Special Task Air Group One (STAG-1)
Special Air Task Force (SATFOR), U. S. Navy (USN)
During the summer of 1943, Special Task Air Group One (STAG-1) was formed as part of the U. S. Navy (USN) Special Air Task Force (SATFOR). The unit had two squadrons: VK-11 and VK-12.
On June 12, 1944 elements from Special Task Air Group 1 (STAG-1) under Commanding Officer (C. O.) Captain Robert F.
Jones arrive at Banika Field (Sunlight) in the Russell Islands the first deployment of a guided missile unit into a combat theater to conduct top secret combat test in the South Pacific (SOPAC).
The unit conducted top secret tests of the radio controlled Interstate TDR-1
Assault Drone with a live television broadcast to a "mother" control aircraft, a modified Avenger.
On July 30, 1944 demonstration for Admiral Ernest L. Gunther, four TDR drones took off from Banika Field and are tested against the shipwreck of Yamazuki Maru beached near Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. The point of aim was the deck with the attack commencing at 1:58pm and the drone impacting at 2:00pm. TDR-1 860, TDR-1 (suffered nose gear failture), TDR-1 873.
Mission 1: On September 27, 1944 (Squadron VK-12) four drones took off from Banika Field to attack Japanese ships southwest of Kahili Airfield on southern Bougainville. The TDRs claimed two direct hits and a near miss and claimed an anti-aircraft battery destroyed.
Mission 2: On October 1, 1944 eight drones took off from Banika Field to attack Japanese anti-aircraft positions in southern Bougainville, Ballale and Shortlands. One hit against a heavy battery on western Ballale. One against an anti-aircraft position northeast of Kangu. Another landed 300' short of anti-aircraft guns south of Ballale. Two impacted a ridge on Poporang. Two were duds and one accidentally exploded in the air four miles north of Moila Point.
27, 1944 STAG-1 moved to Stirling Airfield in the Treasury Islands and during early October 1944 moved to Nissan Airfield (Green Island) and continued to fly missions.
October 5, 1944 four drones took off from Nissan Airfield (Green Island) against targets
in Rabaul. Two were lost due to technical problems. Two missed their targets, exploding on shore.
October 9, 1944 (Squadron VK-12) four drones took off from Nissan Airfield (Green Island) attack the causeway at Matupi. Two were shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire, one landing in the harbor a quarter mile north of the causeway and the second landing in the sea. Third landed 100 yards from an anti-aircraft position and a fourth failed to reach the target. The three lost were deemed to TV failures and the mission was deemed a failure.
October 15, 1944 (Squadron VK-11) four drones took off from Nissan Airfield (Green Island) against the causeway at Matupi. One crashed between the Duke of York Islands and Cape Gazelle. One passed over the bridge, circled for nine minutes then crashed on the west side of Simpson Harbor. One exploded on the southwest side of Hospital Ridge. One hit a secondary target. The mission was deemed a failure.
October 26, 1944 four drones took off from Nissan Airfield (Green Island) against targets
in Rabaul. Two drones hit buildings close to their targets. One crashed into the sea at the southwest tip of Duke of York Island and the fourth diverted to Cape St. George and hit the old German lighthouse. Other sources state two drones targeted the lighthouse.
In total, forty-two drones (other sources state forty-five) were launched against targets including nineteen against Rabaul with a 50% claimed hit rate. Although deemed to be a success, on October 27, 1944 the unit was deactivated.
At Rabaul, the Japanese recovered wreckage of at least one TDR crash at Rabaul. Likely, this was from one of the October 1944 mission. On November 8, 1944 key pieces of wreckage were loaded aboard a J1N1 Irving to be flown to Japan for technical evaluation, but the aircraft went missing on the first leg of the flight bound for Truk.
Captain Robert F.
Jones (Commanding Officer) September 5, 1944-October 27, 1944
Lt. Commander Stephen E. Jones (intelligence and security)
ART1c Thomas Gillespie
USN Analysis of Pacific Air Operations, October 1944 Serial 001883
NARA "Service Test of Assault Drone by STAG ONE under direction of Commander Special Air Task Force" (ARC Identifier 12666/72.43)
STAG-1 War Diary October 1944 "October 1: attack by four TDRs with 2000 lb bombs on anti-aircraft installations on Ballale and Peperang [sic] Island. One drone shot down, three hits near enemy emplacements. Four more drones expended in the afternoon on South Bougainville. One hit near enemy gun emplacement, two bomb loads failed to detonate, one drone crashed in route... October 5: four drones attacked Kararvia Bay supply caves in Rabaul. Two drones lost on way to target, one hit south portion of the cave area, other drone missed and exploded in vicinity... October 9: Four TDRs attacked the Matagi Island bridge in Simpson Harbor, Rabaul. Number one and two and three shot down by anti-aircraft fire, with detonations of payloads in areas occupied by anti-aircraft positions, and number four drone crashed en route... October 18: Attack by three TDRs on lighthouse at Cape St. George, New Ireland. Number one drone hit between tower and radar installations but did not detonate, number two hit thirty feet from base of tower and exploded. Third drone lost due to material failures...."
Chronology of Special Air Task Force's Story by Captain Robert F. Jones, 1990 privately published
Flypast "The Flying Bombs of Rabaul: Raymond Lamont-Brown recalls a mystery episode in World War II" September 1982
STAG-1 American Kamikaze (1984) by Jame J. Hall
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida Chapter 14 Guided Missile Attacks Against Rabaul pages 58-61
History Detectives Video Season 9 TDR-1 Test Mission (July 30, 1944 tests)
YouTube "DeKalb Stories Ep. 3: Wurlitzer and The Torpedo Drone" (2011) 6:02-7:28
Air & Space Magazine "The First Drone Strike—in 1944" by Preston Lerner October 2017
Special Task Air Group One (STAG-1) "The Battle Over America's Secret WWII Cruise Missile" by Spark via WayBack Sept 25, 2010
Special Task Air Group One (STAG-1) official website
Thanks to Henry Sakaida for additional information