One of the most frustrating things in researching General Douglas MacArthur’s World War 2 fighting style is dealing with the mayfly like life of the many logistical and intelligence organizations his military theater created. Without their narrative stories, you just cannot trust much of what has been written about the man’s fighting and command style. Nowhere is that clearer than with the radar countermeasures (RCM) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) Section 22, General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area (Sec 22, GHQ, SWPA). Born in November 1944 to support the air campaign against the Japanese bastion of Rabaul and dissolved in mid-August 1945 after the Japanese surrender. Section 22 gets but two ‘unsourced’ sentences in US Army lineage series history CMH Pub 60-13 Military Intelligence published in 1998 and not even a single mention CMH Pub 70-43, U.S. ARMY SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE IN WORLD WAR II, A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY, Edited by James L. Gilbert and John P. Finnegan, published in 1993.
Yet Section 22 was a large, continent spanning, intelligence organization with squadrons of radar/electronic intelligence gathering planes, ships, submarines and multiple teams of “Retro-High Tech Commandos” doing their own tropical 1944-45 raids on Japanese Radar sites equivalent to the British “Operation Biting” or “Bruneval Raid” did 27–28 February 1942 to gather technical data on the German Wurzburg radar. See the poor copy of a microfilm document Section 22 organizational chart from Alwyn Lloyd’s rather eclectic book ‘Liberator: America’s Global Bomber’ (1993) below.
The job of peeling back the who, what, where, when, why, and how history of Section 22 — and why that history was buried for decades — is the work of many books and articles visiting archives across three continents. This column can at best occasionally take you on journeys describing Section 22 like that proverbial “blind man describing an elephant”.
This column has twice dealt with General Douglas MacArthur’s will-o-the-wisp Section 22 radar hunters. First with field units 12 and 14, “High tech Radar commandos” and later with the radar hunting USS Batfish — the US Navy’s champion submarine killer of WW2. Today’s column will pull back its focus from individual Field Units and show Section 22 over all at the peak of it’s size, capability and influence.
Section 22 in Oct 1944 had seven aircraft “ferrets” (named that for “ferreting out” radar signals), three surface ship ferrets, two submarine ferrets, along with two radar ground intercept teams, a mobile training team, a Section 22 Special Laboratory at Sydney and five liaison offices in the 5th Air Force, 13th Air Force, London, Washington D.C. and the China-Burma-India theater. Curiously, there were no similar liaison officers with 7th Fleet or to Admiral Nimitz’s command in Hawaii.
Section 22 was what post-war historians would call an impossibility in the WW2 Pacific, let alone MacArthur’s SWPA theater. It was both a “Joint and Combined” organization, that is joint service and combined nationality. It had US Army, Navy and Marines, British Royal Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force as well as Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal New Zealand Navy personnel.
To the best of my ability to determine, Section 22 Field Units on Oct 7, 1944 were as follows:
Field Unit 1 – Unknown/Unnumbered Aircraft Ferret*
Field Unit 2 – Unknown/Unnumbered Aircraft Ferret*
Field Unit 3 – Unknown/Unnumbered Aircraft Ferret*
Field Unit 4 – Submarine Ferret* associated Perth
Field Unit 5 – Submarine Ferret* associated Brisbane
Field Unit 6 – B-24 380th Bombardment Group (H), associated Darwin
Field Unit 7 – PV-1 Ventura (?) associated Sansapor*
Field Unit 8 – Surface Naval Unit* associated Brisbane
Field Unit 9 – Surface Naval Unit* associated Brisbane
Field Unit 10 – Surface Naval Unit* associated Brisbane
Field Unit 11 – Unknown/Unnumbered Aircraft Ferret*
Field Unit 12 – Australian Military Force (AMF) long range, RCM listening recon patrol/direct action Commandos (See: Kevin Davies, “Field Unit 12 Takes New Technology to War in the Southwest Pacific,” Studies in Intelligence Vol 58, No. 3 (September 2014) pages 10 – 20) — associated Hollandia
Field Unit 13 – This was a group of New Zealand radar physicists with 5th Heavy Bombardment Group, 868th Bombardment Squadron (H). This Squadron had the 10 cm SCR-717 anti-ship radar version of the B-24, the “SB-24 Snoopers.” They built their own B-24J Ferret hunter-killer, helped build a B-25J Ferret hunter-killer, and developed a special “Foxhole Ferret” radar intercept kit for minimally attended ground operations.
Field Unit 14 – AMF long range, RCM listening recon patrol/direct action Commandos (Again Kevin Davies) — Associated Finschnahfen.
Field Unit 15 – B-24 SQUADRON RAAF – FENTON, This squadron took over the Netherlands East Indies work that the 380th BG had been doing prior to their move to the Philippines. Apparently this F.U. was in training Oct 7, 1944. Associated Brisbane
FILLING IN THE BLANKS
The unnumbered Ferret aircraft associated with the above list of Field Units are as follows:
5th Air Force Bomber Command – Ferret VII B-24D — FB-24D1 THE DUCHESS OF PADUCAH. Ferret VII was on loan from Vth Bomber Command; it passed to 43 Heavy Bombardment Group (H) 63 Heavy Bombardment Squadron. Like the 868th, the 63rd Sqd had SB-24 Snoopers. Afterwards THE DUCHESS OF PADUCAH was used by 380 BG(H) 530 BS. It may also have been on temporary duty (TDY) 90 BG(H). It was salvaged was “war weary” May 21, 1945.
5th Air Force Bomber Command – Ferret VIII B-24D — FB-24D1 ATOM SMASHER was with 380 BG(H) 530 BS. It was later transferred to 43 BG(H) 63BS. Ferret VIII was originally to be assigned to 4th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 13th Air thought to be on TDY 5AF; It suffered a major operational accident Dec 29 1944 and was scrapped.
5th Air Force Bomber Command — Captain Victor Tatelman’s B-25D Ferret “Dirty Dora II” with the 499th Bombardment “Bat outta Hell” Squadron, 345th BG (M) Air Apache’s. This plane started as a salvaged B-25D in named “Sir Beetle” at the Biak air depot. It was equipped with experimental Bell Lab’s radar hunting equipment and flew 36 radar hunting missions between the fall of 1944 and March 1945. The experimental equipment was removed at that point for a lack of Japanese radar targets in the Philippines.
13th Air Force — B-24J Ferret Hunter Killer, FU 13. It was built with resources in-theater to fill the Ferret role of the diverted FB-24D1 ATOM SMASHER.
13th Air Force — B-25J Ferret Hunter Killer, FU 13? It was built with equipment on-hand to duplicate the Bell Labs equipped “Dirty Dora II.”
7th Fleet — U. S. Navy PBY-5 Ferret flight, Lt Lawrence R Heron commanding, associated at various times with VPB-33, VPB-34, VPB-71 disbanded in May 1945. The flight wore out two PBY-5 aircraft before its disbandment.
UNNUMBERED SHIP FERRETS
7th Fleet — DD-445 USS Fletcher – [See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Fletcher_(DD-445)] 1944 & 1945 combat history) Ship joined 7th fleet April 1944 and is shown in ‘The History of US Electronic Warfare, Vol 1 by Alfred Price with a 1944 ELINT/Jamming unit picture between pages 264 & 265
7th Fleet — Motor Torpedo Boat (MBT) Squadrons. It is unclear if these were operations with F.U. 12 & 14 Kevin Davies wrote upon or were separate Section 22 F.U. The US Navy War Diaries and Muster roles on the Fold3 US National Archives document digitization service give evidence for both possibilities.
7th Fleet — USS Batfish, possible then FU #4 Submarine ferret — see my “History Weekend — MacArthur’s Section 22 Submersible Radar Hunters”, Posted Chicagoboyz.net by Trent Telenko on 1st March 2015
“The USS Batfish was based at Freemantle Australia for its war patrol #5 (October 8 – December 1, 1944) and the Batfish lost its primary APR-1 Elint operator on War Patrol #4 (July 31 – September 12, 1944), on 25 August 1944 due to nerves, and both WP #5 and #6 had much better RCM reports.”
SOME FRUSTRATION RESOLVED
So now you see why much of what has been said and written about General MacArthur cannot be trusted, if an intelligence organization that big can be erased from the US Military’s institutional historic record, and why I’ve had more than a little frustration on researching MacArthur’s will-o-the-wisp Section 22.
Notes and Sources —
Kevin Davies, “Field Unit 12 Takes New Technology to War in the Southwest Pacific,” Studies in Intelligence Vol 58, No. 3 (September 2014) pages 10 – 20
Peter Dunn, SECTION 22 GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, SWPA
AN INTELLIGENCE ORGANISATION DURING WWII – Australia @ War
Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) World War 2 Narrative No.3, Radar, Copy No.3 -Archives New Zealand Reference AAOQ W3424 16
Captain Don C. East, USN, “A History of US Navy Fleet Air Reconnaissance, Part 1, The Pacific and VQ-1”
Alfred Price’s “The History of US Electronic Warfare. Volume 1: The Years of Innovation – Beginnings to 1946”. (Westford, MA: Association of Old Crows, 1984)
“The Search For Jap Radar”, RADAR No. 10, 30 June 1945, published by MIT Radiation Laboratory through USAAF Air Communication Officer Major General Harold McClelland, page 9.
Vic Tatelman’s Biography
Capt. Vic Tatelman’s Photos
Vic Tatelman’s Stories
Trent Telenko, “History Weekend — MacArthur’s Section 22 Submersible Radar Hunters”, March 1, 2015.
Trent Telenko, “History Friday — MacArthur’s High Tech Radar Commandos” January 2015.
“The Special Flight”
Liberator Operations on Radar Countermeasure With 160 Squadron, 159 Squadron and 1431 Flight
SEAC January, 1944 to October, 1945