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RNZAF in World War II

Discussion in 'Air War in the Pacific' started by JCFalkenbergIII, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Jan 23, 2008
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    RNZAF in World War II

    When war was declared on 3 September 1939 the Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel strength was 91 officers, 665 airmen in the Regular Force and 79 officers and 325 airmen in the Territorials. There 102 aircraft, mostly second-hand Baffins and Gordons, the only new aircraft were five Oxfords and nine Vildebeests.

    The first year of World War II saw accelerated expansion of the RNZAF, with new flying training schools established at Taieri, Harewood, New Plymouth and Whenuapai and an air gunners' and observers' school at Ohakea. An Initial Training School was set up at Rongotai, later moving to Levin. Flying obsolete Vildebeests, Vincents and Baffins, three of the four territorial squadrons were mobilised and positioned to patrol the approaches to Auckland, Wellington and Lyttelton harbours.
    The 30 Wellingtons awaiting delivery in the UK with their New Zealand air and groundcrews, were offered to the Royal Air Force and became No.75 (NZ) Squadron. In mid 1940, German successes led to a review and expansion of the BCATP which continued at full pace until mid 1944 and then winding up to finish in March 1945. Of the 131,553 aircrew graduates, 7002 were New Zealanders.
    Graduates of the BCATP and others who were trained in New Zealand and proceeded direct to the RAF served with distinction in all theatres of the war. Among them three air VCs to New Zealanders - Sergeant James Ward, Squadron Leader Leonard Trent and Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg. Many New Zealanders served in the seven "New Zealand" RAF Squadrons Nos 485 - 490, established under Article XV of the BCATP Agreement, to ensure a continued linkage of airmen with the nations that formed the British Commonwealth. The deeds of the New Zealanders in service with the RAF are well recorded in books and other material on the air war in WWII.
    On the home front in 1940, the threat from German surface raiders and the increasing prospect of further military action by Japan resulted in strong pleas from the New Zealand Government for modern aircraft to defend the country. The British Government agreed to release Hudson bombers, which began arriving in mid 1941. To meet New Zealand's responsibility for reconnaissance and protection of the Fijian Islands, four worn-out Singapore Flying Boats were gifted to the RNZAF from RAF stocks at Singapore, shortly before the Japanese entered the war on 7 December 1941.
    To overcome a shortage of men for New Zealand duties, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was established during 1941. Over 4700 WAAFs served in the RNZAF during WWII.
    On 8 December 1941, the RNZAF had 641 aircraft, the majority for training. Only the 36 Hudsons could be called modern. In early 1942, the threat of a Japanese invasion became more real and all available aircraft were allotted to shadow defence squadrons under the Forces Available For Anti-Invasion (FAFAI) scheme. Plans for arming Tiger Moth biplane trainers and other second line aircraft were put into action
    During the hectic struggle against the invading Japanese in Malaya and Singapore in 1941-42, the RNZAF was represented by No.488 Squadron RAF and the RNZAF's Aerodrome Construction Unit in Malaya and Singapore, and later in Java. Other New Zealand airmen served in Burma and India.
    Following further strenuous pleas to the British and United States Governments for aircraft to defend New Zealand, Kittyhawk fighters began arriving in March 1942, and New Zealand based fighter squadrons were formed. The first RNZAF squadron to engage the Japanese in direct combat was No.3 Squadron [Hudsons] which moved to Henderson Field at Guadalcanal in November 1942. It was joined in April 1943 by No.15 Squadron [Kittyhawks], who had completed their operational training with Kittyhawks taken over from the USAAF in Tonga.
    Until 1945 the RNZAF did not act in the Pacific as a strategic or tactical airforce with a specific task to perform. Its role was to provide combat squadrons to support US operations in removing Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands. Following lobbying by the New Zealand Government, the US Government agreed to the US Navy, [under whose control RNZAF squadrons would operate], providing new combat aircraft to the RNZAF. Operational squadrons of the RNZAF were progressively equipped with Corsairs, Venturas, Avengers, Dauntless Dive Bombers and Catalinas. Transport aircraft support to the South West Pacific Area of operations were with Lend-Lease Dakotas, Lodestars, converted Hudson bombers and in late 1944, four Sunderland Flying Boat transports arrived from the UK.
    The first New Zealander to be appointed as CAS RNZAF was Air Vice Marshal Leonard Isitt in 1943. Isitt was to become very influential in the development of Air Force and civil aviation during the latter war years, immediately post-war and through the early 1950s.
    In 1943 more squadrons were formed and moved to the South West Pacific operational area. By the end of 1943, a New Zealand Fighter Wing with supporting servicing units was established at Ondonga (New Georgia) and a Group HQ at Guadalcanal. New Zealand Fighter Wing pilots had 99 confirmed destroyed and 24 probably destroyed Japanese aircraft to their credit, the highest score reached by the fighters. Four other Japanese aircraft fell to the guns of Hudsons and Venturas, bringing the total enemy aircraft destroyed by the RNZAF in the Pacific to 103.
    During 1944, the RNZAF's operations in the South West Pacific were mainly concentrated on Bougainville, with strikes against Japanese forces there, and at their major base at Rabaul [New Britain]. Fighter sweeps and escorting of Allied bombers was the main task of the New Zealand Fighter Wing. The Bomber Reconnaissance squadrons patrolled the sea lanes and coastal shores of Japanese held islands, and carried out bombing raids on Japanese installations.
    In early 1944, the Japanese withdrew most of their Navy and Air Force aircraft to Truk. With no air opposition, Kittyhawks followed by Corsairs switched from the fighter escort role to fighter-bomber. A Dauntless and two Avenger Squadrons made a single operational tour each from Piva airfield at Bougainville. No.6 Flying Boat Squadron [Catalinas] operated over the area carrying out reconnaissance and rescue missions. The Bomber Reconnaissance squadrons with Venturas carried out raids on Japanese positions on most of the islands that make up the North Solomons.
    As US operations moved north of the Solomon Islands, the RNZAF took on a garrison role, harassing Japanese ground forces trapped on the various islands. Support facilities were expanded for the RNZAF operations including repair depots and aircraft assembly units. In early 1945, agreement was reached with the US and Australian Governments for the RNZAF to take part in operations in Borneo with the Australians or in the Philippines with the US. However, both of these commands were using US Air Force combat aircraft types, so the RNZAF would need to re-equip to be compatible. Mustang fighters were ordered to form new fighter squadrons, and while 30 were delivered, the war ended before they could be brought into service.
    On VJ Day the RNZAF had more than 7000 personnel stationed throughout the Solomon Islands from Espiritu Santo to Los Negros. The priority task was to return these personnel and the equipment to New Zealand, which was finally achieved in early 1946.
    From 3 September 1939 to 15 August 1945, 3,687 RNZAF personnel died on active service, the majority in Bomber Command squadrons of the RAF. The RNZAF had grown from a small pre-war force to 42,000 in June 1944, and shrunk to 7,154 by March 1946. The aircraft fleet had reached a peak of 1,336 by the end of 1944. Twenty four RNZAF squadrons had seen service in the Pacific.

    RNZAF - RNZAF in World War II
  2. Biak

    Biak Boy from Illinois Staff Member

    Nov 15, 2009
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    Thought I'd bump this since there was a question raised in another thread concerning New Zealand.

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