CRASH OF A B-24D LIBERATOR
AT FENTON AIRFIELD, NT
ON 11 NOVEMBER 1943

 

On 11 November 1943, B-24D-150-CO Liberator, #42-41242 of the 528th Bomb Squadron of the 380th Bomb Group based at Fenton airfield attempted to return to Fenton airfield after it had taken off on a Strike Mission (FEN III-23) to Fort Victoria Barracks on Ambon with five other aircraft. The supercharger in No. 1 engine failed and caught fire after takeoff. Grenfell called the tower and declared an emergency. They feathered the failed engine and activated its fire extinguisher. Captain Philip Shaw, in the control tower, told Grenfell to circle wide of the field to allow the last two B-24 Liberators to takeoff.

Grenfell decided not to jettison his bombs, as their air speed was very low at the time and the extra drag caused by opening their bomb bays was something to be avoided. Nine minutes after takeoff they flew over the 528th Bomb Squadron's outdoor movie area, looking for the poorly lit runway. The control tower watched Grenfell make what appeared to be a normal approach, but were concerned at the rapid rate the aircraft was losing altitude.

A short time later the aircraft hit the ground short of the runway and there was an immediate huge explosion. All eleven personnel on board were tragically killed.

I did a search of the records that I have for the Rookwood USAF Cemetery in Sydney and found Grenfell, the pilot, dying on 11 November 1943. Knowing this I then did a search for all others buried in Rookwood who died on that same day and came up with the following list. Its is assumed that these are nine of the eleven men who died in this tragic accident near Fenton Airfield. Later on William Shek was able to supply the names of the other two crew members as Raymond Katz and Harold B. Markowitz. I then searched for those two names in the Rookwood USAF Cemetery records and found both crew members though a date of death was not shown. Perhaps they may have died a day or two or longer after the crash.

 

NAME RANK SERIAL BRANCH HOME STATE DOD UNIT/SQUADRON GROUP CREW POSITION
GRENFELL,WILFRED L 1LT O725606 11 OR 431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Aircraft Commander
CALHOUN,CHARLES R SSGT 16073197 11 IL 431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Assistant Flight Engineer, Gunner
COCHRAN,KENNETH M 2LT O799723 11 PA 431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Co-Pilot
FRANCIS,HARRY T TSGT 19005353 11 ID 431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Flight Engineer
GALLAGHER,WILLIAM F SSGT 31143056 11   431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Assistant Radio Operator, Gunner
HAGERTY,JAMES R 2LT O735996 11 SD 431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Navigator
HAMMANG,DANIEL C JR 1LT O733560 11 MI 431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Bombardier
ROUBAL,JAMES F SSGT 36323009 11 IL 431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Gunner
SHEPARDSON,RICHARD F SSGT 11062254     431111 528TH BS 380TH BG Radio Operator
KATZ, RAYMOND SSGT 13032980 11 DC ? 528TH BS 380TH BG Gunner
MARKOWITZ, HAROLD B. SSGT 12036860 11 NY ? 528TH BS 380TH BG Gunner

 

Col Benson told me that Frank Gorham of the 380th Bomb Group had told him that he had been in the Control Tower when this aircraft crashed.

Katherine Siqueland (nee Krebs) contacted me on 30 August 2009. Her father, Gordon M. Krebs, told Katherine how one day he was awarded a Leave Pass to go on leave for the day to the nearby town.  While there he took in a movie. Coming back to the airfield at the required time, the person checking him in enquired a few times with a somewhat harsh and demanding manner as to who he was and why he had been off the base. Gordon M. Krebs showed him the pass with all the correct paperwork and his identification.  He was actually very worried because he couldn't think of what he had done wrong as he could come up with no other explanation why he was being questioned repeatedly. Finally, convinced that Krebs was who he said he was and that he had had permission to go on this day's leave, the man asked him to step into an Officer's office. There, Gordon was given the terrible news of the crash and how everyone had died.  He was told that his crew was called up to do another flight after he had already left for the day. When the crash had occurred, everyone had assumed that all the regular crew had been onboard, thus the confusion when Krebs had returned back up from his leave.

This event was one of the pivotal times in Gordon Krebs' life. This was a story that he told when he talked of his service during WWII, which was not often.  He was always incredulous as to the fate of him not being on that plane with the rest of his buddies that day. He had deep grief over the loss of his crew.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"King of the Heavies - 380th Bomb Group 1942 - 1945"
by Glenn R. Horton Jr. & Gary L. Horton

"The Best in the Southwest"
by Glenn R. Horton

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank William Shek, George Wyatt and Steve Birdsall for their assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Katherine Siqueland (nee Krebs), whose father Gordon M. Krebs, missed being on this flight as he was on some leave at the time of the accident.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 19 April 2003

This page last updated 26 March 2017