ON 19 MARCH 1942


RAAF Review of Walhalla Crash Site
BP7893191 dated June 2021


Profile:- Gordon Birkett

Profile of McLaughlin's P-40


During a return flight from Canberra to Laverton, USAAF P-40E Warhawk #41-5526 crashed into a mountain about 10 miles NNE of Walhalla (and SSE of Aberfeldy) in Victoria in bad weather on 19 March 1942. The wreckage of the Warhawk was not found until New Year's Eve 1948 by a man walking his dog. Captain Joseph Potter McLaughlin (Serial No. 0-396289) of the 20th Pursuit Squadron of 4th Air Depot Group USAAF at Laverton was killed in this tragic accident. McLaughlin's watch was recovered from the wreckage by one of the locals in the 1950's. It had stopped at approximately 10.30am. Another local recovered McLaughlin's engraved revolver.


Photo:- via Rick Hanning

Captain Joseph Potter McLaughlin


Photo:- via Rick Hanning

Cadet Joseph Potter McLaughlin


Captain McLaughlin in the Philippines in 1941



TO     :         Commanding Officer R.A.A.F. Station East Sale.

DATE :       1JAN.49



1.                                Accompanied by F/L W.R. FITTER and Cpl. HIRST E. I visited the scene of the reported aircraft crash near WALHALLA. The crash occured about 200 ft. from the top of a high unnamed peak (estimated height 2500') which rises from the south side of the A'BERFELDIE River valley at the A'BERFELDIE RIVER BRIDGE.

2.                                On inspection the aircraft was found to be a P40-E "KITTYHAWK". It was equipped with six BROWNING .5 Machine guns and carried an apparent full load of ammunition, A belly tank Part No. 75-45-433-50 Order No. W535 AC15802 Capacity 52 U.S. Galls. had been attached and was found about 15 yards from the crash. The tank showed no indication of fire although badly crushed and is presumed to have been empty.

3.                             From the position of the wreckage on the Southern side of the peak it is considered that the aircraft struck the ground heading in a N.E. direction, and was in a steep dive of about 45 degrees at the time of impact, at not an excessive speed, and with some power on. This opinion is based on the fact that the aircraft concertined on striking the ground burying the nose to a depth of only about four feet in loosely matted earth and sandstone rock - very little wreckage being scattered more than a few yards from the point of impact. One airscrew blade was visible and had a slight forward bend and was still attached to the boss on the engine. Fire had broken out but had been confined to the centre section and engine. All ammunition on the port side had been exploded but most of the starboard side was intact. No salvage of value is possible.

4.                                The few remaining bones of the pilot were removed from the ash, no identity discs were found but are possibly still in the ash which could not be thoroughly sieved owing to the heavy rain during the investigation. Several part plates were removed from various parts of the aircraft and are attached. The engine specification plate bearing the following numbers Air Corps or Bureau Model V-1710-39, Air Corps or Bureau No. AC41-36209, and Manufacturers No. 5842 was found in the ash of the centre section.

5.                                All live ammunition was buried and the Pilot's remains taken to R.A.A.F Station East Sale. The certificate of Burial is also attached.

6.                                A sketch showing the position of the wreckage is also attached.

7.                                The wreckage was originally discovered on 29Dec.48 by Mr. Daniel Vere FINLAY of 47 Belmont Rd. IVANHOE and reported to 1st. Constable HABERNAN J. of ERICA Police. The investigating party also included inspector ALLEN of WARRAGUL, 1st Constable COCKERELL C. and Constable GREGG, Mr T.H. BROWN Justice of the Peace of GOULD and members of a fishing party on the ABERFELDIE River.

Excellent co-operation and assistance was received from all concerned is particular from 1st. Constable HABERNAN, his knowledge of the country being invaluable.


G.C. McGilvray               
G.C. McGilvray F/L.               




Office U.S. Air Attache,
      414 Collins Street,
            MELBOURNE. Vict/.

1st. April, 1943.            

SUBJECT.    Remains of Captain Joseph E. McLaughlin.

TO.              Headquarters, R.A.A.F.,
                   Victoria Barracks,
                   MELBOURNE. S.C. 1.

1.          With reference to your radioes to Headquarters, U.S. Army, Pacific, dated 4th January and 7th January 1949, concerning the wreckage of a P-40-E aircraft discovered in the vicinity of Walhalla, the U.S. quartermaster General has indicated that the skeletal fragments recovered from this wreckage are believed to be the remains of Capt. Joseph E. McLaughlin, and wishes to negotiate for the return of these remains to Honolulu, T.H., for laboratory examinations for the purpose of identification.

2.          Information is requested as to the following :‑

(a)  What is the present location of the remains;

(b)  Can these remains be casketed in a simple temporary container complying with health and shipping instructions;

(c)  Can these casketed remains be made available for shipment to Hawaii at the expense of the U.S. Government;

(d)  What local governmental regulations and procedures should be complied with in this matter and what expenses will be involved other than transportation.

3.          It would be appreciated if this office could be advised concerning the requested information at your earliest convenience in order that we may notify the U.S. Quartermaster General.


                                  F.W. GILLESPIE
                                  Colonel. USAF.
                                  Air Attache.


Joseph McLaughlin was born on 26 October 1916 in Missoula, Montana, USA. He was a Test Pilot and Engineering Officer with the 4th Air Depot Group. His remains were returned to the United States in May 1949 and were classified as unidentifiable in October 1949. He is still officially listed as Missing in Action (MIA). The existence of his engraved watch and revolver would seem to indicate that he perished in this crash. McLaughlin is apparently mentioned in the book "Doomed at the Start" by William H. Bartsch (ISBN 0-89096-679-6).


vic77a.jpg (32220 bytes) Joseph P. McLaughlin's watch found in the 1950's
vic77b.jpg (67448 bytes) Wreckage of #41-5526, photo taken the first week in January 1949
vic77c.jpg (54101 bytes) .50 Calibre Machine gun at the crash site in January 1949
vic77d.jpg (38456 bytes) Identification tag from Oleo leg of #41-5526
vic77e.jpg (73879 bytes) Plaque on a tree at the crash site in November 1999
vic77f.jpg (73105 bytes) Piece of armour plate at the crash site in November 1999
vic77g.jpg (62350 bytes) Undercarriage with molten aluminium around it
vic77h.jpg (38291 bytes) V-1710 Allison V12 engine and bent propeller in 1949


The US Army JPAC team from Hawaii, "Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command" visited the crash site on 3 March 2004 to search for possible human remains.

vic77-01.jpg (30737 bytes)

JPAC team from Hawaii, "Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command"

vic77-02.jpg (26407 bytes)

JPAC team from Hawaii, "Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command"

vic77-03.jpg (22950 bytes)

JPAC team from Hawaii, "Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command"

vic77-04.jpg (29787 bytes)

JPAC team from Hawaii, "Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command"

vic77-05.jpg (30822 bytes)

JPAC team from Hawaii, "Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command"

vic77-06.jpg (24077 bytes) Captain McLaughlin's wings found at the crash site on 12 March 2004


Photo: Douglas Wells, nephew of Capt McLaughlin

Lt Gen Joseph Moore standing near the casket


Photo: Douglas Wells, nephew of Capt McLaughlin

Lt Gen Joseph Moore in the foreground


Photo: Douglas Wells, nephew of Capt McLaughlin

Leaving the Chapel


Photo: Douglas Wells, nephew of Capt McLaughlin

Caisson Guards at Capt McLaughlin's ceremony at
Arlington National Cemetery on the 10th April 2006


Photo: Douglas Wells, nephew of Capt McLaughlin

Carrying the casket


Photo: Douglas Wells, nephew of Capt McLaughlin

Firing Party


Photo: Douglas Wells, nephew of Capt McLaughlin

Honour Guard


Photo:- Rick Hanning

The Grave Marker for Captain Joseph P. McLaughlin at Arlington Cemetery Washington DC


Photo:- Rick Hanning

Rick Hanning beside the Grave Marker for Captain Joseph P. McLaughlin on 11 September 2007


The ceremony at Arlington was attended by Captain McLaughlin's family, Lt General Joseph Moore, Rick Hanning and friends. Lt General Moore, aged 92 years, was Joe McLaughlin's CO of the 20th Pursuit Squadron in the Philippines at Clark Field in 1941-42. Joe's older brother 2nd Lt.Robert McLaughlin was killed on the 8th June 1944 with the 505 Parachute Infantry 82nd Airborne. He is buried in the American Cemetery Colleville Sur Mur. Normandy France.


Photo:- Douglas Wells via Rick Hanning

L/R:-  Douglas Wells, Roberts Wells, Lt Gen Joseph Moore, Bill Norton, Rick Hanning, Greg Fahey
at the Sheraton Hotel Washington DC on the 10th April 2006 after Capt McLaughlin's ceremony
at Arlington. Douglas, Robert and Bill are nephews of Capt McLaughlin.



The above information and photographs were kindly supplied by Rick Hanning of Churchill, Victoria, Australia.


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This page first produced 8 Apr 2000

This page last updated 01 October 2021