Interesting question David as until 1944 the US Navy had admin offices here ( theres a photo some where of the closing ceremony ) but the USAAF ? perhaps through the SW Pacific theatre system . It probably had an acronym like SWPTOO V&RNR. I think today such visits are handled by the resident Military Attache but how it gets down to base level I dont know .
Post by Dave Homewood on Aug 12, 2019 23:47:15 GMT 12
I was told once by a lady who worked in Hamilton that USAAF, US Navy and US Army had offices in Hamilton. She used to talk with them in the cafe near her work in Victoria Street, from memory. If it is true, I don't know why the Army specifically was there but I guess the Navy and Air Force may have been because No 1 Repair Depot at RNZAF Station Hamilton was reconditioning US engines sent down from the Pacific as well as our own?
I doubt that the RNZAF overhauled aero engines for USAAF or USN or USMC, as the American services had gone to the trouble of building a huge airframe and engine overhaul facility in Tontouta (New Caledonia) in 1942/43, intended to undertake overhaul all types of airframes and aero engines for all American services serving in South Pacific Command. But as with all thing, convenience sometimes overruled formal conventions at times. I was told by somebody who was working at Hamilton in 1944 or 45 that they had an American twin-engine aircraft stay with them for some weeks, in bare metal with American "stars and bars" for some relatively minor work, which he thought was a Lockheed Electra (as flown by Union Airways). Took me a while before I realized that this was almost certainly the Twin Beech (UC-45) which was probably the only USAAF aircraft actually based in NZ at this time (earlier there was a USMC Beechcraft too, allocated to Commanding General, 1st Marine Division), officially at the disposal of the US Air Attache.
And then there were the damaged RNZAF P-40Ks which came to grief in New Caledonia in March and April 1943 in two separate incidents (being ferried by No. 14 Squadron pilots) which were dismantled and conveyed to Tontouta for repairs (including NZ3072, which on completion of repairs was painted up with "pussy cats" by the American staff to remind the RNZAF that they were the ones responsible for returning this aircraft to airworthiness, and was later adopted by Geof Fisken).
Later in the war, most American aero engines due for overhaul with South Pacific forces (and later SWPA forces, including RNZAF) were shipped back to USA for overhaul by major facilities there. Also the Americans asked NZ Govt if they could arrange to have civilian contractors recondition large numbers of military vehicles (mostly trucks and jeeps) which had suffered hard lives in the theatre, particularly during and after seaborne invasions when sea water created havoc, as it was thought it would be cheaper to have this work carried out in NZ rather than return them to mainland USA. This programme eventually got underway, and mostly involved firms in the Hutt Valley area so far as I know. However the great bulk of them were still not overhauled when the war ended, and the hulks were suddenly seen as a liability rather than an asset, and the Americans seem to have pretty well given them (scrap value) to the NZ govt for disposal. These were stacked up in heaps (using cranes or forklifts) to save space, which naturally caused more damage, but were eventually sold off by tender, which in itself caused a major scandal, with shouts of cronyism, incompetence and the like.
Incidentally, in 1943 the RNZAF relied on the New Caledonia overhaul depot to overhaul all our Catalina and Kittyhawk engines which were removed from aircraft at South Pacific bases, but we undertook all overhauls of our Hudson engines, as the aircraft were returned periodically to NZ for airframe overhauls, and it was just as easy to take their engines out whilst the airframes were temporarily un-airworthy, and overhaul them ourselves. Conversely all our Catalinas ferried their installed almost-time expired engines to Noumea where American tradesmen (probably USAAF personnel, but cannot state for certain, could even have been a mix of services) removed them from the aircraft and trucked them to Tontouta (in the interior of the island, among high hills), and fitted overhauled engines in exchange at Noumea. This procedure rather perplexed the RNZAF as they had now "lost" their original Lend-Lease engines and had overhauled ones in their stead, so had to bring on charge the "new ones" and write off the "originals", but they eventually got used to it, as this was the system. Conversely, aircraft which never left New Zealand always had their engines overhauled locally, unless the aircraft was later sent overseas, and came under American jurisdiction.
The workmanship of the Tontouta overhaul depot was sometimes considered rather suspect by the RNZAF, and we did obtain a few "duds" from this source, including an Allison engine later fitted to one of our P-40s, which caught fire on arrival back in NZ in April 1944. Turns out that the engine cylinders had been rebored, but inexplicably standard size pistons and matching rings had been installed, which was guaranteed to end very badly.
I doubt that the RNZAF overhauled aero engines for USAAF or USN or USMC, as the American services had gone to the trouble of building a huge airframe and engine overhaul facility in Tontouta (New Caledonia) in 1942/43, intended to undertake overhaul all types of airframes and aero engines for all American services serving in South Pacific Command.
Well many years ago I spoke with several veterans who worked on that engine overhaul line at RNZAF Station Hamilton, in Bledisloe Hall. Namely Eric Ford who was one of the line Sergeants, Bob Peake, Peter Hulse, Ray Hirst, and Roy Paton, all LAC's, and possibly one other I have forgotten too. At least a couple of them told me that as well as local RNZAF engines and RNZAF ones from the Pacific, they were receiving American engines too. I took them at face value, perhaps they were wrong. But they were there, I wasn't, so I had no reason to doubt them.
If you look at any of the photos taken in that workshop there seems to be a lot of engines on the overhaul lines at any given time. And I was told the line was pretty industrious and engines went in and out pretty quickly rather than hanging around. How many RNZAF aircraft would be undergoing overhaul at Rukuhia at any given time that had their engines removed? It surey was not a huge number at any given time, was it? It would be interesting to know some stats of how many engines this workshop overhauled between 1943 and 1945.
By the way most of the guys I talked with were there late war, apart from Eric who I think may have started there as the line opened or shortly after, most of them were posted there around 1944 or early 1945 and stayed till around the end of the war.
Here are a couple of Air Force Museum of New Zealand showing the recondition line (I have others somewhere but cannot recall where).
Air Force Museum of New Zealand Photos
Maybe it was not a large volume of US engines coming to NZ, maybe it was only the really troublesome ones, or just a drip feed so that the line did not get gaps and stand idle. But those veterans certainly said they did engines for the Yanks as well as our own. It may warrant further research. All those guys are dead now except Bob Peake, who is in a resthome. I may have to go and pick his brains again if he's up to it.
There is a NZ government film (Natonal Film Unit I think) on Youtube about those trucks being reconditioned here, I think Bruce posted it to the forum but I cannot find it at the moment either here or on Youtube.
Post by Dave Homewood on Aug 13, 2019 18:26:24 GMT 12
This just in via email from Mark Maguire
I saw your post about B 17s being maintained in New Zealand. Page 135 of Goliath's Apprentice, link below, makes mention of B 17s being maintained at Hamilton. ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/6650
Goliath's apprentice: The Royal New Zealand Air Force and the United States in the Pacific war, 1941-1945 - University of Canterbury The official history of the Royal New Zealand Air Force estimates that of the 55,000 New Zealanders who joined the air force during the Second World War, nearly 15,000 served in the Pacific theatre at some time. ir.canterbury.ac.nz
Post by Dave Homewood on May 8, 2020 15:47:34 GMT 12
New to the Air Force Museum of New Zealand's page, Texas Tornado.
Side view of USAAF B17e 412667 (Texas Tornado), with some RNZAF personnel looking on. Believed to be at RNZAF Station Whenuapai as this aircraft crashed on takeoff on the night of 9/6/42 killing all on board.
An aircraft the size of a B-17 must have impressed everybody that saw it in NZ in 1942, by its size alone if nothing else. However the following year the RNZAF received its first C-47s and PBYs, which were roughly the same dimensions as a B-17, although with considerably lower operating weights. I would also think that the cockpit of a C-47 was somewhat further from the ground than the Boeing, while the PBY was, well, very much closer to the water. David D
Just checked Maguire's link to the "Goliath's Apprentice" (Brian Hewson's thesis) and particularly page 135. This requires careful reading, as it is very easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. For instance in 1st para, lines 6/7, it would seem that the American aircraft at Hamilton on which overhauls had ceased owing to lack of spares, were actually the RNZAF's own Hudsons, certainly not B-17s (I think this is pretty clear by the context). Also I see my name is listed among the acknowledgements, although do not recall giving Brian any particular advice on such things as engine overhauls or B-17s, in fact my vague memory of that time is that we just discussed broad generalities on various obscure things. I certainly did not see any of the m/s (at the Museum) until after it was published. If I had had previous access to this document I would most certainly have wanted to discuss some of these statements for my own satisfaction.
The other statements in same para mentioned above concerning B-17s and Cyclone engines at Hamilton are to me somewhat problematic, and my reading is that the 30 "Cyclone" complete overhauls "sets" for the American B-17 programme (almost certainly related to the B-17s with South Pacific command at the time, located at Guadalcanal and Nandi), and it is possible that these overhauls could have been carried out by Hamilton as a rush job if the major American engine overhaul depot at New Caledonia was overwhelmed with engines requiring "majors", and Hamilton had spare capacity for this work. Of course it is equally possible that this engine overhaul programme, although seemingly already authorised, arranged and under way, may never have proceeded; perhaps the Americans may have had second thoughts about trusting the RNZAF technical personnel at Hamilton with such work on which many American lives would soon depend, and they could have got a case of cold feet. Remember that to the Americans, the RNZAF was an odd little creature, technical expertise unknown, although they did by this time trust RNZAF officers and airmen on duty in the South Pacific as they came under full American operational command and were expected to perform, and did. Just a thought.
Quite prepared to accept that R-1820 (Cyclone) overhauls were undertaken at Hamilton if more conclusive evidence comes to light.
Dave, I think this was the one that visited NZ in about 1947, and shortly afterwards led away the American Military Attache's Beechcraft UC-45 to Japan. David D
According to AHSNZ Journal June 1970 page 169 B17G 44-83785 arrived at Whenuapai on 9 February 1947 to pick up a spare part for a similar aircraft grounded at Tontouta with engine trouble. Looking through the journal lists on this topic I cannot see any further B-17 visits to New Zealand.
WhG733-43 3/4 front view of a USAAF B17 Flying Fortress at RNZAF Station Whenuapai. LINK HERE
I believe that’s 41-2644, named (but possibly not yet) Los Lobos, from the 394th Bomb Squadron. The three bomb symbols under the cockpit window denote missions flown from Guadalcanal in January 1943 and the Japanese flag is for a Zero claimed shot down by the nose gunner during the night of January 16. The regular pilot was Bill Ripley, and his co-pilot was Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek. The plane had served with the 19th Bomb Group in Australia and was one of seven “war-weary” aircraft that were refurbished and reassigned to the 5th Bomb Group in Hawaii in November 1942.
Not aware of any B-17s using actually using Nausori, but if Sweeney says it was possible, then it was possible. However cannot see that B-17s (or B-24s) would use that field unless Nadi was weather-bound, and fuel remaining was low! I suppose Tonga would have been an alternate field, but that was some distance away.