Hitting the Philippines – from Java
On January 8, 1942, the seemingly indefatigable Combs took nine of the B-17’s to Kendari II (also known as K2) at 07.15 a.m. They arrived 11.30 a.m. and took off at 17.00 p.m. the same day on a second mission against Japanese shipping in Davao Gulf.
Mechanical difficulties plagued the flight; four of the nine B17’s had to abort. The remaining five succeeded in reaching the target area and, as they had to attack in poor visibility, their bombing runs brought only uncertain results (1). The crews returned to K2 and stayed there overnight; next day, January 9, they fixed their mechanical difficulties and on January 10 at 07.00 a.m. they took off for the return flight to Singosari.
At that same January 10, the Japanese Empire officially declared war on the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Only hours later, a Dutch Navy Dornier Do-24K spotted a Japanese invasion fleet heading for Tarakan Island and Northeast Borneo. Knowing Dutch forces would not be able to prevent a Japanese landing, Dutch Army HQ immediately ordered the destruction of the Tarakan Djuata oil fields, the Royal Dutch Shell refinery and the coal mines in Borneo’s Berau Valley.
In response to a request for US help to attack the invasion fleet off the Tarakan coast, 7 B-17’s took off from Singosari on January 11 at 05.55 a.m. and headed north-north west in terrible weather. Four of the bombers lost formation and made it back to Singosari around noon. The three remaining B-17’s (2) attacked the fleet while fighting off Japanese fighters and bombed with uncertain results – 2 probable and 2 possible hits on transports and / or cruisers.
Combs made it back to Singosari around 16.35, Conelly diverted to Samarinda II and returned to Singosari on January 12 and Kurtz diverted to Surabaya, landing around 17.00. B-17 gunners claimed two Japanese fighters shot down during the encounter.
(1) Crews claimed a battleship set afire by on direct and one waterline hit, and several hits on a landbased AA battery. Japanese sources do not show a battleship present.
(2) 40-2062 (Conelly), 40-3067 (Kurtz) and 40- 3087(Combs)