On 8 March 1942, Captain James Selman of the 9th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group, took off from Williamtown airfield in New South Wales with 25 Kittyhawks to traverse the Brereton Route headed for Darwin. They travelled via Brisbane, where Lieutenants Bud Howk and John Sauber were left behind with engine trouble. They arrived in Darwin several days later. The 23 remaining Kittyhawks staged through Charleville, where another two aircraft had mechanical problems. 21 Kittyhawks then pressed on for Cloncurry, being lead by a B-17 Flying Fortress. There were two heavy landings at Cloncurry. Lieutenant Ed Smith's aircraft was written off. He was not injured and he then became a passenger on the B-17 for the rest of the journey.

Now there were only 19 of the 25 Kittyhawks left to continue the next hop to Daly Waters on 14 March 1942. During scattered thunderstorms, four Kittyhawks became separated and when low on fuel, they eventually landed on an isolated sheep station way off the Brereton Route. These four aircraft were recovered later. The other 15 Kittyhawks managed to land at Daly Waters in between passing rain storms. They radioed Melbourne again and were reminded that they must reach Darwin as soon as possible. A three day stopover at Daly Waters allowed much needed repairs to their weary aircraft.

On 17 March 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Albert L. Spehr of the 9th Pursuit Squadron, 49th Fighter Group was on a test flight at Daly Waters. He attempted an aerobatic barrel roll at low altitude. Unfortunately his engine stalled and his Kittyhawk crashed to the ground and burst into flames not far from the airfield. Spehr was killed immediately and was buried in the small local cemetery that evening.

On 18 March 1942, the remaining 14 aircraft headed off for the final leg to Darwin. Yet another aircraft had mechanical problems and failed to take off. Hence 13 of the original 25 Kittyhawks finally arrived in Darwin at midday on 18 March 1942. They received orders to start operational patrols immediately.

On 19 March 1942, the four lost Kittyhawks who had landed at the sheep station, arrived in Darwin after a transport aircraft had brought them some fuel. After an assessment of the damage at Darwin airfield caused by the many Japanese bombing raids, it was decided to move the 9th Pursuit Squadron to Batchelor airfield, 50 miles south of Darwin.

During March more Kittyhawks travelled the Brereton Route to Darwin to strengthen the numbers in the 9th Pursuit Squadron by the end of March 1942 to 21 Kittyhawks and 25 pilots.

Unfortunately, there was another serious accident at Daly Waters. 2nd Lieutenant Sid Woods made a crash landing on his arrival at Daly Waters. The Kittyhawk was written off and Woods' injuries caused him to be incapacitated for one month.



"Protect & Revenge"
"The 49th Fighter Group in World War II"
by S.W. Ferguson & William K. Pascalis


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This page first produced 1 November 1999

This page last updated 21 February 2020