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Gentlemen -  I have a challenge...

Does anyone have information about Richard Graves' 60 man Jungle Rescue Detachment in WWII? I've found only brief mention in Graves' Bushcraft book(s) and one fiction book which I would not trust as a resource for this project. 

I have a battledress to an Aussie who joined the Canadian Army for Korea - his Australian records note frequent detachment to U.S. Far East Air Forces (and 13th Air Force) and I initially wondered what this could indicate, assuming anti-aircraft artillery, but his Canadian file which I finally received clears this up with a brief mention of 'participated in jungle rescue' and now I am down this path. Hoping someone has something better than what I've found.

Per a 'stub' on wikipedia about Graves and the creation of the detachment:"In the Second World War, Graves founded and led the Australian Jungle Rescue Detachment of 60 soldiers, which was attached to the Far East American Airforce. These men conducted over 300 rescues, all of which were completed successfully and without losses."

Also a mention in an American newspaper about an Air Force pilot that dropped off 'two Aussie jungle specialists' to aid in the rescue of a downed pilot.

This is about it.  I have searched the New Guinea Forces and other related war diaries on the AWM website with no luck.  I pulled Graves' service file and was pleased to find his detachments align with Jillett's, but still no detail about the rescue detachment.  I really would like to find more.

Thanks,

Robert

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Posted (edited)

Robert,

I reached out to my favourite antipodean amateur historian who is the most knowledgeable person I know concerning the Australian military. It's his opinion that Richard Graves tales of rescue and his magic unit are exaggerations of the worst order. Which is probably why you can't find any viable authority mentioning it... or him. I quote:

"A generation of Australian Boy Scouts grew up with Graves' Bushcraft books in the 70's. I was one of them. I haven't done it in a while but I reckon I can still whittle up a 'four pattern' snare trigger.

When I was 14, Dad was posted to Canungra. Canungra was then the Jungle Training Centre and had been since WW2. By then I was a senior scout, called Venturers in Oz. Scouts were based at a place called Fogarty's Farm which was also the jungle survival school run in those days by Billy Bostock. Later Bill's role was taken up by Les Hidden's who became a bit of a TV star. That was well after my time by which the school had transferred to Tully in Far North Queensland.

We learned a lot. I was taught Jungle Nav by Clem Ebner who'd been teaching it for decades. Even so, I got regularly lost (and still do) in the McPherson Ranges, with perfect maps, awesome compasses and a tally counter to measure paces. Billy Bostock taught us to make fish traps and spears. All based on indigenous skills and crafts.

It was pretty much that experience that convinced me that Dick Graves was full of and had most likely never set foot in Triple Canopy Rainforest in his life. Pretty much nothing in his bushcraft books is relevant to Jungle.

What I do know about Graves is that he was a WW1 Gallipoli Veteran. I know from the WW2 nominal roll that he was demobbed as a lieutenant in early 1945 from the 111th Tank Attack Regiment, a unit that never left Australia.

A couple of things. A detachment of 60 to the USAF from the Australian Army is going to be commanded by a Major at the very least. You need a field grade officer to be responsible for Administration and Discipline. Goes double for when working with foreign forces. Graves is a bit light on in the rank department. Apart from Graves' forward to his bushcraft books I've never seen any other reference to a 'jungle rescue' unit.

Which is not to say that USAF airmen were not occasionally rescued by Australians. Technically they were not 'rescued' by Australians, they were rescued by locals and the Australians facilitated their extraction because they had radios. This was done in the Pacific by Coastwatcher's and in PNG by ANGAU. Peter Ryan's "Fear Guide my Feet" is the seminal ANGAU work. Even then, before the advent of helicopters, extraction was difficult. In the Pacific it could be done by Catalina in New Guinea by Flying Boat if a big enough River was handy. The prospect of walking out by ill equipped and possibly injured aircrew was and is still a non-starter. See here.


By WW2 the Australian Army had determined that the key to Jungle Survival was harnessing local indigenous knowledge. Graves knew nothing of this."

Edited by Dan M

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Hi Dan -- thank you for the information!  And especially for being honest about the prospect that Graves' tales may be a farce.  A great thanks to your friend as well.  His mention of ANGAU (a new term for me) is something new that I can look into and especially if they have war diaries online. 

I'd still like to pick at this as I believe there must be some veracity to parts of Jillett's story, just not as I thought previously...do you think this is the case?  I would assume at this point that it is not a jungle rescue unit but jungle rescue duty and I quickly went down the wrong path searching in this way.  There is still some kind of tie between Jillett and Graves' service as their detachments from HQ NGF and 1st Australian Army align, as did some training including a camouflage school, which I first thought was for disguising artillery or anti-aircraft emplacements.  Jillett's Canadian discharge is pretty explicit about WWII service: "Employed in New Guinea - Philippines as jungle rescue crew."  I've attached this and will link to the Australian service files as well:

Jillett:

https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/NAAMedia/ShowImage.aspx?B=4473441&T=PDF

Graves:

https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=5663967&isAv=N

1554229381_ScreenShot2019-10-07at7_48_06PM.thumb.png.2df4f720912107c19dede84693772c8a.png

 

Thank you so much for the help!

Robert

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15 hours ago, Dan M said:

The prospect of walking out by ill equipped and possibly injured aircrew was and is still a non-starter. See here.

Thanks for that link, Dan. What a great story!

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Posted (edited)

Robert,

A bit more from my friend:

I've read the NAA files on both Jillett and Graves. It appears I was wrong. Graves did do some time in New Guinea and appears that he was involved in "Jungle Craft' of some sort.

I still don't rate him.


My friend also asked if you would like a photo of Greendale Station which was the Jillett property and / or the Tambo war memorial which will have Jillett recorded on it.

Cheers, Dan.

8 hours ago, Trooper_D said:

Thanks for that link, Dan. What a great story!

Glad you liked it. Thanks for the accolade.

Dan.

Edited by Dan M

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Hi Dan -- I would very much appreciate whatever your friend is offering.  I enjoy those personal touches to accompany items and research.

I've reached out to one of my researcher friends here and asked him to take a lot through the morning reports for the FEAF and 13th AF units to which Jillett (and Graves) may have been attached.  I am not sure if, as foreigners, they would appear in the daily logs, but I have hope that they would and also that they're somewhat attainable based on the specific dates I have to reference.  I'll keep the thread updated with those finds.

I did find this website which is mostly U.S. based, but very informative about the jungle rescue operations:

http://www.pbyrescue.com/

Most mention of Australians on that webpage have to do with RAAF detachments, not AIF / ground forces, but I think there are still many original documents that I'd have to read through as they're not searchable via text recognition.

Thanks for the help, Dan, and pass along the word to your friend as well.  I appreciate it.

Robert

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