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  A-20G-25-DO "Big Nig" Serial Number 43-9436 Tail V
5th AF
3rd BG
89th BS

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RAAF October 1994

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Richard Leahy 1994

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Justin Taylan 2006
Pilot  2nd Lt. Thomas Reading (survived)
Gunner  S/Sgt Burke L. Cock (survived) Brownsville, PA
Force Landed  May 3, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-20G-25-DO Havoc serial number 43-9436. 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). Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. James L. Folse with crew chief R. J. Campbell. Nicknamed "Big Nig" with the nose art of a Damon Runyon inspired character on the left side of the nose painted by SSgt Tony Benson.

Mission History
On May 3, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Tom Reading (flying his 10th mission) with gunner S/Sgt Burke L. Cock on a strike mission against Wewak. Over the target, this aircraft was hit by ground fire that caused an oil leak and a broken crank shaft. Returning, this A-20 force landed into a fresh water swamp in the interior of New Guinea. Both of the crew survived unhurt.

Fate of the Crew
Afterwards, both crew members were rescued by a Stinson L-5 Sentinel from the 25th Liaison Squadron and returned to duty. Afterwards, Folse named his next aircraft A-20G "Big Nig II" and the his third aircraft A-20G "Big Nig III" 43-21315.

"Thomas Reading's cracked up A-20, 15 miles behind Jap lines. It has landed in kunai grass with several feet of water underneath. Tom and his gunner spent 23 days in this hole."

Until 1984, this A-20 remained in situ submerged in the Bumbura Swamp near Chugabaru with only the tip of the tail visible above the surface.

During 1985, Michael Claringbould convinced the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) that this A-20 was another complete A-20G Havoc worth salvaging. On November 20, 1985, RAAF No. 12 Squadron conducted a search using his co-ordinates and located the aircraft.

In October 1994, a team from the RAAF salvaged the A-20 using air bags to raise the aircraft to the surface of the swamp. When the nose was exposed, the nose art and nickname were still clearly visible. Inside the cockpit, 2nd Lt. Thomas Reading's flight goggles and thermos still half full of coffee were found. Afterwards, a Mi-26 Helicopter lifted the aircraft and transported it to Madang Airport. Later, shipped to Australia.

In Australia, this A-20 was placed into storage at RAAF Museum at Point Cook. Parts were used in the restoration of A-20 "Hell'N Pelican II" 42-86786 and DB-7 "J Is For Jessica" A28-8.

In late 2004, the RAAF decided not to store this fuselage any longer and traded it to Murry Griffiths / Precision Aerospace. During September 2004 transported on a trailer from RAAF Museum at Point Cook to Precision Aerospace at Wangaretta Airport.

During late 2004 to 2006, displayed at Precision Aerospace / Pacific Fighters Museum with the nose art covered in plastic. While in storage, external restoration was performed including repainting the fuselage and the original markings of A-20G "Big Nig" 43-9436.

In 2009, "Big Nig" was reportedly to be traded to the RAF Museum at Hendon in exchange for a reserve collection Spitfire. In the middle of 2010, restoration work began at Precision Aerospace with the aircraft scheduled to be exported to the United Kingdom by 2011. The deal was never completed or withdrawn and and the A-20 remained at Precision Aerospace / Precision Airmotive.

During late 2018, shipped to the United States and trucked to the Pima Air & Space Museum arriving in early September 2018 to the Pima Air & Space Museum. The fuselage center section showing some restoration and painted is on display at the museum.

After the recovery, Several artifacts recovered from "Big Nig" were put on display at RAAF Amberly Museum, including the severed return oil line with shrapnel damage that caused the force landing, the pilot's flight goggles and thermos found in the cockpit. Later, these items were put on display at RAAF Museum at Point Cook.

Louis Folse (son of 1st Lt. James L. Folse)

USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20G-25-DO Havoc 43-9436
"9436 ('Big Nig', 89th BS) force-landed in Bumbura Swamp, New Guinea 1944 and abandoned. Salvaged Aug 16, 1944. Recovered 1994 for use by RAAF Museum in restoration of A-20s A28-8 and 42-86786. Remains of this aircraft noted in storage at RAAF Amberley, Australia November 2002, for disposal by RAAF Museum now that their two A-20 restorations are complete."
"Runyon Labels For U.S. Bombers Planes Named After Book Characters" by George Lait c1944
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - A-20G Havoc 43-9436
Forty of the Fifth (1999) pages 54-57
Pacific Ghosts CD-ROM (2002) details the history and salvage of this aircraft
Aeroplane "A20 to go on show at Hendon in 2010" link removed
Fly Past "Big Nig Takes Shape" by Simon Russell June 23, 2010 (photo)
"Work on the RAF Museum’s Douglas A-20G Havoc is progressing well. June 23: Work on the RAF Museum’s Douglas A-20G Havoc 43-9436 ‘Big Nig’ is progressing well with fitting out of the cockpit about to begin. The starboard inner wing is fitted and both engines are ready for installation. The aircraft is scheduled to go on display at the museum’s Hendon site in early 2011 and will be the only example of its type on show anywhere in Europe. The museum acquired the Havoc in 2009 after exchanging it for one of its reserve collection Spitfires."
Aeroplane "A-20 for Pima museum" September 3, 2018 (photo)
"Douglas A-20G Havoc 43-9436 Big Nig has arrived at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, from Wangaratta in Victoria, Australia. After donating parts to the restoration of two other recovered A-20s, 42-86786 and A28-8, at Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley, the machine was offered for trade by the RAAF Museum, going to Precision Aerospace Productions at Wangaratta in September 2004 for restoration. It was rumoured that the machine would be acquired by the RAF Museum but, sadly, that was not to be."
Pima Air & Space Museum - Douglas A-20G Havoc (photo)
Thanks to Louis Folse and Michael Claringbould for additional information

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Last Updated
July 4, 2021


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