CRASH OF A DC-2
AT CHARTERS TOWERS, QLD
ON 23 JUNE 1942
At about 10:15am on 23 June 1942, a DC-2-115G (C-32A) #41-1375 VHCXF of the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron of the 374th Troop Carrier Group piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Gerling was caught in a 10 mph cross wind and swerved to the left off the runway at Charters Towers Airfield on take-off and collided with a Ford truck driven by Keith Dudman, of the Queensland Main Roads Commission which was loading dirt 20 feet off the runway. The aircraft was a complete loss. There were no injuries to the crew or passengers. The passengers and crew were as follows:-
2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Gerling 0-429400 - Pilot
Pilot Officer Henry Kennedy McLoughlin (406944) RAAF - Co-pilot
Sgt R.F. Morris - Co-pilot 6581945 - Radio Operator
Corporal J.F. Vantreese 14061713 - Aerial Engineer
plus 7 passengers
The right wing, landing gear and engine mounts were beyond repair. Both propellers and the fuselage were repairable. The two engines required a compliance T.O.
Document via Gordon Birkett
Signal to the Commanding Officer
of 21st Transport Squadron at
Archerfield Airfield, Brisbane advising of the crash at Charters Towers
DC-2 VHCXF was previously PK-AFK (ex Dutch PK-ADK) with KNILM. See photos below.
Photo:- AirHistory.Net Photo Archive
KNILM DC-2 PK-AFK
Photo:- AirHistory.Net Photo Archive
KNILM DC-2 PK-AFK in February 1936
35th Air Base Group History - 23 June 1942
Occurrences. In compliance with verbal orders of the Commanding Officer, a flag pole was erected at C.T.A.B. (BF 211 PM Reports)
At approximately 10:00A.M. a DC-2 transport piloted by 2nd Lieut. Gerling, 21st Transport Sq., Archer Field, Brisbane, was caught in the wind and swerved to the left off the runway to collide with a Ford truck driven by Keith Dudman, an employee of the Main Roads Commission, Charters Towers Branch. The truck was parked just north of a ditch. As the plane collided with the truck, the landing gear collapsed and the plane plowed into the clay bank of the ditch. Injuries to Army personnel, none: to Mr. Dudman, a slight shoulder injury. (BF 211 OD Report).
Weather. Clear and cool.
Robert Gerling, Perry Penn and Mel Lewis
Keith Dudman's recollections of this incident are as follows:-
Getting back to my story, I was waiting at the side of the runway to back my truck into the loading pit, I turned my head to watch a DC-2 Transport take off when lo and behold it was heading straight for me. If I jumped to the right I might be minced meat for the props, so I kicked the door of the cabin open and said to myself “Well this is it, I’m finished.” I hit the ground as the plane struck. I remember being underneath the truck, my face was all wet which I thought was blood, but it was water from my water bag which was hanging on the radiator. There were about a dozen Yanks getting me out from under the truck. They had just got out of the plane which had landed on the loading pit.
There were tractors running around without drivers and the driver of the truck that had been coming out of the pit had let his brakes off and ran back into it otherwise he would have had his head cut off.
I was the only poor bugger that got hurt, my shoulder was badly bruised and the Yanks were saying, “Never mind about your truck we will get you another one”. The reason that it happened, was, as I was told, a cross wind had caught the plane and blown it off the runway.
My shoulder was very sore. I saw a Colonel doctor at the Army Hospital and he told his Major to get the doctors to fix me up, but the Yank doctors and ours could not do any good. One day I was talking to a local Chinaman we knew and he said, “I fix.” I told him what had happened and he gave me a little bottle of liniment and a tin of Tiger Balm and said to rub one on then the other. This I did and within three weeks I was alright. I went back to see the Major at the hospital. He said, “You look pretty good to me, are you fixed up.” I said, “Yes, a Chinaman fixed me up.” He sat with an open mouth and said.
“Gawd damn me.”
Robert Gerling in New Guinea in 1942
Major Robert J. Gerling eventually returned to the USA on 12 June 1944 due to "Flying Fatigue".
374th Troop Carrier Grouo 1942 - 1945
by Col. Edward T. Imparato
I'd like to thank Gordon Birkett, Edward Rogers, Ron Cuskelly and Keith Dudman, Jr. for their assistance with this web page.
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 23 May 2000
This page last updated 24 May 2022