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49th FG c1942
Bruce Adams 1970s
via Barnstormers 2014
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Nelson Elmer Brownell, O-660105 (KIA, BR) Batavia, NY
Crashed November 6, 1942
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Constructors Number 19689. Assigned to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as a P-40E-1 Warhawk serial number 41-25178.
Purchased by the Military Aviation of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army / Netherlands Dutch East Indies Air Force (ML-KNIL). One of eighteen P-40s disassembled and shipped as cargo aboard USS Bantam bound for the Netherlands Dutch East Indies (NEI). These aircraft were not part of the original order placed by the ML-KNIL. It is unknown if Dutch markings or serial numbers were assigned or applied to these P-40s.
During April 1942, one of eighteen P-40s unloaded and reassembled in Australia. This aircraft was planned for delivery to the Dutch but instead was diverted back to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF).
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 49th Fighter Group (49th FG), 8th Fighter Squadron (8th FS). This aircraft participated in the defense of Darwin. Assigned to pilot Lt. Randall D. Keator, who painted his name under the windscreen. Nicknamed "The Spoddessape" (short for "spotted assed ape") on the left side, in reference to pilot Randall Keator's description of how fast he left the Philippines, 'like a spotted ass ape'. The right side of the aircraft had a pelican with a frog bombardier and crayfish firing a shotgun under the bird's wing and carrying a bomb in its feet. Assigned Squadron Number 68 painted on the tail.
During July to October 1942 assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Lowell C. Lutton until he was transferred to the 475th Fighter Group.
On November 6, 1942 at 7:50am took off from 3-Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Nelson E. Brownell as one of sixteen P-40s on a mission to escort transports from Kokoda to Pongani. Over Kokoda, this P-40 suffered an engine failure that caused its engine to stop. Brownell attempted to make a dead stick landing at Kokoda Airfield but crashed to the northwest near Saga and was killed in the crash.
Recovery of Remains
On November 7, 1942 Brownell remains were recovered, identified, and temporarily buried at the Kokoda War Cemetery. Later, he was exhumed and reburied at Bomana War Cemetery. Postwar, his remains were transported to the United States for permanent burial.
Brownell was officially declared dead the day of the mission. On March 1948 he was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Canandaigua, NY at section 11 lot 139.
This P-40 crashed near Saga northwest of Kokoda. Until November 2003, this P-40 remained in situ.
During November 2003, Robert Greinert / HARS and Jason Cockney salvaged the wreckage from this crash site, including the tail with "68" visible. Cockayne planned to use these parts as a basis for a new built P-40 Warhawk using parts from this aircraft as as an identity and is the owned the salvaged parts until at least April 2014.
During September 2004, the salvage of this P-40 was deemed to be illegal by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Inquiry into the National Museum and Art Gallery, Report to Parliament released September 22, 2004.
During late April 2014, a "Curtiss P-40 project" was offered for sale on Barnstormers. This appears to be a new built P-40 using parts recovered from P-40E-1 "The Spoddessape" 41-25178, including an original piece of tail section with "68" visible.
Barnstormers - Curtiss P-40 Warhawk [auction removed] text read:
"CURTISS P-40 WARHAWK • FOR SALE • The best P-40 project we have seen. Rebuilt fuselage, wings as original. Includes Allison engine, engine mounts, exhausts, radiators, oil cooler, propeller, new tail surfaces, instruments, most parts to complete. • Contact Graham Orphan, Broker - located Blenheim, New Zealand • Telephone: 64-21-683 954 . 64-3-578 9609 . 64-3-578 9607 • Fax: 64-3-577 6451 • Posted April 8, 2014 View Larger Pictures"
During February 2015 a "Curtis P-40K was offered for sale on Classic Wings Aircraft Sales Ltd and Aviation Advertiser NZ for $675,000 AUD. The photos show the same aircraft offered for sale in 2014. This appears to be a new built P-40 using parts recovered from P-40E-1 "The Spoddessape" 41-25178, including an original piece of tail section with "68" visible.
According to Classic Wings Aircraft Sales Ltd:
"The P-40 is a substantial project and one of the better P-40s we have handled over the years. The newly rebuilt fuselage is presently being fitted out internally. A fully rebuilt tail group is being completed, and the wings are complete but unrestored. The project includes an engine (will require overhaul), engine mount, radiators and oil cooler, exhausts, Hamilton Standard propeller."
Amanda Keator (granddaughter of Keator)
Lamond Brownell (brother of Brownell)
Scott Nelson Brownell (nephew of Brownell)
"I am writing to you to provide further information about Nelson Elmer Brownell that went down with the P-40E-1 "The Spoddessape" during WWII. He was my father's brother and I am the closest he has to next of kin. I have attached an image of Nelson in the cockpit of an aircraft during his time in the Pacific. I just wanted to share this with your website. Thank you so much for collecting this information. As you probably well know that as the previous generation passes away, a lot of the information is lost with them. This provided incredible insight to something that was always difficult for my father to talk about."
Some sources incorrectly spell the pilot's name "Brownnell" [sic, Brownell]
Form 34, 8th Fighter Squadron, November 6, 1942
"0750 Type of Mission: 3-H
Objective: Kokoda - Pongani Screening
Average Time of Flight: 2 1/2 hours
Airplanes: 11 P-40E1 & 5 P-40E
Nil Enemy Activities
Remarks: P-40 lost on Nov. 6, 1942 due to engine failure. Engine was Australian overhaul and Squadron has noticed may of these engines are faulty. One lost later, not mentioned before, was believed due to same cause."
Recommendations: Stricter supervision and more capable overhaul personnel applied to these engines."
49th Fighter Group History - November 8, 1942
"November 8  Lt. Brownell, Nelson, was killed [November 6, 1942] trying to make a dead stick landing at the air strip at Kokoda Pass. This air strip is too short for any of the fighter type aircraft."
Papuan Story by Geoffrey Reading Angus & Robertson 1946 pages 137-38
"Every afternoon the clouds gathered, and it rained no later than four o'clock. We used to watch to rain anxiously, for if the downpour was heavy it made the airstrip muddy, limited the number of planes that would land next day, and postponed for another twenty-four hours our prospects of getting away [back to Port Moresby to post news stories]. One day, to our despair, the transports dropped supplies and made no attempt to land. The following day dropping began again and all the soldiers at the strip were enraged and waved their arms and shouted. One of our air cover, flying in formation high above, peeled off and moved in to land, but overshot the strip. He pulled up his wheels, revved up his engine, and attempted a slow turn at the northern end of the strip. The turn was half completed when he lost airspeed, the left wing slipped away, and his Airacobra [sic, P-40 Warhawk] nose dived into the undergrowth. His body was buried in the Australian cemetery at the side of the Oivi-Gorari track.
I was informed later that the pilot had struck engine trouble and was attempting a forced landing, but most of the company imagined that they had attracted him with their waving and brought him to his death. That was the last time anyone on the ground tried to signal a pilot."
FindAGrave - Nelson E. Brownell
Woodlawn Cemetery North Pearl St., Canandaigua, NY - Nelson E. Brownell
Genesee County World War II Gold Star Memorial Book - Nelson Elmer Brownell
"Nelson Elmer Brownell, son of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson H. Brownell, Batavia, New York, was born August 5, 1919 in Buffalo. From his baptism by Rev. George Warren in early youth, Nelson was active in First Baptist Church work in Batavia, teaching, choir, young people’s work. He was graduated 1937 from Batavia High School, an Honor Society student, a member and pianist of the Glee Club. Later he majored in piano at Pottsdam Crane Music School.
Nelson was inducted, Batavia, July, 1941. He ranked second in primary flight training at Pine Bluff and led in basic training at Randolph Field, winning his wings and commission at Foster Field, May 20, 1942. Serial No. 0 660 105.
Lt. Brownell went overseas August 31, 1942 with 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group to New Guinea, where he gave his life for his country in November, 1942. The following Spring his parents gave to their church a fitting musical memorial. Each day at noon the organ peals forth through the belfry by means of their gift, the amplifying system. Lt. Brownell received the Purple Heart, American Legion Gold Star Citation from Glenn S. Loomis Post, and scroll signed by President Roosevelt from the Officers Branch of the Army"
Rust In Peace (1975) page 80, includes a story of a local villager who witnessed the crash and photographs of the broken off tail section and wings in a crater.
Protect & Avenge (1995) page 57 (photo), 87, 350 (Appendix 2 Operations and Combat Fatalities)
(Page 87) "On the 8th, newcomer Nelson Brownnell [sic Brownell] of the 8th Squadron had his P-40E heavily damaged by the AA at Buna [sic] and could not rise above the mountains to return to 3 Mile Field. At Kokoda village, the Aussies had cut a 3000 foot runway out of the forested hillside for smaller liaison craft. Brownnell tried to reach the strip, but his engine gave out east of Kokoda and the Warhawk crashed. Natives pulled the dead airman from the wreckage and turned the body over to the Australians. Brownnell was interred at Port Moresby a week later."
(Page 350) "Appendix 2 Operations and Combat Fatalities - November 8, 1942 - 8 FS 2Lt. Nelson B. Brownell [sic Nelson E.]; KIA Kokoda Pass"
Papua New Guinea (PNG) Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Inquiry into the National Museum and Art Gallery, Report to Parliament September 22, 2004
"P-40E “The Spoddessape” 41-25178 (2003 salvaged by Greinert/Cockayne to Australia)"
The National World War II Museum (The National D-Day Museum has a display about Randall B. Keator
HARS Phoenix Spring 2010 "New to the restoration shop" page 8 [PDF]
"Jason [Cockayne] is also restoring a P40E Kittyhawk from the famous 49th Fighter Group, USAF. A long term project as they say in the industry."
Barnstormers - Pictures for Curtiss P-40 Warhawk [four photos of new built P-40 with tail "68"]
Thanks to Ken Peters, Amanda Keator, Nelson Elmer Brownell, John Douglas and Edward Rogers for additional information
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