CRASH LANDING OF AN A-20 HAVOC
ON A BEACH ON LOW WOODED ISLAND
ON 11 JUNE 1944
A-20 Havoc, "Steak and Eggs", #40-166 of the 89th Bomb Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group, was caught in bad weather on 11 June 1944 and ran low on fuel. Pilot Lt. Rude Vucelic crash landed the A-20 on a beach on the north west side of Low Wooded Island, near Cooktown. The aircraft was not recovered as it was too difficult to salvage. Lt Kennedy who was in the nose injured his shoulder in the forced landing, and four others escaped reasonably well, including the aircraft Crew Chief.
This aircraft, had quite a chequered life. It was actually made by combining two previously wrecked aircraft. Thus the name "The Steak and Eggs" sometimes referred to as "The Steak and Eggs Special". Joe Long and Kip Hawkins were two of the mechanics who constructed "Steak and Eggs" from the wrecks of different aircraft. Chief Mechanic Kip Hawkins was apparently the brains behind producing "Steak and Eggs". (See story below on Joe and Kip.)
Photo:- via Dan O'Donnell
A soldier beside "Steak & Eggs"
Photo:- via Gordon Birkett
"Steak and Eggs" on the beach on Low Wooded Island
Photo:- via Gordon Birkett
"Steak and Eggs" on the beach on Low Wooded Island
Photo:- via Gordon Birkett
"Steak and Eggs" on the beach on Low Wooded Island
Photo:- Anthony Malloch
Malloch leaving Cooktown on 28 May 2007 and
arrived at Low Wooded Island 4 hrs, 45 minutes later after rowing for 48.4 kms
Photo:- Anthony Malloch
Wreckage on beach on NW corner of Low Wooded Island on 28 May 2007
Photo:- Anthony Malloch
Engine on beach on NW corner of Low Wooded Island on 28 May 2007
Photo:- Anthony Malloch
Remains of a wing on beach on NW corner of Low Wooded Island on 28 May 2007
Photo:- Alan Clay
Alan Clay during a weekend on Low Wooded Island on 12/13 April 2003
Dick Hutchinson, who spent nearly twenty years in No 22 (City of Sydney ) Squadron ACAF/RAAFAR during which time he was appointed Unit Historian. These duties were not removed when I was discharged and I continue to work on the 22 Squadron history project. Dick is also secretary of the No 22 (City of Sydney) Association. Dick has a number of photos of an RAAF party examining a Boston wreck which he believes was situated on " a low woody (sic Wooded) island" north east of Cooktown. The aircraft is identifiable as an A20A of the USAAF's 89th bomber squadron At the time of its crash it was being used as a tucker courier and carried the appropriate name "Steak and Eggs" on the nose. I have more history details of this aircraft if you are interested.
Dick Hutchison also advised that the "Steak and Eggs" of the 89th Bomb Group flew under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As it was stripped of all its camouflage it managed to land at Mascot and taxi out of sight of the tower prior to their receiving a report of the transgression. As the report was being received at the tower, a B-26 Marauder of the USAAC.s 22nd Bomb Group's "Silver Fleet" landed and a bewildered pilot found himself being blamed for the flight under the bridge.
"Little Hellion" at 7 Mile airfield - 1 Nov 1942
A-20A "Little Hellion" of the 89th Bomb Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group, was hit by some Japanese flak on its 12th combat mission This ruptured its hydraulic lines and the pilot was forced to make a gear and flaps up landing at 7 Mile airfield on 1 November 1942. The engineer's decided that "Little Hellion" was too badly damaged to fly again, so they decided to use parts of another wrecked A-20A from Kila Drome and the wreck of "Little Hellion" to make a "new" aircraft, - "The Steak and Eggs".
"The Steak and Eggs" was used to ferry liquor and fresh food from Australia. As the other two aircraft were written off, "The Steak and Eggs" did not officially exist, and hence little of her demise can be found in Unit records.
Joe and Kip - Two of the Makers of "Steak and Eggs
Photo:- via Steve Sorrells
Joe Long (on left) and Kip Hawkins
On 18 May 2011, I received an e-mail from Steve Sorrells of Comer, Georgia. He had found this web site about "Steak and Eggs" and thought he would share some information on two of the mechanics that put "Steak and Eggs" together.
Steve Sorrells lives in Comer, Georgia and said that he had recently bought a 1958 VW that had the original dealer sticker on the motor hood, Kip and Joe's in Holderness, NH. In March 2011 Steve and his wife up to Holderness to see what we could find out about the car.
Photo:- via Steve Sorrells
Original dealer sticker on the motor hood of Steve Sorrells' 1958 VW
They found Joe (Joe Long) still alive at 90 years young in Plymouth, NH. Kip Hawkins however had passed away a few years before. They sat down and talked with Joe and during the conversation about the car he told them the story about "Steak and Eggs".
Photo:- via Steve Sorrells
Kip & Joe's, Holderness in about 1955
Kip Hawkins was, according to Joe Long, one of the chief mechanics that cannibalized parts from other aircraft to build "Steak and Eggs". Joe was stationed with Kip and also assisted with the project but, according to Joe, Kip Hawkins was the real brains in putting it together.
Dick Kelly's father, John G. Kelly, was a pilot with the 89th on leave to Australia in early March of 1943. John G. Kelly did not like the big city of Sydney and liked Brisbane even less. He was glad to get back to New Guinea.
Dick Kelly, thought it strange that his generally amiable father had acquired such an impression of Sydney and particularly Brisbane. Dick has since read about the Battle of Brisbane story, which occurred on 26/27 Nov 1942. Dick now believes he understands why his father was miffed, and not knowing the complete story, offended by what he felt was a cold reception there.
On about 14 March 1943, John wrote that he, Lyon and Brown hitched a ride back to New Guinea on the "Steak and Eggs". He noted that on the way back the oil cooler broke but it did not seem to affect the running of the engine. He wrote on 10 June 1943 that he took "Steak and Eggs" 30 miles to get some bananas.
On 13 July 1943, he wrote that he, Lt. H.D. Brown, Sgt. John Dugan, and another Sgt. were to take "Steak and Eggs" to Brisbane to pick up some A-20's. What he thought was to be a trip of a few days lasted six or seven weeks. He states that while he was in Brisbane "Steak and Eggs" was there to have an engine replaced and the paint was removed making it silver and faster.
In September 1943 He mentions Major Good bringing cases of gin back in the "Steak and Eggs". His last mention of "Steak and Eggs" was in November 1943 as being flown back from Australia by Lt. Hayes Brown. Dad left in late January 1944 without further mention of "Steak and Eggs".
THE STEAK AND
by Peter White
Throughout the months June, July and August 1942, the 89th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bombing Group, based at Charters Towers in Queensland, was preparing to enter combat. During August the Squadron and its Douglas A20 attack Bombers worked closely with No 30 Squadron (RAAF) Beaufighters in combined training operations in the Townsville Area.
After running three practice missions with the Beaufighters, the 89th and its A 20s departed for Papua New Guinea on August 29th 1942, landing at 3 Mile Strip, Kila Port Moresby. One of these A20s, serial number 40-166, was flown by Lt. Fred Klatt and earned the nickname “Little Hellion”. It was to have a remarkable life and rebirth.
Two days later “Little Hellion” together with 12 other 89th Squadron A20s carried out the Squadron’s mission, a coordinated strike with B26s from the 22nd Bomb Group against Japanese held Lae, PNG’s second largest city. At noon just as the B26s had completed their bombing run at 6000 feet, the thirteen A20s swept in from the west at low altitude, attacking grounded aircraft, vehicles and buildings, severely damaging several Zero fighters and a Val dive bomber. All aircraft returned safely to the 3 Mile Strip, thus completing the first A20 mission in the South West Pacific during World War Two.
Over the next two months, “Little Hellion” took part on many bombing and strafing missions against enemy positions. On November Ist, “Little Hellion” carried out its thirteenth and last combat mission, with Captain D Williams at the controls.
It was part of a formation of A20s from the 89th Bomb Squadron designated to strafe the runaway at Lae. As the aircraft commenced their strafing run, about 20 Japanese Zero fighters intercepted. During the resulting melee, “Little Hellion” was damaged, Captain Ford nursed the aircraft back to the Seven Mile Strip, at Port Moresby. Considered a write off, it was moved to the dump area, to be used as a source of spare parts. In early December 1942, the Commanding Officer of the 89th, Captain Christian Petri, came across the scrapped aircraft. “Little Hellion” was inspected, and found to be not as badly damaged as first thought. It was towed to the Three Mile strip, and positioned on empty oil drums. Other 20s yielded vital parts to complete the rebuild. More than two thousand pounds of surplus weight, including armour plate, guns, bomb racks and ammunition feed trays were removed.
New engines were installed, followed by a coat of foliage green paint. After two months of oil and sweat, that was conducted between normal maintenance work on the Squadron’s combat aircraft, it was rolled out for the first test flight on February 4th, still wearing the Air Force identity 40-166. After a short ceremony, naming the aircraft “ The Steak and Egg Special”, in honour of its intended role of flying in from Australia, much needed fresh vegetables, eggs and meat, Captain Petri took the aircraft off on its first flight.
A number of teething problems delayed its first flight to Australia. Finally, on February 21, 1943, “The Steak and Egg Special” with Lt. H Brown at the controls, left for Australia carrying two men on leave, and the messing officer with two hundred pounds cash, to refurbish the Squadron’s larder.
The aircraft returned on the 24th, and over the next few days the squadron personnel gorged them selves on the steak, fresh fruit and vegetables, much to the envy of other squadrons in the area. The “Steak and Egg Special” departed on it’s next run to Australia on February 28th and returned to Moresby on March 18, bringing with it copious quantities of liquid refreshment as well as some solid food. This resulted in one of the best parties held since the Squadron left the United States.
Over the next six months, “ The Steak and Egg Special” plied her trade regularly between Port Moresby, and Australia, although some flights were not without some problems, such as leaking fuel tanks, hydraulic problems and plenty of oil leaks.
"The Steak and Egg Special" before it had its paint removed and was renamed "Steak and Eggs"
In about August 1943, “The Steak and Egg Special” had the paint removed, and the aluminium highly polished, making it an extra fast aircraft, being able to fly in formation with P38 Lightnings. Its name was then changed to “Steak and Eggs”. Being the only A20 in the South West Pacific in natural metal colour had its advantages. On a flight to Sydney in November, its Pilot, Capt. H.D. Brown, following a dare by Lt. Lauer sitting the nose section, flew “Steak and Eggs" beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, before landing at Mascot. Several minutes later a B26 Marauder from the 22nd Bomb Group, also landed, and as this aircraft was in its natural metal finish, the blame for Brown’s act was directed at this hapless aircraft and it’s crew.
“Steak and Eggs” continued to ply her trade from Port Moresby to Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. When the Squadron moved to Nadzab in 1944 “Steak and Eggs’followed. (After all, the squadron’s personnel considered it was the most important morale booster in the Squadron).
Finally its luck ran out. On June 11th 1944, whilst on another run to Australia, engine trouble ended the days of “Steak and Eggs”. The aircraft was successfully crash landed on a low wooded island, north east of Cooktown. A passing Australian freighter picked up the crew. Only one crew member suffered slight injuries, during the crash landing.
Thus ended the career of a remarkable aircraft.
Subject: Steak and Eggs
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 17:53:08 EDT
Dear Mr. Dunn,
I stumbled on your web page, and found the story of the Steak and Eggs Special. My father, Augustine D. "Gus" O'Donnell, was a member of the 89th bomb squadron, and worked on this airplane as a flight engineer or mechanic.
On one occasion, he flew to Australia on a "supply" run. The plane broke down in Australia, and it took several weeks for parts to arrive. My father repaired the plane, and flew with it back to New Guinea. It was one of the few stories of the war that he would share with us. If you knew my father, I would be interested in hearing anything you remember of him during this time.
Daniel J. O'Donnell
Subject: Steak and Eggs special
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 12:36:14 EDT
Dear Mr. Dunn,
Thanks for your reply! The flight my dad took was to Sydney. The pilot on the flight was George F. O'Neal, and they landed at the Mascot Aerodrome.
Lt. O'Neal and my dad stayed at the Haymarket Hotel on the trip. Dad was dating an Australian girl at the time, I think her name was June Doyle. The entire right engine had to be replaced, and it took six weeks for it to arrive from Hawaii. Later, the 3rd Bomb Group commander, Col. Jock Henebry, came to inspect the plane. It was quite an experience for him.
If you wish, I will send you an electronic copy of the story. My father passed away three years ago, but my sister had him tell the story for the record a year before.
I wish you all the best, and I sincerely thank all the people of Australia for the hospitality you showed the americans during and after the war!
PS - Good luck in the Olympics!
The following two stories about A-20's and especially the Steak and Eggs Special" were supplied to me by Dan O'Donnell, son of Gus O'Donnell.
Ferrying the A-20
By Gus "ADOD" O'Donnell
I enlisted at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis a few months before Pearl Harbor. From there I went to Delgado Trade School in New Orleans, to learn the mechanics of plane engines. I excelled at this (graduating 23rd out of a class of 25), and when I got my diploma, they sent me on to Savannah, Georgia to complete my training on detached service.
I wasn't supposed to end up with the 89th Attack Squadron. I went to Savannah expecting to be assigned to the 16th Bomber Squadron. After the hour-long trip from New Orleans, I was met at the depot by a little man driving a very big truck. Musselman, as he proved to be called, told me as we drove along that he could drive "just about anything." But he had to pause in his bragging every now and then as he strained down to reach the clutch.
When I got to the base, no one knew what to do with me. It seemed the 16th had already left for the West Coast to embark for the Philippines, and I was just too late to join them. "Send him to the 89th," someone said finally, and once more I had a chance to admire Musselman's driving. It was late by then, so the squadron clerk found me a bunk and I turned in.
I expected to be put to work on the planes, but instead it was anything but. Part of the time I spent at the guardhouse - at, not in - as a guard, patrolling inside the stockade. The rest of the time I spent in real GI work - digging ditches and doing K.P. I didn't mind the digging, since I'd done a lot of shoveling coal for my dad at the lumberyard. I was usually the only one working at digging, but I liked joking with the kibitzers.
Later, though, I got assigned to Staff Sgt. Senn, who was crew chief for a new plane - the A-20 Havoc. Nobody knew much about it yet - how to work on it or how to operate it - so we mechanics were going to be trained by a rep from the firm, using the new manual.
We GIs sat around on the floor while the lecturer explained the "PD" carburetor and its linkages, and the venturi tubes. All at once I realized that what I had learned at Delgado was not quite what the Sergeant was telling us. Being a smart alec, I couldn't resist raising my hand. "Excuse me, sir," I said to the NCO, "that's no longer true. At Delgado, the most recent developments ..."
I held forth for awhile, impressing everyone except Sgt. Senn. After he dismissed us, the other mechanics gathered around, asking questions. I basked in the attention, thinking I'd really made my mark and that I'd be on a crew in no time.
The next day, I was back on K.P.
It wasn't that long, however, before I got assigned. Some of the squadron were going to New Hampshire, to bring back several A-20s to Georgia. I was to go along to Manchester to help ferry one of the planes to Savannah.
One of the first things was to get all my flying gear together - heavy, thick jacket, pants, and boots, topped with a fur-lined cap. From now on, I was told, I would need to keep all this together and take it with me wherever I went if there were any chance I'd be flying. It seemed pretty bulky, and, in Georgia, downright unnecessary. But I was assured I'd need it later, when we were at 30,000 feet.
Ten officers and men, including me, set out for New Hampshire on the Silver Zephyr from Savannah to New York City. The Zephyr was about as plush as you could get, and we really enjoyed the trip - me and my buddies Harris Ward and Ford. The major who was going to fly our plane back was a great guy too - when I came into the dining car for breakfast, he sat with us and began to describe the sights of New York City. "I grew up there, son," he said, "and it's a great place. Wait till you see Grand Central Station!"
It was impressive, all right. It was also about the only part of New York we saw, since we started out on the next leg of our journey right away. This time we went by air, a C47 to New Hampshire. Waiting at La Guardia, I got to see a jumbo seaplane set down and come in up a ramp. To a land-locked Iowa boy, that was the most exciting thing yet.
We enjoyed a meal on the C47, served by a pretty stewardess wearing a silk scarf. She told us it was part of a parachute used by a Marine NCO when he'd had to bail out for some reason. She was quite proud of it, and I'm sure all of us new airmen considered getting some parachute silk of our own, to adorn the necks of pretty girls. Especially if we could get it without bailing out.
I was having a pretty good time, but by the time we got to Boston I was regretting that meal. During the two-hour wait for the final flight to Manchester, I sat in the airport feeling restless and miserable. The major came over to check me for fever, but I didn't want to miss the departure and said I was OK. I sure hoped I wasn't going to get sick every time I flew!
Luckily I made it to New Hampshire with the rest, without getting sick. We were to spend the night in the Manchester barracks, but first Ward invited some of us on a side trip. His folks lived about fifteen miles away, so we rented a car and set out. To me, the New Hampshire landscape looked bleak, spare and rough; it was covered with snow and after Georgia it was bitter cold. But the Wards' welcome was warm and friendly, and more than made up for the climate. We had a pleasant evening, then started back to the barracks, stopping along the way to roll back the speedometer.
The next morning we stood around in the cold, watching the Manchester crew working feverishly to prepare the A-20 we were to take back with us. "Sonny" Craig of the 89th was to be the pilot, and a master sergeant from Manchester was coming along too. This sergeant was running the whole show, getting the plane fueled, testing the engines. Craig stood by observing, dressed in his flight gear. I had my gear on too, and the thought of being part of a real aircrew was exciting. At last the master sergeant shut off the engines and turned to Craig. "She's all yours, sir!" he said.
Craig, an old time cavalry officer, was more than ready to go. While personnel from the base all gathered around to watch, we climbed in and took our places, me in the nose compartment, too excited to be scared at my first trip in a military plane. The snow cleared from the runway made a sort of tunnel down which Craig gunned the plane, in a take-off that seemed rough enough to shake me out of my shoes. Once in the air, flying down the coast, I could see why we had to wear all that heavy gear - it felt at least 40 below! Luckily, I was too excited to be either scared or sick.
We passed Boston, and landed in Newark, New Jersey, supposedly to refuel and check the plane. Craig, however, took off again almost at once. "Plenty of gas," he said. "Let's see what it can do." He fitted the popular picture of pilots as mavericks that could be rough on planes, pushing the limits. He was going to ferry the A-20, but he was also going to check it out.
From my place in the nose, I could see it getting darker and darker. On one side was the empty horizon of the ocean, and on the right, the approaching lights of Washington, D.C. All at once there was bright daylight as the searchlights of Bowling Field found us. As we curved in to land, the Washington Monument stood out below.
We landed safely, but as Craig shut down the engines one of them backfired, spraying the cowling (and one of the ground crew) with oil. One of the pilots with us, Captain D. P. Hall, left us to continue the journey in a plane of his own. The rest of us, meanwhile, got cleaned up and prepared to spend a night seeing Washington - all except Hanby, who spent most of the night working on the engine and cleaning out the oil tank. My own evening didn't work out much better - I had plans, I had the number of a pretty girl in Washington, but I didn't have any money, at least not beyond the basics - and I'd borrowed that from Hanby. So I had to content myself with a phone call to the girl and a sandwich at the field.
In the morning, before we prepared to take off once again, we spent some time looking around Bowling Field. It was a showplace then, a beautiful setup with all the modern equipment. As at Manchester, crews stood around watching as the A-20 was prepared. It was bitter cold - 10 below - and the engine didn't want to cooperate. The batteries were getting pretty low by the time the engine started, and it shuddered violently each time Craig gave it some gas. They finally had to resort to a heater before the oil warmed up enough to let the engine run smoothly.
The flight from Washington to Hunter Field in Savannah was the last leg of the journey. The A-20 was supposed to be the fastest new plane, and there were a few bets being taken as to how soon we would get to Georgia. Once the engines were going, Craig was anxious to take off. Someone from Bowling handed him a flight plan with his ETA for Savannah, but after a single glance at it he tossed it out the door and it fell to the ground. The crewman picked it up, looking surprised, and started to hand it to me. Everyone else was scrambling into their places in the gunners' seats, and I had gotten the hatch to the nose compartment open prior to climbing in. Being a nice guy, I took the paper and then had to scramble in myself as Craig gunned the engines impatiently. All my heavy flying gear slowed me up so that I barely had time to get the hatch closed before the brakes were off, the flaps down, and we were zooming down the icy runway with Craig ignoring the flight plan, the tower, and the radio.
Thankful that I'd gotten in before the prop could make hamburger out of me, I settled into my bucket seat. We were flying pretty low today; I could see the ocean below, looking misty at the horizon. I was almost sorry we would be getting back to Savannah soon; this had been a real adventure for me. However, since we had only been able to bring back two planes instead of the ten we went up for, maybe I would get the chance to go again.
We landed triumphantly at Hunter, and my adventure was over. The only sour note was that I couldn't pay Hanby back; for some reason connected with my transfer to the 89th, I didn't get paid between November and March!
A month later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Captain Craig gathered us together. "Gentlemen," he announced, "in twenty-six days we will embark for the Pacific from San Francisco." We all felt pretty grim as we got our gear together and waited for our turn to call home. Of course we couldn't tell our folks much - just that we would be moving out. Once again we would be ferrying the A-20, but this time to war.
Last Days of the Steak and Eggs Special
By Gus "ADOD" ODonnell
Ernie Nennemann and I had flown out to a base in New Guinea one day, giving and AP writer a ride, and as we were waiting for the plane to be refueled, we stood around talking. Ernie and I were both from Iowa, and had gotten friendly, so I told him about a girl in Australia I had met, and how I was thinking seriously about asking her to marry me. Ernie mentioned that the Steak and Eggs Special went to Sydney, Australia for extras like beer, phonograph records, and other treats, and that a different crew went along each time. "Keep me in mind next time you make a trip, I said casually.
Ernie was a busy guy, so I didnt really expect that Id get on the Special. Not too long after that, however, there was my name on the assignment board to go to Sydney with Steak and Eggs. George F. ONeal was the pilot. "Have a little fun," the engineering chief told me. "Take some time for yourself if you get the chance." We got into that old A-20 Steak and Eggs and set out for the overnight trip to Sydney.
The flight over was serene, with the Pacific below and, over the radio, the song from Casablanca, "As Time Goes By." We flew into Sydney on a rainy day, and as we passed the Sydney Bridge it seemed we were the only plane around for miles.
At the Mascot Aerodrome the permanent personnel chocked our wheels. As soon as I could I checked into the Haymarket Hotel, a cheap but clean place, and I called my girl. George and I had to spend some time that night getting our ship ready for the return trip the next day, as well as getting the supplies we had come for, but we managed to get in some dancing and champagne in town.
It wasnt until the next day that the blow fell - my girl told me shed been seeing someone else, and it was all over for us. Sadly, I went back to the ship to help load our cargo.
We had two passengers along for the return trip, a nurse and a Marine major, the major covered with a poncho against the rain. He sat in back over the tunnel door, while the nurse settled on the deck behind the pilot. Disappointed in my girl, with champagne fumes still bubbling in my head, I settled down for the long trip back to New Guinea.
Then ONeals voice crackled over the intercom. "ODonnell! Were losing power from the right engine, and the oil pressures dropping," he said. "See if you can check it out."
I looked out. Oil was pouring out of the right engine over the cowling and nacelle at a great rate, and I wasnt surprised when ONeal called again to say the oil pressure was dropping pretty fast. "We need to set down somewhere," I told him.
We headed back toward Sydney. I thought about the sharks we had heard about outside Sydney Harbor, and tried to plan how we could get the nurse and the major out and still get out ourselves, along with our life raft and the two Mae Wests we carried.
Once again we passed Sydney Bridge through a thick, misting rain, hoping that both engines would keep going until we made it to Mascot at last and started down. On the approach, the wheels were down and the engines were low, when suddenly ONeal threw the engines wide open. We were coming in too slow, and had to come around again. Finally we were on the ground, with the personnel chocking the wheels after we had taxied over to the parking area near the tower.
I got out and started to work on the engine. Oil was still leaking out through a crack in the oil cooler, and I could see that the ring and cowling were burned. I told the major it would be at least tomorrow before we could leave. That was the only time one of my planes had to abort. Once again I checked into the Haymarket Hotel.
The next day I resumed work, installing a new oil cooler, with the help of two of the civilian mechanics from the Aerodromes permanent crew, who said they were called Bill and "Arry." After the oil cooler was replaced, we started the engine up for its pre-flight test. Smoke poured out all over the engine.
We found that the number one cylinder wasnt firing, and there was no compression in any of the other cylinders either. The nearest replacement cylinder was in Brisbane, so we sent for it and settled in for "a few more days." The major and the nurse, needless to say, found another ride.
Unfortunately, the new cylinder didnt help. We discovered the entire engine was burned out and would have to be replaced - from Hawaii Air Depot. It was going to take two or three weeks for it to arrive, so we covered the ship with canvas and left it parked next to the tower.
Some of my wait was spent on Sydney beach, but when I needed to go to the Aerodrome I called the military motor pool, where one of the drivers was a beautiful blonde. But at last the engine arrived and was installed. Since ONeal had gone back to New Guinea, I asked for a test pilot to give it a test hop. "Stick around tomorrow," the master sergeant at the Aerodrome told me. "The Third Group commander is coming in from New Guinea tomorrow."
By now it had been nearly six weeks since I had set out on Steak and Eggs for an overnight stay in Sydney. I got word that I was going to get jumped on for spending that much time in Australia, when I should have been back in New Guinea.
When the B-25 "Fat Cat" rolled in the next day, I was there, ready to go. The Fat Cat pulled in next to the Steak and Eggs, and I stood at attention, waiting to be pounced on by Colonel Jock Henebry.
Henebry emerged from the ship and marched over to me. "Who are you, soldier?" he demanded. "Is ODonnell here?"
"Tech Sergeant Augustine D. ODonnell reporting, sir!" I replied, trying not to quake.
"Whats the story on this airplane?" the Colonel barked.
I gave it to him. "This plane was out of commission for about four weeks, sir. First we landed here from New Guinea, then when we took off to return, we aborted due to oil pressure falling in the right engine. We replaced the oil cooler that was causing the problem, and then the number one cylinder blew and was replaced after a long wait. During pre-flight testing, the right engine lost compression on all cylinders, so we had to get a new engine delivered from Hawaii Air Depot. That took at least two weeks, sir."
The Colonel blinked. "Well, is it ready to go NOW?"
I looked him straight in the eye. "Yes, sir! Were waiting for a test hop, but it should be ready to take us all the way back home."
"All right! Get back up there - were leaving tomorrow."
So, my "overnight stay" ended at last. A couple of pilots already in Sydney rode back with us, one of whom sat back with me and rejoiced all the way that he was going home.
Back in New Guinea, the engineering chief called me over. "When you left," he said, "I know I told you to take some time off if you got the chance. But ODonnell," he roared, "this is ridiculous!"
Subject: A picture to post
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 12:32:07 EST
Thanks for posting my father's stories on your page. Looking over the stories, and comparing other sources on your site, I suspect that some of the names in the story may be incorrect. When my sister recorded the stories, my dad was in the latter stages of Parkinson's disease, and was very difficult to understand. I hope readers will forgive him.
I have attached a picture of my dad in his flight jacket standing next to a friend. If any of your readers recognize the friend, I would love to hear from them.
Thanks again for the wonderful site. My family appreciates it.
Augustine D. "Gus" O'Donnell (on the left) and M/Sgt Lewis D. McConnell, Jr.
There has been considerable confusion about the location of this crash. There is a "Low Wooded Island" approximately 27.5 miles NNE of Cooktown and a "Low Woody Island" which is located 66 miles SSE of Cooktown has added to the confusion.
1. Crash No. 7 of the Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia list shows wreckage of an A-20 Havoc, of USAAF was located on the north west coast of Low Woody Island. Date of crash unknown.
2. Ben Cropp has advised that he has found a little bit of wreckage on NNW side of Low Woody Island and a piece of alloy on E side he saw many years ago which could have been carried there to add to an old shack once there. There is a lot of rubble movement on NW side which may have covered things up. He has walked the entire island many many times and not seen anything else except for two mines which he discovered and the Navy blew one up.
3. Anthony Malloch finds and photographs wreckage of an aircraft on "Low Wooded Island".
4. Dick Hutchison advised he has a number of photos of an RAAF party examining a Boston wreck which he believes was situated on " a low woody island".
5. Gordon Birkett told me that "Steak and Eggs" forced landed on Low Woody Island near Cooktown.
Out of all of this I have decided that the most likely location for the crash of A-20 "Steak and Eggs" is Low Wooded Island the island closest to Cooktown out of the two possibilities.
SOURCE:- Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia
Crash: No. 7
Department of Aviation Chart No: 3112
I'd like to thank Alan Clay, Gordon Birkett, Dan O'Donnell, Anthony Malloch, Dick Hutchison, and Dick Kelly for their assistance with this web page.
The Forgotten Fifth
A Classic Photographic Chronology of the
Fifth Air Force in Action in the Pacific in WW2
By Michael Claringbould
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 12 June 1999
This page last updated 19 May 2021