Document courtesy of David Anderson:


SERIAL 000629                   7 AUGUST 1944






T-O-P     S-E-C-R-E-T

From: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
To: Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet.

Subject: Operation (blacked out) – Air Strike on Surabaya, Java.

Enclosure:  (A) Senior U.S. Naval Liaison Officer, British Eastern Fleet Top Secret ltr. A16-3, serial 0045, dated 31 May 1944.

1.       Enclosure (A) is forwarded herewith.

2.       Comments on subject operation will be included in CinCPac’s Report of Operations – May 1944, which is now being prepared.


By direction


Copy to: (Less Encl.)
Sr ALUSLO British Eastern Fleet.

Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.


From: Senior U.S. Naval Liaison Officer, British Eastern Fleet

To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Subject: Operation (blacked out) – Air Strike on Surabaya, Java.


A)     Commander in Chief, British Eastern Fleet, Operation Order (blanked out) with Appendices l to ll thereto, (E.F. No. 0725 of 2 May 1944)

B)      Commander in Chief, British Eastern Fleet, Embarkation Order of 3 May 1944. (No. E.F. 0725/20)

C)      Fleet Carrier Orders for Operation (blanked out) – Short Title FCT (R.A.A. No. 0306 of 3 May 1944)

1.       Enclosures (A), (B), (C) and (D) are forwarded herewith for information. The U.S. Naval Liaison Officer was in ILLUSTRIOUS for the operation. D-day was 17 May 1944. H-hour was 0830 HI.

2.       Remarks given below apply to paragraphs in the operation orders and appendices thereto as indicated.

a)      Commander in Chief Operation Order (blanked out)

1)      Par. 1. H-hour was actually 0645 FG.

2)      Par. 2. RENOWN (VAEF), LONDON and SUFFOLK joined Force 66 on D-2. R.A.A. was OTC of Force 66 until the completion of operations on D-day.



Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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Flags were worn as follows:
QUEEN ELIZABETH – Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet
     Admiral Sir James F. Someville
RENOWN – Vice Admiral Second in Command
     Vice Admiral Sir Arthur J. Powers
ILLUSTRIOUS – Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers
    Rear Admiral Clement Moody
KENYA – Commander Cruiser Squadron FOUR
     Rear Admiral A. D. Read

3)      Par. 3. Submarines were furnished by Commander U.S. Task Force 71 based at Fremantle, Australia.
Lieutenant Commander L.L. Edge, U.S.N., of Task Force 71, arrived Colombo, Ceylon, by air on 30 April. He collaborated with the Eastern Fleet Staff in the stationing of submarines and working out the details of communication with them. He was in ILLUSTRIOUS during the attack, being flown over to SARATOGA on D+1 for return to Fremantle.

4)      Par. 7(a). The details of this attack are not known.

5)      Par. 9(e). Withdrawal was on course 210 speed 18 knots.

6)      Par. 9(h). LONDON and SUFFOLK rejoined Force 67 (tankers) at Exmouth Gulf on D+2.

7)      Par. 11. Forces A and B departed Ceylon at 1600 6 May. The two forces rendezvoused at 1200 7 May and assumed organization as Forces 65 and 66.

8)      Par. 15. TROMP and destroyers were refuelled once on passage to Exmouth Gulf, on 10 May.

9)      Par. 19. The fleet departed from Exmouth Gulf at 1700 on D-2.

10)   Par. 22. Force 65 remained in a general position 10 miles from Force 66 on the bearing of the sun.

11)   Par. 25. The fleet arrived Exmouth at 0800 HI and departed at 1700 HI on D+2 (19 May).

12)   Par. 26. The fleet arrived at Ceylon 1400 27 May – overall time for operation three weeks.


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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b) Fleet Carrier Orders for Operation

1) Par. 3(a). No A/S patrol was ordered. Carriers alternated duty commencing at noon on D-6 (11 May).

2) Par. 9(i). One SARATOGA Avenger was hit and forced to land six miles easet of BULLSEYE. The rescue submarine, PUFFER, was notified, acknowledged receipt of message and said she was unable to penetrate at the time but was watching. Nothing further has been heard.

c) Appendix ‘A’ to Fleet Carrier Orders.
After noon on D-day each carrier launched only 4 fighters for Combat Air Patrol. This patrol was secured at noon on D+1.

d) Appendix ‘C’ to Fleet Carrier Orders.
Target (X) was not attacked. The sub-flight leader ditched on take-off. The two remaining planes attached themselves to other sub-flights.

3.                            Results of sir strike

1 - 2000# bomb hit on destroyer
1 - 2000# bomb hit on 5000 ton AK
1 – 2000# bomb hit on 7000 ton AK
1 – 2000# bomb hit on 5000 ton AK (blew up)
1 – 2000#) bomb hit on 6000 ton AK
1 – 1000#)
1 – 2000# bomb hit on medium AK
1 – 2000# bomb hit on medium AK
1 – 2000# bomb hit on small AK
1 – 2000# bomb hit on small AO
1 – 2000#) bomb hit on large floating dock in commercial
1 – 2000#) harbor. 3 – 1000# bomb near misses.
31 – 500# bomb hits on Braat Engineerings Works – Complete destruction.
30 – 500# bomb hits in Naval Base workshop area
10 to 12 – 1000# bomb hits on Wonokromo oil refinery – Complete destruction.
Numerous ships strafed and set afire.


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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Malang air field
1 – 1000# bomb hit on hangar
1 – 500# bomb hit among 3 NICKS about to take off; 1 fired, 2 damaged.
Dispersed aircraft, hangars and living quarters strafed.
2 twin engine planes shot down.
6 BETTYS and 8 single engine aircraft destroyed on ground
At least 12 additional planes destroyed or damaged

Tandjoeng Perak Airdrome
Planes and installation strafed
1 single engine bomber destroyed
3 BETTYS set afire.

4.  Comments on air strike.

a) ILLUSTRIOUS catapulted first three Avengers – time 6 minutes.

b) The next plane to take off ditched close aboard sharp on the port bow. Crew was rescued by a destroyer. The pilot considered his run was insufficient but the next plane had no trouble with same length of run. It is believed a hydraulics failure caused the flaps to retract when the engine revved up.

c) An additional Avenger lost oil pressure and asked for an emergency deck landing. This was impossible due to ranging Corsairs. The plane had a piston seizure and ditched close aboard ILLUSTRIOUS. Crew was rescued by a destroyer.

d) 45 minutes was allowed for launching and rendezvous. This schedule was met.

e) One SARATOGA Avenger had engine trouble, returned and was assigned A/S patrol.

f) The attack was excellently coordinated and complete surprise seems to have been attained.

g) No fighter opposition was encountered.

h) No heavy A.A. There was strong but inaccurate light A.A. A few planes received very minor damage. All but one returned.


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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i) The SARATOGA Avenger (Lieutenant W. E. Rowbotham, U.S.N., Commanding Officer VT-12) was probably shot down by small calibre fire from two corvettes off the harbor entrance. The crew was seen to man their rubber boat. Several native boats were in the vicinity and it is possible one of these may have been able to aid the crew.

j) The Japanese apparently made no effort to locate or attack the fleet.

k) Coordination between the two air groups was much better than at the attack on Sabang.

l) The heavy damage inflicted in operations (blanked out but most likely Cockpit) and (blanked out but most likely Transom) with the minor damage and loss suffered indicates that carriers can be profitably employed in the Southeast Asia theatre and offensive effort against the enemy should be continued.

5.            Comments on the sea voyage and operation.

(a)          It is to be noted that as in Operation (blanked out but likely to be Cockpit) the air strike on Sabang, the fleet consisted of ships of several nationalities:-
BB – English, French
CV – English, American
CR – English, New Zealand, Dutch
DD – English, American, Australian, Dutch
Perfect harmony existed and the ships worked well together.

(b) Upon departure from Ceylon the Commander in Chief cautioned the fleet about

1) Making Smoke
2) Using too bright signal lights
3) Inadvertent pressing of radio keys
4) Showing lights at night.

The fleet was better in these respects than it was on operation (blanked out but likely to be Cockpit) of a month previous. There has been a marked improvement in the last year. At the time of the writer’s first cruise with the fleet in February 1943 there was considerable laxness in such matters. U.S. ships are still far from perfect in regard to making smoke and using too bright signal lights.


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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(c) Due to the limited capabilities of Barracudas ILLUSTRIOUS’ two squadrons were landed and two squadrons of Avengers embarked in their stead. These latter are normally escort carrier squadrons and were sent out to work up as well as reinforce the Fleet Air Arm in the theatre.
One Avenger squadron leader, Lieutenant Commander Low, had served in VICTORIOUS when that carrier worked with SARATOGA in the South Pacific. Prior to the operation he said he had not dropped a bomb on the enemy in over three years. The two Avenger squadrons had been based at Katakurunda Air Station. They had to be given a refresher course in deck landing. UNICORN was engaged in this three days and ILLUSTRIOUS one.

(d) For ILLUSTROUS’ strike rehearsal on 9 May, as a matter of training, 6 Avengers were launched by accelerator (catapult) – time 20 minutes. 11 additional Avengers were flown off in 10 minutes. 17 Corsairs were brought up from the hangar, ranged and 15 flown off. Overall time for flying off the group was 59 minutes. One Avenger and three Corsairs had emergency deck landings. Four Corsairs were flown off as combat air patrol.
To land on 16 Avengers and 16 Corsairs required 40 minutes. 7 Corsairs were given wave-offs; 2 had tire blow-outs. The Avengers weren’t familiar with the drill and it took six minutes to get the first one aboard after the carrier gave the signal to land on.

(e) At SARATOGA’S strike rehearsal on 10 May the type attacks by Dauntless and Avengers were good but the two were not well synchronized. 16 Hellcats, 17 Dauntless and 11 Avengers were launched for the strike; 8 Hellcats for combat air patrol.

(f) The destroyer fuelling on 10 May was carried out on fleet course 160, speed 13 knots. Wind was from 115 to 125, 16 knots. Moderate swell. The signal to commence fuelling in Force 66 was executed at 0850.


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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Fuelling                                Ship                       % on hand           Time of                 Overall                  Fuel Rec’d.
Ship                       Fuelled                 at 0800                  Completion        Time                      (Long tons)

SARATOGA         DUNLAP               70                           1025                       1 – 35                    144
SARATOGA         FANNING            67                           1208                       1 – 33                    170
SARATOGA         CUMMINGS       64                           1328                       1 – 20                    175
ILLUSTRIOUS      QUILLIAM           54                           1205                       3-15                       253
ILLUSTRIOUS      QUEENBORO     57                           1710                       5-05                       232
GAMBIA              QUADRANT        60                           1700                       3-32                       180

U.S. destroyers were fuelled with two 4” hoses; British one 3.5” hose; all alongside to starboard.
QUEENBORO parted the spring used for towing and was delayed 50 minutes while repairs were made.
Two destroyers were fuelled at a time, cruisers reinforcing the screen during their absence.
No A/S patrol was flown as it was considered the fleet was not in enemy submarine waters.
While still fuelling a destroyer ILLUSTRIOUS flew off the later afternoon search of 4 Avengers by accelerator – time 12 minutes. Due to lack of experience with Avengers the time was not good. Catapults are advantageous however as in this case the true wind speed was 40 on the port bow but fuelling did not have to be interrupted.

Rates of fuelling were:-

Ship                                                       Size of hose                                        Hourly rate

RENOWN                                             5”                                                            230 tons
QUEEN ELIZABETH                           3.5”                                                        120 tons
VALIANT                                              3.5”                                                        120 tons
RICHELIEU                                           5”                                                            130 tons
ILLUSTRIOUS                                      3.5”                                                        90 tons
GAMBIA                                              3.5”                                                        108 tons

(g) The route between Ceylon and Exmouth Gulf was laid out to keep the fleet at least 600 miles off known Japanese airfields.

(h) ILLUSTRIOUS aviation petrol capacity is 48,000 Imperial gallons contained in twenty water-surrounded tanks. Carbon dioxide is not used in the system.


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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(i) When the Eastern Fleet arrived at Exmouth Gulf on 15 May for fuelling Vice Admiral T.C. Kinkaid, U.S.N. (Commander Seventh U.S. Fleet) and Rear Admiral R. W. Christie, U.S.N. (Commander Task Force 71) called on the Commander in Chief. The admiral was greatly impressed by the cooperation given him by U.S. authorities.

(j) The Chief of Staff to Commander Task Force 71, Captain P. G. Nichols, U.S.N., and Deputy Commander Fleet Air Wing TEN, Captain E.W. Hopkins, U.S.N., joined SARATOGA at Exmouth Gulf and were aboard for operation (blanked out).

(k) About 4 officers and 10 men ordered to SARATOGA for duty had assembled at Fremantle. They were transported to Exmouth Gulf in CHANTICLEER and jointed the ship there on 15 May. In view of the size of the party it is considered that this action was a most likely possible source of breach of security and unnecessary as SARATOGA was to call at Fremantle five days later.

(l) It is to be noted that in his despatches promulgated to the personnel of his ships on 16 May the Commander in Chief referred to his force as the Allied Eastern Fleet.


                6.            Training program.

A very comprehensive training schedule was carried out while on passage south.

Monday, 8 May.
BB – 15” offset practices – Tactics
DD – A.A. offset practice with plane target
         Emergency open fire exercise
         Emergency firing at smoke exercise
CR – Blind radar control exercise
         Rangefinder and tracking exercise
ALL – A.A. Tracking exercise
          Radar height calibration exercise

Tuesday, 9 May.
BB – Blind radar control exercise
DD – A.A. gunnery practice with sleeve target
SARA. – Short range weapon firing at sleeve target
ILL. – Air attack and strike rehearsal on Force 65
ALL – Air defence exercise against massed air attack
          Emergency manoeuvres


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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Wednesday, 10 May.
SARA. – Air attack and strike rehearsal on Force 66
               Fighter direction exercise
DD – Fuelled at sea
          Night – Division maneuvers
ALL – Air defence exercise against massed air attack.

Thursday, 11 May
BB – Tactics
         Emergency maneuvers
CR – Rangefinder and tracking exercise
         Blind radar control exercise
          Offset firing.
          O.O.D maneuvers
SARA. – Air attack and strike rehearsal on Force 65
DD – Surface offset firing
         A.A. offset firing
         Night attack on task forces
ALL – Air defence exercise against massed air attack
          Radar range calibration
          Night encounter exercise against attacking destroyers

Friday, 12 May>
BB – Type tactics
CR – A.A. offset firing
          Type tactics
CV – Joint full dress strike rehearsal on fleet
DD – (less those in Force 66) Type tactics
All – Air defence exercise against massed air attack
         Night attack exercise

Saturday, 13 May.

BB) – A.A. offset firing
CR) – A.A. close range and barrage firing
         Repelling dive and torpedo bombers
         Rapid opening fire exercise
         Plotting exercise – Tactics
DD – Independent exercises
ILL. – Fighter direction exercise
           Air plotting and reporting exercise

Sunday, 14 May.

ILL. – Fighter direction exercise
DD – Automatic weapons barrage firing
         Night smoke screen
Force 65 – Tactics


Serial 0045

SECRET      31 MAY 1944.

Subject: Operation (blanked out) – Air Strike

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                7.            Upon departure from Exmouth Gulf on 19 May Forces 65 and 66 were combined as one unit under the tactical command of Vice Admiral Powers. The voyage to Ceylon was considered as a training period and extensive type and force exercises carried out. Where opposing forces were involved Commander Cruiser Squadron FOUR was the other O.T.C.

Ships carried out exercises as follows :-
Fighter direction
Repel dive bombing attack
Repel torpedo bombing attack
Night air defence
Radar height calibration
Air plotting
Massed air attack
Throw short firing
Bling control firing
Range and inclinations (Rangefinder and tracking)
A.A. offset firing
15” offset firing
Night attack
Night encounter

8. A copy of the official report will be forwarded as soon as it is available.



Enclosures with original only.