United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), Base Section Two Headquarters
AML & F Building - Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company
120 Denham Street (cnr Walker Street), Townsville 4810
The first building in the Townsville area and probably Northern Queensland hired for the United States forces was the ground floor of the AML&F building on 9 January 1942. This became US Army Air Corps Headquarters and for a short time was the centre of all US Army activities.
The AML&F building was completed in 1925 by local Architect C V Rees with construction by R C Schrock & Son Builders.
Owing to the rapid advance of the Japanese throughout the Islands of the West and Southwest Pacific in December 1941, it was obvious that Northern Australia would be the main operational area to halt this advance.
During November 1941, a convoy of troop transports sailed from the USA towards the Philippines, to reinforce the garrisons stationed there. During the voyage, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December necessitated the diverting of this convoy from its original destination.
The first United States personnel to arrive in Townsville were a small group of Army Air Force Officers, headed by General Henry B. Clagett, on 5 January 1942. Headquarters (HQ) for this group was in the AML&F building, and this was to be HQ for the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) until the end of 1944.
By 16 January 1942, Townsville had been chosen as the location for a US air base and erection facility for aircraft. Townsville soon began to receive units of air support. On 19 February, the first nine US B17 heavy bombers of the 19th Bombardment Group landed at Townsville. Their first bombing mission out of Australia left Garbutt aerodrome on 22/23 February to attack Rabaul.
The Base Section Headquarters, consisting of four officers and two non-enlisted men, was located on the ground floor of the AML&F Building. Initially, the major portion of time was spent in procurement of urgently needed supplies. The first floor of the building was occupied by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Seargent’s Mess; however this was vacated by 5 April 1942 with US Base Two Finance section taking over this floor.
An original dispatch riders map from approximately March 1942 clearly shows the site marked as HQ. Additionally a May 1944 restricted telephone directory for Base Two lists the building as headquarters and Command section.
Ray Holyoak (contributing author).
Base Two, The Bayonet of Australia, Volume One, Notes from American War Records of World War Two, p.1. [Typescript held in North Queensland Collection, James Cook University].
The North Queensland Line: The Defence of Townsville in 1942". Ray Holyoak unpublished Honours Thesis, James Cook University, Townsville 1998.
Architectural and Building Journal Queensland 1927
HQS Base Section Two Telephone Directory, May 1944, Restricted. Author collection.
1942 dispatch riders map showing locations of US and Australian installations. Author collection.