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  B-24D-53-CO "Shady Lady" Serial Number 42-40369  
USAAF
5th AF
380th BG
528th BS

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380th BG c1943

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380th BG Aug 14, 1943

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380th BG Aug-Sept 1943

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Bob McDonnell 1990
Pilot  1st Lt. Douglas S. Craig (survived)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Robert L. Jackson (survived)
Navigator   2nd Lt. John B. Nash (survived)
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Randall R. Packard (survived)
Engineer  TSgt Louis D. Joseph (survived)
Radio  TSgt Rupert J. Daugherty, Jr. (survived)
Gunner  TSgt Vernon A. Krout (survived)
Gunner  TSgt William F. Klenn (survived)
Armourer/Gunner  TSgt Maurice Powers (WIA, survived)
Photographer  F/O Henry R. Ruston, RAAF 1532 (survived) London, England
Force Landed  August 14, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated in San Diego between January 30, 1943 to February 12, 1943. Contractors Number 1446. First test flight February 27, 1943. On February 19, 1943 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-53-CO Liberator serial number 42-40369. On March 6, 1943 arrives Fort Worth for modification. Afterwards, to Topeka as a staging area before flying to Hamilton Field. Flown overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia arriving at Amberly Field near Brisbane.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 380th Bombardment Group (380th BG), 528th Bombardment Squadron (528th BS). Nicknamed "Shady Lady" with crew chief MSgt Thomas L. Casey and mechanic Sgt Clarence W. Hanner.

This B-24 flew a familiarization mission with the 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG), 319th Bombardment Squadron (319th BS) over New Guinea before being based at Fenton Airfield in the Northern Territory of Australia.

On June 10, 1943 took off from Fenton Airfield piloted by Colleran (529th Bomb Squadron) on its first bombing mission "FEN I-34" with the Craig crew a bombing mission against shipping off Sorong. Over the target, this bomber was damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

On June 11, 1943 took off from Fenton Airfield on its second mission a reconnaissance mission over Koepang piloted by Colleran (528th BS) with Grenfel crew. The same day, flew a search mission FEN-I-51 for a missing B-24.

On June 23, 1943 took off from Fenton Airfield on its third bombing mission "FEN I-42" over Macassar piloted by W. Miller with Sowa crew.

On July 3, 1943 took off from Fenton Airfield on its fourth bombing mission "FEN I-45" over Kendari piloted by Z. Smith with Hastings crew.

On July 10, 1943 took off from Fenton Airfield on its fifth bombing mission "FEN II-1" on a reconnaissance mission over Selaroe, Boela and Ceram.

Mission History
On August 13, 1943 around 5:00am took off from Fenton Airfield south of Darwin piloted by 1st Lt. Douglas S. Craig on a bombing mission against the oil refineries at Balikpapan on southeast Borneo. This bomber was armed with six 500 lbs bombs and overloaded with fuel. At the time, this was the longest bombing mission of the war that would cover a total of 2,700 miles.

Over the target, "Shady Lady" was the last bomber to arrive over the target and photograph the results. Returning, the bomber encountered thunderstorms blowing the bomber off course and forced the crew to overfly Timor and were intercepted by two enemy fighters that attacked for over two hours and most of the machine guns were inoperative. Evading the fighters also consumed precious fuel.

After 16 hours and 35 minutes airborne, returning low on fuel, on August 14, 1943 at 9:45am force landed onto a salt flat near Drysdale Mission. During the landing, the nose gear collapsed and nose turret fell off. The crew was unhurt, aside from Australian Ruston who suffered minor wounds. Officially, this bomber was written off the day of the crash landing.

Search
When the bomber was reported as missing, at the Drysdale mission, Thomas Gil dispatched Aboriginals to search for the bomber and lit fires on the Ooraroo Hills to guide the crew. That same afternoon, a RAAF Hudson and Dakota from Hughes Airfield searched for the missing B-24.

Fates of the Crew
The crew survived unhurt and used their radio to contact Darwin. The next day, three aboriginals: Paul Maraltadj, Johnny and Boniface arrived at the crash site and took the crew towards water to the southeast.

Meanwhile, a rescue and salvage party use the Drysdale mission lugger, Teresita Moa (Little Flower) was piloted by Father Seraphim Sanz with four RAAF personnel from Drysdale Airfield plus two US Army engineers and five Aboriginals traveled down river to the crash site and transported the crew to Pago Pago Airfield on Napier Broome Bay. From there, the crew was transported aboard a truck to Drysdale.

Repair
A team from the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF), 43rd Service Squadron (Material) at Fenton Airfield embarked aboard the Teresita Moa to reach the crash site to repair the bomber. With the aid of the Aboriginals who carried a B-24 "birdcage" nose section overland 65 miles to the crash site, plus fuel and other parts for repair. Other parts were flown on a RAAF Gypsy Moth that landed nearby. The damaged bomber was repaired and unpainted aluminum sheets were used to repair the lower portion of the nose.

During the repairs, Yank Magazine artist Sgt. Charles Pearson visited bomber and sketched the scene. Cpl Eugene Halaas from the 43rd Service Squadron also took film footage.

On September 9, 1943 twenty-seven days after the crash landing, the repaired bomber took off using a 1,800' cleared area on the salt flat and safely landed back at Fenton Airfield. Afterwards, flown to Garbutt Field near Townsville. Despite the extensive efforts to repair the bomber on site, "Shady Lady" was salvaged for parts then scrapped.

Wreckage
Parts of this bomber remain at the crash site, plus the skid marks from her landing are still visible on the salt flat. As of September 27, 1997 the crash site is protected as an Australian Heritage Site inside the Drysdale River National Park.

Stan Gajda adds:
"I have not been to this site, but have been flown very low right around that island in a Cessna in 1980. The nose turret was still there. Probably the other discarded bits are nearby."

Reportedly, parts of this aircraft were used in a B-24 restoration (unknown if wartime or recently).

Relatives
During 1988, Western Australian air historian Lindsay Peet, reunited Father Sanz with two of the crew he rescued: Nash and Powers.

On August 14, 2011 Mrs. Alice Craig, the wife of pilot Douglas Craig who died in 1998 visited the crash site and dedicated a memorial plaque to the crew.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-53-CO Liberator 42-40369
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-24D 42-40369
Yank Magazine "Salvage operations in the Never-Never" December 10, 1943 page 6 sketches of recovery by Sgt Charles Pearson
National Trust of Australia (WA): WYNDHAM-EAST KIMBERLEY 11, 'Shady Lady site, Anjo Peninsula', classified 09 September 1997.
Oz@War - Crash of a Liberator at Drysdale Mission
King of the Heavies (1983) page 37
Best in the Southwest page 78-79 (photos)
World War 2 Nominal Roll - Henry R. Ruston, 1532
380th BG Association - B-24D "Shady Lady" 42-40369
380th BG Association - B-24D "Shady Lady" 42-40369 - Mission Record
Shady Lady: Mission Accomplished... Running on Empty uses the Collings Foundation aircraft B-24J 44-44052 as Shady Lady for aerial reenactment
Vimeo - Shady Lady Trailer 2
The Australian "Shady Lady's worlds collide again on a Kimberley saltpan" August 20, 2011

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Last Updated
September 6, 2022

 

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