25 July 2017

American Hollywood Stars And Heroism Tells Story Of Townsville Suburbs

Image: b-25 Bomber serviced by American servicemen Photo: D Sheley Flickr

American Hollywood stars and aviation heroism paints a picture of Depot#2 at Mount Louisa during the second World War where 4000 American airmen and servicemen contributed to the victory over the Japanese invasion forces during the Kokoda campaign in Papua New Guinea, the various South Pacific campaigns and the decisive Battle of the Corel Sea.

Now a sprawling urban suburb of Townsville North Queensland with over 8800 residents and 3300 dwellings, Mount Louisa has blossomed during the 1980s and again in the early 2000s. But the greatest ever population explosion for the suburb occurred between 1940 and 1945.
Back then, American and Australian commanders had a massive task of defending Australia and ensuring supply lines were secured to support the troops fighting in the jungles 1000s of kilometres to the North. The Americans were Australia’s last hope of pushing the Japanese back from Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

The summit of Mount Louisa rises 154 metres above sea level. The mountain was named after a lady acquaintance of Andrew Ball, the first European explorer and founder of Townsville. When the American air force arrived, the mountain offers excellent cover from a likely attack from Japanese aircraft.
Image: Townsville military airstrips at Stock Route Airfield (current day Dalrymple Road) during WW II
Photo: www.ozatwar.com

American Airforce
Mount Louisa became an important landmark during the 2nd World War as the 4th Air Depot, 12th Air Depot and the 15th Air Depot Groups of the 5th Air force of the United States Air Force was based at the foot of Mount Louisa where over 4000 American personnel worked and lived during the war.

Depot #2 was used for assembling, modifying, overhauling and carrying our major repairs on aircraft. A large barracks of buildings and a tent city were erected to accommodate the airmen and servicemen. It was reported that 120 barracks were erected during the war. There was also a sports ground in the area where baseball, gridiron and athletics were played.

Historical accounts from ex-servicemen and aerial photographs during and after the war shows that three airstrips were in the immediate vicinity of Depot #2 at Mount Louisa. One airstrip was located on Dalrymple Road between the current day Duckworth Street and Nathan Street and the other was located where the current day Townsville Airport at Garbutt is located. The 3rd airstrip was located on the western side of Mount Louisa near the Bohle River where the current day Willows residential development is at Kirwan.

Image: Townsville military airstrips at Bohle River (current day Kirwan) during WW II
Photo: www.ozatwar.com
Although Mount Louisa did not face enemy action or any direct attacks during the war, the mountain offered an excellent defensive position for the American air force as a strategic command and supply location servicing the famous Kokoda campaign at Papua New Guinea and South Pacific campaigns including the Battle of the Corel Sea.

Mount Louisa was the location of multiple bunkers for storage of supplies and ammunitions but, perhaps most importantly and fondly remembered by American servicemen, was the open air Helton Hall where meetings and events took place. The hall was named after Master Sergeant James Helton who has killed along with three other Majors from the crash of their B-25 bomber over Rattlesnake Island just North of Townsville.

Hollywood stars
It is reported that a number of famous Hollywood stars appeared in the Helton Hall at Mount Louisa including John Wayne, Joe E Brown, Gary Cooper, Una Merkel and Phyllis Brook and Woody Herman’s orchestra.

The Mount Louisa suburb borders the Garbutt suburb at Banfield Drive and Woolcock Street, Kirwan and Heatley suburbs on Dalrymple Road and the Cosgrove suburb at the end of Bayswater Road.

Further reading:

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