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Radar countermeasures development in Australia : a case study of multinational co-operation in World War II at Fenton, Northern Territory

Bellamy, Craig (2015). Radar countermeasures development in Australia : a case study of multinational co-operation in World War II at Fenton, Northern Territory. Honours Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Bellamy, Craig
Title Radar countermeasures development in Australia : a case study of multinational co-operation in World War II at Fenton, Northern Territory
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2015
Thesis Type Honours
Supervisor Farram, Steven
Subjects HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY
2103 - Historical Studies
Abstract This thesis concentrates on a small secret radar countermeasures (RCM) unit called Field Unit 6 based within an American bombardment group operating over Japanese territory from Fenton airfield in northern Australia during World War II. This multinational and multi-service unit, charged with looking for Japanese radar sites in the islands north of Australia, used electronic surveillance to achieve its task. Of interest here is the success of this unit and the extent of co-operation that occurred between it and the larger bomber unit within which it was based at Fenton.

Fenton was a large but isolated United States Army Air Force (USAAF) air base carved out of the bush in the Northern Territory south of Darwin. This base and other airfields were home to the USAAF’s 380th Bombardment Group (BG) which flew B-24 bombers against Japanese military targets to the north of Australia. Facilities at this ‘tent city’ base were primitive with all ranks experiencing difficult living conditions under canvas during the Territory’s very pronounced wet and dry seasons.

Field Unit 6, which was part of an Allied intelligence group called Section 22, was multinational and multi-service in composition and included United States (US) and Commonwealth personnel from Australia, Britain and New Zealand. The unit was a pathfinder in RCM in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) with its findings contributing to the knowledge of early Japanese radar and ultimately making an important contribution to the war effort. Given the historic significance of this subject and the general neglect it has received previously in the official records and by researchers it is felt to be worthy of further research.

Despite the privations that all must have experienced at Fenton there is little evidence of friction or animosity between members of the different nationalities and different services, either within this unit or between it and the 380th BG at Fenton. The level of co-operation that occurred within this unit and generally at Fenton is examined using historical records, published sources and the recollections of servicemen who were there.
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