James Joseph (Jim) O'DWYER

Poppy

O'DWYER, James Joseph

Service Number: QX38645
Enlisted: 5 November 1942, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: Z Special Unit
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, 19 September 1921
Home Town: Wooloowin, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: St Joseph's Nudgee College
Occupation: Teacher
Died: Killed In Action, Borneo, 3 July 1945, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Labuan War Cemetery
Memorials: Australian Commando Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

5 Nov 1942: Enlisted Private, SN QX38645, Brisbane, Queensland
5 Nov 1942: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN QX38645, Z Special Unit
6 Nov 1942: Involvement Private, SN QX38645
3 Jul 1945: Involvement Sergeant, SN QX38645, Z Special Unit, Borneo - Operation Oboe July - August 1945

Z Force Jim O'Dwyer bio


Z Special Unit came into existance on 1 June 1942, the first Commando Unit in Australia.

The unit was created at the suggestion of the commander of Allied land forces in the South West Pacific area, General Thomas Blamey, and was modelled on the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in London. It was renamed Special Operations Australia or SOA and in 1943 became known as the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD). It contained several British SOE officers who had escaped from Singapore, and they formed the nucleus of the Inter-Allied Services Department (ISD) which was based in Melbourne. In June 1942, an ISD raiding/commando unit was organised—designated Z Special Unit.

This was the Commando Unit that James Joseph O'Dwyer, was successsful in gaining admission to and successfully completing the ardous training. I don't have much information about his training except that I know his jungle warfare training was carried out on Fraser Island a place not too far from the Sunshine Coast.

The Z men, many of them mavericks from Australian military units, were trained in explosives, camouflage and silent killing behind enemy lines and some carried cyanide pills in case of capture.

They are best known for a 1,800 mi (3,000 km) voyage on a daring 1943 raid called Operation Jaywick. The men dyed their skin & wore sarongs to resemble Indonesian fisherman. Seven
ships were sunk in enemy-held Singapore Harbour, but a follow-up mission, Rimau, was an abject failure with all 23 participants killed.

The unit is said to have carried out 284 missions in the Pacific, sneaking into places such as Timor and New Guinea. By war’s end, 32 men from Z Unit were in Borneo, working in four areas against 30,000 enemy soldiers.

Sworn to secrecy, Z veterans were not allowed to tell anyone of their experiences until 1980.

My Dad's Mission was named Platypus VII one of a number of Platypus missions all targeted on Borneo in 1945.

Both Platypus Vi and Platypus VII's missions were to be dispatched from Australia to Borneo on 30 June 1945 where both parties would be dropped by parachute in differen locations behind enemy lines, so they hopefully could radio back information to help with the Allied invasion of Balikipapan planned for 1 July 1945.
Both Platypus Missions should have had their own aircraft but one had mechanical problems so both missions were put into one aircraft which was to cause problems.
Platypus VI was commanded by a legend of a man Capt. “Jock” McLaren who had already proven to be invaluable as a coastwatcher and in skirmashes with the Japanese During one period of his service in the Philippines, McLaren commanded a 26-foot whaleboat called The Bastard. McLaren would sail his boat into Japanese controlled ports in broad daylight, shoot up the supply vessels and piers with machine guns and a mortar, then turn tail and run. Jock had been recruited specially for Z Special Force.

The Australian 7th Division, composed of the 18th, 21st and 25th Infantry Brigades, with other troops made an amphibious landing, codenamed Operation Oboe Two a few miles north of Balikpapan, on the island of Borneo. The landing had been preceded by heavy bombing and shelling by Australian and US air and naval forces. The Japanese were outnumbered and outgunned, but like the other battles of the Pacific War, many of them fought to the death.

In Platypus VII's case the Mission Jim was on was even worse, in that the men were dropped directly on top of a Japanese Camp which had been swollen by up to 200 soldiers since they were expecting an invasion by the Allies. One of the men was even dropped on top of the roof. The leader of the Mission Fl/Lt A. R. Martin's parachute was caught up in a very tall tree. He was the only survivor & said later he never say his men again. He was able to cut himself free, sustained injuries from his long fall, but with the help of a local, made his way through the jungle to the coast.

It is believed from Japanese reports that Jim & the other Commandos fought until they ran out of ammunition. Jim was bayonated in the back numerous times & the other unlucky two were beheaded.

We only discovered most of the above when my brother was able to make contact through an interpreter with an elderly Japanese who had been at the Japanese encampment on that day & where the bodies had been buried. The gentleman drew a map showing the details of what occurred, all in Japanese of course. Later my brother decided to contact the Fl/Lt Martin. My brother paid for a small party to retrace their steps to find our father's remains. After the end of WWII, Australia sent investigators into the area to recover remains but our Dad's were overlooked because he had been buried separately. Later another Australian Army investigation team came through again & found his remains but didn't know whose they were, so recorded them as 'Unknown' & moved him to Balikpapan. Later to Tarakan, than to Sandakan & finally to Laubaun.

Told by his daughter Maggie Stahnke

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