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Royal Australian Air Force in the Post War Years

The day World War II ended the RAAF had a total of 173,622 men and women working in 570 Units around the globe, maintaining 5,620 flying aircraft. The list of aircraft was divided equally into front-line and support machines which included 249 Liberators, 280 Mosquitoes, 378 Mustangs, 109 Dakotas, 109 Catalinas, 328 Beaufighters, 370 Kittyhawks and 367 Spitfires - war had transformed the RAAF into an immensely powerful force.

Hence, disposing of aircraft and equipment, and demobilising people and determining the composite size and structure of the post-war Air Force, was an immense task. Under the direction of Air Member for Personnel, Air Commodore (later Air Vice-Marshal) J.E. Hewitt, an Interim Air Force was formed as the RAAF marked time on a 'care and maintenance' basis until its future role and demands became clearer. By October 1946 the RAAF's personnel numbers had fallen to 13,238 as government defence spending was drastically reduced. In the hope of improving career prospects for younger personnel, many of its most experienced senior officers were discharged or retired off. In 1948 RAAF strength hit a low of just 8,025; however, in the same year expenditure was increased to gradually raise Air Force capability again.

In the meantime the RAAF Nos 76, 77 and 82 Fighter Squadrons, No 381 (Base) Squadron and No 481 (Maintenance Squadron) assisted with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan, while No 5 ACS refurbished the main operational airfields of Iwakuni, Miho and Bofu. The Wing flew surveillance patrols to monitor the movements in the Inland Sea. However the British Government withdrew its forces in 1948 making the RAAF the sole aerial representative of the Commonwealth in Japan. The Australian commitment also decreased with the disbandment of Nos 76 and 82 Squadrons leaving only No 77 Squadron to serve in Japan until 1950.

In Allied Occupied Germany ten RAAF crews flew British RAF Dakotas with supplies and people from Lubeck to Gatow airport into Berlin. The RAAF aircrew transported 7,968 tonnes of freight and 6,964 passengers during 2,062 sorties and 6,041 flying hours. The last flight was made on 26 August 1949. An Australian Dakota (A65-69) was presented for display at the Gatow Berlin Airlift Museum on 20 June 1980.

From June 1950, during the period of the Berlin Airlift, the Communist Party of Malaya commenced terrorist activities in the region. The RAAF contributed No 1 Squadron and its Lincoln bombers and No 38 Squadron Dakotas to the anti-guerilla operations (RAF Operation 'Firedog'). They operated from Changi and Tengah, Singapore with a detachment at Kuala Lumpur, until 1958, moving supplies, passengers and cargo. The 1SQN Lincoln bombers dropped 85% of the total tonnage of bombs expended during Operation 'Firedog'.

On 25 June 1950 North Korean troops also invaded South Korea. No 77 Squadron worked with the United Nations force to counter the invasion and commenced operations from Iwakuni on 2 July, flying mainly ground support missions, combat air patrols and escort missions. The Dakotas of No 30 Communications Unit (renamed No 36 Squadron in March 1953) also operated from Iwakuni during the Korean War, flying freight to Korea and evacuating wounded soldiers to hospitals in Japan.

Another aspect of the 'Cold War' was the RAAF deployment of No 78 Wing to Malta from July 1952 until February 1954. This time families, technical and administrative personnel from Nos. 75 and 76 fighter Squadrons, No.378 Base Squadron and No. 478 (Maintenance) Squadron also travelled to Malta. The Wing flew Vampire FB-9 aircraft leased from the RAF. They contributed to the air defence of the Middle East, in NATO exercises, regular air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons practices, as well as participating in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the subsequent NATO Exercise 'Coronet' staged in Germany - an exercise with over 2,000 aircraft and 40,000 personnel.

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