ON 19 JANUARY 1944


On 19 January 1944, two A-20 Havocs left Townsville in north Queensland, probably Garbutt Airfield, headed for Gusap, New Guina via Horn Island and Port Moresby. The A-20 Havocs had just been assembled, probably at No. 2 Air Depot, near Garbutt Airfield after arriving in Townsville by ship from the United States. They were being delivered to the 386th Bomb Squadron of the 312th Bomb Group, of the 5th Air Force.

The crew of the two A-20 Havocs were as follows:-

1st Lt. John M. Huber (Pilot of #42-86724)
Thomas Smith (Gunner)

2nd Lt. Eliot R. Young (Pilot of #42-86620)
James Wannich (Gunner)

Once airborne from Townsville, 2nd Lt Eliot R. Young was not happy with the way his aircraft was flying. He signalled Lt. Huber to head for Cairns Airfield in far north Queensland to allow ground crew to look at the aircraft. 2nd Lt Young told the USAAF maintenance ground crew in Cairns that both his engines were running roughly. The ground crew were unable to find any problems with the aircraft.

The two A-20 Havocs took off again without refuelling. After taking off Lt. Huber began to fly directly west instead of NNW for Horn island.  2nd Lt Young signalled via hand signals to 1st Lt Huber several times to indicate he was heading in the wrong direction but 1st Lt Huber shook his head and kept heading due west. 2nd Lt Young gave up and followed 1st Lt Huber across the bottom part of Cape York. When 2nd Lt Young realised their fuel was running very low he decided to contact 1st Lt Huber on the radio and advise that he would have to make an emergency landing due to low fuel. Apparently all of his four fuel tank warning lights were glowing red. 

2nd Lt Young was able to perform a wheels up emergency landing on a beach on Bountiful Island to the east of Mornington Island in A-20G Havoc #42-86620. 1st Lt Lt. Huber then did a wheels down landing on the same beach in A-20G Havoc #42-86724 as he realised he was also very low on fuel. Bountiful Island is approximately 450 miles south west of Horn Island.


"Photo Courtesy of International Historical Research Associates"

Lt. John Huber's A-20 #42-86724 stuck in the
sand after landing on Bountiful Island


They were stranded for 10 days until they were discovered by a patrolling Catalina A24-56 (OX-B) of 43 Squadron RAAF on 28 January 1944. They were picked up from a small rubber dinghy 4 miles distant on bearing 152 degrees from Bountiful Island at 0230Z hours on 28 January 1944. The crew of Catalina A25-56 included as follows:-

Flight Lieutenant Albert Edgar Delahunty
Flying Officer Gibson
Flying Officer Clark
Flying Officer Jack Mackellar

The crew of the Catalina were returning early in the morning from a mission to Ambon. Crew member Flying Officer Jack Mackellar believed they had refuelled at Groote Eylandt. They usually flew at low level to Karumba. One of the air gunners called Fl/Lt Delahunty on the intercom that he had seen a dinghy in the ocean. A sceptical Delahunty agreed to turn around to check out the air gunner's chance sighting. To his surprise he spotted two small dinghies. They landed and picked up the very relieved 4 American servicemen.

The rescued crew members told the Catalina crew that they had stayed with their two aircraft for a few days but saw no one. They finally decided to head south in their dinghies to reach Australia. They had been paddling for almost a day and still were in sight of Bountiful Island when they were spotted by the RAAF Catalina.

The rescued men wrote their names on a paddle from the Dinghy which Flying Officer Jack Mackellar kept. They were flown to Karumba onboard the Catalina. They spent 3 weeks at Karumba recovering from their unwanted 10 day stay on a beach on Bountiful Island.


Photo:- Judith MacKellar via Eliot Young, Jr.

Flying Officer Jack Mackellar many years later with the paddle


Photo:- Judith MacKellar via Eliot Young, Jr.

The Paddle


Photo:- Judith MacKellar via Eliot Young, Jr.

1st Lt. John M. Huber's name can be seen at the top left of the paddle. The rest is a bit hard to read.


AWM Photo ID number NEA0318

Flt Lt Albert Edgar Delahunty (412117) of Moree, NSW, (left), and  Flt Lt Kenneth
Arthur Crisp (290789) of Nedlands, WA, Catalina pilots in Cairns on 12 January 1944


Photo:- from Judith MacKellar via Eliot Young, Jr.

Catalina Crews on the jetty at Groote Eylandt (a refuelling point for the Catalinas). Flying
Officer Jack Mackellar is standing far left and pilot, Bert Delahunty, is standing at far right.


The USAAF did attempt to salvage the two aircraft, however it was eventually decided to scavenge them for spare parts and abandon them on the beach. A team of Australian mechanics and natives removed the nose guns and other equipment


"Photo Courtesy of International Historical Research Associates"

Parts being salvaged from Lt. John Huber's A-20 #42-86724 on Bountiful Island



Rampage of the Roarin' 20's
The Illustrated History of the 312th Bombardment Group during World War II

Lawrence J. Hickey
Michael H. Levy
with Michael J. Claringbould


"Gusap and the Arrival of the Havoc"


The Crash Landing (on Pacific Wrecks)
by Eliot R. Young, Jr son of 2nd Lt Eliot Young



I'd like to thank Eliot Young, Jr., son of 2nd Lt. Eliot R. Young for his assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Judith MacKellar, daughter of Flying Officer Jack Mackellar, for her assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Scott Miller, Director of Research for International Historical Research Associates for his assistance with this web page.


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn 2015


Please e-mail me
any information or photographs

"Australia @ War"
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This page first produced 31 December 2009

This page last updated 05 March 2020