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 Home > History > Painting first raid of Balikpapan, Borneo, on Oct. 10, 1944 

Balikpapan, Borneo
October 10, 1944

From the Artist: Balikpapan 10/10/44

I had in mind doing a painting of a P38 Lightning and came across an article describing the wartime activities of Lt Col Gerald Johnson who was the commander of 9th Squadron/49th Fighter Group. He flew a P38 and ended the war with 22 victories. He stayed in the air force after the war and was killed when a B25 he was flying got lost in a typhoon.

In my research I came across a photograph of him and other pilots including Richard Bong at Biak having just returned from the mission to Balikpapan on 10th October 1944. Further investigation revealed that 43BG was involved in this raid in particular the 65th Squadron B24 Liberator serial 44-40980 piloted by Tom Scannell and Paul Nichols which is portrayed in the painting.

I was able to make contact with them via the 'Kensmen' website and they have provided much information about the mission.

Apparently after being coached by Chas Lindbergh on how to preserve fuel the range of the P38 was almost doubled and this was one of thefirst missions when the fighters were able to meet the bombers at the target a distance of around 1000 miles. My information does not indicate whether Johnson had any victories on this mission but it does state that Bong destroyed an Oscar and a Nick twin engine fighter.

There were apparently 58 Liberators on this raid and 980 returned to base at Morati Isle very short of fuel and badly damaged.

There were over 100 holes in the fuselage. Unfortunately its navigator, Lt Don Hunt lost his life on this mission and 5 of the aircraft's gunners were wounded. 980's Pilots would like to think that the Japanese Oscar depicted as being shot down was the one responsible.

The entire crew was promised a DFC by their commanding officer following this mission but unfortunately this never materialised.

Paul Nichols' book "My Lucky Dice" tells the whole story of this mission and many others (See 43rd Books for sale) on the web site.

Alan Eaton

Home > History > Painting first raid of Balikpapan, Borneo, on Oct. 10, 1944