No.19 Fighter Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War

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No.19 Fighter Squadron took part in the battle against the Japanese counterattack on Bougainville in March 1944, the campaigns to neutralise Kavieng and Rabaul and helped provide air cover at Los Negros, the most westerly base used by the RNZAF in the Pacific.


No.19 Squadron moved to the forward zone in February 1944 at the start of three periods on Guadalcanal. By this point the fighting had moved away from that island, but the squadron still had to provide dawn and dusk patrols and have aircraft ready to intercept any unidentified aircraft.

No.19 Squadron had two spells on Bougainville during 1944. The first came in March-April 1944, during the major Japanese counterattack. The squadron replaced No.18 Squadron just before the start of the counterattack. On 26 March the squadron bombed Japanese pillboxes at the southern end of Empress Augusta Bay, and it took part in the defensive battle that repulsed the Japanese attack.

The second came in July-August 1944, during a quiet period on the ground on Bougainville. During this period the RNZAF fighter squadrons based on the island flew a mix of fighter-bomber sweeps over Japanese occupied areas on Bougainville and Rabaul and air defence over Empress Augusta Bay.

No.19 Squadron was the first RNZAF fighter squadron to arrive at Emirau, in the Bismarck Islands. This was part of a general shift of Allied air units which saw New Zealand take over more responsibility for the Bismarck Islands and operations against the isolated Japanese bases at Rabaul and Kavieng.

No.19 Squadron arrived in November and became operational on 22 November 1944. On 1 December the three American Corsair squadrons that had been based on Emirau left, and No.19 took over their tasks. The squadron had two main roles - one was to provide daytime fighter cover over Emirau and the other was to fly a regular nighttime standing patrol over Kavieng. These lasted for four hours and were flow in pairs. Their main task was to watch for any Japanese aircraft attempting to use the base, but they also each carried a 1,000lb to drop on any suitable target. As the squadron gained in experience it also carried out fighter-bomber sweeps around Kavieng, each with four or eight aircraft, each with two 1,000lb bombs.


In January 1945 No.19 Squadron was replaced on Emirau by No.22 Squadron.

In January 1945 No.19 Squadron replaced No.25 Squadron on Los Negros, the most westerly base to be used by the RNZAF. It had two main tasks - to fly dawn and dusk patrols in the surrounding area and to intercept any unidentified aircraft that appeared on radar. Most proved to be friendly but a few aircraft evaded the incoming fighters and were probably Japanese. During No.19's time on the island there was one attack on Los Negros. On the night of 28-29 April two torpedo-bombers caught the defenders by surprise and were able to damage a floating dock in Seeadler Harbour (claimed as an aircraft carrier by the Japanese pilot). The two aircraft escaped intact, but one was lost on its way back to Rabaul. No.19 Squadron was relieved by No.17 Squadron in May 1945.

On 2 July No.19 Squadron relieved No.21 Squadron at Jacquinot Bay, New Britain. No.21 Squadron had suffered from a lack of a servicing unit, but one arrived in mid-July so No.19 was able to begin operations. It maintained three aircraft on scramble alert and flew a number of patrols over Rabaul. Its last major operation was a bombing raid against an oil dump at Rapopo.

The squadron was disbanded in October 1945

1943-44: Curtiss Kittyhawk
1944-45: Chance Vought F4U Corsair

February-March 1944: Guadalcanal
March-April 1944: Bougainville
June-July 1944: Guadalcanal
July-August 1944: Bougainville

October-November 1944: Guadalcanal
November 1944-December 1945: Emirau

February-March 1945: Santo
March-May 1945: Los Negros
June-October 1945: Jacquinot Bay



How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 July 2013), No.19 Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War,

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