13 SEPTEMBER 1942
CRASH OF A B-26 MARAUDER

AT IRON RANGE

 

Nine USAAF B-26 Marauders from the 22nd Bomb Group based at Iron Range flew their first operational mission on Sunday 13 September 1942.  On return from the mission, B-26 Marauder, #40-1433, "Kansas Comet", of the 19th Squadron, 22nd Bombardment Group, crashed short on the air strip at Iron Range due to a blown tire, and ran into a ditch killing the Australian co-pilot Pilot Officer Graham Brindley John Robertson (RAAF, 412717). The pilot of this aircraft was Lt. Walter Krell. This aircraft may have also been called "Bunagoon" at some stage. Another version of this event has the aircraft crashing on take-off after striking an anthill. 

Bill Ceglia told me about this accident as follows. His grandfather Joseph P. Ceglia was the regular tail gunner with Walter Krell in B-26 #40-1433, a.k.a "Kansas Comet" As you can see it is another variation on what caused the accident. No anthill this time, but a tree stump.

"They had cut a landing strip at Iron Range and what they did at one end was clear out the trees before you got to the strip. Well they left stumps of the trees in this area and when this pilot, Robertson, came in to land he came in short and hit the stumps, this blew the front right tire and they then bounced onto the runway. Once there they veered off to the right and hit a oil truck with the right wing. This damaged the wing and fuselage and caught the truck on fire. Robertson was thrown forward and crushed in his seat. Whether he was alive I don't know but they all got out and Lt. Krell stayed and tried to get Robertson out. The plane was on fire bad and Krell got burnt pretty good.

28 year old P/O Robertson was buried in the "old" Mareeba Cemetery - Plot. Grave D593. GRM/4. He is the only Allied airman buried at Mareeba. All others servicemen who died in the area are buried at the Atherton War Cemetery.

Graham Robertson, was the son of John Seymour Robertson and Constance Beatrix Robertson.  His wife was Dorothy Frances Robertson, of Hay, in New South Wales.

 


Photo:- J.C. Wallace via his son J.R. Wallace

It is believed that this is the remains of B-26 Marauder, #40-1433. This photo was taken by J.C. Wallace
in about October 1942. The back of this photo is stamped by a military censor and dated 11/42.

 

Crew Chief Johnny Wilson, from Kansas, came up with the name "Kansas Comet". In May 1942, at Garbutt airfield in Townsville, the aircraft's name was painted in yellow in capital letters about 5 - 6 inches high under the pilots side windows on both sides of the aircraft. Johnny Wilson would paint a little yellow bomb with a stencil, about the same height as the letters in a row underneath the letters after each mission. At the time of the accident there were approximately 20 of these bombs painted on the side of the aircraft.

"Kansas Comet" was painted a drab camouflage brown with a grey underbelly. At the intersection of the grey and the brown, a wavy, irregular line was used along the lower side of the fuselage.

There were two B-26's called "Kansas Comet", one being "Kansas Comet", #40-1433 and the other "Kansas Comet II", #40-1403.

Pat Norton, John Foley, Gene Grauer, and Walter Krell were 4 of the flight crew of "Kansas Comet".

Prior to departing for this raid, Walter Krell had been rushing about in a jeep to brief each pilot at his B-26, as each pilot waited in his respective dispersal bay. These bays were fairly spread out, quite a distance from one another. There was much synchronizing of watches to make sure that the various aircraft would start up and taxi out in a sequence. This procedure would ensure that all aircraft in this mission would arrive at the main runway in a certain order for takeoff. Space was very limited.

 


Photo:- via J.R. Wallace

Walter Krell

 

During this briefing Walter Krell had been wearing a very brief pair of athletic shorts. He had hoped to go back to his tent and put on a decent pair of trousers to fly in, but time ran out. Walter barely had time to get back to his B-26 and start up in order to stay ahead of the others. So he went on the bombing raid dressed in his shorts!

When the B-26 crashed both his legs were severely burned from the top of his GI shoes to the bottom of the athletic briefs.

For many years he couldn't expose his legs to the sun because they would sunburn very badly.

Walter had been told that he had a combination of first, second, and third-degree burns.

Dr. Fred Knight, 19th Flight Surgeon, treated Walter Krell's burns. Krell was admitted to the 12th Station Hospital and was still there in November 1942.

Prior to the accident Walter Krell had shared a rental house in Townsville with his navigator Gene Grauer, who had also gotten badly banged up in this accident. After they were discharged form the hospital they moved back into the rental house.

Walter and Gene had a jeep available for their transport. After about two weeks of recovery, Walter's legs were less painful to use, so he decided to go to Garbutt Field, found a parked B-26, and went flying with the crew chief accompanying him in the co-pilot's seat. He repeated this flying routine every day for about four or five days when one late night Dr. Markle suddenly burst into the rental house in the midst of a party and bawled Krell out for flying. Krell ignored the dressing down and continued to fly each day.

Dr. Markle caught Krell out again and gave him another dressing down, but this time he handed Krell a hospital discharge and told him that since he wouldn't follow his orders, he wouldn't return him to flying status. He then ordered Krell back to the Squadron at Iron Range. It was then up to the Squadron flight surgeon to put him back on flying status.

 

Sydney Robert Lynch (Q114569) died at Iron Range on 30 September 1942.

Can anyone help with details of his death.

 


 

Researching crashes like this can be quite confusing as you get many, sometimes totally different variations of stories. Here is an extract from a WW2 diary of a Lt. Hansen which suggests that Walter Krell is burnt in B-26 crash at Port Moresby after hitting an ant hill. I believe he was at Townsville on that date and perhaps he has been told incorrect information about where the crash was or he made an assumption. Do they have anthills in Port Moresby??

 

My Stretch in the Service

 Lt. L.A.Hansen US Army Air Corps
Serial Number 0-421697
2134 North 52nd Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

 To my brother Dave

May 18, 1942

 

Tue 9-15-42
They brought in two more B-26 boys this afternoon. They were landing up at Moresby when the right wheel hit an anthill and skidded them down the runway. It burst into flame and all except the co-pilot got out alive. Capt. Krell, the first pilot, got his legs burned from the feet to the hips trying to get him out of it. Someone had to go in and drag him out cause he just wasn't coming without that other boy. The navigator was in very bad shape too. Five ribs, one section of the backbone and cuts and bruises all over. They're comfortable now. Played some battleship with Ole tonight but got whipped so went into the kitchen and made some fudge. He claims he helped so he got some.

 


 

Seeking relatives to honour tragic events at Iron Range

Lockhart River Police are presently seeking relatives of a co–pilot that was tragically killed at Iron Range on the 13th of September 1942.

Co pilot Graham Brindley John ROBERTSON (RAAF Serial No 412717) was tragically killed when he was on a B-26 Marauder (named Kansas Comet) attached to the USAAF 22nd Bombardment Group based at Iron Range.

Iron Range during World War 2 was a fully operational US Bomber Base, which had a number of established airstrips to support the 90th, 22nd and 43rd Bombardment Groups, during the continued threat of the Japanese during WW2.

The B-26 Marauder was returning from a bombing mission over Lae, when they attempted to land on Gordon strip, crashing on the runway. It was presumed that the cause of the accident was that the aircraft had collided with a large termite mound, due to the airstrip still being under construction. This collision caused the aircraft to swerve out of control and crashing into a large compressor truck that had been parked near the runway, also killing an unknown ground crew member.

Heroic and frantic efforts were done by the crew, as they fled the crash scene in an attempt to remove ROBERTSON, but all failed in vain as the plane ignited.

Capt Walter A KRELL, the Pilot in the mishap suffered severe burns from his efforts in an attempt to save the life of ROBERTSON, but tragically ROBERTSON could not be saved.

A memorial plaque is soon to be implemented and attached to the already established iron Range Memorial Wall within the confines of the Iron Range Aerodrome.

The plaque will honour and dedicate Australian Co pilot Officer Graham Brindley John ROBERTSON (RAAF Serial 412717) whilst he was seconded to the USAAF 22nd Bombardment Group, whilst being based at Iron range

Research has also disclosed Robertson’s parents and wife’s details. His wife a Dorothy Francis ROBERTSON and Parents John Seymour ROBERTSON and Constance Beatrix ROBERTSON were reported to be residing in Hay NSW. All avenues of research have failed to locate any relatives

If you are able to assist with the location of any descendants, relatives, colleagues or a veteran of Iron Range please do not hesitate to call the Lockhart River Police Station on 40607120 or 40607050

(research supplied by 22nd Bombardment Group Collection)

 


 


Photo:- Rob Morris

RAAF Caribou attended the dedication ceremony

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

Anzac Day 2007 at Lockhart River

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

 


Photo:- Amanda Musumeci

 


Photo:- Michael Musumeci

Anzac Day 2007 at Lockhart River

 

MEDIA RELEASE

Iron Range to honour Australian RAAF Pilot Officer

The Iron Range Memorial Wall, now has another bronze plaque attached to its Wall.  The plaque dedicates the tragic events of an Australian RAAF Co Pilot, Graham Brindley John ROBERTSON that was tragically killed at the Gordon Airstrip, Iron Range on the 13th of September 1942

Pilot Officer Graham ROBERTSON (RAAF Serial 412717) was seconded to the USAAF 22nd Bombardment Group, when their B26 Marauder Bomber (presumed to be named “Kansas Comet 2) crashed along the Gordon Airstrip Iron Range. 

The bomber had just returned from a dangerous bombing mission over Lae. 

After the crash, the crew although badly injured escaped, but Robertson was severely injured and trapped.  In particular the Pilot Captain Walter KRELL tried in vain to save ROBERTSON but suffered serious and horrific burns.  In an attempt to free ROBERTSON but to no advail.

The Memorial Wall, situated within the confines of the Iron Range Airfield, was erected in 2005 to dedicate all defence units attached to this area during World War 11, as well as two other separate tragic US aircraft incidents that took 21 US servicemen’s lives.

Skytrans Airlines, OZTOURS and Archer River Roadhouse have all conjointly donated finances to include this plaque on the Memorial Wall.

OZ TOURS Director Mike HINTZ stated; “I’m extremely honoured to be a part of such a positive project.   The plaque is another added bonus in the files of our World War 11 Cape York history.  It will also be an added highlight to the many tours we conduct throughout the Iron Range area for our visitors”

Lockhart River Police, Sgt Michael Musumeci who has been stationed at Iron Range for just under 3 years said:-

“With the added assistance of these outside companies we have been able to finalise further research on the history of World War 11 at Iron Range.  The plaque will also leave a never ending dedication and tribute to this tragic event.”

Lockhart River police have also received further support from the Royal Australian Air Force based in Townsville and on the 25th April 2007 a contingent of RAAF personnel attended Iron Range via Caribou to conduct an official service and dedication for Co Pilot ROBERTSON.

ROBERTSON is laid to rest within the confines of the Mareeba Pioneer Cemetery Far North Queensland.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank J.R. Wallace, Bill Ceglia and Michael Musumeci for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

The Forgotten Fifth
A Classic Photographic Chronology of the
Fifth Air Force in Action in the Pacific in WW2

By Michael Claringbould

Official 22nd Bombardment Group Home Page

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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This page first produced 7 February 1999

This page last updated 30 October 2018