21 APRIL 1942
CRASH OF A B-26 MARAUDER
500 YARDS WEST OF JIMMY'S LOOKOUT,
TOWNSVILLE, QLD

 

B-26 Marauder, #40-1473, of the 33rd Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group crashed and exploded after takeoff at Garbutt airfield in Townsville on 21 April 1942. The following crew were killed:-

Lt. Louis A. Almeida, pilot, 23 yrs, from Pennsylvania
Lt. Roy H. Baxter, co-pilot
, 24 yrs, from New York
Jack Ingram, Navigator, 23 yrs,
from Illinois
Lt. Joe E. Meadors, Jr., bombardier, 27 yrs, from
South Carolina
Lt. Edgar S. Taylor, pilot, 24 yrs, from
New York
Sgt. Robert M (or A.). Keich, radio operator; 24 yrs, from
Ohio
Pfc. Joe H.. Haswell, flight engineer; 21 yrs,
from Ohio
Pfc. Joseph Kotcher, gunner, 23 yrs, from
Illinois

They were all initially buried in the US Military Cemetery, Townsville.

The men of the 31st Battalion were woken when a large explosion rocked the battalion area on 21 April 1942. It was associated with the tragic crash of B-26 Marauder, #40-1473, of the 33rd Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group. The crew of 8 were all killed when the aircraft crashed and exploded after takeoff at Garbutt airfield about 500 yards west of Jimmy's Lookout.

The above crash is described in Rod Cardell's book about the Stock Route airstrip which was located where Dalrymple Road now runs:-

"Wings Around Us" Page 51
At 4 a.m. on 21 April 1942 we were awakened from a sound sleep by the loudest explosion I have ever heard.  I can still relive the shocked awakening to that thunderous noise.  The following morning someone from Dixie told us that a Marauder had taken off from Garbutt aerodrome, and it was assumed that the 'green' co-pilot must have retracted the flaps instead of the undercart; the aircraft lost performance and crashed.  It was believed that someone survived the initial impact of the crash, because a coloured "Very" pistol shot was fired from the crashed aircraft directly towards the aerodrome Tower, as if someone was desperately seeking assistance.  Before anyone could even contemplate approaching the crash, the almighty explosion occurred.  Later that morning as I roamed deep into the paddock behind my home, I saw the twisted remains of the Marauder pass down Duckworth Street on a semi-trailer, but have no idea where the wreck was eventually laid to rest.

It seemed that it had been around midnight or the early hours of the morning that the whole family awoke with cries of 'What the hell was that?'  No one looked the the clock.  No one looked at the calendar.  I learned the exact time and date from thumbing through the History of the 2/3rd Australian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.  The history said that the B.26 crashed a few yards (probably a little poetic licence) from where the '2/3rd' was camped overnight, without tents, in a timbered paddock three miles out of town.

A 500 lb bomb exploded and on of the A.I.F. chaps was slightly wounded by flying fragments.

From the description of 'a timbered paddock 3 miles out of town', and from the proximity of the explosion as was apparent to me that morning, I would hazard a guess that the site of the crash was at the end of, or beyond the end of runway '19'' of Garbutt aerodrome, and that the  A.I.F. were that night camped in the paddock just on the town side of the top end of Duckworth Street.

It seems strange that an airman would risk fire, (or worse) by discharging a flare pistol from the crash site.  Perhaps it was a desperate gesture in a desperate situation.  How did the historian of the '2/3rd' learn that only one 500 lb bomb exploded?  It indeed sounded like just one explosion to me, but why was the Marauder carrying only one such bomb, when the usual complement was four, and if it was carrying four, why didn't the other three explode also?  I believe the full complement of four 500 lb bombs did explode that morning - simultaneously - and hence the magnitude of the resultant blast!  I have often thought, that were I subject to such blasting, even at that distance, on more than just a few occasions, (and many people during the war were), then I feel sure I would have become 'shell-shocked' before very long!

The pilot of that ill fated Marauder was 1st Lt. Louis A. Almeida, who only two days previously had flown his first mission, when the 22nd Bomb Group launched its second air raid against the Japanese at Rabaul.

There were two other pilots on board that night.  The one I consider was the regular co-pilot was 2nd Lt. Roy H. Baxter (Junior).  This pilot had 'gone through' on the same training course as Albert Stanwood who became a first pilot on Marauders during May of 1942, so one would have expected Baxter to have been fairly close to 'going off' himself as a first pilot very soon after that fateful night.  The other co-pilot was 2nd Lt. Edgar S. Taylor.  Eight crew members of the 33rd Squadron perished that night.

Official records state that it was on 21st April that the accident occurred, that is, the night of the 20/21 April.  Runway '19' from Garbutt aerodrome projected towards my home, just 1.4 miles distant.  That explosion sounded mighty close!

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Wings Around Us"
By Rodney G. Cardell

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Mike Kotcher, nephew of Joseph Kotcher, for his assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

I need your help

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 14 June 1998

This page last updated 14 June 2015