Thursday, February 23, 2012

World War II Veteran talk

I recently had the great experience of hearing an Australian Veteran of WWII give a talk here in Darwin. A veteran who had active service while based here in Darwin with 380th Bombardment Group. Richard (Dick) Dakeyne was an Aussie among the Americans with 90th Bombardment Group then 380th BG then back to 90th.
Dick initially trained as a part of a new Top Secret group for Radar Counter Measures (RCM) here in Australia and was embedded with the Americans who were under control of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) while based here in the Top End.  He became an Aussie among the Yanks. But he mentioned that the Americans at that time were not all Yanks. Only those from the North considered themselves Yanks. 
The talk was a part of the 70 years since Darwin was first bombed by the Japanese aniversary and was held at the Aviation Heritage Centre. The centre is well worth a visit and I will post some pics I took there in the future.
The talk really opened my eyes wider as to what was going on here during the war years. The 380th back then was lots and lots of B-24 Liberators. Dick was a waist gunner (50cal) and RCM.
Here is some random bits I remember.
- First encounters with Japanese pilots were a wake up as to just how skilled and experienced they had become after years of conflict in China and other places.
- Operational altitudes he described as very low most of the time. So low that a B-24 crew was lost when the very bomb they dropped on a ship exploded under them. He described them as much lower than in Europe. Due in part for flying under Radar detection.
- Distances they flew became HUGE! A target in Borneo (Balikpapan oil refineries) and return to Darwin was around 16 hours leaving about 10 minutes (or less) fuel.  Since the talk I have found that this mission was 200 miles further than the Ploesti mission in Europe. A company is actually making a doco about 'Shady Lady'. One of the Liberators that crash landed safely on the coast in Western Australia. I hope they do a good job.
- Bob Hope entertained them at one point but being an Aussie Richard didn’t get half the jokes. Gary Cooper also came but was a very poor entertainer but fortunately he was also accompanied by two good looking female actors.
- The crews had an event that really shook them up. A Liberator was rammed head on by a Zero. Well before the phrase Kamikaze was mentioned. It made them concerned about the resolve of the Japanese if they are willing to sacrifice man and materiel like this.
- Between Darwin and the Tiwi Islands they saw a Crocodile swimming in the ocean. It became target practice and was sent to the bottom.
- After a Japanese Air Raid Dick used a belt to save a life by stopping a severed leg from bleeding out. Dick was hurt in an Air Raid and spent 5 weeks in Katherine Hospital (I lived in Katherine a few years back. You can still see a bomb crater that was dropped by the Japanese there).
-On a mission they came across a plane that was the Japanese equivalent of a DC-3 so the Liberator became a fighter and they shot it down.
- A crate of whiskey was on offer for the crew that could knock down a factory chimney at a Nickel plant on one mission but it went unclaimed. This was an important target as it produced a huge amount of the Nickel supply for Japan.
- Years later after the war he found himself in Japan and met a local man around the same age. They discussed what they did in the War. The Japanese man was an AA gunner on the North Coast New Guinea. The very same location that Dick had bombed on at least three occasions. They could both laugh about how poor a shot each other was (as they both survived after all) and how the Japanese would collect dead floating fish after each raid (easy fishing).

Now and then. Dick 19 years old back in 1943.
Sandra Kay (named after the Pilots daughter I think) with crew including Dick.
An Important target with a Whiskey bonus. Dick shows us the black cloud of dust in the middle is from 50 cal strafing from the Liberator.
Bombing of Bombers. Talking about Japanese tactic of trying to bomb a Liberator with a Phosphorus bomb.
When a bomber becomes fighter.
It’s amazing what you can find on the internet now. A little digging shines more info on Richard’s war experience such as a mission record of the SANDRA KAY (one of the Liberators Richard flew in).
Two paintings of 380th Liberators in action.

Anyway cheers for now and I will get back to gaming hobby posts soon.
The Kiwi (Brendon)


  1. Thanks for sharing! I love meeting WWII veterans and hearing about their experiences. Well done!

  2. Your welcome. Darwin was swamped with veterans over that 70 years since the first bombing weekend. Was great to see.