ON 23 OCTOBER 1943


At 1930 hours on 23 October 1943, the Volunteer Air Observer Corps informed the Controller at 3 Fighter Sector Headquarters in Townsville of a message from Mackay Control of a B-24 forced landed at 0915 hours in a cane field at Sarina. I believe 3FSHQ worked in Z time or Greenwich Mean Time.

A B-24J Liberator, most probably #42-73120, that had just arrived in Australia via New Caledonia made a forced belly landing in a sugar cane field near Sarina in north Queensland on Saturday 23 October 1943. None of the crew were injured during this forced landing.  The belly landing was made at night time after encountering bad weather and running out of fuel.


Photo:- The Mirani Museum

The Sugar Cane B-24 Liberator


Two USAAF officers from Texas, 1st Lt. Charles B. Nunn and Captain John Donald Ewing and their trained crews were responsible for the recovery of the damaged B-24 Liberator. Lt. Nunn was first on site with his crew and despite the mud was able to jack up the aircraft and lower the wheels. Then Captain John Ewing moved in and removed the gun turrets and armament to reduce the weight, changed the bent propeller and got the B-24 ready for takeoff. Repairs were also carried out to the belly and nose of the aircraft.

The men worked in the muddy field and rain to clear a runway on a hard beaten cow path. They cleared trees and undergrowth, filled in holes blasted tree stumps with dynamite, removed 500 fence posts and leveled a rudimentary runway.

Somewhere between Tuesday 2 November and Friday 5 November 1943, the B-24 Liberator, which by then had been nicknamed the "Sugar Cane Liberator", was refueled and the engines started. It managed to take off successfully from the improvised airfield.

Since the aircraft was on its delivery flight it would have most likely still been assigned to Air Transport Command (ATC) at the time of the crash. On arrival it would transferred to 5th Air Force Air Service Command at No. 2 Air Depot in Townsville who would have serviced it, pooled it, modified it where required for local needs and then transferred it to the first bomb group which needed a replacement aircraft


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Story of the B-24 Liberator crash in the cane field


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Rest of the article


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I'd like to thank Nev Allan, Susan Ewing Wolfe, Bob Livingstone, Pete Johnston and Gordon Birkett for their assistance with this web page.



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This page first produced 2 July 2009

This page last updated 02 February 2020