NZ Wings June 9, 1942
|Pilot Col Richard Cobb (KIA, BR) MA
Co-pilot Capt James R. Bruce, Jr. (KIA, BR) MI
Navigator 2nd Lt Edward H. Hoffman (KIA, BR) OH
Crew T/Sgt Charles P. Brunson, Jr., 6393791 5th BG, 31st BS (KIA , BR) AL
Crew Sgt Harry Cohn, 06948800 (KIA, BR) PA
Crew Sgt Joe F. Lopez (KIA, BR) TX
Crew Cpl John R. Clanton, 7021855 5th BG, 31st BS (KIA, BR) PA
Crew Cpl James Herriotts, Jr., 13004012 (KIA, BR) Philadelphia, PA
Crew PFC Curtis L. Childers, 7083882 5th BG, 31st BS (KIA, BR) FL
Passenger Lt. William E. Hurst, USN (KIA, BR) NB
Passenger Capt Jean Githerd, Free French Navy liaison officer (KIA, BR)
Crashed June 9, 1942 at 12:00am
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2478. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2667. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group.
Nicknamed "Texas Tornado".
On June 9, 1942 after midnight took off from Whenuapsi Airfield piloted by Col Richard Cobb on a flight bound for Laverton Airfield near Melbourne. This B-17 crashed shortly after take off from runway 21 and narrowly missed the residence of George Sinton, a local farmer. Aboard, two of the four 500 pound bombs exploded on impact, killing the entire crew and creating a larger crater. Sinton’s house was damaged and thousands were awaken by the explosion.
The cause of the crash was never determined. When taking off from a bright flare-path-lit runway and with landing lights on during a moonless night, as soon as the aircraft left the runway and turned out its landing lights, the pilots would have been subjected to a short period of visual distortion. It is possible that this is what happened as at the critical moment he would have been unable to check his altimeter, with the result that the aircraft lost altitude and crashed into the rising ground, or engine failure.
The remains of the crew were recovered and were buried with military honors in a ceremony attended by senior officers based in the Auckland area, with a Navy and Army honor guard of six officers and six other ranks acting as pall bearers.
Postwar, the remains of the crew were transported to Hawaii and the United States for permanent burial. Githerd's burial is unknown, possibly in France.
Three of the crew are buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Brunson at Plot B Row 0 Grave 958. Clanton Plot O Row 0 Grave 15 and Childers at Plot B Row 1 Grave 271. The others are presumed buried in private cemeteries.
Three of the crew are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Cobb at section 11, site 537. Bruce at section 12, site 894. Hurst at section 12 site 2853.
Cohn is buried at Agudas Israel Cemetery in Hazleton, PA.
Lopez is buried at Taft Memorial Park in Taft, TX.
Herriotts is buried at Fern Knoll Burial Park in Dallas, PA.
On November 2, 1998 a commemorative plaque was dedicated to the crew at Whenuapsi Airfield.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2667
"2667 delivered Minneapolis Mar 7, 1942, assigned to 425th BS, 19th BG Hawaii May 6, 1942. Transferred to 5th AF May 22, 1942 but crashed at Whenuapi, New Zealand during takeoff May 9, 1942. 11 killed. W/o Oct 31, 1944."
FindAGrave - Col Richard E Cobb (grave photo)
FindAGrave - CPT James R Bruce, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Edward Hall Hoffman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt Charles Pinckney Brunson, Jr (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Harry Cohn
FindAGrave - TSGT Joe F Lopez (grave photo)
FindAGrave - CPL John Robert Clanton (grave photo)
FindAGrave - CPL James Herriotts, Jr
FindAGrave - Pvt Curtis Lowell Childers (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Edwin William Hurst (photo, grave photo)
NZ Wings "The Tragedy of the Texas Tornado"
by Ewing Stephens October 1993
NZ Wings Letter to the Editor: Fortress Crash February 1994
NZ Wings Letter to the Editor: Fortress Crash March 1994
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February 14, 2020