26 DECEMBER 1942
CRASH OF A B-24 LIBERATOR
AT IRON RANGE, QLD
A USAAF B-24 Liberator of the 400th Bomber Squadron (Heavy), 90th Bombardment Group, #41-11867 "Heavenly Body", crashed during take-off on a bombing mission from the Iron Range "Gordon" air strip on 26 December 1942 at approximately 10.00pm. Piloted by Lt. Roy Kendrick, the B-24 caught its wing in some trees during the take off. The B-24 hurtled out of control down the runway and crashed "with a sickening roar and blinding flash, followed by a series of huge explosions as the craft's bomb and gasoline load detonated".
All ten crew members were killed in the crash. The aircraft crashed on the side of the runway narrowly missing one of the Anti Aircraft Gun emplacements of "E" Battery of the 197th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment. As the bombs exploded there was a large fire.
Roger R. Mark's in his excellent book "Queensland Airfields WW2 - 50 Years On" describes the incident as follows:-
|George Coble's diary sets the Christmas scene:-
'...On the alert, the day before Christmas - nothing happened. Had a Christmas, what a Christmas for this neck of the woods. Had Church Services December 24 at 7.30. Went off the alert 1600 hours. December 25 had liquor for the boys. What a surprise! Nearly everyone got tight. On December 26 we were told we were able to take off at 2230, (direct, to attack Rabaul - again) had supper at 2100 hours, went to ship (719) taxied out to runway ready for take off. Wet rainy night, the second ship that took off, was right wing heavy and no more than got off the runway than it crashed into the trees. The ship burned, three big explosions from bombs going off. It was terrible, all the crew were killed. One boy lived 1 1/2 hours, these things really get on your nerves. Hope if I get mine it will be like Frandsen, on combat. Command, after the fire asked the pilots if they still wanted to go. Several, including ours, Lt. P.C. Johnson, volunteered. He, our pilot, told us anyone who did not want to go, did not have to. Of course no one backed out, none of this crew will ever back out on Johnson. We took off at 00 hours December 27. Had bad weather all the way over. Flew at 15-17 000' most of the way over. Had to chew oxygen most of the time. No. 2 engine acting up...'
I now have access to the burial records for the US Cemetery that existed in Townsville during WW2. Amongst the records are the following burials which took place on 29 March 1942 (9 buried) and 30 March 1942 (1 buried), approximately 3 months after the crash date of 26 Dec 1942.
TOWNSVILLE U.S. CEMETERY BURIALS
|NAME||SERVICE NO.||UNIT||BURIAL DATE|
|Kendrick, Roy, B. (pilot)||0724626 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Yeilding, Chalmore||31463144 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Castille, Lee G.||14058957 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|McAndrew, Donald||36318118 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Sokolovic, Wendel||12057429? USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Sarrat, George||34079295? USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Packwood, Walter||0435523 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Shrives, Paul S.||35350256 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Constant, David, C.||33265823 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||29 Mar 43|
|Compton, Joe F.||0-433521 USA||400th Bomb Sq., 90th B. Gp.||30 Mar 43|
I've assumed that Joe Compton was one of the crew members involved in this tragic accident. I had initially thought that Joe Compton was the one who was rescued from the flames but died a few hours later. Bob Livingstone has confirmed that this was Chalmore Yeilding. Joe Compton was on board and he was the co-pilot. Kendrick was the pilot of this B-24.
A search of the American Battle Monuments Commission database for the same crew names revealed the following five personnel, all from the 400th Bomb Squadron (Heavy) of the 90th Bomb Group.
|Name||Service No.||Entered the Service from||Died||Memorial||Awards|
|Sgt. Chalmers D. Yeilding||34163144||Alabama||27 Dec 42||Honolulu Memorial
|Sgt. Donald E. Mc Andrews||36318118||Illinois||26 Dec 42||
|Sgt. Wendel V. Sokolovic||12057423||New York||26 Dec 42||
| Air Medal
|1st Lt. Walter B. Packwood||0-435523||Missouri||26 Dec 42||
Buried at: Plot B Row 1 Grave 124
|2nd Lt. Joe F. Compton||0-433352||North Carolina||26 Dec 42||
Based on this information, I have assumed, at this stage, that the above 10 service personnel buried at Townsville on 29 and 30 March 1942 were the 10 killed in the above B-24 Crash at Iron Range on 26 December 1942. Bob Livingstone advised me on 6 April 2007 that indeed these 10 were the correct crew members.
On 23 Apr 1999, Cyril Klimesh passed on to me the following excerpt from a newspaper clipping of unknown origin concerning Captain Franklin Allen, 19th BS, 22nd BG:-
|"....Captain Allen saw a bomber filled with 500-pound bombs crash on an Australian filed and kill all of the crew except one. Sprinting over to the shouting survivor just as the bomb went off, Captain Allen pulled him out of the flaming plane. For that he was decorated." (Soldier's Medal)|
Another clipping reads:-
|"When a Liberator heavy bomber crashed and burned on an airdrome in Australia last December, they disregarded exploding gasoline tanks and bombs and assisted in removing a wounded man from the wreckage."|
And a third:-
|"He (Capt. Allen) was one of six fliers cited for their rescue work when a Liberator bomber crashed and burned in Australia. They pulled out one of the crew, but the 500-pound bomb exploded and demolished the plane before they could complete their work."|
Cyril Klimesh advised that Allen was in the 22nd Bomb Squadron but he believed that the B-24 belonged to the 90th which was stationed at Iron Range in November 1942 thru Feb. 1943. The originals of these clippings are held by Allen's daughter Jeanne-Louise Newell. In her letter she noted that she could not find the citation but that other material "elaborates on the 26 December 1942 incident in which her father and several others attempted to rescue crewmen from the burning B-24.
One of the clippings had a date line: "Montclaire, NJ, May 25."
Another had a subtitle "Somewhere in Australia. May 25."
Photo: Michael Musumeci 2006
On 22 October 2006, Michael Musumeci advised that he had found some remains of this B-24 Liberator. He had located a lot of aluminium pieces, 50 cal shells, and heads, pipes, wiring, and various other odds and ends totalling around 200 pieces. Michael's find is documented in an article in The Sunday Mail of 22 October 2006, page 51.
Photo:- Michael Musumeci
Plaque at Lockhart River dedicated on Anzac Day 25 April 2007
Photo:- Michael Musumeci
Dedication Service on Anzac Day 25 April 2007
I'd like to thank Michael Musumeci and Sandy Martin for their assistance with this web page.
I'd also like to thank Bob Livingstone for his assistance with identifying this aircraft.
The Sunday Mail of 22 October 2006, page 51.
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 7 February 1999
This page last updated 27 February 2020