CRASH OF P-39 AIRACOBRA
NEAR TOLGA, QLD
ON 12 APRIL 1943
P-39D-1 Airacobra, #41-38398, from the 35th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group, USAAF, crashed 1.5 miles east and 0.25 miles south of Tolga in north Queensland at 1715 hrs on 12 April 1943. The pilot, Captain Thomas R. Jemison (0431887) from Spokane, Washington, was killed in this accident. Tolga is located about 5 kms north of Atherton.
Captain Jemison had taken off from his home Station at Mareeba airfield at 1620 hours on a local routine mission to "maintain individual pilot proficiency". The aircraft was in sight of the airfield until 1700 hours.
The "Report of Aircraft Accident" indicated that the aircraft was a complete wreck. Another report by 1st Lt. Don. C. Thomas described it as a "complete washout". The "Report of Aircraft Accident" stated that "Pilot went into a dive at approximately 7,000 feet, and failed to pull out". The Investigating team failed to find the true cause for the accident.
One of the witnesses of the crash was a G. Hudson whose statement read as follows:-
"Hearing a sound which appeared to me as a plane diving, I immediately saw a plane diving straight to earth. The plane did not straighten at any time and after emerging from a cloud dived straight to earth. Nose downwards in a spin. It appeared to me the engine was in motion at time of crash, whence, a high cloud of black smoke appeared followed by a flash of fire."
R.S. Crockett (CQ1200) of the Civil Construction Corps at Tolga, made his statement as follows:-
On the twelth day of April, 1943 at about 5 P.M. I heard and airplane roar overhead. When I looked up I saw the plane just breaking through the cloud that was overhead. The plane was in a fairly steep dive which began to shallow out as it neared the ground, and looked like it was going to pull out. The plane's engine was turning over at a very high speed and some smoke was visible trailing from the plane, but there was no sign of fire. I heard the plane crash about two miles from me. The plane was not in a spin, but an ordinary dive."
Constable Jack Francis Starkey (Constable No. 3518) of Tolga Police, made his statement as follows:-
"On the twelth of April, about five o'clock in the afternoon as I was sitting in my office I heard an airplane overhead which sounded to be stunting or anyway in a dive. As Air Observer of Tolga I hastened outside to investigate. I first saw the plane when it came out of a cloud and it was in a steep dive travelling at a high speed with power on. At the time there was a broken overcast around 3,000 feet."
"The plane continued the dive with a couple of gentle turns then crashed into the ground. I immediately notified the Atherton police sergeant to notify air flash Cairns and that I was going out to stand guard over the plane."
In his statement Corporal Harry A. Robinson (15085801), an Assistant Crew Chief with the 35th Fighter Squadron indicated that he was familiar with the mechanical condition of the aircraft and he knew of no defects of a mechanical nature which may have accounted of the aircraft accident. T/Sgt. Paul R. Kretzing (6895838) of the 35th Fight Squadron gave a similar statement.
2nd Lt. Robert E. Colgrave gave the following statement:-
"I hereby certify that I flew P-39D1 Aircraft, A.C. No. 41-38398 on the morning of April 12, 1943 between the hours of 0845 and 0945. This was the flight immediately preceding that of Captain Thomas R. Jemison.
"During the flight, this aircraft had no unusual flying characteristics. It was a good plane and seemed to be in good flying condition."
"It was on a diagonal only because the left parking brake did not hold."
1st Lt. Charles E. Kneen gave the following statement:-
"While flying P-39D1, A.C. No. 41-38398, I went into a slight dive with the rest of the flight. The plane would barely stay with the other ships, even with large increases in throttle opening above 220 MPH due to some excessive drag in the ship. The coolant shutters were neutral."
"The plane appeared stable under all other conditions of the flight."
Official USAAF records showed the pilot as Captain Thomas R. Jemison. Another source showed him as Captain Thomas S. Jamison.
I was contacted by Sharon Mayer on 27 May 2020. Sharon is the niece of Captain Thomas Richard Jemison. Sharon was very grateful that she had found this web page and discovered the true story about his death which differed from the stories she had been told as a child.
I'd like to thank Gordon Birkett and Tristan for their assistance with this home page.
"Attack & Conquer"
"The 8th Fighter Group in World War II"
by John C. Stanaway & Lawrence J. Hickey
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 23 September 2000
This page last updated 27 May 2020