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April 1944

Special Forces Operations in April 1944

April 4th, 1944
Air Attack on Japanese Airfield Heho.
1st Air Commando Group
Attack on Japanese Airfield Heho. Fighter Squadron of the 1st Air Commando Group.

The commando assault force responds to intelligence reports of Japanese movement in the Rangoon area. Departing at 08:00, they head for Aungban, Burma. However, the Japanese already scrambled their fighters from Heho in anticipation of a P-38 attack from the USAAF 459th Squadron. By the time Lietenant Colonel Mahoney’s P-51A Mustangs arrive over the airfield, the Japanese aircraft are parked in revetments. The commandos use rockets to keep the anti-aircraft batteries at bay while strafing the field repeatedly, destroying four medium bombers and twenty fighters on the ground.

In the air, Captain Forcey engages an enemy aircraft, making a pass withintwo hundred0 metres before pulling off. The Japanese fighter catches fire and explodes. On their way back, the fighters also destroy an enemy bomber on the ground at Anisakan. Overall, the mission resulted in twenty-six verified enemy kills, with no P-51A Mustangs lost by the air commandos.

April 5th, 1944 – April 7th, 1944
Missing Alimnia Reconnaissance Patrol
Special Boat Squadron, Levant Schooner Flotilla, Küstenjäger-Abteilung Brandenburg
A Special Boat Squadron, S Detachment Patrol, led by Captain Bill Blyth and including seasoned operatives like George Evans and Allan Tuckey, is tasked with gathering intelligence on Alimnia Island in the Aegean Sea. Their operation is compromised when their vessel, LS 24, of the Levant Schooner Flotilla is spotted and captured by German forces near Alimnia, following a brief exchange of fire.

Despite a courageous effort by local fishermen to rescue them, the Special Boat Squadron patrol and their Greek allies are ultimately apprehended. They are transferred to the Sicherheits Dienst, the intelligence branch of the SS, for interrogation and face the grim reality of Hitler’s directive for the execution of captured Allied special forces. While Bill Blyth is spared due to a series of fortunate bureaucratic oversights and the principled stance of Colonel Otto Burger, the rest of the patrol is not so lucky. They are presumed executed near the town of Arsakli, close to Salonika.

The truth about their fate emerges years later, amidst investigations into Kurt Waldheim’s wartime activities. Despite these revelations, Waldheim’s political career is not significantly impacted.

April 19th, 1944 – April 25th, 1944
Raid on Santorini (Thera)
Special Boat Squadron, Sacred Company, Levant Schooner Flotilla
Nineteen men from the British Special Boat Section and the Greek Sacred Company led by Major Anders Lassen. Their mission was to destroy Axis naval observation posts and radio stations on the Cycladic islands. At the same time similar raids were conducted on the islands Of Ios, Mykonos and Amorgos.

The Santorini team set out from Balisu bay, Turkey aboard two schooners. After landing near Cape Columbo on April 19th, 1944, they marched towards the village of Vourvoulos, hiding in a nearby cave. Greek Lieutenant Stefanos Kasoulis gathered intelligence in Fira, leading to a plan to attack the barracks, residence of the German commanding officer, and radio station in Imerovigli.

On April 24th, 1943, the team executed their plan, surprising the garrison at the barracks and destroying the radio station. During the raid, Greek Lieutenant Stefanos Kasoulis and Sergeant Frank Kingston were killed. In reprisal, on April 29th, 1944, German forces surrounded Vourvoulos, executing five civilians. Despite casualties, the operation tied down German forces in the Aegean for the remainder of the war.

April 21st, 1944 – April 26th, 1944
Search and Rescue Operation.
1st Air Commando Group
Sikorsky YR-4B 43-28223 of the 1st Air Commando Group flown by Lieutenant Carter Harmon. His mission is to rescue Technical Sergeant Ed “Murphy” Hladovcak and three Chindits after crashing his Stinson L-1A Vigilant liaison aircraft behind enemy lines.

All four men are rescued over a period of two days by helicopter, making it the first helicopter search and rescue mission.