5 NOVEMBER 1943
CRASH OF A B-26 MARAUDER
AT MAROONDAN, NEAR GIN GIN

 

B-26 Marauder

 

B-26B Marauder #41-17589 of the 19th Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, piloted by Captain Ralph P Higgins made a forced landing near Maroondan, north east of Gin Gin in Queensland on 5 November 1943. This aircraft was one of six final B-26s delivered to the 22nd Bomb Group in late October 1942.

It is believed that the aircraft was heading south from New Guinea and that there were 13 service personnel on board and one of them was killed in the accident. Based on records for the US Military Cemetery at Ipswich I believe Pfc Robert L. Earhart (37192551) was killed in this forced landing. He was buried at Ipswich on 9 November 1943 by Chaplain Schnedler with Sgt Turner acting as the Undertaker for the burial. His body was disinterred after the war and returned to the US and relocated at the request of next of kin to a private cemetery in the state of Iowa.

Boyd Honor of Brisbane, contacted me on 5 February 1999 and advised that his father and mother witnessed the crash of a Martin B-26 Marauder (USAAF) near the family's farm on 5 November 1943 at Maroondan near Gin Gin. Boyd still has a small part of the aircraft in his possession. Boyd advised that there were 13 American servicemen on board returning on leave from the front line in New Guinea when the Marauder crashed. One perished in the crash and many others were badly hurt.

An old friend of Boyd's family who passed away in 1995 lived about 300 metres from where the Marauder crashed. He still had a fairly large part of the fuselage in his possession when he passed away at his property. It was painted in "olive drab", the standard green camouflage paint used on USAAF B-26s at the time. This gentleman gave Boyd part of the wing when he was a small boy as a souvenir of the crash.

Boyd's mother had some of the broken Perspex from the Marauder's gun turrets made into a ring for her finger during the war years.

Boyd told me that the Marauder apparently crashed on 5 November 1943, after experiencing engine problems en route from New Guinea. Eyewitnesses (including Boyd's parents, who were single then and lived quite a distance from each other) confirmed that the engine did not sound as though it was functioning properly prior to the crash.

The aircraft apparently approached Gin Gin first from the North, passing west of the town. It then banked toward the Burnett River, its engine malfunctioning. The aircraft then followed the Burnett downstream for quite a few miles before banking west toward Maroondan. It had almost circled Gin Gin. The aircraft clipped trees in an area now known as Hill's Estate and then hit the ground in farmland then owned by a Mr. Crosier. That farm was owned in 1999 by a Mr. Alan Bull. The wreckage came to rest about 100 metres off a road known as "Melville's Road" against a hill. It had only a few hundred metres to travel before it would have reached clear ground.

Boyd's father and some neighbours were hand-cutting sugarcane when the aircraft crashed. They saw the oily smoke rising and rushed to the site of the crash in a sugar cane truck. A significant number of other local people arrived at the same time as Boyd's father, and assisted the injured US servicemen who survived the crash until military ambulances arrived to take the injured to hospital in Bundaberg.

Boyd's father counted 13 servicemen beside the burning wreckage. One had been killed but had no obvious injuries. Among the survivors, one had a broken spine and was in agony. The pilot of the aircraft had his hair burnt off and his face burnt so badly that the skin hung off in sheets. Another serviceman had a long severe laceration across his forehead. Quite a few others had severe burns etc.

A lady from the district, Mrs. Nora Burridge, apparently gave great comfort to the badly burned men by sponging water into their mouths. First aid was given to the injured men for a number of hours under the shade of a tree at the side of Melville's road, about 60 metres from the wreckage. Boyd's father remembers one of the injured servicemen looking up into the faces of the local people from where he lay and saying "By God, you people may be black but you are so kind". What the injured man had not understood was that he was being assisted by a group of white Anglo-Saxon types that looked black because they had just hurried from work in the sticky black soot of the sugar cane fields.

Unfortunately, the local Red Cross members who had trained for such an event for a number of years took quite some time to arrive at the crash but were there in time to assist ambulance bearers to carry the injured to the waiting ambulances.

A local doctor at the time arrived at the crash site quite a long time after the crash. His first reaction was to administer morphine to the injured servicemen. However, the badly burned pilot of the aircraft insisted that the doctor did not administer morphine, as he had crashed only a week before in New Guinea (burning his hair that time too) and had learnt that morphine should not be given in these circumstances (something to do with shock). The doctor was persuaded to administer another pain killing drug.

The local police sergeant guarded the wreckage until military police arrived. Boyd's father remembers the sergeant opening the wallet of the deceased servicemen and seeing photographs of the man's family in the US. He apparently had a wife and children. The aircraft had been packed with cigarettes and other supplies, that had been strewn about. The police sergeant vigilantly protected these items against the possibility of looting. Boyd's father also remembers the local people being impressed by the wads of paper money packed into the wallets of the injured men. They were apparently being transported from New Guinea on leave, so Boyd expects they were cashed up for a good time, perhaps in Brisbane. Boyd's father remembers the sound of bullets exploding in the burning sections of the aircraft.

The aircraft was guarded by the military for a couple of days after the crash until the engines of the aircraft and other items were removed. After the military salvage had been completed, the local people souvenired many remaining parts of the aircraft. A part of the fuselage remained for many years after the war in the paddock where the crash occurred.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Cyril Klimesh for first advising me of this accident.

I'd also like to thank Boyd Honor and Gordon Birkett for their 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 10 February 1999

This page last updated 10 February 1999