COLLISION OF TWO DOUGLAS A-24
AT CHARTERS TOWERS
ON 5 JUNE 1942
Douglas A-24 Dauntless
Douglas A-24 "Dauntless" Dive Bomber, ex 27th Bomb Group, reassigned to the 8th Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group in March 1942 after the 27th Bomb Group pulled out of the Philippines and merged with the 8th Squadron.
On 5 June 1942 Capt. Galusha was leading a formation training flight out of the airfield at Charters Towers, Queensland. The dozen A-24s came directly over the camp area at about 1000-1500 feet in an echelon down formation. Suddenly 2nd Lt. Norman J. Davidson's A-24, flying last in the formation, got too close to the plane above it, and its prop chewed off this plane's tail empennage.
Both planes began tumbling out of the sky as crewmen frantically bailed out. Davidson's gunner, Sgt. ______ __ Minkler, successfully parachuted from his stricken plane, as did both the pilot, 2/Lt. James P. Larronde, and the gunner S/Sgt Felix H. Larronde of the other plane. 2nd Lt. Norman J. Davidson, however, died when his plane smashed into the ground near the 3rd Group camp area. He reportedly had just returned to flying status after being out sick.
The two A-24's involved in the collision were 41-15774 and 41-15816.
NOTE:- There is a John I. Minkler shown in an "In Memoriam" list of the 13th Bomb Squadron Association.
Wreckage of an A-24 at Charters
Towers after a
collision with another
A-24 Unidentified photo in Bill Swain's dad's album. Larry Hickey
confirmed that it was of this collision at Charters Towers.
Jack Heyn of the 13th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group witnessed this Collision. Jack told me:-
"It was early in '42 when the 8th Sq. still had some Dive Bombers (A-24's) left. The formation had just taken off, formed up and was flying past the camp area; must have been 8 or 10 memory is a bit hazy on that. At any rate that many noisy little A-24's passing over caught our attention. They were about 1000 to 1500 feet, right over us, when the last plane in the javelon-down formation got too close to the guy in front of him. His prop chewed the tail off and both came tumbling down. We were yelling at them to bail out (as if they could hear us). Three of them got out. The pilot of one did not, and he had just got back on flying status, from a medical problem. Was his first mission back. That was a hell of a way to go -- but then, there aren't any easy ways."
"When I was assigned to the 3rd in Oct. '41 at Savannah Army Air Base, Sav., Ga. it consisted of 5 tactical Squadrons:- Hq., 8th, 13th, 89th and 90th."
"All but the 8th were equipped with A-20's. The 8th had A-24 Douglas "Dauntless" Dive Bombers. In the summer of 1942 the Hq. Sq. was deactivated as a tactical unit and became strictly a Hq. Sq. with all the Group officers. Mechanics, armourers, radio men, etc. were transferred to the other 4 squadrons. When we were shipped overseas they left the planes and senior officers in Savannah. The planes to pull sub patrol, the officers to form a new group."
"We arrived in Australia in February 1942 without planes and a 1st Lt. as Group Commander. In February 1940 the 27th Bomb Group was formed from a Cadre from the 3rd Bomb Group. On 1 Nov 1941 they sailed for the Philippines. They were equipped with A-24's, but their planes never arrived, and were diverted to Australia. Some of the pilots went to Australia to get planes, but only got back as far as Java, because of the deteriorating situation in the P.I. In March of '42 - 42 officers, 62 enlisted men and 24 A-24's were assigned to the 3rd Bomb Group stationed at Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia. They were assigned to the 8th Squadron."
"On 1 April 1942 the 3rd Bomb Group pulled their first combat mission of WW II. Six A-24's, led by Lt. Bob Ruegg (retired as Lt Gen. of the Alaskan Command) were headed for Lae Airdrome. Lae was socked in by weather so they diverted to Salamaua. They dropped 5 bombs, a very inauspicious start for a Group that was to become one of the most active units in the Army Air Forces in WW II"
"On 29 July 1942, seven A-24's of the 8th Squadron left Port Moresby, led by Maj. Floyd Rogers, headed for a convoy heading for Gona. They had an escort of P-39's. Somewhere over the Owen Stanleys they lost their escort and decided to go in with out them. They encountered a host of Zeros -- one A-24 returned from that mission, Capt. Wilkins and Gunner Al Clark. Wilkins later received the Cong. Medal of Honor, posthumously, in a Rabaul mission on 21 November 1943."
"So the mid air collision had to be in that time frame, I'm thinking it was in May, but I don't have a notation of it in any of my stuff, and the memory gets a little hazy after 58 years. One thing I am reasonably sure of is the pilot who didn't get out was 2nd. Lt Norman J. Davidson. I don't have any written verification, but the name rings a bell in this old memory."
Curiosity got the best of me. Had to check out the June 5, 1942 entry in my sometimes kept diary. Brief entry - "Routine day, topped off with a movie in Charters Towers. Enjoyed the movie, didn't think much of the theatre -- didn't have a roof. In the event of rain, which is a bit rare in that corner of the earth, movies had to be cancelled.
By contrast, 2 years later I went to a movie in Melbourne. That theatre did have a roof, in fact the ceiling was an artificial sky, complete with a moon and stars. When the movie started the moon was at one end of the room, when the movie ended it was at the other end. This small town Dakota boy had never seen any thing like that before.
Back to the diary, no mention of midair collision of two 8th Sq. A-24's. After the B-25 disaster on May 25 at Lae ( five out six planes shot down) and the several missions that had come back missing one to three planes -- it might just be that the loss of a couple A-24's locally, didn't merit mention.
The early months of the war were very costly to the Group in both men and planes. A body never did get used to the fact that yesterday you had a tent mate, today you don't have. But it soon became evident that in war-time it was a fact of life. And like it or not you accepted it.
One big advantage of being in the Air Force, as opposed to the Infantry or Marines, was that when you lost a good friend it wasn't as traumatic. He just climbed aboard one of those Magnificent Flying Machines and flew off into oblivion. You didn't share a foxhole with him in some damned jungle and see him get his head blown off with a mortar shell. He was just as dead: he would never marry a beautiful young lady; never raise a beautiful family; never celebrate a golden wedding anniversary; he would never get on one of these "infernal machines" and discuss things with total strangers half a world away -- things he hasn't discussed with anybody in over half a century.
You guys may not realize it, but you are pretty good therapy for an old man with a lot of memories -- too many of them not good memories. And for that I thank all of you. And with that I will go climb in bed with that beautiful young lady I married almost 55 years ago. The youth is long gone, the beauty will be there forever more.
NOTE:- Larry Hickey has researched the A-24 aircraft cards at Maxwell AFB extensively and almost all USAAF A-24s lost during this period have no entries on their cards for actual dates of losses. They just did a general inventory removal in November 1942, of all Southwest Pacific A-24s lost prior to that date. Very frustrating. These serial numbers appear nowhere in the 8th SQ historical microfilm records, of which Larry has a full set.
I'd like to thank William Swain, Jack Heyn, and Larry Hickey for their assistance with this page.
I'd also like to thank Gordon Birkett for his assistance with this home page, particularly for sending me a copy of the Guild diary which was provided to him by my mate Bill Swain. It was the source for the serial numbers of these two aircraft.
Can anyone tell me Minkler's first name
E-mails from Bill Swain
E-mails from Jack Heyn
3rd Bomb Group
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 25 June 2000
This page last updated 31 August 2015