38th Combat crews and planes were sent to Borneo to help the 42nd Bomb Group prepare the beach head for the Australians who were scheduled to assault the beach head in July.
Balikpapen Borneo Missions flown during June 1945
The 38th sent all four squadrons to Puerta Princesa on the island of Palawan to assist the 42nd Bomb Group in preparing the beach head for invasion by the Aussies in July. The crews and planes left on the 21st of June. They were to fly with the 42nd BG which had the 69th and 70th squadrons who were originally part of the 38th and trained with 71st and 405th at Jackson, Mississippi. The 69th and 70th were rushed overseas to Australia along with the entire ground crews of the 38th.
The 69th on the way to Australia was held over in Honolulu and sent to Midway where two crews of the 38th and two crews of the 22nd were fitted with torpedoes and took part in the Battle of Midway. The 69th and 70th upon their arrival in Australia were shipped to The Fiji Island where they placed under naval control and eventually assigned to the 42nd BG when that Group arrived overseas. They were assigned to the 13th Air Force. The 69th and 70th participated in all of the campaign for Guadalcanal.
The 38th flew its first mission with the 42nd on 22nd June and all of the planes carried napalm. The beach head was being burned off to provide fields of fire for the invasion. The next missions were flown on the 24th and 25th, and in those three days the 823rd dropped nine and one half tons of napalm and expended 33,550 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition in strafing the area.
The weather prevented a strike on Balikpapen on the 26th and a mission was flown against Redeb, Borneo where the 823rd dropped three tons of napalm and expended 16,300 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition. No mission was flown on the 27th but on the 28th the planes were loaded with 500 pound bombs and the target was the south shore of Balikpapen harbor. The squadron dropped 6 tons of demolition bombs and expended 8,000 rounds on this mission.
The next day on the 29th the group returned to Balikpapen with another load of fire bombs. This mission cost the 823rd a plane and crew when the 38th and a B-24 Group made their drop at the same time. A B-25 piloted by Lt. Kowalski was hit in the right wing by a falling 500 pound bomb and spun into the bay, killing Lt Clarence R. Kowalski, Pilot, Lt Joseph Rapach, co-pilot, Lt Albert M. Conradi, navigator and S/Sgt. Rollie Heskett, engineer gunner. The radio operator, S/Sgt Daniel D. Runjamin and the tail gunner S/Sgt. Robert K Webb were thrown clear and rescued by a navy float plane. They were part of the crew of Lt Russ Sigsworth when going overseas. Lt Kowalski had finished his tour and had volunteered for the Balikpapen missions. Lt Joseph Rapach and Sgt. Rollie Heskett came over seas with the crew of Lt Richard L. Coyne which also included Lt Robert Lamb a navigator, S/Sgt. Robert Schelin, radio operator and S/Sgt Orland Gage tail gunner.
One interesting thing about the Puerta Princesa sojourn was the amazement expressed by the ground members of the 42nd Bomb Group was at the take off procedures of the 38th. They had never seen 15 second intervals using both sides of the runway and were amazed at the quickness of the 38th getting into formation.