11 JUNE 1942
CRASH LANDING OF A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
AT CARISBROOKE STATION
WITH A FUTURE AMERICAN PRESIDENT ON BOARD
B17-E Flying Fortress
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the future 36th President of the United States, hitched a ride back to Australia from New Guinea in Lt. Gen. George H. Brett's B-17D Flying Fortress, "Swoose", #40-3097 after being involved in a bombing raid on Lae on 9 June 1942 in a different aircraft. They had left Port Moresby at 7:15 am on 10 June 1942 and flew over Horn Island and then headed for Batchelor airfield in the Northern Territory where they had lunch. General Royce then piloted the B-17 to Darwin where they stayed the night.
Lyndon Johnson had been appointed as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Naval Reserve on 21 June 1940. He reported for active service on 9 December 1941, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was initially assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. After completing his training in Washington, Johnson transferred to the Headquarters of the Twelfth Naval District, San Francisco, California for inspection duty in the Pacific area. While stationed in New Zealand and Australia, he worked as an observer on bomber missions.
The pilot of "Swoose", Captain Frank Kurtz, left Darwin early on the morning of 11 June 1942 headed for Longreach via Daly Waters and Cloncurry. General Royce's Diary states that they "got delightfully lost, could not find Cloncurry or Longreach - finally landed on farm 40 miles SW of Winton at Carisbrook Farm owned by Mr. S.H. Taylor. Phone for car, gas, etc. & then played gin rummy on back porch with Martin Barnett till cars came about 7:30 - to Winton - North Gregory Hotel stopped at 20 Mile for drink - to restaurant for bacon & eggs."
They almost ran out of fuel, with only 20 gallons left, which lead to their decision to make a forced landing in the bush at Carisbrooke Station. Captain Frank Kurtz said that at the time, he had been worried about killing two generals and a Congressman (LBJ) prior to the forced landing at Carisbrooke Station. The other general onboard the B-17 was Brigadier General William "Billy" Marquat, who was General MacArthur's Anti-aircraft Officer and was one of the Bataan gang who had escaped from the Philippines with General Douglas MacArthur.
They awoke at 7am the next morning at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton and when their cars arrived to pick them up they saw Captain Kurtz fly the B-17 down the main street of Winton and land at the local airfield. They left Winton and General Ralph Royce piloted the B-17 to Longreach.
Lyndon Baines Johnson (on right) shaking hands with Brigadier-General Martin Scanlon on the morning of 9 June 1942 at 7 Mile airfield in Port Moresby prior to him taking off for a bombing raid on Lae
This B-17D, "Swoose", later flew back to the USA with General Brett. "Swoose" is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum (N.A.S.M), in Washington (see URL below). "Swoose" had previously been assigned to the 19th Bomb Group.
B-17D Flying Fortress #40-3097 was initially assigned to the 19th Bomb Group at Hickham airfield on 14 May 1941. It relocated to Java on 30 December 1941. It returned to the United States on 17 November 1944. It was used as a personal hack for Lt. Gen. George H. Brett, and later as a VIP transport aircraft. It is the longest serving B-17 in the USAAF.
By Noel Tunny
The Forgotten Fifth
A Classic Photographic Chronology of the
Fifth Air Force in Action in the Pacific in WW2
By Michael Claringbould
Ralph Royce Collection (69-D09),
I'd like to thank Paul McMillan for his assistance with the early history of this aircraft.
I would also like to thank Gus Breymann for allowing me access to parts of General Royce's diary to clarify the events that happened on 11 June 1942.
I would also like to thank Karen Nunan for her assistance with this web page.
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© Peter Dunn 2007
This page first produced 11 February 1999
This page last updated 14 November 2014