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19th BG August 22, 1942
RAAF August 24, 1942
Frederick "Fred" C. Eaton, Jr., 0395142 (survived)
Co-Pilot F/Sgt Marv Bell, RAAF (survived)
Force Land August 20, 1942
Built by Consolidated in San Diego for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as Liberator II serial number AL515. At the start of the Pacific War, requisitioned by the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as LB-30 and never had a serial number assigned, instead retaining the RAF serial number AL515
During early 1942, one of fifteen LB-30s flown from MacDill Field on a cross country flight to Hamilton Field. Next, flown from Hamilton Field to Hickam Field and across the Pacific via Palmyra Airfield, Canton Airfield and Suva Airfield (Nausori) then Garbutt Field and Darwin Airfield before reaching Malang Airfield on Java.
Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) and nicknamed "Yard Bird". On February 22, 1942 took off piloted by Lt. Hughey with co-pilot 1st Lt. Gilbert E. Erb from Java just before a Japanese air raid and escaped being damaged on the ground.
On March 1, 1942 took off from Yogyakarta Airfield on Java on a bombing mission against the Japanese landing at Kragan roughly 100 miles west of Soerabaya.
On March 2, 1942 at 12:30am took off from Yogyakarta Airfield on Java piloted by Lt. Kelsay with 38 aboard including personnel from the 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG). Severely overloaded, the bomber clipped trees at the end of the runway was the last Allied bomber to depart Java.
and was flown to Broome Airfield, where it landed, refueled and departed just before the Japanese air raid. Afterwards, returned to Broome Airfield to evacuate the wounded from the air raid flying them to Pearce Airfield.
On March 6, 1942 took off from Pearce Airfield bound for Laverton Airfield as one of three surviving L-30 from the original contingent including this bomber, LB-30 Liberator AL570 and LB-30 Liberator AL573. Later, flown to Garbutt Field at Townsville.
On July 10, 1942 took off piloted by Casper on an armed reconnaissance mission with LB-30 Liberator AL573 over Tulagi. After the bombing run, the pair were intercepted by A6M2-N Rufes from Tulagi Seaplane Base. During the air combat by a photograph was taken of the attacking floatplanes that damaged the other Liberator in the no. 3 engine. Returning, the pair landed at Port Moresby.
On July 15, 1942 took off piloted by Captain Richard F. Ezzard and Horgan on a supply drop to guerilla on Celebes (Sulawesi).
On July 18, 1942 took off from Horn Island Airfield piloted by Captain Richard F. Ezzard on a reconnaissance mission over Hollandia and Geelvink Bay.
During August 1942, used to ferry materials and troops from Garbutt Field with a flight crew consisting of pilot, co-pilot, engineer, navigator, radio operator and tail gunner. American Captain Frederick C. Eaton, Jr. and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/Sgt Marv Bell learned to fly this LB-30 using only the flight manual.
On August 18, 1942 took off from Garbutt Field piloted by Captain Frederick C. Eaton, Jr. with a flight crew of five loaded with cargo including a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun and the U. S. Army gun crew on a flight bound for Milne Bay. Prior to landing, an electrical fire broke out at the base of the upper gun turret. The engineer used a fire extinguisher, his flight jacket and two canteens of water to extinguish the flames. Meantime Eaton was able to land, unload, refueled and took off again 6:00pm for the return flight to Garbutt Field landing at 10:00pm.
On August 20, 1942 at 11:50am took off from Garbutt Field piloted by Captain Frederick C. Eaton, Jr. with co-pilot F/Sgt Marv Bell (RAAF) plus a flight crew of four others. Aboard were two U. S. Army passengers plus 2,000 pounds of 40mm ammunition and 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun. Arriving over Milne Bay, the LB-30 experienced a hydraulic failure but managed to make a successful force landed at Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip). Without breaks, the bomber looped 180 degrees before it came to a stop. Afterwards, towed off the runway by a Farmall tractor. This LB-30 remained where it was towed off the runway at Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip).
Fates of the Crew
On August 25, 1942 Eaton and the rest of flight crew embarked aboard S.23c "Coriolanus" VH-ABG and were flown from Milne Bay to Australia.
On August 24, 1942 while still off the runway at Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip) this LB-30 was strafed by four A6M Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai that caused a fire and burned the fuselage and breaking the bomber into two halves with the forwards section falling forward and the tail section breaking off behind. On August 27, 1942 again strafed by A6M Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai. On August 28, 1942 officially condemned. Ultimate fate unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.
Previously, on February 23, 1942 pilot Captain Frederick "Fred" C. Eaton, Jr. force landed B-17E 41-2446 and survived a six week journey with his crew before returning to Australia.
Gilbert E. Erb Flight Log - February 22, 1942
Liberator II for the RAF/LB-30
"AL515 commandeered by USAAF. Arrived via Pacific Route via MacDill Fl, Hamilton CA, Hickam Hi, Palmyra IS, Canton Is, Nausori (Fiji), Garbutt (Townsville Qld), Darwin (NT) to Malang, Java. Last LB30A out of Java on Mar 2, 1942 in 7 hour flight to Broome, landed, refuelled and flew on to RAAF Pearce before the Broome Raid the next day. Returned to Broome to evacuate survivors of Raid to RAAF Pearce. Left RAAF Pearce to RAAF Laverton Vic Mar 6, 1942 taking 8Hours 20 mins. Surviving 3 Pacific based LB30A's were established into a flight within the 435th BS/19thBG at Garbutt, Townsville. AL515 eventually went on to bigger things, but bellied in at Milne Bay airstrip on the Aug 20, 1942. Was stripped, but a week later was strafed by Japanese and destroyed on Aug 27, 1942. Condemned Aug 28, 1942."
Under the Southern Cross (1998) pages 18, 20, 26, 27, 30
5th Air Force in Profile (2008) page 141 (color profile)
19th BG Association CD-ROM RAAF F/Sgt Marve Bell recalls:
"We made an incident-free flight and were in the circuit area over Milne Bay at 1530, but experienced hydraulic failure. After an hour with the cloud and rain forcing us down to 600 feet we had the port wheel down and locked, the nose wheel down but not locked. Eaton and Bell took half-hour turns to assist the engineer. Flying conditions were filthy. We were on instruments most of the time. We spent another half-hour on the starboard wheel but it would not release. We decided to make a crash-landing so prepared the loading, most of which was well tied down before take off.
The Bofors gun ammo was our main worry. There were over 2,000 pounds of it. Fred and I and the engineer decided to dump it. We got manual gear on the bomb bay doors to operate, then open. I stood on the catwalk, about eight inches wide, and two of the crew handed the ammo containers to me. Then I dropped them into the water. The engineer relieved me after 15 minutes. I went back to the flight deck and took over while Fred went back for final check. All the members of the Bofors crew with their bedding were moved to the floor of the mid compartment, the other four of our crew packed on the floor of the radio compartment. Fred returned to the flight deck and we ran through our crash landing drill. By now visibility over the bay was about half a mile, the ceiling 400 feet with rain. We were also fast running out of daylight. Time now was 1645. We had been in the area since 1530.
We made two low passes over the landing strip. Every army and air force bod from the area had lined the strip. We made a long low approach and touched down on one wheel on the muddy strip beside the steel runway. As we lost speed we went down on our nose, the starboard wing-tip and two props touched, at 90 mph we made a belly skid to the right, finishing up the way we had approached. Everybody climbed out without a scratch.
The boys of 75 and 76 Squadrons provided vehicles to tow or drag the aircraft away from the edge of the steel strip, after the Bofors gun was unloaded. It was now almost dark. I was invited to the camp of 76 sqd at Gili Gili Mission. We had expected to return to Townsville that night. We only had with us what we were wearing. Squadron Leaders Turnbull and Truscott soon had organized a cot with their pilots. A bottle of beer each followed a good meal.
08-21-42 Milne Bay: All sqd pilots up and about long before daylight. Still raining. We had an early breakfast and climbed onto vehicle. It is a three mile drive through the mud to the strip. Fred and I removed the bomb sight and the gun sights. The ground crew were working to jack up the starboard wing and nose. The aircraft was again on three wheels by mid morning."
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April 20, 2021
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