On Wednesday 4 February 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Vern Head and 23 other pilots of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron Provisional received their new P-40E Kittyhawks (Warhawks) at Amberley Airfield, west of Brisbane. 1st Lt. Grant Mahony, the Commanding Officer of the squadron had just received orders to lead his newly formed squadron to Darwin for a later move to Java.

Vern Head felt comfortable that his P-40, was in good shape, whoever he was concerned about many of the other P-40s which had been poorly assembled. It took them all day to get them in some sort of readiness for flying all the way to Darwin.

At 8:30am on 5 February 1942, 1st Lt. Mahony led half of his new squadron and Al Strauss led the other half of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron from Amberley on this first hop to Charleville.

At about 11 am on 5 February 1942, a USAAF P-40 Kittyhawk (Plane No. 13) piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Ralph G. Martin (0-424979) of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) crashed at Charleville Airfield in Queensland. Another group of the remaining P-40s from the 3rd Pursuit Squadron had arrived at Charleville earlier that morning led by 1st Lt. Grant Mahony. 13 Enlisted Men from the Squadron travelled with the P-40s in a C-53 transport.

After rolling out barrels of fuel and hand pumping the fuel themselves, the remaining P-40s took off from Charleville at about 1 pm for Cloncurry arriving there at about 4 pm. One of the P-40s flown by Wade Holman turned around for some unknown reason and attempted to return to Amberley Airfield.

On 5 February 1942, Pilot Wade Holman made an emergency landing in his P-40 at Bowenville about 16 miles south east of Dalby beside the railway line on the property called "Girraween" which was owned by the Kummerow family. Bowenville is located 7 1/2 miles north west of Jondaryan and about 330 miles east south east of Charleville. When the Kummerow family became aware of the emergency landing in their paddock that they knew as Reynold's Paddock, the P-40 had already taken off again. On 24 August 2016, 94 year old Charlie Kummerow went down the the location the P-40 had landed and found wheel tracks still there in the damp soil.

Wade Holman continued to have engine problems with his P-40 and after only about another 7 1/2 miles he made an emergency landing in his P-40 at the Berrybush on the corner of Evanslea Road and West Prairie Road about 10 miles SSE of Bowenville and 6 Miles SSW of Jondaryan.

Lieutenant Carl Parker Gies (0-407083) was sent to Jondaryan from Amberley Airfield to repair Holman's P-40. On Friday 20 February 1942, 10 year old Len Hamlyn remembers observing a single P-40 Kittyhawk circling the small town of Oakey which was located about 12 miles ENE of the earlier forced landing at Berrybush. Len could heard the engine spluttering. Lt. Gies brought the P-40 in for a belly landing in a lucerne paddock on a farm east of Devon Park Road where it meets Cooyar Road which is more or less where the Oakey military base is located today. The paddock was on the farm "Woodbine" owned by Jack and Edna Bach. The plane was damaged considerably particularly one of its wings.

William Bacon made the following entries in his diary on 20 February 1942:-

"Stan (Bacon) was sowing oats in the 75 acres."

"I went to Oakey to do a few jobs in town. I met Clarry (his eldest son from Bowenville) in Oakey and we were having a good yarn when a Yank air plane stalled and landed in Bach's Paddock. Connelly (George Connelly, the Oakey mechanic), Clarry and I went out to see what happened."

"He was not hurt but got a shaking."

William Bacon's 1937 Studebaker was used as "the search and rescue vehicle." William later told his son Stan "I picked up an American pilot who had made a forced landing and took him into Oakey to get help."

The American pilot told William "The area would make a good place for an airfield." He proved to be correct as work began late in March 1943 to build No. 6 Aircraft Depot RAAF and two runways in that location.

Many of the local boys turned up to inspect the American P-40 Kittyhawk. Dick Henry claimed a piece of aluminium as a souvenir. Len Hamlyn shared a third of his treasure.

As word spread through the region, almost half of Oakey's population arrived to look at the crashed aircraft. Rod Harvey's parents Victor and Lydia Harvey drove all the way from Westbrook to see the damaged aircraft.

Lt. Gies asked Oakey Policeman Sergeant Logan to place a guard on the aircraft. Roy Dawon was given a 303 Lee Enfield rifle, minus bullets and instructed to guard the aircraft. The ammunitions lockers in the P-40s wings were fully loaded. Roy Dawson guarded the aircraft for eight days before he was relieved by someone else.

The damaged P-40 was dismantled and taken to Amberley on 4 March 1942 in a joint USAAF/RAAF effort .

Lieutenant Carl Parker Gies (0-407083) had been involved in an earlier crash at Rockhampton Airfield in central Queensland on 16 January 1942.



Every Day a Nightmare
American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942

by William H. Bartsch



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This page first produced 13 September 2019

This page last updated 02 February 2020