CRASH OF A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
AT MAREEBA, QLD
ON14 SEPTEMBER 1942

 

b-17e.jpg (9126 bytes)
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
Lawrence Donker
Louis Camp, Jr.
Robert Case
Jack Kaynor

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
#41-24520 Sogaaard
#41-24455 De Wolf
#41-24521 McCullar
#41-24383 Murphy
#41-24402 Hustad
#41-24356 Thompson
#41-24429 Anderson

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 "Hoomalimali" at
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 uncle) inspecting
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
From:          TlRoss24@aol.com

Peter,

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.

Terry Ross
Flint, Michigan USA

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Damian Waters and David Adams for their assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Beau's, Butchers & Boomerangs, Mareeba - The History of a WWII Airfield 1942-1945"
By Damian Waters

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
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?

 

I need your help

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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any information or photographs


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This page first produced 7 February 1999

This page last updated 31 August 2015