The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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Townsville City Council. Fair use may apply.
Townsville (146.815E 19.249S) is located on the northeast coast of Australia. It had only a modest port, but it was a major air transport center, the 1941 equivalent of an airline “hub.” It was protected by two batteries of heavy artillery. On 7 December 1941, the town was garrisoned by 11 Brigade, a militia unit.
The port became the main transshipment point from Australia to New Guinea. It was notorious for the extraordinarily poor performance of its heavily unionized dock labor force. Absenteeism averaged 38% and it was estimated that the average American soldier assigned to shifting cargo moved four times as much per day as the average Australian dock worker. On the other hand, the large numbers of American troops in the area severly strained the local infrastructure. The more choice items of food became scarce, the ice plant was heavily oversubscribed, and the water system was so strained that water was sometimes only available for two hours a day. This likely contributed to an outbreak of typhoid fever in the southern part of the town in 1944.
An additional airfield was constructed by U.S. Army engineers at Reid River (146.844E 19.763S) in time for the Coral Sea campaign.
The town was also the location of a mutiny by African-American troops of 96 Engineer Battalion, who responded to abuse by two white officers by machine gunning the officers' tents. At least one officer was killed
and several others wounded, and Australian troops had to be called in
to put down the riot. Future U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson visited
the base for three days, apparently to defuse the situation.
Temperatures: Jan 87/76, Apr 84/70, Jul 75/59, Oct 83/71, record 110/41
Rainfall: Jan 15/10.9, Apr 6/3.3, Jul 3/0.6, Oct 4/1.3 == 45.7" per annum
Bavas (2012; accessed 2012-2-12)
Leighton and Coakley (1955)
Pearce and Smith (1990)
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