CRASH OF A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
APPROX. 20 MILES FROM DARWIN
NEAR NOONAMAH
NEAR HUGHES AIRFIELD, NT
ON 30 JUNE 1942

 

A B-17 Flying Fortress, #41-9014, piloted by Captain Weldon Smith, crashed either very late on the evening of 30 June 1942 or very early in the morning of 1 July 1942, approx 20 miles from Darwin, near Noonamah, near Hughes airfield.

The B-17 was damaged in operations over Kendari. Aircraft was believed to be from 93rd Bomb Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group. The aircraft had been hit by AA fire and ran out of fuel trying to return to Batchelor airfield. Parts of the aircraft were flung away from it. Three crew members were killed and the other crew members were all injured during this tragic crash. It is believed that the injured members of the crew were treated by 135th Medical Regiment, based at Jungle Jump.

Captain Smith had feathered his No. 3 engine and was coming in for a landing when his badly damaged No. 4 engine failed, cuasing the airraft to dive nose first into the ground. One crewman, Lt. Everett "Stinky" Davis (Bombardier), went back into the burning wreckage to rescue some of his fellow crew members. He managed to rescue the tail gunner, two side gunners and the radio operator. Within a week, Lieutenant Davis was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross.

Those killed were:-

Sgt Burke Glover 6936689 buried at Adelaide River Cemetery Row 4 Grave 120

Sgt French Robert 14025963 Buried Adelaide River Cemetery Row 4 Grave 118

Sgt West Bryson 2083500 Buried at Adelaide River Cemetery Row 4 grave 119

The American Battle Monuments Commission Home Page gives the following information on Glover J. Burke Jr. It shows that he died on 1 July 1942.

Sergeant Glover J. Burke, Jr. (06936689) of 93rd Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomber Group (Very Heavy) of the U.S. Army Air Forces entered the Service from Kansas and died on 1 July 1942. Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii.  He received the following Awards:- Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart.

Robert Thornburg, nephew of S/Sgt Glover James (Jim) Burke contacted me in January 2009 and confirmed that the B-17 was serial No. 41-9014. Robert's mother was a US Army Nurse stationed in Australia and New Guinea during WWII and was attached to the 166th Station Hospital. Robert would like to know when and where the 166th Station Hospital arrived in Australia, where they might have been stationed prior to their transfer to New Guinea.  Robert's mother apparently arrived in Australia (Sydney, perhaps) in mid June 1942. Robert's mother and his uncle S/Sgt Glover Burke were planning a get together in Brisbane in the summer of 1942, but this was cut short when he was killed on 1 July 1942.

Yvonne West's great uncle Sgt. Bryson West, may have been a gunner on this aircraft.

This B-17E may have been one that was flown to Australia from the USA after the 19th Bomb Group's evacuation from Java to Australia in March 1942.

Some References have this crash shown incorrectly as 12 August 1942.

 


 

Subject:     19th Bomb Group, 93rd Bomb Sqd.
Date:              Sat, 28 Oct 2000 10:16:45 -0400
From:            pine@impop.bellatlantic.net

Reply-To:      pine@bellatlantic.net

Hi,

My name is Steve and I have just found your site on the 19th Bomb Group, and have read it with great interest. My Uncle was Everett Davis a young officer of the 93rd squadron. I believe he was a navigator of a B-17. I believe he won a Soldiers Medal of an action in rescuing several crew members from a crashed B-17 on or about June 27th, 1942, here is his story of that event:

"On the 27th of June 1942, the 93rd Bomb Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group launched a strike against the Japanese Air Depot at Kendari in the Celebes Islands. After departing for the target, our formation was attacked by several Zeros. The attacks coming at approximately dusk made it very difficult for the gunner to fire until after the fighters had opened fire. This running air battle lasted approximately 30 minutes. During this time, our aircraft was damaged. The extent was not completely known. The number 3 engine was shot out and the right aileron had been severely damaged. On our return to Port Darwin, we were unable to find our landing field because of a pending Japanese's air raid. Another engine on our aircraft failed and was feathered.

After several attempts to locate our landing field , another engine began to lose power and we crashed into the jungle. The aircraft hit on the nose and right wing and turned over on its back. I was thrown clear of the aircraft, sustaining only minor injury to my left arm. The aircraft started to burn and I did not see anyone exit the aircraft. I found the navigator pinned under the nose section and freed him and laid him under a bush. At this time, I saw the aircraft commander and co-pilot exiting from a hole near the roof of the right wing. These officers were injured and were assisted to a safe place. The crew members in the rear of the aircraft were trapped because the rear hatch could not be opened. I removed the escape axe from the nose, cut a hole in the rear of the aircraft and removed four men; one was dead and another seriously injured. The other two were not seriously injured but required hospitalisation. Shortly after the removal of the last crew member, the main wheel tires exploded and the incendiary bombs in the bomb bay were set off by heat."

I thought you might find this story interesting. I was also hoping that you may have any information on my Uncle Everett Davis and this episode, maybe some more details and an official citation for his Soldiers Medal. I know he also won several Air Medals and Purple Hearts. Could you please help me out with any information on him. I would love to know what missions he may have been on (the Mac Arthur rescue?) and what plane he was a member of. Thanks a lot.

Thanks Steve

 


 

Extracted from "Turn of the Tide" by E. Teats

Surprise US Attack caught Japs Napping, Destroyed 30-40 Zeros

I led one big mission in June before becoming the group's plans and training officer at our Australian headquarters -- the longest combat mission ever flown by the group with return to the same base.

Two of our fellows had spent the week previous flying reconnaissance missions over the main Jap bases and positions in the area within range north of Darwin. Photographs obtained by them showed that Kendari, almost 1000 air miles northwest of Darwin on the southeastern coast of Celebes, was being used as a huge staging center for Jap planes. They revealed that over 100 Zeros and a great number of bomber -- well over 150 aircraft altogether were massed on the field.

The Nips were sitting up there, licking their chops, probably not even dreaming of an attack. We planned the whole mission on a basis of surprise and we caught them so flat-footed they didn't even fire a shot.

Five ships -- three from another squadron, two from ours -- took off at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, Darwin time, on June 30, in order to arrive over the target just before sunset. The weather at the target was not accurately known, though a frontal area was known to be in the vicinity of Kendari.

We had used the base before, and planned to capitalize on our knowledge of the area and terrain to make an attack at low altitude, if necessary. As we approached, we saw that it would have to be a low-altitude approach. There were three separate layers of overcast. We used them to conceal our approach to the field after we were over the bay, only five minutes run from the airdrome.

It was so hazy over the bay that we didn't know, until photographs taken on the mission were developed, that there was a 3000-ton cargo ship anchored there. We couldn’t see it, but the camera lens did. After we got down to low altitude under the clouds, we made a straight run for the target. There was not a single Jap stirring -- not a plane in the air, not an anti-aircraft battery manned. One bomb made a direct hit on three bombers on the field, another on one of the largest buildings in the camp area. We figured that we did serious damage to between 30 and 40 planes. As we passed over the target area, the crew were heaving bundles of incendiaries like kindling out of the side gun port.

It was the story, of almost innumerable missions that had been run before. We didn't have enough. If we had had only 18 Fortresses, it would have taken the Japs several weeks to get replacements through for the planes we could have destroyed. The surprise was absolute. Smashing up that field would have been child's play for a big formation.

As soon as we passed over the field, we used the feathery low clouds for cover as much as we could. We expected to be jumped. It was just unbelievable that the Japs could have been caught so completely by surprise, for they must have heard us 15 minutes before we hit the field..

Only one Zero came up to intercept from one of the little satellite fields about 20 miles south of Kendari, but he shot up Lt Weldon Smith's plane badly. Smitty's ship, leading the second flight, took all of the hits and the others none.

That Zero's pilot had plenty of guts. He made six separate passes, and the last one was so close to the plane that he passed only 20 or 30 feet over it. Both planes of the flight had all guns trained and as the Zero made his last pass, they got him. He continued in a shallow dive, all guns firing, until he passed out of sight in the clouds below. Evidently, the pilot was killed or badly hit and “froze” to the gun triggers; but his last pass got one of Smttty's engines. The plane was hard to fly, hard to keep trimmed and they were a long way from home.

When he took off on the mission, Smith knew that one engine was burning too much oil and he planned to come back on three after he dropped his bomb load on Kendari, knowing he would have the cover of darkness. As soon as he dropped his load, he feathered the prop and started back on the remaining three engines.

They were limping along only about 30 miles north of the Australian base at very low altitude, trying to pick up the field in the heady ground haze, when the engine which had been hit suddenly cut out. Unfortunately, it was on the same side as the one that was feathered. as they were trying to get the inboard engine started, the controls on the same side, which had been badly shot up, gave way and the ship spun in on her nose.

Three of Smith's crew died that night from injuries sustained in the crash, one of the fellows on the operating table. All of the others were-injured. Lt "Stinky" Davis, Smith's tall bombardier and a powerful chap, lifted and held up parts of the wreckage which, as Smith said later; no human being normally could have budged an inch, and pulled the injured members of the crew out of the wreckage. Smitty, who had been knocked out, regained consciousness when flames were only a few feet from his head, and with one arm useless managed to release himself. Then he helped Davis extricate the injured In the rear of the ship before help from a nearby camp arrived.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Buz <buznsue@dingoblue.net.au> for his assistance with this page.

I'd also like to thank Robert Thornburg, nephew of S/Sgt Glover James (Jim) Burke who was one of the three men killed in this tragic crash. Robert's mother was an American Nurses who was based in Australia with the 166th Station Hospital.

I'd like to thank Yvonne West <vaughn@n2history.com>, Lindsay Peet <ppeetlj@ic-net.com.au> and Howard Young <truscott@wn.com.au> for their assistance with this home page.

REFERENCE BOOKS

"RAAF 1939-1942"
by Douglas Gillson.

"History of the 49 Fighter Control Squadron" 

"Americans in the NT"

"On Wings We Conquer",
by John H. Mitchell;
GEM Publishers, Springfield, MO, 1990, Appendixes A-16 and A-18.

"Fortress Against the Sun"
by Gene Eric Salecker

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

I need your help

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©  Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 31October 2000

This page last updated 31 August 2015