CRASH OF A
70 MILES NORTH OF CLONCURRY, QUEENSLAND
ON 19 OCTOBER 1943
The 6th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 374th Troop Carrier Group sustained its first aircraft loss after returning to Australia on 19 October 1943 when C-47-DL, #41-19466 (C/n 6109), crashed about 8 miles west of Boomarra Station (co-ordinates 19 32 / 140 00) which is located about 70 miles north of Cloncurry in Queensland apparently due to bad weather. The C-47 was on a flight from Fenton to Townsville. The aircraft was a complete loss.
Crew members killed were:-
Captain John C. Fredrickson,
1st Lt. Fred R. Mentzer, co-pilot
M/Sgt. Michael Kullich, aerial engineer
Sgt. Robert L. Kerr, crew member
Cpl. Marvin D. Middleton, crew member
Paddy Cusack, a Cloncurry resident, was working at the Cloncurry railway station at the time of the incident. He said that Cloncurry was covered in a thick dust storm at the time of the incident. Apparently the aircraft was advised that it could not land until visibility improved.
John Daly told me on 14 October 2006 that the Manager of Boomarra Station indicated that the crash site was located about 200 metres off the side of the Cloncurry--Normanton road, on the right hand side as you drive north. He said that the site has been regularly visited and well picked over, over the years, leaving nothing left. John thought that it may have been salvaged by the RAAF, given its close proximity to an active RAAF base at Cloncurry during the war.
AG 201-KERR, Robert L.
A.P.O. 925, 14 February 1944
TO: Commanding General, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C.
1. The below listed personnel comprises a complete list of the men aboard the plane C47 41-19466 of the 6th Troop Carrier Squadron, 37th Troop Carrier Group, which was carrying supplies from Fenton, Northern Territory to Townsville, Queensland, 19 October, 1943:-
2. the aircraft was caught in a severe electrical storm north-west of Cloncurry, Queensland. It is the opinion of those who investigated the wreckage 80 miles north of Cloncurry that the plane was struck by a flash of lightning which caused it to explode in mid-air killing everyone instantly.
O.C. VAN HOESEN
Next of Kin for those killed were as follows:-
|Captain John C. Fredrickson
||Mr. R. E. Frederickson, (father)
312 Cherokee Street,
|1st Lt. Fred R. Mentzer
||Mrs. Edith E. Mentzer, (mother)
|M/Sgt. Michael Kullich
||Mrs. Catherine R. Kullich, (wife)
258 Lowther Street,
|Sgt. Robert L. Kerr
||Mr. Fred L. Kerr, (father)
Registrar and Examiner,
University of Arkansas,
|Cpl. Marvin D. Middleton
||Mr. Marvin D. Middleton, (father)
Another reference that I have shows that all of the above deceased crew members were buried in the US Military Cemetery at Ipswich in south east Queensland on 16 July 1945, which suggests that they were buried elsewhere in Queensland before this, possibly the US Military Cemetery in Townsville, north Queensland.
Pat Breen visited the crash site on 17 June 2006. Pat advised that the fuselage and wings had been removed over the past few years presumably for scrap but commented that there was a large amount of smaller pieces scattered over an area 500m x 200 m. Pat advised that the flight path was still recognisable 63 years later as some of the few trees in the area show signs of having their tops shorn off and regrowth happening from underneath.
Pat advised that some third hand information relates that the plane circled a small township called Kajabbi where the Railway Station Master tried to signal them in Morse code to tell them their position then the plane headed off to the north only to crash a short while later. Based on the above crash-site co-ordinates, the crash-site was 34.2 miles north of Kajabbi. Some more third hand information was obtained from one of the policemen who was given the task of retrieving the bodies. One of these policeman was Constable Sam Henry. There is an airfield at Kajabbi (20° 1'50.96"S, 140° 1'56.02"E) but I am unsure whether it was there during WWII.
Wanda Loveday contacted me on 7 October 2017 and advised that her father Lionel Hudson was the first person at the scene of this tragic crash. Lionel's recollection of that day is as follows:-
19th October 1943 – Crash of the C-47 Dakota on Boomarra Station
Lionel Hudson was 18 years of age and working on his parents’ property, Melinda Downs, which is situated 140kms north of Cloncurry and approx. 35 kms south of Boomarra.
On the evening of 19th October, it was a very bad night – very windy, dusty, with low cloud and a lot of lightning and thunder. About 10pm, he saw an aircraft fly over the homestead, very low, with landing lights on, travelling north towards Boomarra (approx. 22 miles away). He rang the DCA and reported the aircraft, which he believed to be lost. The DCA told him that they had the plane “coming in on their beam” to which he replied that the aircraft was in fact flying away from Cloncurry and heading north.
About 15 minutes later, the phone rang (it was a party line) and Lionel listened in to the conversation between Colin Greenwood from Boomarra Station telling the DCA of a plane flying around near Boomarra and he also believed that the plane was lost.
After another 15 minutes, Lionel went back outside to check the weather, and saw a bright flash to the north-west. He knew it wasn’t lightning as the brightness lasted too long so he guessed that the plane had crashed. He again rang the DCA and told them what he had seen.
Next morning, about 8am, Lionel saw two light aircraft and a DC3 flying north along the Normanton Road. About 2 or 3 hours later, the DC3 flew over the Melinda homestead very low and Lionel thought that they may have been wanting some help in finding the missing plane. He went into the house and came out with a white sheet which he wrapped around his arm. He then stood out in the open and pointed in the direction of the crash site.
Lionel then drove to Boomarra to assist with the search. He picked up Bill Chaplain (owner of Boomarra) and Walter Rainer (handyman) and they drove towards the crash site, above which the DC3 was now circling. They got to within 100 metres but wet weather made it impossible to drive closer, so Lionel hopped out of the vehicle and approached the site on foot.
He was the first person at the site and saw the five bodies of the crew scattered near the wreckage of their plane. They were all beyond help. One wing, one motor and one wheel had been torn off and were located at the point of impact. The remainder of the aircraft was about 80 yards away and was almost intact.
Lionel, Bill and Walter then waited at the site until the other searchers arrived.
I'd like to thank Wanda Loveday, Pat Breen, Jim Moffett and John Daly for their assistance with this web page
Allied Air Transport Operations
South West Pacific Area WWII
Volume Two:- 1943 - Year of expansion and consolidation
by Robert H. Kelly
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 21 May 2000
This page last updated 27 February 2020