P-40 Kittyhawk, A29-60 of 77 Squadron RAAF forced landed on Melville Island north of Darwin on 7 September 1942 after running out of fuel during a tactical interception exercise. The pilot was Pilot Officer John E. Gorton (400793), the future Prime Minister of Australia.

77 Squadron RAAF was sent to just south of Darwin in August 1942. On an intercept in September 1942 P/O Gorton chased Japanese aircraft out over the Arafura Sea and it appears he went a bit too far. On the return he was very low on fuel and force landed on Melville Island. One blade of the airscrew was slightly damaged and P/O John Gorton was uninjured.

A lugger left Darwin on 8 September 1942 with Flying Officer G. Shave onboard to try to locate P/O John Gorton on Melville Island. Flying Officer Gleeson took off in P-40E Kittyhawk A29-104 on 9 September 1942, to attempt to find the lugger. Later that day, a Wirraway of 12 Squadron RAAF dropped food and water supplies to P/O John Gorton on Melville Island.

On 10 September 1942, F/O Gleeson in A29-52 dropped a map and directed the lugger to Gorton's grounded aircraft on Melville Island.

It was some time before P/O John Gorton was rescued, His P-40E Kittyhawk A29-60 was eventually repaired on the beach and on 11 September 1942, Flight Lieutenant G. Shave flew the aircraft back to Batchelor Airfield. The aircraft was then sent to 2 OTU.

This type of incident of running out of fuel after chasing Japanese aircraft out to sea was not restricted to 77 Squadron RAAF as the Spitfires of 452, 457 and 54 (RAF) Squadrons also succumbed to this problem.

On 23 September 1943, this same aircraft, while attached to 2 OTU RAAF was involved in another crash at Gol Gol Range in New South Wales and exploded killing the pilot, P/O Neville Douglas Murphy.

Gorton was involved in the Malaysian campaign in late 1941 and in early 1942 he was shot down in a Hurricane. This crash causing some of his facial injuries.

P-40E Kittyhawk A29-60 was delivered to the RAAF in March 1942



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This page first produced 5 January 2005

This page last updated 02 February 2020