The 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion was the first US Army Engineering Unit to arrive in Australia with 658 personnel leaving San Francisco in January 1942 aboard the President Coolidge arriving in Melbourne on February 1.
Traveling to South Australia by train they transferred to the narrow gauge railway to Alice Springs where they were off-loaded for the 1022 kilometre road journey north to Larrimah, arriving February 16.
The 808th left Larrimah for Darwin on the North Australia Railway (NAR) but was ordered to disembark and remain in Katherine on February 19 as Darwin had been bombed.
The road from Alice Springs to Larrimah was so rough the weight of a D8 Bulldozer completely destroyed the only trailer able to carry heavy equipment.
Having 'walked' it much of the way to Larrimah attempts to move the 'dozer from Larrimah to Katherine by train failed when the flat-top train wagon collapsed so it was 'walked' from Larrimah to Katherine.
Taking the initiative, Captain Andrew Chaffin deployed a Company of the 808th to start on improvements to the road between Larrimah and Katherine whilst another commenced work on upgrading the Katherine Airstrip.
Working on the Katherine airstrip personnel of the 808th found themselves in the midst of the raid by nine Japanese 'Betty' bombers on March 22.
Sheltering under their heavy equipment they emerged, having escaped injury, to count 85 bomb craters after the raid.
One local man was killed and two injured during the raid which was the furthest inland raid conducted during the Japanese offensive on northern Australia.
A significant contributor to the war effort in the NT, the 808th constructed an airstrip at Pine Creek and the military airstrips of Strauss, Livingstone, Hughes, Fenton and McDonald assisted by Australian defence and civil units.
The 77th anniversary of the bombing of Katherine will be remember at a ceremony held at the Katherine Museum on Friday from 9.30am.
The writer of this article, historian Mike Reed, is also the co-author of the first book detailing the bombing of Katherine and its impact in the region.
Fall of the Daisy Cutters is a collaborative work with Katherine Museum curator Simmone Croft.
The book explores for the first time the in-depth history of the event.