3 Airfield Construction Squadron: History
The History Page
3 Airfield Construction Squadron
(R.A.A.F. - Victorian Branch)
3 ACS's Web Address:
3 ACS's E-mail Address:
The RAAF historian, David Wilson, has written a history of the RAAF Airfield Construction
Squadrons 1942-1974. The book entitled "ALWAYS FIRST" contains brief details of 3ACS. Click on the pictures above to see a larger version of the front and back covers of the book.
An electronic pdf version of the book can be downloaded by Clicking Here
- 25 May 1942 - formed as 3 Works Maintenance Unit at Darwin
- 15 January 1943 - re-named 3 Mobile Works Squadron
- 8 March 1944 - departed Darwin for Ransford, Vic.
- 15 July 1944 - re-named 3 Airfield Construction Squadron
- 15 August 1944 - departed Townsville for Aitape N.G.
- 24 September 1944 - departed Aitape for Morotai
- 15 November 1944 - departed Morotai for Leyte
- 11 December 1944 - departed Leyte for Mindoro
- 19 June 1945 - departed Mindoro for Morotai
- 11 July 1945 - departed Morotai for Balikpapan
- 30 October 1945 - last entry in Unit History Record
The Squadron began life as 3 Works Maintenance Unit on 25 May 1942 at Darwin. On 15 January 1943, the unit was re-named as 3 Mobile Works Squadron.
The unit operated throughout the Northern Territory-at Headquarters in Darwin, and at airfields such as Coomalie, Daly Waters, Livingstone, Strauss, Fenton, McDonald, Hughes, Batchelor and Bathurst Island. At this time the Squadron was employed in enlarging landing areas, erecting buildings and, eventually, a radiosonde meteorological station near Darwin. During this time, the north of Australia was subjected to aerial bombardment by the Japanese, and this increased the demand for units such as this.
March 1944 saw the unit withdraw to Victoria for leave and reequipping. While initially at Ransford, the unit travelled to Sydney to prepare for deployment northwards once more. The unit changed its name to 3 Airfield Construction Squadron and in late July embarked on two ships for Aitape, arriving in August. There the unit camped briefly before being transported to Morotai where work was required on the Wama and Pitoe strips.
In November the Squadron left for Leyte and on arrival was engaged in unloading the convoy vessels during which time the Japanese attempted to disrupt activities through heavy air raids. Despite the presence of the enemy aircraft, the operation was accomplished without loss. The convoy was then reloaded in preparation for the assault on Mindoro Island. Secrecy was impossible to maintain and 'Tokyo Rose', the Japanese propaganda radio station, made references concerning the force on the evening of 10 December 1944. The assault finally began at dawn on 15 December, with 3 Airfield Construction Squadron landing in the centre of the assault, alongside the first waves of infantry. By that evening, the Squadron and most of its equipment was 2 miles inland, near the proposed site of Hill Field and away from the persistent air attacks. Midday on 16 December saw the first work begun on the new strip, which was intended to be 6000 feet long. Meanwhile, back on the beach, Leading Aircraftman Barham was struck and killed by a piece of an exploding Japanese suicide aircraft. The aircraft was attempting to crash through the open bow doors of a Landing Ship Tank (LST) from which members of the Squadron were unloading the remainder of the unit's equipment.
The estimated date for completion of the strip was 20 December 1944, and by 17 December over 500 feet of jungle had been cleared. By 19 December, with some assistance from the American Engineer Battalion, the strip was completed and Dakota transports followed by fighter aircraft landed on the following day. The fast construction of the field is even more significant considering that the Squadron also had to defend 2500 yards of perimeter and maintain the rail yards and electrical supply at the nearby town of San Jose. Most personnel got little sleep, and machinery operators only left their equipment when an air attack on their position was imminent.
By 24 December, there had been over 100 air raids, but although some damage was caused to the Squadron's machinery, work began on the new 'Elmore Field', near San Jose. Two days later the Japanese Navy made a determined effort to recapture Mindoro-a force of two battleships, four cruisers, eight destroyers and 12 troop transports appeared off the coast and shelled the beaches occupied by the Allied assault force. 3 Airfield Construction Squadron personnel dug into their
defensive positions but were shelled along with Hill Field, while Elmore Field and San Jose also received attention from the Japanese. Additionally, volunteers manned supply trucks during the height of the barrage, transporting ordnance from the beaches to the Allied bombers stationed inland.
By the morning of 27 December 1944 the enemy force was well out to sea and a check of their positions showed the Squadron still at full strength, with only a handful of minor shell-shock cases. It proceeded with the work at hand and, although hampered by craters and unexploded ordnance, by 30 December 1944 the Squadron had completed all tasks required of it, including the 6500-foot strip at Elmore Field.
While the battle front moved gradually away, and enemy air attacks diminished in size and vigour, the Squadron remained until 19 June 1945. During this time, it built two 7000-foot runways, maintained 30 miles of roads and constructed the buildings and facilities necessary for the occupation forces. As a result of this, the Squadron was recommended for the Meritorious Service Plaque by the American engineer in charge, although unfortunately this award could only be given to American units.
The Squadron's next destination was Morotai, to prepare for the landings at Balikpapan. After the assault, 3 Airfield Construction Squadron was tasked with maintaining roads between the two Manggar rivers. It continued on this task until the end of the War, when it was disbanded in the field.
The final entry in the Unit History Record was made on 30 October 1945.
25 February 1942 -Squadron Leader M.G. Murchison
1 January 1943 -Squadron Leader A.D. Bouch
21 May 1945 -Flight Lieutenant Langley
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