ON 14 JUNE 1943


Still the Worst Air Disaster in Australia

B-17C Flying Fortress


USAAF B-17C-BO (Model 299H) Flying Fortress #40-2072, "Miss Every Morning Fix'n" (or "Miss E.M.F"), of the 46th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 317th Troop Carrier Group, based in Mackay crashed at Bakers Creek near Mackay on 14 June 1943. It crashed on what is now the site of the Thomas Borthwick's Abattoir, killing 40 of the 41 service personnel on board. 


The only survivor of this tragic crash died on
Wednesday 4 February 2004 in Wichita Falls, USA

Foye Kenneth Roberts, 83 years old, passed away on 4 February 2004 at Wichita Falls, USA.

His funeral service was held at 2pm on 6 February 2004 in the Chapel of Hampton Vaughan Crestview. He was interred at Crestview Memorial Park. 

Foye married Vera Gillon in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on 21 April 1945. He retired as an accountant with Burk Royalty Company in 1978.


bak01.jpg (174667 bytes)

bak02.jpg (145399 bytes)

Two photographs of the crash site.

Photograph Credit:-  "Lawrence Keating Coll. via Lawrence J. Hickey."


qld46-64.jpg (69544 bytes)

qld46-65.jpg (98764 bytes)

qld46-66.jpg (77426 bytes)

The above 3 Photographs
via Nev Allan in Mackay


At Baker's Creek, 60 years after the tragic crash

Left to right:- Del Sparrowe (replica concept/creator), Mikey Johnson (sculptor), Professor Robert Cutler (linked to tragedy through late father who closed the door on the aircraft for its doomed flight),  Col Benson (Organiser for the 60th Anniversary Commemoration) and Graham Sutton (Mackay City Council).

Centre background:- Vice Commander US Fifth Air Force Brigadier General Vern M. "Rusty" Findley USAF and former Commander US Fifth Air Force Lieutenant General John B. "Skip" Hall USAF (Ret.)


Small Badge worn by the Baker's Creek Pilgrims
at the 60th Anniversary Commemoration on 14 June 2003


"Mackay's Flying Fortress"
"Remembering Australia's Worst Aviation
Disaster in World War Two"

by Robert S. Cutler


B-17C Bronze Replica erected on 13 June 2003


More Photos from the 60th Anniversary Commemoration
in Mackay, Queensland, 12 - 16 June 2003


B-17C Flying Fortress #40-2072 was initially based at Clarke Field in the Philippines and was damaged in a Japanese attack on 25 December 1941. It participated in attacks on the Japanese landing parties in the Philippines. It received over 1,000 hits from Japanese gunfire during these attacks. It was subsequently involved in the evacuation of 28 pilots from Del Monte when the Philippines collapsed. 

#40-2072 was subsequently repaired and converted to a passenger aircraft to ferry American service personnel from New Guinea to Australia for rest and recreation leave. After the B-17 took off from Mackay, the pilot lopped back around to "over-fly" the airfield. This was fairly common practice amongst many pilots. The B-17 crashed before it was able to "over-fly" the airfield.

Paul Maynard, a B-17 crew chief from Sloan in Iowa and Richard Klahs helped load the bodies of the deceased onto a C-47 aircraft. Many of the families of those killed in the crash never heard the details of how and where their loved ones were killed. One family was told their son had walked into a propeller. Many others were just told they had been killed in action in the south west Pacific area. The circumstances of this tragic crash were never reported in America. Perhaps the Government feared that it would hurt the sales of War Bonds. Paul Maynard believes the crash was due to pilot error. He believes that the pilot flew too low for the size of the aircraft. A Mackay Police Report stated that witnesses saw a fire before the crash.

In December 1942, the 317th Troop Carrier Group received orders to ship overseas and were issued all new C-47s. Upon arrival at Townsville, the 317th traded their new C-47's with aircraft of the 374th Troop Carrier Group as it was being stationed in the Port Moresby area.

The 46th Troop Carrier Squadron was left with a "hodgepodge" of aircraft. Old DC-3 converted airliners, a Dutch Lockheed Lodestar, an LB-30 and the B-17C #40-2072 "Pamela" of the 21st Squadron of the 374th Transport Group. It was renamed to "Miss Every Morning Fix'n" (or "Miss E.M.F").


HISTORY OF #40-2072 (From Bob Livingstone)

VHCBA 2073 Boeing B-17C-BO (Model 299H)

#40-2072 USAAF

10/41 19BG US-PI Lt Al Mueller

08/12/41 escaped Japanese attack by being at Del Monte

18/12/41 Del Monte-Batchelor;Lt Mueller

24/12/41 Batchelor-Del Monte

25/12/41 bombing mission Del Monte-Davao-Del Monte;Lt Mueller; DAM by EA, 2

gunners wounded; 1 EA

reported SD

25/12/41 Del Monte-Batchelor; non combat-worthy;

used as RB-17C tpt


17/04/42 21TS "Pamela"

12/11/42 374TCG

21/11/42 flew in 2nd 105mm Howitzer Archerfield-Townsville-Moresby

07/12/42 first B-17 to land Dobodura

01/43 46TCS 317TCG; op from Mackay with B-17E VHCBC

& RLB-30 VHCBM on furlough flights Moresby-Mackay

14/06/43 Crashed Bakers Creek on t/o Mackay;40 of 41 killed;

worst transport crash in SWPA


Photo via Gordon Birkett

B-17C-BO Flying Fortress VHCBA "Pamela"


Photo via Gordon Birkett

B-17C-BO Flying Fortress VHCBA "Pamela"


NOTE:-   Ross McNeill,, advised me on 20 June 1999 that he had found the following information in official records:-

B17C, Serial # 40-2072 was originally assigned to the 19th Bomb Group, Clarke Field, Philippines. It was damaged in an attack on 25th Dec 1941. It was repaired and then used as transport aircraft. It crashed at Mackay, Queensland, 14 June 1943.


Looking at Michael Claringbould's book "The Forgotten Fifth" it shows that B-17, #40-2072 was "Pamela" of the 21st Squadron, of the 374th Transport Group. Peter Nielsen's book "Diary of WWII - North Queensland" states that it was part of the 46th Troop Carrier Squadron which was part of the 317th Transport Group.





ABRAHAM, Jerome Pfc 49th Fighter Grp, HQ Sqn FLORIDA
BERTHOLD, John O. Capt 49th Fighter Grp, 8th Fighter Sqn NEW YORK , Woodlawn National Cemetery, Elmira
BRIGGS, William A. T/5 478th Service Sqn, 1037th Signals HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
BUSSE, Dean H. Sgt 35th Fighter Grp, 40th Fighter Sqn, COLORADO, Hillside Cemetery, Julesburg
COPELAND, James A. T/Sgt 8th Service Grp, HQ Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
CUNNINGHAM, Carl A. Sgt 49th Fighter Grp, 8th Fighter Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
CURTIS, Lovell Dale (Crew Chief) S/Sgt 317th Troop Carrier Grp, 46th Troop Carrier Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
EHRMAN, George A. T/5 5th Fighter Command, Signal HQ Company CALIFORNIA, Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno
ERB, William C. (Co-Pilot) F/O 317th Troop Carrier Grp, 46th Troop Carrier Sqn CALIFORNIA
FINNEY, James E. Pvt 27th Depot Repair Sqn PENNSYLVANIA
FLETCHER, Leo E. Sgt 38th Bombardment Grp, 405th Bombardment Sqn KENTUCKEY
FREZZA, Alfred H. T/Sgt 27th Depot Repair Sqn PENNSYLVANIA (Altoona?)
GIDCUMB, Vern J. Jr. (Pilot) 1/Lt 317th Troop Carrier Grp, 46th Troop Carrier Sqn ILLINOIS, Wolf Creek Cemetery, Eldorado
GOETZ, Norman J. Pfc 480th Service Sqn ILLINOIS, St. Mary's Cemetery, Evergreen Park
HATLEN, Roy A. S/Sgt 35th Fighter Grp, 40th Fighter Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
HILSHEIMER, John W. S/Sgt 35th Fighter Grp, 40th Fighter Sqn VIRGINIA, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Meyer
JOHNSON, Vernon Pfc 440th Signal Battalion, Company A HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
KYPER, Donald B. Sgt 38th Bombardment Grp, 405th Bombardment Sqn PENNSYLVANIA, Riverview Cemetery, Huntingdon
LaRUE, Charlie O. Sgt 49th Fighter Grp, 8th Fighter Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
LONGABAUGH, Raymond D. Pvt 842nd Aviation Engineer Battalion HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
MANN, Kenneth W. Pfc 36th Service Grp, 374th Service Sqn MISSOURI, Jefferson City National Cemetery, Jefferson City
METZGER, Marlin D. Cpl 374th Troop Carrier Grp, 6th Troop Carrier Sqn NEBRASKA, Hillcrest Cemetery, Omaha
MONTGOMERY, Charles D. Pvt 49th Fighter Grp, 7th Fighter Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
OGREN, Jack A. (Navigator) 2/Lt 317th Troop Carrier Grp, 46th Troop Carrier Sqn Unsure - thought to be OHIO (Army records not located)
PARKER, John W. Pfc 809th Chemical Company SOUTH CAROLINA
PENSKA, Frank S. Pfc 374th Troop Carrier Grp, 6th Troop Carrier Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
POWELL, George N. Maj 49th Fighter Grp, HQ Sqn VIRGINIA, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Meyer
RUDNICK, Anthony Sgt 565th Signal Battalion, Company A NEW JERSEY, Beverly National Cemetery, Beverly
SAMPSON, Charles W. Cpl 8th Service Grp, 11th Service Sqn NEW YORK
SEIDEL, Arnold Pfc 5th Air Force, 415th Signal Company MINNESOTA, Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Sth Minneapolis
SKAGGS, Jacob O., Jr. Cpl 27th Depot Repair Sqn OKLAHOMA
SMITH, Franklin F. Cpl 38th Bombardment Grp, 405th Bombardment Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
SMITH, Raymond H. Cpl 35th Fighter Grp, 40th Fighter Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
SWEET, Frederick C. Pfc 481st Service Sqn, 46th Ordinance Company MICHIGAN
TENNY, Edward Cpl 479th Service Sqn WEST VIRGINIA, Big Bend Cemetery, Upshur County
TILESTON, David E. (Radio) Sgt 317th Troop Carrier Grp, 46th Troop Carrier Sqn HAWAII, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu
Van FOSSON, Dale Pfc 8th Service Grp, 1160th Quartermaster Company WEST VIRGINIA, Grafton National Cemetery, Grafton
VAUGHN, Ruben L. Pvt 5th Fighter Command, HQ Sqn TEXAS
WHELCHEL, Frank E. (Crew Chief) S/Sgt 374th Troop Carrier Grp, 22nd Troop Carrier Sqn GEORGIA, Lyons City Cemetery, Lyons
WILLIAMS, Charles M. Pfc 455th Service Sqn MISSOURI

© 1996-1999. MR. C.E. (Col) Benson, 19 Mengel Street, Mackay, Queensland, Australia, 4740, MR. T. (Teddy) Hanks, 7585 Burkburnett Road, Wichita Falls, Texas, U.S.A. 76306. With due acknowledgement this may be reproduced in part or in full for non-profit purposes honouring the memory of American servicemen killed at Bakers Creek, Queensland, Australia, on 14 June 1943. A plaque on the Bakers Creek Memorial with these names was unveiled on 14 June 1995. Annual parades are held, and Australian and U.S. Flags are flown daily, weather permitting.

Major George Powell was the much admired Group Executive and former Fighter Control Commander of the 49th Fighter Group.

Gene Hilsheimer has confirmed that his uncle John W. Hilsheimer is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Gene and his family lived in Arlington, Virginia for a number of years. Gene's father, James Martin Hilsheimer, was John William Hilsheimer's brother.  Nobody ever referred to him as John. He was always known as William. Back in the 1960's, when Gene still lived in Arlington, his grandmother would travel from Huntington WV around Memorial Day, to stay a few days with them and visit William's grave. Gene has visited the grave many times.



Source: Teddy W. Hanks, June 2, 2002

The 40 casualties of the B-17C (40-2072) plane crash at Bakers Creek in Australia 

(14 June 1943) came from the following 24 states within the continental United States.

They are:

  1. ARKANSAS - Sgt. Carl A. Cunningham – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

  2. CALIFORNIA - T/5 George A. Ehrmann – Golden Gate Nat’l Cemetery, San Bruno, CA 

                             - F/O William C. Erb – Pomona Cemetery, Pomona, CA

  3. CONNECTICUT - Sgt. David E. Tileston – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

  4. COLODARO - Sgt. Dean H. Busse – Hillside Cemetery, Julesburg, CO

  5. FLORIDA - Pfc. Jerome Abraham – Riverside Memorial Cemetery, Jacksonville, FL

  6. GEORGIA - S/Sgt. Frank E. Whelchel - Lyons City Cemetery, Lyons, GA

  7. ILLINOIS   - 1/Lt Vern J. Gidcumb - Wolf Creek Cemetery, Eldorado, IL

  - Pfc. Norman J. Goetz – St. Mary’s Cemetery, Chicago, IL

  - S/Sgt. Lovell D. Curtis – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

  8. KENTUCKY  - Sgt. Leo E. Fletcher, Crayne Cemetery, Crayne, KY

                            - T/Sgt. James A. Copeland – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

                            - Pvt. Raymond D. Longabaugh – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

  9. MICHIGAN  - Pfc. Frederick C. Sweet - White Chapel Cemetery, Oakland County, MI

10. MISSOURI - Pfc. Kenneth W. Mann - Jefferson Natl. Cemetery, Jefferson City, MO

                           - Pfc. Charles M. Williams - IOOF Cemetery, Charleston, MO

11. NEBRASKA - Cpl. Marlin D. Metzger - Hillcrest Cemetery, Omaha, NE

12. NEW JERSEY - Sgt. Anthony Rudnick - Beverly National Cemetery, Beverly, NJ

                               - Pfc. Vernon Johnson – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

13. NEW YORK - Capt. John O. Berthold - Woodlawn National Cemetery, Elmira, NY

                            - Cpl. Charles W. Sampson - Calvary Cemetery, Port Leyden, NY

14. NORTH CAROLINA - Cpl. Franklin F. Smith – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

15. NORTH DAKOTA - Maj. George N. Powell - Arlington National Cemetery, Ft. Myer, VA

16. MINNESOTA - Pfc. Arnold Seidel - Ft. Snelling Natl. Cemetery, Minneapolis, MN

17. OHIO - 2/Lt. Jack A. Ogren – (cemetery unknown)

18. OKLAHOMA - Cpl. Jacob O. Skaggs, Jr. - Rose Hill Cemetery, Tulsa, OK

19. PENNSYLVANIA - Pvt. James E. Finney - Laurel Hill Cemetery, Erie, PA

                                     - T/Sgt. Alfred H. Frezza - Calvary Cemetery, Altoona, PA

                                     - Sgt. Donald B. Kyper - Riverside Cemetery, Huntingdon, PA

                                   - Pfc. Frank S. Penksa – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

                                   - Cpl. Raymond H. Smith – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

20. SOUTH CAROLINA - Pfc. John W. Parker - Greenlawn Memorial Park, Columbia, SC

                                       - T/5 William A. Briggs - National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

21. TENNESSEE - Pvt. Charles D. Montgomery - National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

22. TEXAS - Ruben L. Vaughn - Rabon Chapel Cemetery, Montgomery, TX

                   - S/Sgt. Charlie O. LaRue – National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

23. WASHINGTON - S/Sgt. Roy A. Hatlen - National Cemetery of the Pacific, HI

-     24. WEST VIRGINIA - Cpl. Edward Tenny - Big Bend Cemetery, Upshur County, WV

                                  -  S/Sgt. John W. Hilsheimer - Arlington National Cemetery, VA

                                  -  Pfc. Dale Van Fosson - Grafton National Cemetery, Grafton, WV



John M. Harsh  is related to Dale Van Fosson, one of the victims of this accident. Dale died before John  was born but John used to visits Dale's 88-year-old brother whenever he can. Dale was John's maternal grandmother's first-cousin, so that makes Dale John's first-cousin, twice removed. 

Dale's family had believed that he had died in a B-24 Liberator crash in New Guinea until John found my home page.  Beyond that, John only knew that he was in the Quartermaster Corps and that he was buried in the National Cemetery in Grafton, West Virginia. 



Subject:     Military Aircraft
Date:              Thu Mar 04 17:14:25 1999
From:            Col Benson <>

G'Day Peter

A quick reply to say I have your e-mail. Rather busy on all fronts so may be  a few days before I get to answer you better.

The USAAF B-17C crashed near Mackay at Bakers Creek on 14 June 1943 with the loss of 40 American lives - as far as I can ascertain it was Australia's worst air disaster in terms of lives of which little was known outside of Mackay because of wartime censorship until I got a few minutes on "Australia All Over" about four years ago (before Macca cut me off because he only lets people talk about Aussie things!)

There is a Memorial about 1km from the crash site - nothing remains of the crashed aircraft. The Memorial lists 40 names of those killed plus a sole survivor.

There is another in the District of which little is known - a Wirraway that crashed to the south of Mackay while heading north circa 1941. Two aboard - the young pilot succumbed to burns in Mackay District Hospital several days later. I am not researching that one - our Mackay Sub Branch RSL President is.

I am after as much info as is available about Beautiful Betsy B-24 that crashed Feb 1945 near Biloela. For an ex-RAAF pilot friend who searched for  the plane for years, and has been interested in others in the NT, as well as the B-24 that crashed on Hinchinbrook Is. further north.

Talk to you later

Col Benson



Subject:    Baker's Creek
Date:             Thu May 13 14:20:20 1999
From:           Col Benson <>

G'Day Peter

We had a parade at the Bakers Creek Memorial yesterday with about 30 sailors and marines and their colours from USS Harpers Ferry, in port, on its way back to the USA from duty in the Gulf.

Since I don't have a web page and don't have the time to use one of the freebies, I wonder if you could post some pictures and material about it.

Some pix are last year's parade, and in a day or so I will get yesterday's film processed, as well I have the police report and some other documents - and could add a brief story that is on the parade programme, etc.

I've had a query of doubt from a 1-star general who flew B-17s who says 41 persons could not have been aboard. So, I have the casualty list, police report, etc., that I'd like him and a host of others to see. A web site rather than closed e-mail is the best option.


Col Benson



The following appeared in a local paper in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:-

30 June 1996
by Ken Blanch


b-17a.jpg (20276 bytes)

B-17 Flying Fortresses


Fifty-three years after it happened, secrecy still cloaks the details of Australia's worst air disaster in which 40 men died near Mackay.

Because of wartime censorship, the outside world was given no news of the horrendous crash at Bakers Creek on June 14,1943.

And now researchers on both sides of the Pacific are trying to piece together what happened the day a Flying Fortress laden with crew and leave-expired soldiers crashed into bushland minutes after taking off from Mackay airport.

One man miraculously survived the plane's plunge to earth. He was Foye Kenneth Roberts, who still lives in Wichita Falls, Texas.

But for the 40 other American servicemen on the big aircraft, death was instantaneous.

Gavin Souter, who was a child living in Mackay at the time, recalled the crash in his book "The Idle Hill of Summer - an Australian Childhood, 1939-45".

"The Fortress had caught fire in the air, and as it dived into the trees one of its wings came away leaving a great opening in the fuselage through which most of the passengers were emptied into the bush before the final impact."

A memorial bearing the names of those thought to have died in the crash now stands at the site; the American flag flies over it daily.

But details of the cause of the disaster elude the efforts of Mackay RSL historian Col Benson and fellow researcher Teddy Hanks, of Wichita Falls, Texas.

A comprehensive casualty list was never compiled and because the accident did not occur in a combat zone, there are no reports of it in official records.

A Queensland police officer did write a detailed report at the time that included eyewitness accounts of the crash, but Mr Benson has so far not been able to locate it.

"I am collecting information about the tragedy for the benefit of residents of Mackay and district who were never officially informed of its cause or extent, and for the families of victims I might contact during the search," Mr Benson said.

"I have been searching for a complete list of victims' names since May, 1992, and this has led me to work closely with Mr Hanks in Texas and Mr Harry Segal of the Franklin Science Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to try to solve the mystery of the crash.

"Relatives of the dead were told at the time only that they had died in an air crash somewhere in-the south-west Pacific.

"The victims were buried in Mackay and my goal as honorary Mackay RSL historian is to identify all victims of the crash to complete the Bakers Creek memorial; discover facts surrounding the crash; and document the American involvement in Mackay during World War II through men who were either stationed here or on furlough from the war zone."

The US Army considers that a list of 40 dead researched by Ted Hanks contains names of probable victims, but perhaps not all the victims.

The sole crash survivor, Foye K. Roberts, has not been able to speak for the past 18 years. That is his legacy from the crash.

Foye, now 75, was the only survivor among the 41 American servicemen aboard the troop-carrying Flying Fortress.

He suffered head injuries that were not diagnosed at the time and lost his speech after lifesaving brain surgery in 1978.

Foye spoke from his home in Wichita Falls through his Australian born wife, Vera, of his miraculous survival.

He could not, he said, recall anything of the actual crash.

It was only after he returned to America that doctors discovered he had suffered brain injuries that were at that time inoperable.

He endured many years of pain before new techniques allowed surgeons to deal with an aneurism in his brain.

The operation saved his life, but robbed him of his ability to speak.

In Australia, a Mackay woman has kept a ring that belonged to a victim of the crash for 53 years in the hope of being able to return it to his relatives personally.

And now she knows the ring was a high school graduation piece that belonged to World War II soldier Tech Sgt Alfred H.Frezza, of Altoona , Pennsylvania.

Mrs Mavis Doolan, of Mackay, was only 11 when she found the ring in the mud after a thunderstorm at the scene of the crash some weeks later.

"It was traced back to T/Sgt Frezza by Col Benson, who is researching the crash on behalf of the Mackay RSL, through one of his friends in America," Mrs Doolan said.

"I had hoped to be able to hand it to T/Sgt Frezza's sister, Mrs Sylvia-Turchetta, who still lives in Altoona.

"But now I have health problems and would not be able to travel to the US. I have spoken to one of T/Sgt Frezza's sisters, but they, are too old to travel to Australia."



Mavis Doolan found the ring in the mud at the crash site at Bakers Creek, about six months after the tragic crash. The ring carried the words "Altoona High School" and "1938". Mavis's mother told her that she could not give the ring to anyone else until she found the rightful owners. Mavis kept the ring in a jewellery box in her top drawer. When Mavis heard that Col Benson was researching the crash at Baker's Creek, she contacted Col and sought his assistance in tracing the relatives of the owner of the ring. Col found that there was a Pennsylvania high school at Altoona whose assistant principal, Terry Ianuzzi, was the nephew of Alfred Frezza who was tragically killed in the crash at Bakers Creek. Col Benson visited the USA in September/October 2003 to attend the reunion of the 46th Troop Carrier Squadron in September 2003. While in the USA, Col presented the ring to the family of Alfred Frezza.



Subject:   B-17
Date:           Fri, 24 Mar 2000 21:46:59 -0500


My Father was in the 46 Sq of the 317th. I recently received a group of letters from a Bob Sutherland who was a crew chief from the arrival of the Group in Australia. In one letter written in the 1980's, he refers to a crash of the B-17 you refer to. He says that when the 317th arrived, the 374th took their C-47's and gave them their tired old transports and converted bombers in return. That may explain some of the confusion of whose plane was whose. He comments on the bad engines and dilapidated conditions of the aircraft.

He refers to his making a list of all of the men who died during the war and goes on to say "We lost a B-17 at Mackay, Aust. early on, with the crew and ninety (?) passengers. We had a detached segment of the 46th stationed there, hauling rest leave personnel between Mackay and Moresby. They were using a B-17 and an LB30 for that purpose. The B-17 struck a tree on takeoff and we lost six good men."

That sounds like your plane to me! I'm sure the number of passengers is due to time taking its toll. I'm trying to find out if Mr. Sutherland is still around, and anything else I can. If I find something else soon, I'll be in touch.

I hope this does some good.

Phil Brinson



Subject:    B-17C crash at Bakers Creek - 14/6/43
Date:             Fri, 11 Aug 2000 20:42:38 EDT
From:           Del Sparrowe (

I just found the story you put on the internet about the B-17C that crashed at Bakers Creek near Mackay, Aust. I was one of the assistant crew chiefs assigned to that plane. I just missed that fatal flight as S/Sgt Dale Curtis and I flipped a coin to see who would be taking the flight. I just returned from a trip to Australia. I was in attendance at this year's Bakers Creek Memorial Ceremony, June 4th.

During the past nine months, I have become re-acquainted with the time I spent working and flying on #40-2072. These are some of the things that I remember:

In December 1942 the 317th Troop Carrier Group received orders to ship overseas and were issued all new C-47s. Upon arrival at Townsville the 317th traded planes with the 374th Troop Carrier Group as it was being stationed in the Port Moresby area.

The 46th T. C. Sqdn. was left with, you might say, a "hodgepodge" of aircraft. Old DC3 converted airliners, a Dutch Lockheed Lodestar, an LB-30 and the B-17C. The B-17C came with a pilot, Captain Slingsby, and a crew chief, S/Sgt Frank Welchel. At one time the plane may have been named "Pamela", but I believe Capt. Slingsby renamed it "Miss E.M.F." (Every Morning Fix'n"). When we first got the 17, we were stationed in Townsville and for every eight hours of flight we spent almost eight to ten hours on maintenance. I'm not sure if the plane was in that bad a condition or we were rather inexperienced. Perhaps a little bit of both although we soon the ins and out of the B17 and most of it's idiosyncrasies. By the time we were transferred to Mackay, in early March, the plane was running well and only required routine maintenance. Captain Slingsby was, I believe, in his early 40s and had at least 15 years experience as an airline pilot. He left the squadron around the end of May and Lieutenant Gidcumb, who was Slingsby's co-pilot, took over as pilot with Flight Officer Erb as co-pilot.

The plane was grounded toward the end of May for an engine change. The replacement engine was an overhauled engine which "Burned-out" during its test flight. We then received another overhauled engine which also failed. The colonel in command of A. T. C. (Australian Transport Command) then ordered a new engine. Everything checked out perfectly after it was installed. My personal opinion is that the accident was pilot error, and I'm not alone with that. We knew and flew with these pilots and knew their actions.

We believed that instead of making a 90 degree turn to the right for a straight course to New Guinea, they were making a 270 degree turn to the left so that they could over-fly the field. This was not an unusual maneuver. Remember, 90 percent of the pilots were under the age of 25 and eighteen months before many were having to beg father to borrow the car and now - - - here they were flying a B-17 and they wanted the world to know it.

This a rather long e-mail but I thought I'd give you my ideas of what went on.

Del Sparrowe
871 Cordilleras Drive
Sonoma, CA. 95476 or



Subject:   WW II B-17C Air Crash at Bakers Creek, Australia
From:           Robert S. Cutler <>
Date:           Saturday, October 28, 2000 9:51 AM

Dear Peter --

Thank you for establishing a web site to commemorate the B-17C air crash at Bakers Creek, Qld., Australia, on 14 June 1943.

Recently, several American veterans and family relatives of the B-17C crash victims, formed an organization -- Bakers Creek Memorial Association (USA).

The purposes are:

1. to publicize the Bakers Creek Air Crash story within the United States

2. to assist the work of Mackay RSL Historian, Colin Benson, to locate family relatives of the B-17C air crash victims

3. to raise funds to donate a scale-model replica B-17C to the Bakers Creek Memorial, in Australia, for the 60th Anniversary Commemoration scheduled for 14 June 2003.

Attached are two photographs which may be posted on the web site.

a. B-17C Flying Fortress (circa 1940) Photo: National Air & Space Museum

b. USAF "Act of Remembrance" (4 Jun 2000) Photo: Colin Benson

Thank you.

Robert S. Cutler
The George Washington University
Washington, DC (USA)


bak03.jpg (71135 bytes)

"A Simple Act of Remembrance"

Representatives of the U.S. Air Force, Col. Tim Murphy, 5th Air Force, and Col. Rick Lester, U.S. Air Attache at the American Embassy and, Australian Military honor guards joined with Mackay residents to remember the forty American servicemen who died in the B-17C Flying Fortress air crash at Bakers Creek during World War II.

Mackay, Qld., Australia
4 June 2000

Photo by: Colin C.E. Benson

bak04.jpg (33644 bytes)

B-17C Flying Fortress (circa 1940) Photo: National Air & Space Museum



Subject:    Bakers Creek Memorial ceremony, near Mackay QLD
Date:        Wed, 7 Jun 2000 20:05:00 +1000


G'day, once more ...

More clippings of ceremony, and my photo of special guests you are free to use.

Colonel Tim Murphy USAF, Mrs. Joan Moodie who reported the crash to police in 1943, Mr. Del Sparrowe former 46TCS, and Colonel Rick Lester USAF.

Col Benson
Mackay, Down Under

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Subject:    Christmas greetings from Down Under
Date:           Sun, 24 Dec 2000 19:53:34 +1000
From:          "Colin Benson"

To:               "Robert Cutler" <>,,,

Hello, friends,

Recently, I received a Colorado State flag from CDR Michelle J. Howard, CO USS Rushmore that visited Mackay in November 1999 to add to those we have to fly for the 40 US Warriors who died here in the 1943 plane crash.

I had CDR Howard, in company with a sailor from Illinois, present an Illinois State flag received from the Governor to our flag orderlies at the Bakers Creek Memorial. She enclosed a brief letter with the flag, and I have tried to reply to her ship by email but no response, yet. She said she was would try to get one, and so she did ... it came from people in Aurora, CO., her home town. I've had their names embroided along the edge and will be seeking some local ex-patriot Americans to got to the Memorial for a small presentation when I've rested a bit.

Look for a pix in future on my web page.

Hope to do some updating there in my holidays. Have had a report it hasn't come up for someone but I haven't had any trouble, so if you do, please let me know. From my web site, I received a card from Amber Kerr, who was guest speaker at the annual ceremonial parade in 1996. She is Australian born of American parents; currently at Standford university while her parentls live near Mackay. Amber said she did a search on her name and was thrilled to find it on my web site. While in S.F. one April, she had her mother drive her to the Golden Gate Cemetery to find the headstone of George Erhmann who was killed in the B-17C crash.

Enjoy your festivities.

Col Benson
Mackay, Down Under

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B-17 Flying Fortress #40-2072, "Miss Every Morning Fix'n"
lies under the Sydney Harbour Bridge



"Mackay's Flying Fortress"
"Remembering Australia's Worst Aviation Disaster in World War Two"

by Robert S. Cutler

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

"The Legend of Colin Kelly, America's first hero of WWII"
by Dennis E. McClendon's and Wallace F. Richards' 

NOTE:- This book separates the facts and myths of Captain Colin Kelly' of the 19th Bomb Group's actions in the Philippines on 10 December 1941. Captain this book offers interesting insight into the activities and events that #40-2072 participated in before being repaired and used as a transport aircraft.


Second Worst Air Disaster in Australia



I'd like to thank Paul McMillan and John M. Harsh for their assistance with the early history of this aircraft.

I'd like to thank Col Benson, Robert Cutler, Terry Geary and Gene Hilsheimer for their assistance with this home 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"
8GB USB Memory Stick

This page first produced 8 February 1999

This page last updated 02 February 2020