In early 1942, while most of the American military was in disarray from the devastating attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, a single USAAF squadron advanced to the far side of the world to face America’s new enemy.
Based in Australia with poor supplies and no ground support, the pilots and crew faced tropical diseases while confronting numerically superior Japanese forces. Yet the outfit, dubbed the Kangaroo Squadron, proved remarkably resilient and successful, conducting long-range bombing raids, armed reconnaissance missions, and rescuing General MacArthur and his staff from the Philippines.
Today I speak with Bruce Gamble, author of Kangaroo Squadron: American Courage in the Darkest Days of World War II. He was inspired to write this story by his uncle, a navigator in the squadron. A footlocker contained his military papers and other memorabilia, including a handwritten dairy filled with day-to-day details of his tour.
And an artifact from this story lives on today to honor its veterans. When a B-17E bomber crashed in a swamp on the north coast of Papua New Guinea in February 1942, the nine-member crew survived, escaped to safety, and returned to combat. But until 2006, the bomber nicknamed “Swamp Ghost” remained submerged in water and tall grass. It has been restored and is now a main attraction in the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor.