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No. 32 Squadron
Justin Taylan 2003
|Pilot P/O Warren Frank Cowan,
407614 (KIA, BR) North Adelaide, SA
Crew Sgt Russell Bradburn Polack, 411183 (KIA, BR) Earlwood, NSW
Crew Sgt Lauri Edwin Sheard, 416369 (KIA, BR) Port Elliott, SA
Crew P/O David Reid Taylor, 408206 (KIA, BR)
Crashed July 22, 1942
Built by Lockheed. Constructors Number 414-6468. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-29-LO Hudson serial number 41-36979. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number FH178. Disassembled and shipped overseas to to Australia as part of defense aid.
On April 5, 1942 assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Hudson Mark IIIa serial number A16-201 and reassembled by 1 Air Depot (1 AD). Afterwards, assigned to No. 32 Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On July 22, 1942 at 11:30am took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by P/O Warren F. Cowan on a solo reconnaissance mission to shadow an enemy cruiser force north of Buna. Over the targer area, this Hudson failed to locate the warships. At 1:30pm, this Hudson's last radio communication was received. No sighting or any distress call was ever received. When this Hudson failed to return it was declared Missing In Action (MIA). This Hudson was officially stricken from charge on July 31, 1942.
In fact, this Hudson was intercepted by six A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai that took off from Lae Airfield at 2:00pm. The six Zeros flying in two Shotai of three planes each: 1st Shotai Lt(jg) Jun'ichi Sasai, FPO1c Toshio Ota and FPO3c Masuaki Endo plus 2nd Shotai FPO1 Saburo Sakai, FPO2c Masayoshi Yonekawa and FPO3c Yoshio Mogi.
Around 2:45pm when the Zeros arrived over Buna they spotted a single twin engined aircraft, released drop tanks and climbed to intercept. Attacking from the rear, the Zeros systematically attacked one at a time. To their disbelief, the bomber turned into their attacks to dogfight with them each time. Although the maneuver was unexpected and brave, the Hudson lost altitude with each turn and became damaged and was claimed as shot down and crashed into a forested area near Popondetta. Attacking pilot Saburo Sakai never forgot the incident or the bravery of the pilot and wrote about the incident in his memoirs Oozora No Samurai and Samurai!.
During 1998, Saburo Sakai wrote a letter to the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs, recommending Cowan for a medal, stating: "I recommend that Pilot Officer Warren F. Cowan be posthumously awarded your country's highest commendation. I have encountered many brave pilots in my life but Warren F. Cowan stands alone." The request was rejected on procedural grounds.
This Hudson crashed into a forest near Popondetta. On February 28, 1943 the crash site was located by Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU).
Recovery of Remains
On February 28, 1943 the remains of the crew were recovered by ANGAU and buried at Soputa Cemetery. Later, exhumed and transported to Bomana War Cemetery for permenant burial.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on July 22, 1942. All are buried at Bomana War Cemetery at collective grave at section B7graves 21-24.
Betty Shillabeer (Cowan's widow)
Blair Cowan (Cowan's son)
Libby Buchanan (Cowan's daughter)
Jim Cowan (Cowan's brother)
WW2 Nominal Roll - Warren Frank Cowan, 407614
WW2 Nominal Roll - Russell Bradburn Polack, 411183
WW2 Nominal Roll - Lauri Edwin Sheard, 416369
WW2 Nominal Roll - David Reid Taylor, 408206
RAAF Casualty File (NAA: A705, 163/26/243) Warren Frank Cowan
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-29-LO Hudson 41-36979
"36979 (MSN 414-6468) to RAF as FH178 then to Australia as A16-201. MIA in Huon Gulf Jul 24, 1942."
ADF Serials - Hudson A16-201
CWGC - Warren Frank Cowan
CWGC - Russell Bradburn Polack
CWGC - Lauri Edwin Sheard
CWGC - David Reid Taylor
Samurai! by Saburo Sakai describes the shoot down of this bomber and brave actions of the pilot
Panorama "Zero ace honours his foes" by Bob Piper February 14, 1998
ABC "Australian Story - Enemy Lines" July 1, 2002 tells the story of this aircraft including interviews with Cowan relatives, Henry Sakaida David Vincent and Robert Piper
ABC "Australian Story - Enemy Lines" July 1, 2002 - Transcript
Eagles of the Southern Sky pages 7 dedication, 208-209, 240 (artwork), 298 (artwork profile) 277, 326, 336 "crashed into jungle near Popoga", 342, 348 index listings
Thanks to Saburo Sakai, Henry Sakaida, David Vincent and Robert Piper for additional information
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March 3, 2021
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