That afternoon, a lone recce [reconnaissance plane] came over. The recce planes from the Japanese would just come over, you know, having a day afternoon out, go over and have a look at what the troops are doing at Moresby. And they'd cruise around like they owned the place, you know. And they did this and the two [Australian] Kittyhawks were just waiting up in the sky somewhere. And they got over Bootless Bay and they shot the what's-the-name [plane] down over Bootless Bay, this observation plane. You could hear the roar of the troops, you know. Everybody roared when it went down. It sounded like you were at the Melbourne MCG at the grand final or something. Fantastic. Really beaut.

Gordon Bailey, Australian veteran, Battle of Port Moresby. Read more about his story.

On 21 March 1942, Kittyhawk fighters from No. 75 Squadron RAAF arrived in Port Moresby. The protection of Port Moresby saw fierce fighting against the Japanese Air Force. By 30 March, the Australians had lost 11 aircraft.

The United States Army Air Force began arriving on 31 March. The 8th Bombardment Squadron with A-24 bombers arrived first. Six P-39 Airacobras of the 36th Pursuit Squadron joined them for two weeks in May.

The United States had declared war on Japan following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. With the Japanese threat to Australia growing, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin called for US assistance on 27 December 1941:

"We refuse to accept the dictum that the Pacific struggle must be treated as a subordinate segment of the general conflict...The Australian Government, therefore, regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies' fighting plan.

Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom."

But even with US reinforcements, Australia continued to lose aircraft and crews. No. 75 Squadron had had just nine days of training in Australia before going to Port Moresby. The soft runways at Seven Mile Drome also caused problems for inexperienced crews. By 1 May, No. 75 Squadron only had three serviceable aircraft left.

On 3 May, the USAAF 35th and full 36th Pursuit Squadrons arrived to relieve No. 75 Squadron RAAF. During their 44-day deployment, No. 75 Squadron destroyed 39 enemy aircraft and damaged another 54. Australia lost 24 aircraft and 12 pilots. One of those killed was No. 75 Squadron's commanding officer, John Francis Jackson DFC.

Over the course of the campaign in Papua and New Guinea, US and Australian forces successfully fought side-by-side in many battles.

Papua New Guinea
31 March 1942
Image caption
A group of pilots of the United States Army Air Corps Airacobra 40th Pursuit Squadron posing in front of one of their aircraft. Port Moresby, 27 June 1942.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 012711. Photo by Damien Parer.

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