Photos by George Strock, LIFE Magazine October 15, 1942
These photographs were originally captioned as “Decoration of 19th Bomb Group” and were released in February 1943. They were taken at Mareeba Airfield in Queensland, Australia. In attendance was Major General George C. Kenney (C.O., 5th Air Force), Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker (Commanding General, 5th Bomber Command, wearing sunglasses) and Lt Colonel Richard H. Carmichael (C.O. 19th Bombardment Group, holding cane). The men are from the 19th Bomb Group who flying combat missions since the start of the Pacific War from the Philippines, Java, Australia and New Guinea. The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is being awarded to airmen who flew fifty missions or performed “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight”. Parked in the background are the group’s B-17E Flying Fortresses that were based at the airfield. Thanks to Steve Birdsall for additional information.
General Kenney Reports page 122:
“On the 15th [October 1942], on the way to Port Moresby, I stopped at Townsville and Mareeba and pinned over 250 decorations on that many proud chests. The ceremony at Townsville took nearly an hour and the one at Mareeba over two hours. By the time I got through, I had worn most of the skin off the thumb and forefinger of my right hand. It was a great show.”
Enlargements of Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker at the ceremony. Photos by George Strock, LIFE Magazine October 15, 1942
Afterwards, these photographs was used in a number of news coverage about the Battle of the Bismarck Sea March 2-4, 1943 including coverage by Associated Press War Correspondent Murlin Spencer.
“Nemesis of Big Jap Sea Force” with caption: “Lieut. Gen. G. C. Kenney (center, first row), commander of Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacfici, with assistants, fliers, and plane crewmen of his organization. General Kenney directed and doubtless many of these men participated in the great air raid which whiped out the Jap convoy of ten warships and twelve transports trying to reach New Guinea. It was one of the great victories of this Pacific War. An American flying fortress forms the background for the photograph, made recently at an advanced bomber base, when many of the men shown were decorated for air exploits. To the left of General Kinney [sic] is Lietu. Col. R. H. Carmichael, and to the right of him Brig Gen. K. E. [sic] Walker. (Wirephoto)”
Spencer, Murlin. “386 Medals Awarded American Air Heroes at Australian Base – Maj. Felix M. Hardison of Washinton among those honored” The Evening Star, October 17, 1942.
“D. C. Flier, 249 Others Get Valor Awards” The Washington Post, October 18, 1942.
January 5, 1943 by 5th Combat Camera Unit [5th CCU]
These photographs were taken by a photographer aboard one of the six B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 43rd Bombardment Group, 64th Bombardment Squadron during the inbound flight to the Rabaul area over the target area. One of the aircraft visible is B-17F “San Antonio Rose” 41-24458 with General Walker aboard as an observer. These images are the last photographs of the bomber before it went Missing In Action (MIA). The original photos are part of the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) collection. Citation: RG 342 Series FH Roll 3A31155-3A31881