CRASH OF A B-26 MARAUDER ON 14 MAY 1942
AT REID RIVER AIRFIELD NEAR TOWNSVILLE
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
A B-26 Marauder, aircraft #40-1390, "Lil de Icer", of 408th Squadron, 22nd Bombardment Group, crashed on 14 May 1942 on take off at Reid River, Australia near Townsville.
Tragically, the following crew were killed in this crash:-
Lt. John A. Phipps, pilot
Lt. Robert "Bud" "Brad" M. Rye, pilot
Lt. James W. "Jim" Currie, bombardier
S/Sgt. George H. Bullock, engineer
T/Sgt. John E. Cunningham, crew chief
Cpl. Duward R. Davis, Jr., engineer
Cpl. Joseph A. Kovach, mechanic
Lt. Jack W. Oliver, pilot (passenger)
Merrill Thomas Dewan's 1942-43 wartime diary (Red Raider Diary - Rosedog Books 2009) read as follows:-
"Thursday May 14, 1942 - Foggy & I returned to Reid River...something horrible happened...that I can never forget...Jack Oliver, Jack Phipps, Brad Rye, Jim Currie and four enlisted men crashed on take-off, right next to our camp area, & all eight were killed...it was horrible. I helped remove the charred bodies from the burned wreckage - and my mind is warped forever, scarred, and I can't help it. It was a grief stricken camp to-nite, not the usual, friendly 18th family..."
"Friday May 15, 1942...I was sort of half sick...still cannot make that horrible tragedy of yesterday seem true...slept but very little last night with the visions of that accident in my mind...they crashed within a few feet of our camp area. They all burned up. The airplane took off, one engine cut, when it was only about 100 feet off the runway and it nose-dived & side-slipped into the ground, almost in the camp area..."
"Monday May 18, 1942 - whole squadron got up at 5 o'clock & went to Townsville to the funeral. We all went on the 6 o'clock train. It was strictly a military funeral and the place (church) was jammed with officers & men from our squadron and...Group. Outside there were thousands of curious Aussies...We went to the cemetery afterwards, and all of the eight bodies were buried there, each draped in an American flag..."
Note:- "Foggy" was 18th/408th navigator Ed Fogarty of the 18th Recon Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, which was re-designated as the 408th Bomb Squadron following their arrival in the SWPA around 1 May 1942.
NOTE:- The book "The Forgotten Fifth" shows the nickname of this aircraft as "Lib De Icer" whereas the 22nd Bombardment Group Home Page shows its nickname as "Lil de Icer"
SOURCE:- 22nd Bombardment Group Home Page (This page at the time I accessed it back in 20003 had this tragic crash occurring in 15 May 1942)
The Forgotten Fifth
A Classic Photographic Chronology of the
Fifth Air Force in Action in the Pacific in WW2
By Michael Claringbould
"Red Raider Diary" is available world-wide via on-demand printing at Amazonbooks.com or Rosedogbooks.com.
I'd like to thank Thomas Dewan for his assistance with this web page. Thomas is the son of Merrill Thomas Dewan whose diary entries appear above.
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 20 September 1998
This page last updated 02 May 2020