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Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-24-DE Dive Bomber serial number 41-????? (last three digitis unknown) or to the U. S. Navy (USN) as SBD Dauntless bureau number unknown. Assigned to "Project X" disassembled and shipped as cargo across the Pacific to Australia "Sumac" and reassembled.
Sometime around the middle of 1942, this A-24 took off from Port Moresby on a liaison mission carrying documents with an unknown pilot and a passenger aboard on a flight eastward. This aircraft entered a severe rain storm and was observed circling Abau Island before the engine cut out and crash vertically into the island, killing both crew members aboard.
Several days after the crash, local people with Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) officer David Marsh found the crash site on Abau Island.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash site was found, the bodies of both crew members were recovered by cutting their seats out of the wreckage. Both bodies were buried in their seats because they bodies were crushed into their seats by the force of the impact.
Edward Rogers adds:
"The Private War of the Spotters mentions this dive bomber loss. I can find no hard evidence of this loss. It does not correspond to any missing A-24 losses unless a plane from the July 29 mission made it all the way there before crashing. The context of the story in the book gives the date as the middle of 1942. I feel that it must be a U. S. Navy or U. S. Marine Corps SBD loss from 1943 or 1944. I believe that Lt. Bilston was with ANGAU but I can find no mention of this incident in the ANGAU War Dairy for 1942. It is not a 3rd Bomb Group plane or crew."
John Douglas adds:
"I spoke with David Marsh. He remembers the dive bomber crash at Abau. He cant remember exactly when but thinks it was after the Table Bay Val incident, and shortly after the Battle of Milne Bay. He will search his memory. The incident would have been recorded in the Abau Station Diary and also in a report to Port Moresby. He says the plane circled the island a couple of times in a storm before crashing into a mud bank offshore and sinking. The crew were crushed into the wreck and it took them two days to release their bodies, still trapped into their seats. they were initially buried on the island [next to a former kiap called Flint, who died from Pneumonia, after spending a night trapped in mangroves when his canoe sank]. American forces later recovered their bodies. He says that the plane was flying from Milne Bay to Port Moresby, and that they recovered lots of paperwork, which they sent onto Moresby. So my guess is that this was an admin flight by whoever was looking after these A24s after the 3rd Bomb Group had finished with them, probably about September 1942."
The Private War of the Spotters (1990) page 47
"One day while on duty, I heard the sound of planes flying overhead. One suddenly dived and crashed in the sea 100 yards off shore. On investigation we found it had been an American dive bomber containing a crew of two men. We carried out salvage operations and recovered the bodies of the men and gave them a military funeral conducted by Lieutenant Bilston who was the Assistant District Officer. The police boys on the island fired a salute. Later the American Graves commission personnel arrived and exhumed the bodies for transport to the USA."
Thanks to David Marsh, Robert Piper, Edward Rogers, John Douglas and Michael Claringbould for additional information
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