27 JULY 1942
COLLISION OF TWO B-17E FLYING FORTRESSES

AT HORN ISLAND, QLD

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B-17E Flying Fortress

USAAF B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2640 piloted by Major O'Bryan, was hit by B-17E #41-2460, piloted by Major Becktold on Horn Island. Both B-17's were from the 30th Bombardment Squadron of the 19th Bombardment Group based at Cloncurry in Queensland. B-17E #41-2460 was later salvaged.

Major O'Bryan in #41-2640 was about to taxy out for take-off when he was lifted from his seat amidst the violent screeching sound of tearing metal when the front of his aircraft was torn off by the wing of B-17 #41-2460 of Major Becktold. O'Bryan shut down his engines and ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Becktold's aircraft ended up at right angles to O'Bryan's B-17.

The poorly lit runways at Horn Island contributed to this incident. The policy of vacating the nose of B-17's before take off ensured there were no fatalities in this incident. There were only minor injuries in both crews.

#41-2640 was immediately written off and #41-2460 was repaired at Mareeba airfield a few days later. However a decision was then made not to use it for any combat missions due to the extensive structural damage to its airframe. It was parked on the side of the Mareeba airfield and was used as a ready source for spares for other B-17's.

#41-2460, then piloted by 2nd Lt. C.H. Millhouse, had arrived in Australia on 15 January 1942 via Africa. Both of these B-17E's had operated in the Philippines with the 7th Bombardment Group before being evacuated back to Australia and transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group.

NOTE:- Peter Nielsen's book shows B-17 #41-2460 crashing at Mareeba. 19th Bomb Group squadron records and Michael Claringbould's book confirm that it actually had its accident at Horn Island.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Damian Waters for his assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE BOOK

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

" Forty of the Fifth"
by Michael Claringbould

 

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This page first produced 7 February 1999

This page last updated 30 March 2013