October 29, 2022

New Guinea Aerial Assault


Robert Merchant Collection: A Nebraska Aerial Photographer’s Experience in the Pacific during WWII

Robert Merchant spent part of his time in service stationed out of Port Moresby, New Guinea, the Allies’ last major line of defense of Australia from the Japanese. Merchant saw action while he was in service in New Guinea. Several of his photos are marked as having been taken in the “Salamau Peninsula”, and “Hollandia”.

One of the major battles fought in this area was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, March 204, 1943. This battle, a lopsided Allied victory, was fought to prevent the Japanese from delivering men and supplies in New Guinea. The Japanese were reported at the time to have lost 15,000 men.


Bombing of But Airdrome, New Guinea [RG5841-7-1]

An aerial view of the bombing of the But Airdrome on the coast of New Guinea.


Headquarters of the dromes area [RG5841-7-2]

This photo reads, “Intelligence figured this place as being headquarters for the dromes area. One quick slash from six liberators and it was gone.” One the right side of this aerial view, smoke rises after several bombs were dropped on the “headquarters”. A “drome” is an airfield equipped with control towers and hangers. It was particularly important for the Allies to destroy the landing strips to prevent Japanese reinforcements from landing.

Crashed Japanese planes [RG5841-7-14]

An aerial side view of crashed Japanese planes with smoke rising from them. The back of the photo reads, “Hollandia Air Drome”. There were three major airdromes in the Hollandia area. The Allies captured all three, with little opposition from the Japanese.

Aerial view of bombs exploding over the Salamaua Peninsula [RG5841-7-5]

This shows an aerial view of bombs exploding over land and water. The back of the photo reads “Salamaua Peninsula” Salamau was originally intended by the The Japanese originally intended Salamaua as a staging post for an assault on Port Moresby, because taking control of the Australian territory of New Guinea was a major aspect of Operations Mo, Japan’s overarching plan to isolate Australia and New Zealand from the United states. However, the plan to take Port Moresby was abandoned after several failed attacks. Instead, the Japanese converted the Salamaua port into a major supply base.

Japanese ship exploding [RG5841-7-21]

Photo of a Japanese ship exploding labeled “ship bombing and strafing of a Jap boat by one of our B-24s. John Baiteau[?] photographer”

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