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  A-20A "Strawberry Roan" Serial Number 40-173  
5th AF
3rd BG
89th BS

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3rd BG c1943

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Aaron Reynolds 2015
Pilot  1st Lt. William Langley (survived)
Gunner  SSgt William M. Sherman (survived) Hague, NY
Ditched  April 22,1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas Aircraft Company. 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.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 89th Bombardment Squadron (89th BS). Nicknamed ”Japanese Sandman”. Later, assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Jarrett B. Roan with crew chief Sgt Thomas Clark, Jr. with assistant crew chief Pvt Ascension M. Mata. Renamed "Strawberry Roan" by Roan who had red hair with the nose art of a Pegasus flying horse. Below the pilot's window was painted "Pilot 1st Lt. J. B. Roan, Crew Chief T. Clark Assistant [Crew Chief] A. Mata". During September 1942 began operating from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby.

On April 20, 1943 this A-20 experienced problems with one engine cutting out and was serviced. At the time, regular pilot Lt. Roan was on leave in Australia.

Mission History
On April 22,1943 took off from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. William Langley with gunner SSgt William M. Sherman on a strike against villages south of Duali. After take off, the formation strafed the Moresby Wreck (SS Pruth) to test their guns and this plane was accidentally hit by bullets from another plane that cut the oil line to the right engine and knocked out the hydraulic system. Unable to open the bomb bay or lower the landing gear, Langley ditched into Bootless Bay.

Fates of the Crew
Both crew survived the landing unhurt and began swimming ashore. Locals in a canoe paddled to them to help them ashore and both returned to duty.

This A-20 is intact on a sandy bottom at a depth of 18.3m / 60' inside Bootless Bay off Loloato Island.  The nose is covered with coral forward of the cockpit canopy. The tail section is at a depth of 18.9m / 62'. The right engine nacelle cone is slightly broken and the nose cone is broken off to the right side of the plane. The rear canopy is open and both .30 caliber machine guns remain in situ and remain movable in their mount.

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.

Glen Sherman (son of William M. Sherman)

Note, other sources give three other dates for the ditching including April 21, 1943 (lost on a training or non-combat mission, incorrect) or April 23, 1943 (date incorrect) or April 26, 1943 (date incorrect).
John Kelly Diary - April 1943 [Pilot, 89th Bombardment Squadron] lists crashed as April 22, 1942 [sic 1943]
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 [1943]."
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)
FindAGrave - William M Sherman (grave photo)
Thanks to Neil Whiting, Michael McFadyen, Michael Claringbould, Edward Rogers and Glen Sherman for additional information

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Last Updated
May 23, 2023


Tech Info

Photo Archive

Map 1994

18m / 60'
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