21 APRIL 1942
CRASH OF A B-26 MARAUDER
NEAR PALM ISLAND

 

A B-26 Marauder, aircraft #40-1419 of 2nd Bomb Squadron of the 22nd Bombardment Group, USAAF, ditched into the sea off Palm Island near Townsville, on 21 April 1942 en route from Port Moresby to Garbutt Field, Australia.  The aircraft developed engine trouble and crashed into the sea at about 0925 hours. Flying Officer Kenneth Lloyd (RAAF), a passenger, was the sole survivor. Those killed were:-

1st Lt. Arthur E. Wentzel 0-408874 pilot
2nd Lt. William A. Lazenby 0-420607 co-pilot
2nd Lt. Carl L. Hansing 0-434901 navigator
Pfc. Raymond E. Hoag 13005280 bombardier
Pfc. Hyman W. Ostroff 7024587 radio operator
Pfc. Norman B. Musgrave 13010026 engineer
Pfc. Dallas W. Keefe 14029421 gunner

Spellings above confirmed from American Battle Monuments Commission web page

Flying Officer Kenneth William Lloyd (270736) had been ordered by Flight Lieutenant Turnbull to report to North Eastern Area Headquarters in Townsville. He boarded B-26 Marauder #40-1419 at 0620 hours on 21 April 1942. The B-26 ditched in the sea approximately 5 miles east of White Rock Lighthouse about one mile east of Palm Island at 0925 hours.

After Kenneth Lloyd evacuated from the aircraft he spotted two crew members hanging on to a partially inflated rubber boat and the navigator hanging onto an oblong cylinder which looked like an oxygen cylinder. Ken swam over to the rubber boat. Ken then noticed that the Navigator had suddenly disappeared. They noticed an aircraft approach from the south at about 2,000 to 3,000 feet. It did not come down and circle them so it obviously did not see them.

The seas were quite high at the time of the crash. They noticed a white object towards Palm Island which they assumed was a lighthouse or the mast of a ship.  1st Lt. Arthur E. Wentzel, the pilot, suggested that they should stay together on the rubber boat as he surmised that someone would eventually locate them as they had been overdue at their for some time.

Ken Lloyd, a fairly strong swimmer, eventually decided to swim to the white object to get help for the other two survivors on the rubber boat. As he swam towards the white object he soon realised it was a lighthouse. When he reached the lighthouse at about 1700 hours he found that it was unoccupied. He climbed to the top of the lighthouse and extinguished the light in an attempt to attract attention to their plight from nearby Palm Island. At the time Ken actually thought it was Magnetic Island which he knew was inhabited. He broke into the lighthouse and stayed under cover overnight.

The next morning he realised that the island was not Magnetic Island. He continued to keep a lookout for the two crew members who he left behind in the rubber boat. He remained in the lighthouse for twelve and a half days without food but was lucky to obtain water in a bucket he found inside the lighthouse. He went out of the lighthouse to wave at numerous aircraft which flew past.

On the twelfth day a fishing boat trawling in the area noticed that the lighthouse was not working and when the approached the lighthouse they noticed Ken waving at them. They rowed to the beach in a small dinghy and picked up Ken who offered them a good reward of twenty Pounds to take him to the nearest dressing station as soon as possible. Ken was suffering from lacerations to his head, legs and arms. They took him to nearby Palm island where there was a white doctor and nurse in the aboriginal settlement.

They arrived at the settlement on the 13th day after the crash and Ken was carried to the Superintendent's house. He was transferred to a stretcher and carried to a house where he was given medical attention by the sister as the doctor was in Townsville at that time. After resting for two days, Ken was taken to Townsville after notifying the Superintendent that the other two crew members were probably washed up on Palm island. An extensive search was carried out without success.

Another seven B-26's from the 22nd Bomb Group were lost in Australia during March/April/May of 1942.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science has located a WW2 bomber wreck at Robbery Shoals, Rib Reef about 30 kms north east of Palm Island in north Queensland. Could it be the wreckage of B-26 Marauder #40-1419 perhaps?

 

NOTE:- Another source incorrectly shows this B-26 Marauder as being from the 408th Bomb Squadron. The above US personnel are all shown as being with the 2nd Bomb Squadron on the American Battle Monuments Commission web page.

 


 

The News-Sentinel, Wednesday, May 27, 1942 (Fulton County, Indiana)

FULTON COUNTY'S MISSING BOMBER PILOT
Arthur Wentzel, 23, graduate of the Leiters Ford high school, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wentzel, Route 3, Rochester, who has been reported missing from the Far-East theatre of war since April 21st. Arthur, according to the last letter received from him by his parents, was chief pilot of one of the large type U.S. bombers, which carried a 7-man crew. he was stationed at an Australian airbase and it is believed he was lost or captured in action in the air and naval battles of the Coral sea. Other than the brief message that their son was on the missing list the Wentzels have received no further information from the War Department.

 

The News-Sentinel, Thursday, June 11, 1942 (Fulton County, Indiana)

WENTZELS RECEIVE NEWS FROM SON'S COMPANION
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wentzel, of near Leiters Ford, are in receipt of a letter sent them by the parents of Lieut. Charles Hitchcock, of Winchester, Ind., which indicates that Lieut. Arthur Wentzel of the U. S. Aviation Corps, may have lost his life in aerial action in the Far East theatre of war.

Lieut. Hitchcock, also of the U. S.-Australian air force, had been a companion of Wentzel's throughout practically all of their aviation training at Indianapolis, Patterson Field, Hickam field, Hawaii, and active service in Australia. The two Hoosier aviators were members of the same bombing squadron at both the Hawaiian and Australian bases.

May Have Crashed In Sea

An excerpt from Lieut. Hitchcock's letter to his parents at Winchester reads:

"I sure would like to be back in the States again, this Australia is so dead and old-fashioned that you can't have fun or anything. I have been on several missions and had some fun out of it, but most of it is hard work. I had a hard blow to take when we lost Art (Wentzel) last month.

"He was pretty well shot up and tried to return but failed to make it. We don't know just what happened to him, probably ran out of gas and went into the ocean. It's just one of those things we have to expect, I guess. Only I don't see why it had to happen to Art."

Mr. and Mrs. Wentzel on Monday of this week, received a letter from their missing son, which was post-marked April 22nd, 1942, from an Australian air base. The letter was of a personal nature and contained no information of a military nature.

Other than the formal notice announcing that Lieut. Arthur Wentzel was missing in action from an aerial engagement in the Far East, the Wentzels have received no further word from the War Department.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS:- 

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

by Michael Claringbould

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Robin Krause and Pete Johnston for their assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Charlie Lloyd who is the great grandson of Flying Officer Kenneth Lloyd.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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This page first produced 20 September 1998

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