GENERAL HAL GEORGE,
2ND LT. ROBERT D. JASPER,
& WAR CORRESPONDENT MEL JACOBY
KILLED IN A WARHAWK GROUND ACCIDENT
AT BATCHELOR AIRFIELD
ON 29 APRIL 1942
Lockheed 12 A Civilian version of C-40 Lockheed
At 1725 hours local time on 29 April 1942, a Lockheed C-40 landed at Batchelor airfield with General Hal George and a small Press Corps. Some sources quote the identity of this C-40 as number 519. "Pursuit Hal" as he was known, was General Douglas MacArthur's Air Force Co-ordinator. He was on an inspection tour of bases in the Northern Territory for strategic planning and publicity purposes. They were headed for Livingstone airfield but as they flew over Batchelor airfield, an Australian Major on board commented that this was his eventual destination. General George decided immediately to land at Batchelor airfield, to save the Aussie Major a long trip and to have the opportunity to inspect the base. General George had just been appointed Commander of the Northwest Territories, and this was one of his bases.
It was twilight when Major Joseph "Joe" H. Moore, the pilot of the C-40, landed at Batchelor airfield. Major Moore parked the aircraft half way down the runway in the designated area to disembark. General George and his party had just left the Lockheed C-40 and were about to hop into some vehicles that were to take them to the 49th Fighter Group's headquarters.
Not long after this, two Warhawks of the 49th Fighter Group were continuing their dual take-off training session. Lieutenant Jack Dale lead the way in #30, followed by 2nd Lt. J. W. Tyler O-430953 in #32. The trim tabs of Lt. Dale's aircraft became unserviceable causing his aircraft to swing across the flight path of 2nd Lt. Tyler's aircraft. The slip stream of Lt. Dale's aircraft caused 2nd Lt. Tyler's aircraft to become uncontrollable.
The aircraft continued moving to the left and hit the leading edge of the Lockheed C-40 knocking both engines and the cockpit completely off, and then struck the group of people standing at the left wing tip, and crashed into the ground about a hundred yards further on. 2nd Lt. Tyler suffered only a minor injury to one of his feet.
Photo:- Gordon Birkett Collection
The wrecked C-40 after the crash
(NOTE:- The Book "Protect and Avenge" incorrectly indicates that the aircraft that hit the C-40 was piloted by Lt. Bob Hazard. It also incorrectly indicated that the right tyre may have blown out causing the Warhawk to swerve violently to the right across the runway smashing into General George's party. Lt. Bob Hazard was later killed on a ferry flight north of Cairns in far north Queensland on 11 September 1942 when his Warhawk went missing off the east coast of Cape York.)
War Correspondent Melville Jacoby and "jeep driver" 2nd Lieutenant Robert D. Jasper of the Headquarters Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group were both killed instantly. General Hal George was struck in the head and chest by flying debris from the collision with the jeep and was thrown several feet from the wrecked Warhawk. Another young 2nd Lieutenant standing nearby was knocked unconscious but was not seriously injured.
General George was immediately transported to the Batchelor Field dispensary but the RAAF surgeons transferred him to the more modern medical facilities at Coomalie Creek Field Hospital where he was treated by American surgeon Lawrence Braslow. Unfortunately General George died the following morning. He was buried back in the USA.
2nd Lt. J. W. Tyler made the following statement after the tragic accident:-
I was taking off in two ship formation with Lt. J.D. Dale, as wing man. I was on Lt. Dale's right wing as near the right side of the runway as possible. I gave the plane the throttle in normal manner and had just about attained flying speed when the ship veered sharply to the left without any let up on the right rudder. I then tried to straighten the ship back on the runway but was unable to do so. I contribute my inability to straighten my ship to the fact that I was receiving prop-wash from the lead ship of the element. While the ship was out of control it swerved towards a Lockheed sitting on the left hand side of the runway. I gave the ship full throttle in an effort to lift my P-40 up over the Lockheed but was unable to clear it. I then crashed into the parked aircraft but know none of the details of the manner in which I hit.
I climbed from the cockpit without aid and walked to the ambulance which was sitting in front of the tower. I was taken to the hospital and was attended by Lt. Tabbat, Medical Officer for the 7th Pursuit Squadron, 49th Group.
I have flown a P-40 approximately 30 hours. I have approximately 300 flying hours. I have taken off in two ship formation approximately ten times. This was the first time that I had ever taken off in two ship formation on a runway.
The following story was written for me by Major Joe Moore, the pilot of the Lockheed C-40 that had transported General George to the airfield. Lt. Moore was General Hal George's "Flying Aide".
Here is the story on the crash that killed General Hal George, in April 1942, near Darwin. I was General George's flying aide and was piloting his aircraft on that trip.
When I reached Australia, from the Philippines after the fall of Bataan, I reported in to General George, who was MacArthur's Air Officer, in Melbourne. That was about mid-April 1942. General George was the Commander of all the Pursuit planes in the Philippines before he left with MacArthur for Australia, in March 1942. General George had just been appointed to be Commander of the Northwest Territories, with Headquarters in Darwin. He appointed me his "Flying Aide" (he also had Allison Ind as his "ground", or administrative aide) and instructed me to pick up the small Lockheed twin-engined plane, in Sydney, that had been assigned to him, and prepare it for our flight to Darwin, scheduled for about a week later. I was a Major at the time.
We left Melbourne with the General; Al Ind, Melvin Jacoby, a Time-Life reporter; I.B. Jack Donaldson, my co-pilot, who had also been a Pursuit pilot in the PI, and an enlisted man crew-chief, late in April. I cannot remember the exact date. We stopped in Alice Springs and spent the night. The next day we landed at Daly Waters to refuel. While there a Major, in the Australian Army, asked if he could hitch a ride with us to Darwin, his next duty station. General George agreed. Our destination was an airfield in Darwin. I do not remember its exact name.
As we approached Darwin we flew over "Twenty-seven Mile Strip", an airfield 27 miles southeast of Darwin. The Australian Major, looking out the airplane window, spotted the field and remarked that that was his new station. With that, General George told me to land there and let the Major off, and he would take a look around the field since it was one of his new command's airfields.
There were two gravel runways, each about 200 feet wide, on the field, that crossed in the centre of the field. The field had high reed-type grass all over it, except the runways, of course. Along each runway were scattered dispersal parking places where the grass had been mowed, in a half circle pattern, for visiting aircraft to be parked. The Japs were making frequent raids in that area so all aircraft were parked in dispersal areas at all times. I parked in the designated place, about halfway down the runway, and turned the plane 90 degrees to the runway with the nose toward the runway, about a hundred feet or so away from the runway edge.
The base commander and several base personnel, in several vehicles, drove out to our plane to greet General George. General George, Al Ind, Melvin Jacoby, and the Australian Major exited the plane and met the base personnel and were standing in a group near the left wing tip of our plane. I remained in the cockpit filling our the flight data in our plane's "Form One". (The "Form One" is a log that stays in all of our aircraft) That took about five minutes, then I and the crew-chief exited the plane through the door on the left side, toward the rear of the plane.
As I reached the ground I heard the roar of Allison engines of two P-40's that were taking off in formation, coming from our right, on the runway near where we were parked. Hearing that familiar sound of the Allison engine I looked up over the fuselage of my plane and saw the two P-40's about 100 yards away from where we were parked. The lead plane had just cleared the ground, the number two man, on the right side of his leader, was tail up, wheels still rolling on the ground, but the torque of his plane was pulling him to his left. When he got behind his leader and into the slip stream turbulence he lost control of his plane. He continued moving to the left, out of control, hit the leading edge of my plane knocking both engines and the cockpit completely off, and struck the group of people standing at the left wing tip, and crashed into the ground about a hundred yards further. The pilot suffered only a minor injury to one of his feet. I do not remember his name.
We believe one of the P-40's wheel hit General George in the head. His neck was broken and he died instantly. The P-40 propeller struck Melvin Jacoby, cut him very severely, and flung his body several yards. He died instantly. One of the base personnel was killed. All in the group suffered some injuries but no others were serious. I received a broken rib when I was hit in the back, as I was running away from the scene, by an oil cooler torn from one of my plane's engines.
Jack Dale, a former member of the 17th Pursuit Squadron in the Philippines, was the leader of that P-40 flight. His wingman had just recently arrived from the states and was newly graduated from one of our flying schools, and had very little time flying the P-40. At full power, on take off, the Allison engine in that model P-40 developed a lot of torque. Inexperienced pilots had problems with that torque, sometimes.
It was a terrible tragedy. General George was one of our finest commanders, and it was a great loss to our side, especially at that time of the war. He had been a fighter pilot in World War One. I escorted the General's and Jacoby's bodies back to Melbourne that night in a C-47 transport plane. I was then assigned to the combat operations centre of MacArthur's Headquarters in Melbourne. I stayed in that job in Melbourne, and later in Brisbane, when the Headquarters moved there, until I returned to the States seven months later.
Jocoby's wife, Annalee, had stayed in Melbourne when we left for Darwin. After I had returned with the bodies to Melbourne, Annalee had her husband's body cremated, and at her request I took his ashes up in a small plane and sprinkled them over Melbourne Harbour.
Can anyone help me with more information on this accident?
I'd like to thank Joe Moore, Lieut Gen, United States Air Force, Retired, for his assistance with this home page. I'd also like to thank Rick Hanning for putting me in touch with Joe.
I'd also like to thank Gordon Birkett for advising that the pilot of the P-40 was in fact 2nd Lt. Tyler and not Lt. Bob Hazard as detailed in the book Protect and Avenge".
I would also like to thank Ron Cuskelly for his assistance with this web page.
"Protect & Avenge"
"The 49th Fighter Group in World War II"
By S.W. Ferguson & William K. Pascalis
A Schiffer Military History Book
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 15 July 2000
This page last updated 19 September 2021