ON 31 JANUARY 1942

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R3D-2 (a variant of a DC-5), BuNo 1904, msn 609 is widely reported on the internet has having crashed on an island off the Australian coast after being shot down by a Japanese submarine on 31 January 1942. However a few sources state that it was destroyed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

James Sawruk contacted me on 13 June 2023 and advised that the BuAer History card for BuNo 1904 shows that it was assigned to VMJ-252 and was destroyed by fire on 7 December 1941 and STRICKEN on 13 January 1942. The destruction during the Pearl Harbor attack occurred at the Marine Base at EWA on Oahu. It would appear based on these two official records that it did not crash on an island off the Australian coast on 31 January 1942.

R3D-2 #609 was delivered to US Marine Corps (USMC) on  11 September 1940 and was assigned to Marine Utility Squadron Two (VMJ-2) at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, in the Territory of Hawaii. VMJ-2 was redesignated as VMJ-252 on 1 July 1941. The aircraft was reportedly transferred to the Pacific area shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.

The R3D-2 is a military version of the DC-5 built for the US Marine Corps as 22-seat paratrooper version. Only four R3D-2s were built. R3D-2 was apparently stricken from inventory on 31 January 1942. # 610, #611 and #612 were all retired in October 1946.

My friend Douglas Campbell sent me the following information on R3D-2 BuNo 1904:-

Info on R3D-2 BuNo 1904

On December 7 1941 the Marine Utility Squadron 252 based at Ewa, Hawaii, had two R3D-2 aircraft in their inventory, BuNo 1904 and 1905. In their War Diary for July 1942 and further out they started out each month by listing their inventory of aircraft which included R3D-2 BuNo 1905. Never 1904. And here is the message traffic from Commandant Marine Air Group (MAG) 21 to OPNAV:

“Following airplanes destroyed or damaged by fire during Japanese aerial attack on Ewa Field, Oahu, Dec. 7:-

F4F-3 9 destroyed, 2 minor overhauls
SBD-1 10 destroyed, 13 major overhauls
SB2U-3 8 destroyed
R3D-2 1 destroyed
JRS-1 1 destroyed
JO-2 1 destroyed
J24-4 2 destroyed”

So we can conclude that BuNo 1904 was outright destroyed, was never repaired nor sent to Australia, nor shot down by the flak from a Japanese sub. It would be interesting to find where this story originated! But I would have to also trust the Aircraft Historical Card which also states “Struck Off Charge” – removed from inventory (damaged beyond economical repair/destroyed). Good luck for anyone searching for this aircraft, but one would think if the story was true we would have read articles about it, that Japanese submarine websites would note it, etc. Nothing.



I'd like to thank Douglas Campbell, James Sawruk, Joe Baugher and Geoffrey Luck for their assistance with this web page.


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


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This page first produced 25 November 2010

This page last updated 14 June 2023