CRASH OF A B-24D LIBERATOR
"BEAUTIFUL BETSY"
KROOMBIT TOPS FOREST NEAR BILOELA
ON 26 FEBRUARY 1945

 

USAAF B-24D-53-CO Liberator, #42-40387, "Beautiful Betsy", of the 528th Bomb Squadron of the 380th Bomb Group went missing on 26 February 1945 with the loss of 8 lives (6 American and 2 British service personnel).  The Liberator was on a Fat Cat mission from Fenton to Eagle Farm airfield.

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#42-40387, "Beautiful Betsy" - the World War II American
Liberator bomber photographed in Adelaide in 1945.

The wreckage of "Beautiful Betsy" was not discovered until 49 years later on 2 August 1994, when park ranger, Mark Roe, was checking the results of a controlled burn-off in the Kroombit Tops National Park, about 80kms from Gladstone. Standing on an escarpment, he saw something glinting in the sunlight about 800 metres north of his location. He found the wreckage of "Beautiful Betsy" which had crashed on the side of an unnamed hillside. 

 

bet12.jpg (37929 bytes)

Remains of "Beautiful Betsy" in late 1999
(See some more photos of the wreckage below)

Those killed were:-

1st Lieutenant William Emmett McDaniel - pilot
2nd Lieutenant
Eugene A. Kilcheski,
2nd Lieutenant
Hilary E. Routt
Lieutenant Raymond L. Owen
Technical Sergeant Raymond L. Tucker
Technical Sergeant Harold J. Lemons.

Flight Lieutenant Thomas John Donald Cook - British Spitfire pilot
Flying Officer Roy Albert Arthur Cannon British Spitfire pilot

The following items were found in the wreckage:-

Dental Prosthesis (bridge)
153 Bone fragments
Personal effects/material evidence
9 Dog tags
2 Bracelets
38 Coins
4 Gold rings
1 Aviator's ring
Flare gun with flare
Aviator badge
Bomber Badge
Whistle
2 Dress Uniform belt buckles
9 Expended .45 cal rounds
2 British buttons
12 American buttons
Razor
Cigarette lighter
3 Eyeglass frames
Pocket watch
1938 Class ring

 

betsy01.jpg (38073 bytes)

"Beautiful Betsy" of the 380th Bomb Group
drooped wooden paratroop dummies
from its rear hatch in secret trials

 

The pilot, Lt. Bill McDaniel, volunteered to pilot the plane which had suffered combat fatigue and was only used for short runs. It had been retired from combat for some time. It is believe that it was about to be grounded for good. Bill McDaniel was married to Lorene and had one son whom he never got to see. His widow, Lorene, was still living in 2001. 

 

 

The following article was in a local  paper in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:-

THE COURIER MAIL
30 August 1994

by Paul Whittaker

BOMBER WRECK FIND RECALLS LOVE TRAGEDY

The discovery of the wreckage of a World War II American bomber In rugged terrain near Rockhampton has brought to light a 49-year-old mystery involving a young British pilot and his Brisbane bride-to-be.

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Flying Officer Roy Cannon, a 23-year-old Spitfire pilot who was a passenger on the doomed flight, was to have married his Aussie sweetheart just four days after he perished In the crash.

Also killed was Cannon's intended best man, RAF Flt-Lt TJ. Cook.

The aircraft, which was believed to have been flying one of Its last missions, had six American and two Royal Air Force crew members.

The US personnel killed were pilot Lt William McDaniel, co-pilot Lt Eugene Kilcheski, engineer Sgt R.L. Tucker, radio operator Sgt H.J. Lemons, navigator Lt H.E. Routt and navigator-bombardier Lt J.W. Owen.

The mangled wreckage of the Liberator; known as "Beautiful Betsy", was uncovered by Parks and Wildlife rangers backburning In dense bushland three weeks ago.

The RAAF is keeping the crash location secret to deter souvenir hunters and allow a specialist US Army recovery team, which has flown In from Hawaii, time to sift through the debris for possible human remains.

RAAF Group-Capt Phil Morrall said an initial investigation by Rockhampton army personnel had found no discernible evidence of any remains.

The twisted fuselage, which includes a shorn-off tall section, has been confirmed as a United States Army Air Force B-24D Liberator which disappeared in stormy weather on a flight from Darwin to Brisbane on February 26,1945.

Bob Alford, the official Australian historian of the 380th bombardment group, said Cannon was engaged to be married to an Australian girl named Daphne Studdards.

"The plane was on what the Americans called a Fat Cat run - It was simply transporting men and supplies as part of a regular flight," Mr Alford said.

Brisbane man Mr Ken Studdards said yesterday he did not know where his cousin Daphne was.

War historian Professor Alan Powell, speaking from Darwin, said he had tried to contact Daphne Studdards several years ago but had been told she had "closed that chapter In her life and didn't wish to discuss It".

Mr Alford said the discovery of the Liberator had closed the final chapter on the Northern Territory's last wartime air crash mystery. He said there had been at least four fruitless expeditions to try to locate the Betsy.

Mr Alford said he hoped to present the identification plate from Betsy at a reunion in Denver, Colorado, next month.

 

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Subject:     Beautiful Betsy MIA 2/26/45
Date:             Fri, 11 May 2001 06:14:54 -0500
From:            "Sandra Burns" <burnssandra@msn.com>

Do you know Colin Tigwell. If so, how to get in touch with him.

We are the family of Lt. Wm. E. McDaniel, pilot of "Beautiful Betsy". His original plane, "Sleepy Time Gal", was due to go back out into combat a few days after "Beautiful Betsy" went missing.

Uncle Bill volunteered to pilot the plane which had suffered combat fatigue and only used for short runs. It had to be retired from combat for some time. It is my understanding that it was soon to be grounded for good.

Thanks,

Sandy Burns

 


 

"THE STORY THAT WON'T DIE"

Lt. William "Bill" Emmett McDaniel

I will tell you a different side of the story about a family that didn't know where one of their own was for all those years. It was so painful at times. Anytime we thought about it. When " Mama Mae" (Uncle Bill's mother) was alive, she kept him alive for us with pictures on wall, etc. I am looking at picture of Uncle Bill now where it has been since " Mama Mae" died. The picture used to be on " Mama Mae's" wall. There is an American flag. Picture of B-24. I look at it everyday. Not in a sick way but in remembrance. We are a small family and don't turn loose of anyone in our family even in death. My only Uncle would have been a real blessing to me as I grew up and faced happy and sad times in my life. He was very compassionate and loving. I have definitely missed the opportunities of his real life presence. 

Sandra Burns

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Lt. William Emmett McDaniel
pilot of "Beautiful Betsy"

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Lt. McDaniel's crew for
"Sleepy Time Gal"

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Bill McDaniel with his niece
Sandra, his favourite "little person"

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Casket on caisson at Ft. Myers right
beside Arlington National Cemetery

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A B-24 Liberator
(Not Bill McDaniel's)

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Bill McDaniel

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Colin Tigwell, a RAAF historian,  had been in touch with Sandra Burns and assisted her with information over a number of years in connection with her uncle Lt. Bill McDaniel, the pilot of "Beautiful Betsy"..

Unfortunately Sandra has now lost contact with Colin Tigwell. Sandra has an audio tape that Colin had sent her several years before "Betsy" was found telling of search efforts and speculation of what may have happened to the aircraft.

Colin also contacted Sandra when "Beautiful Betsy" was located. When Sandra called Washington DC, she could tell that they were not pleased that she had been told of the findings. The funeral didn't happen for about a year. Some families did not know about the plane being found until just a few short weeks before the funeral. Sandra will always be grateful to Colin Tigwell for his concern and for contacting her family when he did. 

Sandra was little when her Uncle, Bill McDaniel, went missing but he was always kept alive for their family by his mother, "Mama Mae". This is the nickname that his son gave to Sandra's grandmother. The family still use that name. Of course, "Mama Mae" is deceased now. 

Sandra is still trying to contact other families of those killed in the crash.


 

William E. Mc Daniel

First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

0-696476

530th Bomber Squadron, 380th Bomber Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: Texas
Died: February 26, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster 

 

Eugene A. Kilcheski

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

0-834448

530th Bomber Squadron, 380th Bomber Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: February 26, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 

 

Hilary E. Routt

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

02060434

530th Bomber Squadron, 380th Bomber Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: Kentucky
Died: February 26, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 

 

Jack W. Owen

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

01686450

530th Bomber Squadron, 380th Bomber Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: Colorado
Died: February 26, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal 

 

Raymond L. Tucker

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces

32167086

530th Bomber Squadron, 380th Bomber Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: Deleware
Died: February 26, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 

 

Harold J. Lemons

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces

14053461

530th Bomber Squadron, 380th Bomber Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: North Carolina
Died: February 26, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal 

 

In Memory of

THOMAS JOHN DONALD COOK 

Flight Lieutenant (124854)
548 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
who died on Monday, 26th February 1945. Age 21.

Son of Donald Walter and Kathleen Gertrude Mary Cook, of Leatherhead, Surrey.

Cemetery: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Virginia, United States of America
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Sec. 34. Coll. Gr. 2084

 

In Memory of

ROY ALBERT ARTHUR CANNON

Flying Officer (142064)
548 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
who died on Monday, 26th February 1945. Age 24.

Son of Frederick Henry and May Cannon.

Cemetery: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Virginia, United States of America
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Sec. 34. Coll. Grave 2084

 


 

Subject:     Military Aircraft
Date:              Thu Mar 04 17:14:25 1999
From:            Col Benson <col@sri.org.au>

G'Day Peter

A quick reply to say I have your e-mail. Rather busy on all fronts so may be  a few days before I get to answer you better.

The USAAF B-17C crashed near Mackay at Bakers Creek on 14 June 1943 with the loss of 40 American lives - as far as I can ascertain it was Australia's worst air disaster in terms of lives of which little was known outside of Mackay because of wartime censorship until I got a few minutes on "Australia All Over" about four years ago (before Macca cut me off because he only lets people talk about Aussie things!)

There is a Memorial about 1km from the crash site - nothing remains of the crashed aircraft. The Memorial lists 40 names of those killed plus a sole survivor.

There is another in the District of which little is known - a Wirraway that crashed to the south of Mackay while heading north circa 1941. Two aboard - the young pilot succumbed to burns in Mackay District Hospital several days later. I am not researching that one - our Mackay Sub Branch RSL President is.

I am after as much info as is available about Beautiful Betsy B-24 that crashed Feb 1945 near Biloela. For an ex-RAAF pilot friend who searched for  the plane for years, and has been interested in others in the NT, as well as the B-24 that crashed on Hinchinbrook Is. further north.

Talk to you later

Col Benson

 

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Subject:      LIBERATOR WRECK
Date:              Mon, 8 Nov 1999 10:35:15 +1000
From:             NEIL RICHARDSON <
neil@njr.com.au>

Just visited the Liberator wreck in the Kroombit Tops forest near Biloela.

I am trying to find out some info on it.

Any ideas where to go ?

Regards

NEIL RICHARDSON

 

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Subject:     LIBERATOR WRECK
Date:             Thu, 11 Nov 1999 16:58:57 +1000
From:            NEIL RICHARDSON <
neil@njr.com.au>

Peter

The wreck I went to was the "Beautiful Betsy".

I only knew this from looking through your site.

Great information on your site.

Very eerie experience walking through the wreck.

I can imagine what it would have been like to be the first to find it.

Regards

NEIL RICHARDSON

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Liberator Crash Site sign

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Engine from "Beautiful Betsy"

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Engine from "Beautiful Betsy"

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Garth and James

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Tail of "Beautiful Betsy"

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Tail of "Beautiful Betsy"

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Undercarriage strut perhaps

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General view of wreckage

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General view of wreckage

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More wreckage

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Different view of wreckage

 

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Subject:      "Beautiful Betsy"
Date:               Sun, 21 Nov 1999 02:16:42 -0800
From:             c busby <sandylowlead@hotmail.com>
Reply-To:        OzCrashes@topica.com

Guys

Heres what I have on Beautiful Betsy. I hope it helps. B-24D-53-CO 528th BS. On flight from Fenton to Eagle Farm on Fat Cat mission.

Buz

Some recent photos of "Beautiful Betsy" from Buz

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171 Kbytes

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212 Kbytes

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161 Kbytes

 

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Subject:    Merry Christmas from Down Under
Date:           Sun, 26 Dec 1999 11:57:04 +1000
From:          col@sri.org.au

G'day, Peter

Thanks for the reply ... hope you had an enjoyable Christmas.

Have had a busy year, somethings are on a fledgling web page, but have trouble finding the time to upgrade it. Hope to do some updates in the next two weeks that I have off from work.

Didn't have a blue Christmas ... overcast, warm and humid with a few light showers but pleasant.

You may be interested in another couple of crashes ... "Beautiful Betsy" (Liberator B-24) near Biloela, in Kroombit Tops National Forest. I am planning a trip to that site early in February with my boss, Garry Cooper and the owner of a 4WD vehicle here in Mackay. I was emailed some pix a few months ago by Neil Richardson from Rockhampton who went for a look. Garry has researched Betsy for a number of years and wants to see the site to relate to what was known about the kite when it went missing in Feb 1945. The pieces of wreckage make it interesting. My boss (Dr. Terry Dixon, research engineer) has an interest in these things, as well as two sons in the RAN ... another was in the RAAF and looks like re-enlisting.

Another ... a Wirraway that crashed late November 1940 (actually 19 Dec 1940) north of St. Lawrence. Most of the wreckage was taken to Townsville but there is supposed to be something still there. Cannot be much as they were fabric covered. A few weekends ago, myself and RSL President Adrian van Moolenbroek who has researched that incident, went with AIRTC cadets looking for it. Despite some sweeps of the area where we think it crashed ... from the crash report and newspaper reports ... we found nothing. More research to be done. A previous search of the area by an AIRTC contingent from Innisfail also found nothing but they met a stockman when they were leaving the area who told them he knew where it was. They were to come with us but never turned up so we don't know what they really learned. The local AIRTC flight commander was unable to ID the stockman by calling the cattle property owners where we searched. Also heard too late to check that a local council mobile library driver knows where it is ... According to the crash report, the plane crash landed on a salt pan and overshot the saltpan and crashed into trees and caught fire. The pilot later died in a Mackay hospital and the passenger was awarded a George Medal in 1945 (after much wrangling, it seems).

As a related issue to the Wirraway, it looks like a contingent of RAAF reservists from Adelaide will be in Mackay next ANZAC Day for a service at the pilot's grave, to march with us and possibly unveil a plaque at the crash site if we can locate it. It is about a 2 hour drive from Mackay.

Regards
Col, Mackay

 

 

I received the following pictures of "Beautiful Betsy" on 18 March 2000 from Shane Springer Walkerston:-

 

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Wing of "Beautiful Betsy"

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Wreckage of "Beautiful Betsy" in 1995

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View of wreckage in 1995

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Engine from "Beautiful Betsy"

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Shane Springer in wreckage

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Liam and Jordan Springer in tail of "Beautiful Betsy" in 1995

 


 

Subject:     Lost b-24
Date:             Thu, 13 Jul 2000 16:33:28 -0400
From:            "-hal" <hal@halquake.com>

Here is a story about Beautiful Betsy a B-24 lost, You might have seen this, it's from the Australian Post Nov 28. 1985.

-hal

 

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REFERENCE BOOKS

"Tocumwal to Tarakan"
"Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator"
By Michael V. Nelmes

 

SOURCE:-   Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia

Crash:         No. 9

Position:     18.58 - 140.33

Department of Aviation Chart No:       3220

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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