CRASH OF A B-25 MITCHELL
NEAR ALMADEN
100KMS WEST OF ATHERTON, QLD
ON 28 MARCH 1944

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While on an administrative flight from Gusap to Brisbane, B-25 Mitchell, #41-12920 of the 389th Bomb Squadron, 312th Bomb Group, crash landed at Almaden about 100 kms west of Atherton at 2.00pm on 28 March 1944. They had earlier taken off from Port Moresby headed for a refuelling stop at Garbutt airfield in Townsville. They hit cyclonic type weather just outside Townsville and they turned back to Cairns, which they also found to be closed in due to bad weather. They headed inland to find better weather to make an emergency landing as they were running low on fuel.

On 28 March 1944, Captain William H. Gaskill, Jr. described in his Statement as follows:-

"While flying B-25 type airplane, serial number 41-12920, on an official flight from Port Moresby to Townsville on 28 March 1944, I crash landed at Almaden, Queensland, Australia at approximately 1400."

"I took-off from Port Moresby at 0910 on 28 March 1944, and flew over Cairns at 1220. The weather thus far was excellent, visibility unrestricted. I had cleared for Townsville with the weather report of an 800 to 1,000 feet ceiling, so continued on, on top of the overcast that I ran into just south of Cairns. I let down through a hole just north of Townsville and was flying in on one leg of the beam at 100 feet when I ran into a very light rain which got heavier every minute and turned into a cyclone. Visibility became practically zero and rather than run into a hill at Townsville, I took up a heading of 330 degrees and climbed up through the overcast, breaking out at approximately 12,000 feet. I intended going back to Cairns which I knew to be clear, but arriving in that vicinity, I found it as badly overcast in all directions. I headed inland in hopes to find a hole and possibly land at Mareeba. I finally found a hole which I know to be west of Mareeba, let down and found myself surrounded by rainstorms at 200 feet altitude. I picked up a railroad and tried to follow it, but my gasoline ran out over Almaden, and I had to belly land on the edge of the town. The plane landed smoothly, skidded about 85 yards, turned 90 degrees to the right and stopped."

"There were no injuries."

"Damage to plane consisted of, both propellers damaged, fuselage buckled slightly, and possibly engine damage."

On 28 March 1944 Co-pilot 1st Lt. William C. O'Connor described in his Statement  as follows:- 

"We approached Cairns on beam, but could not cross mountains because of rainstorms and bad weather. Visibility was approximately zero, flying at 100 to 200 feet.

"We followed railroad tracks out of weather inland, ran out of gas, at Almaden after flying approximately 4:50."

"There were no injuries to the 13 passengers on board."

The Investigating team of Major F.W. McNelly (President Investigating Officer), Captain Richard A. Sansing (Aircraft Accident Officer) and 1st Lt. Charles S. Rice made the following comment in their Description of Accident form:-

"The pilot's copy of the clearance is not available, bit it is believed that this pilot was not warned of the approach of the storm. This opinion is supported by the fact that many airplanes were cleared from the New Guinea area on the same day, although the approach of the above mentioned hurricane had been know for two days before."

The Crew and passengers were listed as follows:-

Gaskill, William H. Jr. (pilot) 0-112671, Captain
O'Connor, William C. (co-pilot) 0-665600, 1st Lt.
MacElveen, James W., Engineer, 12061500, S/Sgt
Mattarn, Albert W., Engineer 39175152, Sgt.
Brockhouse, Albert G., Radio Operator, 16017070, S/Sgt
Pollace, Lemuel E., -, 0-797896, 1st Lt.
Refp?, Leonard H., -, 0-581127, 2nd Lt.
Brasier, Leo V., -, 0-580569, 2nd Lt.
Yelles, Augustus W., -, 13052169, S/Sgt
Graber, Clifford, -, unknown, Captain
Sebree, Frank G., -, 0-2032622?, 2nd Lt.
Gorse, James F., -, 0-649639, 1st. Lt.
Robinson, -, Unknown, Cpl, ANGAU, Australia

 

The B-25 Mitchell, #41-12920 was condemned on 4 April 1944.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Tristan for his assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

Rampage of the Roarin' 20's
The Illustrated History of the 312th Bombardment Group during World War II

Lawrence J. Hickey
Michael H. Levy
with Michael J. Claringbould

 

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This page first produced 21 February 2005

This page last updated 30 March 2013