CRASH OF A B-26
OFF CAPE HELVETIUS, BATHURST ISLAND, NT
ON 3 NOVEMBER 1942

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Martin B-26B Marauder #41-17593, 2nd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group piloted by Lt. Charles I. Hitchcock, was forced to crash land in the sea off Cape Helvetius, about 100 miles NW of Darwin, Australia on 3 November 1942. It was returning on one engine after being hit while over the target at Dili, Timor. Turret Gunner Sgt. Glenn A. Campbell died from injuries sustained in the crash and was buried at sea. Others were rescued by boat 17 hours later.

Prior to his tragic death, Sgt. Glenn A. Campbell, had shot down four Japanese aircraft.

The crew of B-26B Marauder #41-17593 was as follows:-

Capt. Charles I. Hitchcock (pilot)
1st Lt. Albert J. Pilkington
S/Sgt. Pershing A. Arbogast
Sgt/Pilot John A. Simms (RAAF) (Co-pilot)
S/Sgt. Samuel F. Miller (Bombadier)
Sgt. Joseph G. Schank (Engineer)
Sgt. Glenn A. Campbell. (Turret Gunner)

On 4 November 1942, RAN Tug, HMAS Forceful, was involved in the rescue of six men from this crashed B-26 Marauder off Cape Helvetius on Bathurst Island, Northern Territory.

Extract from a report submitted by Captain Charles I. Hitchcock to the Group Operations Officer:-

Capt. Hitchcock related: "Our right engine had been put out of action by ack- ack from ground defenses at Dilli, Timor. The left engine was not putting out full power from the time we had taken off from Batchelor Field, Darwin. Both engines were due for a change. We flew along for approximately 2-1/2 hrs. on the left engine, at power settings at what I thought to be about 38 in. of Hq [Hg] and 2400 RPM. But since my instruments were all burned out by the shortage in the electrical system and the blowing up of the pressure tubes in both wings, I had no accurate account of the actual instrument readings.

"We were flying at what I thought to be about 1000 feet above the water, when the remaining engine froze. I don't think that it ran out of gas because Sgt. Schank, my engineer, was pumping gas with the hand pump and there seemed to be enough to get us to land. The engine had been missing and shaking as though there were some bad plugs or the mag was shorting. However, the point is that it just quit turning all at once.

"Immediately, Sgt. Simms (RAAF), my co-pilot, opened the escape hatches while I feathered the engine and trimmed the plane for a glide to the sea. While we were gliding down I took my safety belt off, got out of my parachute, slipped my seat, back as far as it would go to the rear, sat on the forward edge of the seat with my toes on the pedals, and also flipped the warning bell on, but it didn't work due to the electrical system being out in the instrument panel. Why the prop didn't run away, I just don't know. It feathered OK, with no hesitation whatsoever.

"The plane glided as a glider, smooth and easy to control. However, we were in about a 30 degree angle of glide. The airspeed I would assume to be about 140. While we were flying on one engine, I was told by Lt. Patteson pa my airspeed was about 135 MPH. He had to "S" back-and-forth behind me quite a bit to keep from going around me.

I noticed that the waves were not too large, but the swells seemed fairly large and rough. We were on course just 90 Degrees to the course of the waves, so I turned parallel with them and proceeded our glide right down to the top of the water, holding it off as long as I could in a flat glide. I did not drag the tail first, but let the plane skim over the water at a normal angle of attack for level flying with no flaps. The plane skimmed for approximately 100 yards. Since I had forgotten to refasten my safety belt, the instant I felt the plane stop moving I lunged upward and out with no trouble at all.

"I climbed up on the left wing and noticed five of the other crew members already out. I looked to the rear of the plane and saw that the fuselage was broken open to aft of the turret at the side windows at the bulk-head. The plane seemed to float fairly well for 1-1/2 minutes, time enough for me to climb in through the cracked fuselage and pull out the other crew member, and also a life raft.

"Naturally when the plane sank, the nose went down first. The fuselage was not broken completely in two-- just cracked open about halfway around. The bomb-bay doors being open approximately three inches caused them to be torn off. My engineer was thrown or sucked out through the opening and didn't receive a scratch. He had braced himself against the forward bomb-bay bulk-head. Why he got there, I don't know. We couldn't think whether the loop antenna tore away and caused more of the skin to tear loose on the bottom. The navigator, radio operator and bombardier got out through" the escape hatch in the navigator's compartment with only slight bruises and cuts, except Sgt. Miller, the bombardier, who had a broken ankle.

"Sgt. Campbell, the turret gunner, was killed in the crash. He was sitting under the turret, next to where the plane's fuselage cracked open. While I was standing on the wing, looking, I noticed six cannon holes in the right wing, beside the ones that had hit the engine. Later I learned from the other crew members that the fuselage was riddled with both cannon and machine-gun fire. One machine gun had clipped the wire lead to Sgt. Arbogast's throat mike and sheared it off. The right wheel well doors were open and part of the wheel was shot away. The bomb-bay doors were partially open due to the bomb-bay tank support strap hanging too low and catching in the door when we released the tank. Every blade of the right prop had shrapnel holes through it.

"The flying characteristics of the B-26B on one engine were slightly different from those of the straight B26. The nose was higher and the plane had a tendency to mush through the air rather than fly. The controls were normal after I trimmed it, and I could fly hands-off easily. We threw out all the extra weight we could' which helped slightly.

"The instruments in the "B', being electrical, went out when the right engine was hit. The wheel and flap indicator caught on fire first and started the rest of the instruments blazing. When we finally got the fire out! the whole panel was charred and the gauges were all Stuck and out of order, including the altimeter, airspeed and climb indicators.

"When the turret was firing and we were on one engine, the twin tail guns would not fire. When the turret stopped, the tail guns would fire. The turret drained all the 'juice' and left none for the tail guns. This was due to the lack of. generator power of the one engine. When the life rafts that have covers on them get wet, they are awfully hard to unfasten and get to the CO2 bottle so that you can pull it. My suggestion is to leave the covers off and just tie a light string around them/ and leave them lying loose in the airplane. We only had the one raft, but Lt. Patteson dropped us another smaller one that helped until the RAAF flew over in a Hudson and dropped us a large round Australian raft that saved the day until we were picked up 17 hours later."

"The following...are officially credited with the destruction of two Zero type enemy aircraft in aerial combat over Dilli, Timor, at 1135/L on November 3, 1942: Capt. Charles I. Hitchcock, 1st Lt. Albert J. Pilkington, S/Sgt. Pershing A. Arbogast, Sgt/Pilot John A. Simms (RAAF), S/Sgt. Samuel F. Miller, Sgt. Joseph G. Schank, Sgt. Glenn A. Campbell.

"When five enemy Zeros attacked a formation of our B26-type aircraft, a gunner of this crew shot down two of the hostile fighters. One exploded in the air and the other crashed into the side of a mountain."

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Shorelines - A Souvenir Publication of the Queensland Maritime Museum Association"

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Neil Barrett for his assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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