CRASH OF A LIBERATOR
AT CONNOR PARK AIRFIELD, ROCKHAMPTON, QLD
ON 2 APRIL 1945
(NOT 14 DECEMBER 1943)

B-24J-170-CO Liberator #44-40601 "Burma" of the 424th Bomb Squadron, 307th Bomb Group, 13th Air Force, overshot runway (33) at Connor Park Airfield, Rockhampton on 2 April 1945 and ended up in Lion Creek.

 

Connor Park Airfield showing Lion Creek at the end of the 149º 26' runway

 

The aircraft was named "Burma", the All-American girl, who was a character from Milton Caniff’s "Terry and the Pirates" comic strip. Her alter egos were Madame Shoo Shoo and Dragon Lady, both also well used as nose-art on various aircraft during WWII.

The main runway at Rockhampton airfield was extended for a distance to the north across Lion Creek where the crash site was within the last couple of years (prior to 2003).

Ernie Cox has a picture of the crashed Liberator. The person he got the picture from has the HF radio and a compass from the aircraft. 

 


Photo:- via Pete Johnston

B-24 Liberator #44-40601 "Burma" in Lion Creek

 


Photo:- via Pete Johnston

B-24 Liberator #44-40601 "Burma" in Lion Creek

 


Photo:- via Pete Johnston

Nose Art on B-24 Liberator #44-40601 "Burma"

 

Bob Mullins remembers visiting most of the crashes in the Rockhampton area that I have listed on my web pages. He had a piece of propeller blade from one of the Spitfire crashes and last year donated it to the Caloundra Aircraft Museum. On the propeller blade he had painted the date and details of the crash. This would be available from the Caloundra Museum. He remembers the Liberator, Spitfire, Beaufighter and Kittyhawk crashes. There was a C-47 Dakota also which overshot the runway and spent some weeks on Canoona Road where the local kids managed to obtain many bits and pieces. Bob had the Perspex from the toilet window of the C-47 to make brooches and his friend Bert Cairns (now deceased who eventually joined the RAAF) had the wheel from the joystick and other bits and pieces. After the Coral Sea battle a B-17 Flying Fortress landed at Connor Park all shot up and lost a propeller on its landing approach, with the propeller landing in the mud on the edge of the Fitzroy River. Unfortunately 12 year old kids did not keep diaries so Bob has no specific dates.

Ralph Morgan told me in April 2009 that he had seen the Liberator that overshot the runway and ended up in Lion Creek. He said it was also heavily guarded when he and his mate got there. 

 


 

Excerpt from book

"Under the Southern Cross"
by Bob Livingstone

One of the more common reasons for B-24 flights to and from Australia, apart from maintenance and repair, was "fat cat" operations. Aircraft of units which never were based in Australia could be seen visiting at irregular intervals, collecting provisions unavailable on Pacific islands and transporting personnel to and from leave (furlough). One such flight which came to grief was that of B-24J 44-40601 BURMA of the 307th Bomb Group, THE LONG RANGERS, which arrived at Rockhampton on 2 April 1945 after a three hour flight from Sydney, loaded with passengers and supplies for their squadron.

The 307th Bomb Group was detached from the 7th Air Force in Hawaii in February 1943 to join the 13th Air Force in Guadalcanal. By April 1945 THE LONG RANGERS were based on Owi Island in the Trobriand group, and this was '601's destination.

After circling the aerodrome several times, the captain elected to make an approach downwind, and despite appearing to be undecided about the landing while he was part way down the runway, he finally put the bomber down. The combination of downwind and unused runway caused the aircraft to overrun into the dry bed of Lion Creek at the northern end of the runway.

The RAAF fire tender was quickly on the scene, and Flight Lieutenant F.J. Lucas used the ladder from the tender to make an entry and rescued Lieutenant Shuckmer who had been pinned under the heavy radio equipment when it was wrenched from its mountings. Fireman Corporal Cox used his axe to hack open the nose behind the flight deck on the starboard side and was able to pull three crewmen clear.

Fuel was pouring from fractured tanks down through the lower fuselage and over the cargo. This state of affairs, not unexpectedly, concerned those aboard, and eight other passengers jumped from the rear fuselage entry hatch, preferring possible injury from the drop to the possibility of fire. Five sustained injury, and all crew and passengers reached the local hospital within eighteen minutes of the crash. Seventeen days after the crash, after all useful parts had been stripped from the airframe, a rather enthusiastic USAAF salvage team burnt the remains.

 


 

CONFUSION ABOUT THIS CRASH

Unfortunately a number of sources would appear to have confused the story of this Lion Creek B-24 crash with the crash of a C-47 Dakota crash at Canal Creek, 30 miles north of  Rockhampton on 19 Dec 1943 (5 days later).

In his book, "Men of Vision over Capricorn", Glenn S Cousins, indicates that this B-24 Liberator crashed on 14 December 1943 (incorrect) into Lion Creek on the northern end of Connor Park, killing all on board after overshooting the runway. I do not know if anyone was killed in "Burma" but if there were it is unlikely  to have been the whole crew based on the damage to the aircraft. Glenn stated that it was full of Australian and American Service personnel on leave or in transit. I believe here he is actually referring to the C-47 Dakota crash at Canal Creek. He stated that the locals stripped the wreck of anything that was removable in the short period of time before a guard was placed. This may be true - refer Ernie Cox's comments above.

To continue the confusion, a newspaper article in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin on 14 June 2003 suggests that 13 Australian servicemen from this Lion Creek crash are buried in the North Rockhampton War cemetery. This is incorrect.

Ron Hempenstall advised that this crash took place on 14 December 1943 (possibly based on information in Glenn's book or the above newspaper article). Ron's information had suggested that there was no loss of life in this accident. It was stripped for parts and burnt.

Ralph Morgan correctly told me that he did not think that 15 lives would have been lost as the aircraft did not appear badly damaged and that the bomber aircraft only normally carried only a crew of 10, although some were used as transports.

Another source suggests that all 15 men on board this crashed B-24 Liberator were killed. Whilst the cockpit area looks very crumpled in the above photographs, the rest of the aircraft looks very intact. Based on this it would not seem reasonable to suggest that 15 men on board had been all killed. Checking the Ipswich US Cemetery records I can only find one person dying on the 2 April 1945 as follows:-

Technical Sergeant Robert A. Hile, ASN No. 35128127 of H9 & H9 DET, 799th MP BN.

And then one more death the following day:-

          Sergeant Peter F. Greene, ASN No. 35261878, SIS USAFFE APO 923.

Neither seem to be right for having died in this crash.

 

307th Bombardment Group
"The Long Rangers"

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ernie Cox, Ralph Morgan, Pete Johnston, and Bob Livingstone for their assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Bob Mullins who as a boy lived near Connor Park airfield in Rockhampton.

I'd also like to thank Ron Hempenstall who has lived in Rockhampton all his life.

 

REFERENCES

"Men of Vision over Capricorn"
Glenn S. Cousins

Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 20 April 1991

Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 14 June 2003

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

I need your help

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©  Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 6 October 2001

This page last updated 31 August 2015