mitchells flew back to Charters Towers Airfield where last minute preparations were made and the bombers crammed with additional supplies to deliver including medical, small arms ammunition and tobacco products.
Staging Flight to Mindanao
On April 11, 1942 at 1:00am the B-25s plus three B-17E Flying Fortresses took off from Charters Towers Airfield on a cross country flight to Batchelor Field near Darwin. While becoming airborne, B-25C 41-12496 clipped a pipe sticking up on a parked truck that tore the tread on the right main wheel, the damage was not discovered until they landed and were ordered to wait for a replacement tire then fly alone to join the rest of the bombers. After refueling, eating and attending a final briefing, the bombers took off from Batchelor Field for the 1,500 mile flight northward to Del
Monte Airfield on Mindanao arriving in the early afternoon with the B-25s dispersed at Valencia Airfield and Maramag Airfield. General Ralph Royce was aboard B-17E "San Antonio Rose II" 41-2447 to personally oversee the mission. One B-25 was stuck at Darwin and did not participate. For the next two days, the bombers flew strikes
against the Japanese shipping and targets including Nichols Field on Luzon, Cebu Harbor and Davao.
April 12, 1942 (Strike No. 1)
On April 12, 1942 the nine B-25s from Mindanao bomb Japanese shipping in Cebu Harbor. Two B-17 conduct single-bomber strikes against
Cebu Harbor and Nichols Field on Luzon. The third B-17E "San Antonio Rose II" 41-2447 remains parked at Del
April 13, 1942 (Strike No. 2)
On April 13, 1942 the nine B-25s from Mindanao bomb Japanese shipping in Cebu Harbor and installations at Davao on Mindanao.
While parked at Del Monte Airfield, the three B-17s were spotted and bombed. B-17E "San Antonio Rose II" 41-2447 was hit by a 60kg bomb and destroyed. The other two B-17s also sustained damaged including B-17E 41-2421 and B-17E 41-2486.
April 13, 1942 (Strike No. 3)
On April 13, 1942 later in the day, B-25s again bomb the dock area at Davao.
Return Flight to Australia
Afterwards, the bombers were loaded with military and diplomatic personnel assembled at Del Monte Airfield. The evacuated personnel include Chinese Lt. Col. Chih Wang. After dark, the remaining bombers took off from Mindanao for the flight back to Australia with the B-25s landing safely on April 14, 1942 at 3:00am at Batchelor Field near Darwin.
The Royce Mission was a success because no American aircraft or personnel were lost flying the combat missions. The only aircraft lost was B-17E "San Antonio Rose II" 41-2447 destroyed while parked on the ground. Afterwards, the "Royce
Mission" made the front page of the New York Times but was soon overshadowed by news of the April 18, 1942 "Doolittle Raid" led by Col James "Jimmy"
Doolittle when B-25 Mitchells bombed Japan.
Air Base Headquarters Del Monte April 13, 1942 via
CYPHER Message To: U.S.A.F.I.A. Melbourne
From: Batchelor April 14, 1942 3:00am via
"Attention General Brett from Hipps (.) 9 B 25's returned Australia 0300Z/14(.) Tenth believed gone south (.) Will be confirmed later (.) General Royce en route Melbourne with complete report (.)"
Oz@War Major-General Ralph Royce United States Air Corps (USAC) in Australia during WW2
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 164–166 (Royce Mission)
Harvest of the Grim Reapers Vol. 1 (2021) pages 147-157 (Royce Mission)
Thanks to Gus Breymann (nephew of 2nd Lt. Gustave Heiss) and Edward Rogers for additional information
Are you a veteran or relative of a Royce Mission crew member?