LOCATED WRECKAGE OF TWO P-47D THUNDERBOLTS
ON FLAT COUNTRY ADJACENT TO THE BEACH
AT DUYFKEN POINT, NORTH WEST OF WEIPA
ON ABOUT 28 OCTOBER 1944

 

USAAF P-47D Thunderbolts #42-75921 and #42-23249 "Tojo Special" ran low on fuel and crash landed (wheels up) about 100 metres apart on the beach near Duyfken Point, north west of Weipa on the western side of the Cape York Peninsula on or about 28 October 1944. The forced landed about 15 nautical miles from Weipa airfield. The wreckage of the two aircraft was spotted by an RAAF Ventura on 30 October 1944 about 75 metres from the shoreline. The two pilots were subsequently rescued. The US Army set off demolition charges on the two aircraft to make them safe in December 1944.

Apparently the two pilots became lost in the Torres Strait. The theory was that they were on their way to New Guinea and were told to keep the Queensland coast on their left hand side. They did this religiously and did a sharp left hand turn at the tip of Cape York. They kept going, keeping the Queensland coast on their left hand side until they ran out of fuel!!

The propeller of #42-23249 is on display at Weipa airport. The Australian Army recovered the tail section of #42-23249 in 1991 and moved it to the Weipa Bus Depot.

 


Photo:- Stuart Riley, Brisbane Courier Mail via Bob Livingstone

Privates Peter Muir and Michael Bitaila at P-47 Thunderbolt #42-23249
"Tojo Special" during a recovery exercise at Duyfken Point in 1991

 

Peter Shute contacted me on 10 September 2001 and advised that he had visited the crash sites in about 1969 when he was working with Adastra Airways. He and one of the pilots borrowed a boat and visited the site. He said the two wrecks were in reasonably good condition at that time, with serial numbers still readable. The cockpit areas however were badly damaged by explosive charges.

Peter Shute advised that from the air they were very difficult to spot, even at low level as they were still in the (faded) olive drab paint. On the ground it was obvious that an explosive charge had been put in the cockpit of each as the damage was localised to that area and to the engine bulkheads. The armament had been removed but apart from that they were intact and had obviously done a very good wheels down landing along the raised beach line. Peter Shute and his pilot friend  got the impression that they had both come down at the same time as they were so close together and both facing north. Peter remembered standing on the wing and finding that the oleos still worked. The tyres were even intact. He said that if the aircraft were in that condition today they would be considered to be restorable as the wings, rear fuselage and tail were remarkably uncorroded considering that they were so close to the waterline. The USAAF markings were still readable.

Obviously as Duyfken Point got more accessible later on, when the bridge was built across the river, the wrecks were hacked about by bored sightseers!!

There was a general dump area just to the south of Weipa, on which was a complete undercarriage assembly with air still in the tyre. The manufacturers plate was still attached identifying it as from a P47D. It was almost as new with no rust or other corrosion and had no damage to indicate it was from a wreck. (The two at Duyfken Point still had two each). 

 


Photo:- Peter Shute ca 1969

 


Photo:- Peter Shute ca 1969

 


Photo:- Peter Shute ca 1969

 

Rob Staughton who works for Comalco in Weipa visited the site with his wife in early December 1999. It was about 250 kms round trip and took them most of the day including 70 kms of driving along the beach and sand dunes.

The planes were in a very poor state when Rob and his wife visited the site. One aircraft wreck was more complete than the other, but there was still very little left. One had it's motor nearby, no propeller, the wings, engine exhaust and assorted pieces of aluminium sheet lying around. The other had wings and a pile of pieces, nothing bigger than a shoebox, that have been placed there by someone. Neither of them had a fuselage. The wings had no armaments left in them. There was a photo in the Weipa library taken in 1959 from an aircraft that shows the planes.

Rob said that whilst driving along the beach he could see why they landed where they did. For a fair part there was a river running close to the beach which was lined very densely with trees. It wasn't until they drove to within 3 or 4 kms of Duyfken Point that the river moved away from the coast and the beach started to open up. Rob mentioned that he had also heard about a Beaufighter wreck being in driving distance of Weipa.

 

Southern P-47 wreck in March 2000


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Southern P-47 wreck

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Southern P-47 wreck

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Southern P-47 wreck

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Southern P-47 wreck

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Southern P-47 wreck

There appears to be what looks like two old mine casings in the
foreground. Maybe this is what they used to blow the planes up.

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Southern P-47 wreck

 

Northern P-47 wreck in March 2000


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Northern P-47 wreck

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Northern P-47 wreck

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Northern P-47 wreck

 

we13.jpg (17717 bytes)
Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Northern P-47 wreck. The serial number read as follows:-

89F 119 11 6L
101 - 3809

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Northern P-47 wreck

 


Photo:- Rob Staughton March 2000

Northern P-47 wreck

 

Michael Nelmes, who was then working at the Australian War Memorial, contacted me on 6 April 200 to advise that he sees photographs of these P-47 wrecks every few years, and he indicated it was interesting to see less and less remnants of the two aircraft each time.

Michael advised that their status cards gave their loss date as 7 December 1944 which is probably the date they were destroyed by a US demolition team, probably in case they fell into Japanese hands.

Michael advised that the Australian War Memorial has the empennage (tail unit) of 42-75921. Michael saw the other empennage, with one wing and the engine (from the southern wreck) at the Weipa bus depot in 1991 - the Army had moved them there. One propeller is at the RAAF Museum at Townsville (the slightly bent one), and Michael understood that the other one was at Weipa airport.

Michael had a copy of a letter from a Mrs. M. Little (courtesy of Geoff Wharton, ex-Comalco) detailing the story of the rescue of the two US pilots. Micahel has never been able to identify the pilots, as the USAF archives do not have crash reports for them and the two aircraft apparently didn't yet belong to an operational unit, being on a ferry flight to New Guinea.

 


Photo:- Michael Nelmes

Model diorama at the AWM built by Michael Nelmes showing the crash
landing of one of the Weipa P-47's (the one the AWM has the tail from).
It bent the propeller so it may have nosed over when it came to a halt.

 


Photo:- Michael Nelmes

Side view of the P-47 daorama at the AWM

 

On 14 May 2006 I was contacted by Sergeant Steve Webb from Lockhart River Police Station who sent me some photographs of the recovered tail section and engine etc from P-47 Thunderbolt #42-23249 "Tojo Special". See photos below.

 


Photo:- Steven Webb

Sgt Steven Webb standing in front of tail and engine from P-47 Thunderbolt #42-23249 "Tojo Special"

 


Photo:- Steven Webb

Tail of P-47 Thunderbolt #42-23249 "Tojo Special"

 


Photo:- Steven Webb

The serial no of #42-23249 "Tojo Special" can still be clearly seen

 


Photo:- Steven Webb

Engine and tail section P-47 Thunderbolt #42-23249 "Tojo Special"

 

REFERENCE BOOK

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

 

SOURCE:-   Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia

Crash:         No. 303 (located adjacent to 304)

Position:    

Department of Aviation Chart No:       3112

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thanks Peter Shute, Steve Webb, Rob Staughton, Michael Nelmes, and Bob Livingstone 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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any information or photographs


"Australia @ War"
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This page first produced 20 June 1999

This page last updated 31 August 2015