No. 78 Squadron RAAF


No. 78 Squadron RAAF
No. 78 Squadron Kittyhawks in late 1944

No. 78 Squadron was a Royal Australian Air Force fighter squadron of World War II. The Squadron was formed in July 1943 and was disbanded in April 1948 after seeing action in the South West Pacific.

History

No. 78 Squadron was formed at Camden, New South Wales on 20 July 1943. The squadron was equipped with P-40 Kittyhawk fighters and reached operational status in October. In November 1943 the squadron arrived on Kiriwina Island and began flying ground attack and bomber escort missions. The squadron moved to Nadzab on the New Guinea mainland in January 1944 and flew in support of Allied ground forces. After brief periods at Cape Gloucester and Tadji No. 78 Squadron arrived at Hollandia in May 1944.

On 3 June 1944, aircraft from the Squadron fought the RAAF's last major air combat of the Pacific War, when 16 Kittyhawks engaged 15 Japanese aircraft, shooting down up to nine Japanese aircraft for the loss of a single Kittyhawk. A No. 78 Squadron aircraft, "Black Magic", flown by Flight Lieutenant Denis Baker scored the last aerial victory of the New Guinea campaign on 10 June.

The famous Curtiss P-40N-15 Kittyhawk, "Black Magic", operated by No. 78 Squadron RAAF. Flight Lieutenant Denis Baker scored the last aerial victory of the New Guinea campaign in this plane on 10 June 1944. It was later flown by Warrant Officer Len Waters.

The squadron operated from Noemfoor island from June to December when it moved to Morotai island, where it conducted raids on Japanese positions in the Dutch East Indies. The squadron moved to Tarakan Island off Borneo in July 1945 and remained at this base until it returned to Australia in December. The RAAF's only Indigenous Australian pilot of World War II, Warrant Officer Len Waters, flew 95 sorties as a member of 78 Squadron, between November 1944 and the end of the war.[1] Waters was assigned "Black Magic".

Following the war No. 78 Squadron was reduced to cadre status but was returned to operational status in August 1946 when it moved to RAAF Base Williamtown and was equipped with P-51D Mustang aircraft. No. 78 Squadron was disbanded on 1 April 1948.

Aircraft operated

  • P-40 Kittyhawk (July 1943 – December 1945(?))
  • P-51D Mustang (August 1946 – April 1948)
  • CAC Wirraway (August 1946 – April 1948(?))

References

  • 78 Squadron Association Website
  • RAAF Museum 78 Squadron
  • Steve Eather (1995) Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force. Aerospace Publications.
  • RAAF Historical Section (1995), Units of the Royal Australian Air Force. A Concise History. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

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