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3rd BG c1943
|Pilot 2nd Lt. William Langley (survived)
Gunner unknown (survived)
Ditched April 22,1943
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-20A Havoc serial number 40-173. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 89th Bombardment Squadron (89th BS). Nicknamed ”Japanese Sandman”. Later, renamed "Strawberry Roan" after Lieutenant Bill Roan who had red hair. On April 20, 1943 this A-20 experienced engine problems with one engine cutting out and was serviced.
On April 22,1943 took off from Kila Drome (3-Mile) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. William Langley with an unidentified gunner on a training mission or test flight. While airborne, this bomber had hydraulic trouble and could not lower the landing gear and one engine cut out. Langley successfully ditched into Bootless Bay and was unhurt in the landing.
Fates of the Crew
The crew swam ashore and were returned to duty.
This A-20 is intact on a sandy bottom with the nose embedded into a coral reef inside Bootless Bay off Loloato Island. The nose is embedded into the coral reef ahead of the cockpit canopy at a depth of 18.3m / 60'. The tail section is at a depth of 18.9m / 62'. The right engine nacelle cone is slightly broke and the nose cone is broken off to the right of the aircraft. The rear canopy is open and both .30 caliber machine guns remain in place.
Since at least the 1980s, this aircraft has been known as a SCUBA dive site. The bomber is often dived by the local SCUBA diving community including Pro Dive PNG (The Dive Centre), Port Moresby Sub Aqua Club (POMSAC) and Loloata Island Resort. Often, the water visibility at the site is murky making photograph of the entire bomber difficult.
Some dispute the identity of this bomber and to date no photograph of the serial number, radio call sign or other definitive identification are known. Possibly, the were removed from the wreck by early divers and painted numbers have been erased by the passage of time. Some claim this bomber is a A-20A "Cindy" 40-176, but that bomber was raised to the surface and salvaged. All evidence points to this bomber being A-20A "Strawberry Roan" 40-173.
Note, other sources give different dates for the ditching including April 21, 1943 (lost on a training or non-combat f mission) April 22, 1942 (sic, date via John Kelly diary should be 1943), April 23, 1943 (date believed is accurate) or April 26, 1943 (date believed to be incorrect).
John Kelly Diary - April 1943 [Pilot, 89th Bombardmnent Squadron]
Michael Claringbould adds:
"The U. S. loss report writes off this aircraft on 23 April 1943, but in fact it was lost the day before, on 22 April 1943 (it is very common to see a one-day lag in US loss reports.) John Kelly's diary, which implies that 40-173 was on a test flight is correct. The ship was being tested after its engine problems of 21 April. John Kelly's diary, which implies that 40-173 was not returning from a mission, but perhaps from a training or test flight is correct the ship was being tested after its engine problems of 21 April ."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20A Havoc 40-173
"173 lost in combat Apr 26, 1943"
Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving Web Site - A-20 Havoc
Wrecks & Reefs Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (1994) pages 231-235 mentions this loss and includes photos
Alamy "Diver And Airplane Wreck" May 25, 2008 (photos)
Thanks to Neil Whiting, Michael McFadyen, Michael Claringbould and Edward Rogers for additional information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
18m / 59'
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