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Justin Taylan 2006
|Pilot Captain Herschall R. Henson (KIA, BR)
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Francis W. Fritzmacher (KIA, BR)
Navigator 1st Lt. James Bastion (KIA, BR) TX
Bombardier TSgt John T. Doran (KIA, BR) PA
Engineer TSgt John A. Samara (KIA, BR) VA
Crew Sgt Lawrence W. Donker (KIA, BR) NY
Crew SSgt Louis N. Camp, Jr. (KIA, BR) TX
Crew Cpl Robert G. Case (KIA, BR) OH
Crew Pvt Jack C. Kaynor (KIA, BR) MI
Crashed September 13, 1942
Built by Boeing. Constructor Number 3076. On June 26, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24391. Flown from Hamilton Field to Hickam Field.
On August 6, 1942 an artist at Hickam Field painted the nickname "Hoomalimali" meaning "Kid-Em-Along" in the Hawaiian language. That same day, took off from Hickam Field with co-pilot Lt. Chester Kennedy on a mission to swing the compass in preparation for the flight overseas to Australia. Then, departed on the first leg of the flight to Christmas Island Airfield. On August 7, 1942 departs for Canton Island Airfield then to Nadi Airfield. On August 10, 1942 departs for Plaines des Gaiacs Airfield. On August 11, 1942 arrives Brisbane.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men", 63rd Bombardment Squadron (63rd BS) at Charleville Airfield. During late August 1942, detached for service with the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 93rd Bombardment Squadron (93rd BS) operating at Mareeba Airfield.
On August 22, 1942 took off from Mareeba Airfield piloted by Captain Harry Hawthorne on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul.
On August 25, 1942 took off Mareeba Airfield piloted by Major Felix Hardison leading a nine bomber formation on a mission against a Japanese convoy off Milne Bay. Over the target, the B-17s could find no targets and afterwards landed at 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby before returning to Mareeba Airfield.
On August 26, 1942 one of eight B-17s that took off from Mareeba Airfield at 4:00am piloted by Major Felix Hardison leading the formation on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy off Milne Bay. Weather inbound to the target was horrible with a ceiling of only 2,000' or less. Between 6:30am to 7:45am the formation bombed from roughly 1,500' and experienced accurate anti-aircraft fire from the ships. This B-17 had bomb rack problems that prevented the bombs from releasing and required the B-17 to make a dozen runs from between 1,400' to 2,800'.
On September 4, 1942 took off piloted by Captain Jay Rousek on a reconnaissance mission over the Coral Sea.
On September 13, 1942 before midnight, took off from Mareeba Airfield piloted by Captain Herschall R. Henson as one of nine B-17s on a flight bound for 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby to stage for a reconnaissance mission from the eastern tip of New Guinea to Rabaul then over the Solomon Sea and to attack shipping.
During takeoff from Mareeba Airfield this bomber caught fire and crashed about a half mile off the end of the runway. It burned for a short time then exploded, fully loaded with bombs and fuel, killing the entire crew. The noise of the explosion was heard as far away as Yungaburra and the shock wave affected homes in the town of Mareeba three and a half miles away.
Chris Lind adds:
“I visited and studied the site and history in 1986 and talked to locals who knew the story behind the crash. It appears that the aircraft was still being serviced right up to the time it was due to depart on a bombing mission in a nine ship flight to raid Port Moresby at day break. The crash happened at 5 minutes past midnight. The tail gunner fell ill with dysentery and swapped with another at the last moment and did not report sick and went straight to bed. Aircraft taxied to line up and was last to depart. Half way through takeoff role outboard starboard engine began to misfire and quit. Aircraft also had two extra 'observers' on board from Air Force intelligence who were to check out ship and transport movements over the target, thus aircraft was overloaded.
Take off roll was too late so Henson apparently applied full war power to engines and appeared to hauled back on yoke thus pitching the aircraft into nose high attitude. This was witnessed by a local who was standing on access road at end of the strip, who was returning home from a function. The aircraft lifted off but overloaded and under powered flew for 1/4 of an mile off the end of the bomber strip then crashed into a dry creek bed and exploded.
Parts of which still lie there today. Mareeba Shire council has a small section on a plaque with inscription mounted on its council building wall to mark the event. I recovered a flare tube, wing attachment section and shattered nose cone from a 500lb GP bomb from the site in 1986 and presented then to the Cairns Historical Society museum. As a footnote... the tail gunner woke the next day and shocked everyone with his appearance as all thought he was dead. Also, I spoke to the son of a turnip farmer adjacent to the bomber runway who told me that on occasion, his father, who was devoutly religious and a non drinker along with other people, had seen what appears to be a group of men standing at the end of the runway or sometimes on the runway in the early morning light. When approached they seem to ‘fade to nothing’.”
The crew was officially declared dead on September 14, 1942. After the crash, the remains of the crew were recovered and buried in Australia.
Postwar, they were transported to the United States. Buried at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl) are Doran and Case, grave details unknown. Kaynor at plot F site 123. Buried at Arlington National Cemetery is Bastion at section 1 site 105-B.
Samara is buried at Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Virginia at site 724. Donker is buried at Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, NY at plot H grave 9083. Camp is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery at plot Q site 12.
Grave details on the other crew members are unknown, but presumed to be buried in private cemeteries.
On the September 17, 2011, a bronze plaque to honor this bomber's crew was dedicated at Mareeba Airfield.
In Hawaiian, the correct spelling of the nickname in the Hawaiian language is "Hoobalibali".
Co-pilot Lt. Chester Kennedy, noted August 6, 1942:
"....an artist at Hickam .... has neatly painted the name, Hoomalimali, on the nose of our plane."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress 41-24391
"24391 (63rd BS, 43rd BG, 'Hoomalimali') crashed on takeoff from Mareeba, N. Queensland Sep 14, 1942. All aboard killed. Parts noted May 2005 in Aviation and Military Museum, Mareeba, Australia"
19th Bomb Group August 26, 1942 Mission Report by Major Felix Hardison
FindAGrave - James Bastion (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John Doran (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John Samara (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lawrence Donker (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Louis Camp (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Robert Case (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Jack Kaynor (grave photo)
Pride of Seattle (1998) pages 7-8
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 240, 247, 391, 430-431
Oz@War "Crash of a B-17 Flying Fortress at Mareeba 14 September 1942
Thanks to Steve Birdsall and Janice Olson for additional research and information
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