ON 28 MARCH 1942


USAAF P-40E Warhawk (Kittyhawk) #41-5602 #51 of the 8th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group, piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Neal T. Takala, crashed at 10:15am south of Eden near Towamba on 28 March 1942. He was taking part in a routine training exercise from Fairbairn Airfield to the Snowy Mountains but encountered dense fog. Lt. "Sonny" Takala was killed when his aircraft hit a ridge on the western side of Mount Imlay, near Eden. It exploded on impact.


Richard G. Illing Collection (8th Sq / 49th FG)

Lt. Takala - Canberra 1942


Roy Mitchell, a nearby farmer, who saw and heard the accident rang the local police. Mr. Mitchell grabbed his rifle and rode to the crash site. He was unsure whether he would find a crashed enemy aircraft or a friendly one.

He found Lt. Takala's body, which had been thrown clear of the wreckage. Roy and some other local men made a bush litter and brought out the pilot's body.


Photo:- AWM P02893.001

The mangled tail of the American aircraft


AWM Photo:- P02893.002

Some of the aircraft wreckage on the slopes of Mount Imlay


Photo:- AWM P02893.001

Four locals at the crash site


Photo:- AWM P02893.004

Aircraft wreckage on the slopes of Mount Imlay


Lt. Takala was one of four US pilots from Canberra who became lost over the coast near Eden in dense fog (some sources state they were lost in a storm) on 28 March 1942. Lieutenants Takala and Musial were both killed when their aircraft crashed.

Just three weeks before his death, Lt. Takala had sent a cable to his family:- "Still enjoying Aussie hospitality. Everything O.K. Feeling fine."

A memorial service for Lieutenant Takala was held in the Eden Catholic Church in New South Wales. He was buried in the US Cemetery at Rookwood in Sydney. After the war, his remains were sent back to the United States and buried at the Hackensack Cemetery in Hackensack New Jersey.


Lt.  "Doc" Fielder crash landed on a coastal sandbar
at Aslings Beach, Eden, NSW on 28 March 1942


Lt. Chester Namola crash landed at Berridale, NSW on 28 March 1942


Lt. Musial crashed at Narrabarba near Eden, NSW on 28 March 1942



Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice - Neal "Sonny" Takala


I'd like to thank Daniel Leahy, Edward Rogers, Ian Heath and Rick Hanning for their assistance with the above information.


Can anyone help me with more information?


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 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


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This page first produced 13 March 2000

This page last updated 21 February 2020