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  PBY Catalina Serial Number A24-9 Call Sign VH-AFJ
11 Squadron

Former Assignments

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RAAF / Kim Yong 1989

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RAAF 2002

Click For Enlargement 2008
Pilot  Lt. George Leland Hutchinson (KIA, BR) San Francisco, CA
Co-Pilot  F/O Thomas N. Rowe, 400293 (KIA, BR) South Yarra, VIC
 A1c Kenneth L. Murphy, 15165 (KIA, BR) Five Dock, NSW
Radio  LAC Arthur D. Meadow, 9034 (MIA / KIA) Solomontown, SA
Asst Radio  LAC Allan Downes, 16809 (MIA / KIA) Dalglish, WA
Gunner  Sgt Doug C. Coote, 407763 (KIA, BR) Port Elliot, SA
Port Waist Gunner
 LAC Bruce E. Craigie, 22050 (MIA / KIA) Leura, NSW
Starboard Waist Gunner
 Cpl Tom Keen, 9351 (survived) Townsville, QLD
Rear Gunner  Cpl Jack R. Wyche, 12217 (MIA / KIA) Lidcombe, NSW

Crashed  January 21, 1942

Pilot History
The pilot, George "Hutch" Hutchinson was an United States Navy (USN) pilot who was serving with the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia. At the start of the Pacific War, he volunteered to fly with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and flew search missions for HMAS Sydney and a bombing raid against Truk. On January 21, 1942 he piloted Catalina A24-9 and went Missing In Action (MIA). He became the first American killed in action in New Guinea.

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated as a Model 28-5MA at San Diego during 1941. Constructors Number 259. Purchased by Qantas Empire Airways (QEA). On August 18, 1941 departed San Diego on a delivery flight to Australia arriving at Rose Bay Seaplane Base on August 26, 1941. Registered in Australian as VH-AFJ. On August 28, 1941 arrived at Rathmines Seaplane Base.

Wartime History
Delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Catalina serial number A24-9. On October 4, 1941 assigned to 11 Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On January 21, 1942 at 7:35am took off from Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby piloted by Lt. George Leland Hutchinson on a mission to deliver radio equipment to Salamaua. They flew down the coast then crossed to the north coast to Baniara then to the northwest following the north coast of New Guinea.

Over the Huon Gulf, the crew spotted thirteen A6M2 Zeros that were returning from a strike on Salamaua and attempted to evade them by climbing into clouds at 7,000'.

Spotted, the Catalina was attacked and hit by gunfire the killed or incapacitated some of the crew and claimed a Zero seen falling away. Damaged, the flyingboat went into a dive and gunner Cpl Tom Keen was thrown out without his parachute attached but managed to strap it on while falling. When he pulled the rip chord and his parachute opened, it was strafed by the Zeros and he hung in the harness pretending to be dead. Meanwhile, the Catalina crashed into the jungle near Yambo on the Huon Peninsula.

When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). When lost, this Catalina became the first reconnaissance aircraft shot down in New Guinea.

Sole Surviror
Keen landed in the jungle and made he way to a village and was taken by friendly natives to Hopoi to the German Lutheran missionary Mr. Lehner, who had witnessed the dogfight. Ten days later, Lehner helped Keen reach Nadzab then to Wau and then back to Post Moresby arriving ten days later on January 31, 1942.

This Catalina crashed into the jungle near Yambo on the Huon Peninsula. On impact, the aircraft caught fire and burned. Afterwards, villagers from Yambo found the crash site and recovered the bodies of several crew members that were thrown clear on impact and collected usable tools and firearms they located.

During late 1943, when Australian forces liberated the area, they visited the crash site and recovered the remains of the crew that were recovered from the crash site by the villagers.

In 2002, a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Team including Greg Williams returned to the crash site and met with descendants of Yambo villagers who aided Keen to reach Hopoi.

The entire crew as officially declared dead the day of the mission. Four of the crew: Meadow, Wyche, Downes and Craigie remain Missing In Action (MIA) and are memorialized at Lae War Cemetery at the Lae Memorial on panel 7.

After the recovery of remains, Hutchinson was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section B, site 139. Three of the crew are buried at Lae War Cemetery. Murphy at D. D. 1, Rowe at D. D. 4 and Coote at D. D. 5.

ADF Serials - Catalina A24-9
RAAFDB - Consolidated PBY Catalina A24-9
CWGC - Arthur Drohen Meadow
CWGC - Kenneth Laurence Murphy
CWGC - Thomas Nicoll Rowe
CWGC - Allan Downes
CWGC - Dougla Charles Coote
CWGC - John Edward Bruce Craigie
CWGC - Jack Raymond Wyche
FindAGrave - George Leland Hutchinson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Flying Officer Thomas Nicoll Rowe
FindAGrave - Aircraftman 1st Class Kenneth Laurence Murphy
FindAGrave - Corporal Jack Raymond Wyche
FindAGrave - Leading Aircraftman Arthur Drohen Meadow
FindAGrave - Leading Aircraftman Allan A Downes
FindAGrave - Sergeant Douglas Charles Coote
World War Two Nominal Roll - Thomas Henry Keen
"The day a Cat's luck gave out" by Robert Piper
Air Force Magazine "Escape under deadly fire" by WGDCR Mary Anne Whiting and Greg Williams Aug 24, 2017
"In 2002, an Air Force team visited the site and met with descendants of the villagers from Yambo who helped CPL Keen get back to Lae.
FLTLT Greg Williams (now WGCDR Williams, Deputy-Director Aircraft Wrecks and MIA Investigation, History and Heritage Branch - Air Force) spoke to an elderly man from the village who recalled the day CPL Keen walked into the village. The man recalled that CPL Keen was bloodied and in obvious shock.
The wreck of the aircraft remains buried in the thick jungle in the hills above Yambo, and lies as a permanent memorial to the service and sacrifice of the crew of Catalina A24-9."
Thanks to Greg Williams, Daniel Leahy and Robert Piper for additional information

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020


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