CRASH OF A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
AT MAREEBA, QLD
ON14 SEPTEMBER 1942
B-17E Flying Fortress
USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress #41-24391, nicknamed "Hoomalimali", of the 63rd Squadron of the 43rd Bomb Group crashed during takeoff from Mareeba airfield. The pilot, Captain Herschall R. Henson and all his crew were killed. "Hoomalimali" is Hawaiian for "Kid-Em-Along". The B-17 was loaded with bombs when it crashed, killing the crew of ten. The noise of the explosion was heard as far away as Yungaburra and the shockwave affected homes in the town of Mareeba some three and a half miles away.
Nine of those killed were as follows:-
Herschall R. Henson, pilot
Francis Kritzmacher, co-pilot
James Bastion, navigator
John Doran, bombardier
John Samara, engineer
Louis Camp, Jr.
Who was the tenth person? Apparently a ground crewman died of a heart attack at the end of the airfield when he was confronted with the horrific scene. Was this the 10th person?
Dedication Ceremony held 17 September 2011
Townspeople of Mareeba honoured and dedicated the crew of "Hoomalimali"
by erecting a bronzed plaque within the confines of the Mareeba Airfield
The B-17 was one of nine aircraft taking off from Mareeba airfield on a bombing mission to attack a Japanese convoy that the 30th Bomb Squadron could not locate the previous day near Rabaul. The other crews were as follows:-
#41-24353 "Cap'n & the Kids" Captain Edward W. Scott, Jr
#41-24455 De Wolf
Plaque at Mareeba Airfield
commemorating this crash.
Unfortunately the date is shown incorrectly as July 1942.
Jerry Moore was a 17 year old apprentice carpenter working in the local funeral parlour assisted to recover body parts. Jerry's mother insisted that the Americans give Jerry a shot of whisky after his job was finished. Another apprentice was so shocked by the incident that he left his job.
Michael Claringbould's book shows a B-17F, #41-24391, called "Hoomalimali". It indicates that it caught fire and crashed (date unknown) at Mareeba airfield. I suspect they are both the same aircraft. The book, "Diary of WWII - North Queensland" states that this aircraft was #41-24491 in the 19th Bomb Group rather than the 43rd Bomb Group. Based on information from Terry Ross below, it would appear that #41-24391 is the correct Serial No.
Photo: via David Adams
A compass recovered from the site
of the crash by
John Nash's father who was based in the area at the time.
David Adams told me the following about the crash on 25 March 2003:-
"The Fortress that crashed into the low hill on the western side of the strips, I think went down with full fuel and bomb load plus 11 crew. I happened to be walking to our outdoor toilet with the runs when 2 great explosions went way up in the night sky. We spent the remainder of the night in the air raid shelter thinking that that Japs had bombed."
David Adams heard that there were some pieces of "Hoomalimali" that crashed on the western end of the airstrip and went out and found one which he recovered. It is about 3 metres long.
Photo: David Adams
David Adams found this part of
the western side of the airfield. It is about 3 meters long.
David heard there were more pieces in the bush and on Saturday 26 April 2003, Damian Waters and his uncle and David Adams went out and found quite a few more remains from the B-17. David is fairly sure they are the centre section of the B-17, but had not cleaned any at this stage to look for part numbers, etc.
Photo: David Adams
Part of "Hoomalimali" found by David Adams at the western side of the Mareeba airfield
Photo: Damian Waters
David Adams (on left) and Richard Rudd
(Damian Water's uncle)
inspecting other remains of B-17 "Hoomalimali"
Photo: Damian Waters
Richard Rudd (Damian Water's
some remains of B-17 "Hoomalimali"
Subject: 14 September 1942 Crash of
a B-17 at Mareeba
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 19:46:41 EDT
I saw the two entries for the B-17 aircraft. My records show that #41-24391 is the correct serial number and was with the 43rd BG, 63rd BS.
#41-24491 served in the European Theater with the 306th BG and went Missing in Action on 11-9-1942, pilot Loyal M. Felts. Missing Aircrew Report 6012.
You have an excellent web page.
Flint, Michigan USA
I'd like to thank Damian Waters and David Adams for their assistance with this home page.
Butchers & Boomerangs, Mareeba - The History of a WWII Airfield
By Damian Waters
"Diary of WWII - North
Complied by Peter Nielsen
The Forgotten Fifth
A Classic Photographic Chronology of the
Fifth Air Force in Action in the Pacific in WW2
By Michael Claringbould
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 7 February 1999
This page last updated 31 August 2015