CRASH OF AN AIRACOBRA
AT HAMMONDVILLE, NSW
ABOUT 3 MILES SSW OF BANKSTOWN AIRFIELD
ON 8 JUNE 1942
At 0015 hours on Sunday, 8 June 1942, Japanese submarine I-24 surfaced about 4 miles off the coast of Sydney. The submarine opened fire with its deck gun on the sleeping city of Sydney. It fired ten shells at 30 second intervals. Six of the shells failed to explode and the other four caused minor damage to houses and one indirect casualty. For the second time in a week, Sydney was under direct attack by the enemy (see below).
At Bankstown Airfield, about 20 kilometres west of Sydney, Lt George Leo Cantello (0-388884) of the 41st Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, received a phone call saying that Sydney was being shelled. He was the only pilot on the base at the time. He took off immediately in his P-400 Airacobra aircraft, Serial #BW140, and climbed to 1000 feet. The aircraft's engine failed about two minutes after takeoff and it plumetted to the ground and exploded in a ball of flame north of Hammondville, which was a small farming community about 3 miles south south west of Bankstown airfield. It is now a suburb of Sydney.
John Jewell, then a very young boy, witnessed the crash of the Airacobra. John tried over many years to raise interest with the authorities over this crash. Finally in the 1980's, the US Consul in Sydney started an investigation involving the United States Air Force Historical Research Centre, the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Washington National Records Centre and surviving members of the 41st Fighter Squadron.
Finally in 1988, the citizens of Bankstown unveiled a memorial to memory of 1st Lt Cantello as part of a Bicentennial project. It is located in Lieutenant Cantello Reserve.
City of Liverpool
These plaques were unveiled on
The Honourable John C Dorrance
Consul General of the United States of America
1ST LT. GEORGE LEO CANTELLO
Commander 41st Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, who gave
Alderman C.R. Conway, J.P.
NOTE:- The above information on this crash of an Airacobra, is primarily from Garth O'Connell's home page site on Lieutenant Cantello's Memorial.
EARLIER JAPANESE ATTACK ON SYDNEY HARBOUR
At 4:20 a.m. on 30 May 1942 a Japanese single-float biplane burning navigation lights circled twice over Sydney Harbour near where the USS Chicago was anchored. It was initially thought to be an American plane but eventually some fighters were sent up to intercept the plane. Another plane was also reported at Newcastle. Neither could be found.
At sunset on Sunday 31 May 1942 Japanese submarines I 22, I 24, and I 27 launched midget submarines 12 kms east of Sydney. The mother submarines fired shells onto Sydney eastern suburbs causing minimal damage.
Home damaged in Sydney's
At 8 p.m. submarine No. 14 was detected by an electronic indicator loop but was ignored due to other small boat traffic. The submarine became caught in the western sector of the anti-submarine net. The Japanese crew detonated a demolition charge killing themselves.
At 9:48 p.m. another inward crossing was reported but again ignored. It was midget submarine A from I 24. At 10:27 all vessels in the harbour were alerted of the submarines presence. USS Chicago spotted the submarine and fired on it with tracers from its pom pom guns. At the same time midget No. 21 was entering the harbour. The auxiliary naval patrol boat Lauriana, a peace-time motor cruiser and another patrol vessel, the Yandra tried to ram the midget and attacked it with depth charges.
Sydney ferry Kuttabul
At 11:10 p.m. HMAS Geelong fired at midget A, just before it fired 2 torpedoes at USS Chicago. One exploded under an old ferry, HMAS Kuttabul, killing 19 sailors and wounding 10. At 3:00 a.m., USS Chicago spotted midget No. 21 which had been battered by depth charges as it entered the harbour. Several craft attacked it with depth charges. It was later found disabled on the harbour floor with its motor still running. The 2 crew had shot themselves. Nine areas in Sydney were damaged by shells fired from the submarines.
Japanese Midget Submarine sunk in Sydney Harbour on 31 May 1942
For anyone wanting to find out more details of this raid by the midget submarines in Sydney Harbour, see if your local Library has a copy of the following book:-
"The Coffin Boats - Japanese Midget Submarine Operations in the Second World War" by Peggy Warner & Sadoa Seno.
I'd like to thank Gordon Birkett and Garth O'Connell for their assistance with this web page.
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 16 October 1999
This page last updated 29 March 2017