CRASH OF A P-39 AIRACOBRA
AT MURDOCH POINT, QLD
ON 9 MAY 1942
On 9 May 1942, a P-39 Airacobra of the 35th Fighter Squadron, of the 8th Fighter Group crashed on a beach at Murdoch Point, north Queensland during a non-operational flight. The pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Richard L. Nowlin (0-426787), was killed.
Tim Ellerton told me that he has diary extracts of a sapper who was part of a team sent to recover serviceable parts from the wreckage of a P-40 Kittyhawk in which his uncle Flying Officer Ellerton had been killed when he crashed in the same area at Murdoch Point on 27 April 1942. Ellerton had been attempting to give assistance to the pilot of a USAAF P-39 Airacobra #41-7210 flown by Lt. William McGovern of the 35th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group, USAAF. This Airacobra was one of the eleven P-39 Airacobras which crashed on 26 April 1942.
The wreckage of Ellerton's Kittyhawk ended up about 400 yards from McGovern's crashed Airacobra. Nowlin's aircraft was the third aircraft to crash in the area. 2nd Lt. Richard Nowlin's Airacobra buzzed McGovern a number of days after Ellerton's crash, clipped a tree, and crashed into the sand dunes behind the beach and was killed. This is borne out by the molten aluminium evident at the site (more damage than a natural bushfire would inflict) and molten sections on the engine, which is under the custody of Don Sinclair.
2nd Lt. Nowlin had survived an earlier tragic flight on 26 April 1942, when 11 out of 15 Airacobras force landed during a flight from Woodstock airfield to Port Moresby.
2nd Lt. Richard Nowlin (35th Pursuit Squadron) and a Robert Love (36th Pursuit Squadron) were buried at the US Cemetery in Townsville on 7 November 1942. Love had months earlier been buried on a beach on 1 May 1942 by Lt. Yundt. after his Airacobra had crashed.
2nd Lt Nowlin's remains were later exhumed from his grave in the US Cemetery in Townsville in about July 1945 and were reburied at the US Military Cemetery Ipswich on 24 July 1945. He was later exhumed with all of the other American personnel buried at Ipswich and returned by ship to the USA where he was reburied at the Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, HI, USA, Plot A, Grave 547.
Photo:- via Edward Rogers
Grave stone for 2nd Lt Richard L. Nowlin
I'd like to thank Edward Rogers for his assistance with this web 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 24 September 2000
This page last updated 02 February 2020