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P-38 crash in Morehead area of PNG

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:48 am
by Des Pike
I was posted to the Morehead subdistrict of the Western Province in 1975/76 and during the dry season it was possible to drive through the plains to the south of Morehead. In a swampy area perhaps ten kilometres south of the Morehead station there was a P-38 which had crash-landed there. I have long since lost the numeral records from the aircraft that I made at that time, but I imagine that this must be a fairly well known wreck. Does anyone have any details as to the date of the crash and the circumstances. I was told that it was one of a number of P-38s that was lost on a delivery flight to Port Moresby from Townsville. I have a couple of photos of this aircraft as it was in 1976.

Re: P-38 crash in Morehead area of PNG

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 6:35 am
by CannedHeat
G'day Des,

This is quite intriguing. Due to the crash and the possibility of subsequent scavenging, the air frame might be in a poor shape by now, but do you recall how it looked when you saw it? It would be interesting to re-visit the site and learn more about what happened. I wonder if any locals would have any information.
Also, if it's not an inconvenience for you, would you be able to upload the pictures onto this topic?



Re: P-38 crash in Morehead area of PNG

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 3:18 am
by Des Pike
I have already provided photos of the crash site to this forum and I thought that they would have already been uploaded.
Two stories seem to be possibly associated with this wreckage:
1. During the war three P38's en route Port Moresby-Merauke ran out of fuel in the Bensbach/Arufi area. The story is that they left Townsville, loaded up with fuel, at the expense of ammunition, for Port Moresby. They arrived at Moresby during a Japanese air raid. Low on fuel and with no ammunition they made a run for Merauke which was in allied hands. Three of them ran out of fuel and ditched, one near Arufi,one on the coast somewhere south of Arufi ,and the one shown in my photo about 5-10 miles SE of Bensbach. All the pilots were rescued. The photos below were taken over thirty years ago. At the end of the dry season you can drive to the wreck. I don't know what condition it would be in now as it goes underwater every wet season. 
2. P-38H-5-LO "Hold Everything" Serial Number 42-66826. On November 16, 1943 took off from Dobodura Airfield No. 12 on a mission against Wewak. Inbound to the target, Durkin aborted the mission due to low fuel and returned to base. Returning, he was jumped by a pair of Japanese "Zeros" (Ki-43 Oscars) and took evasive action and lost them both in the clouds. Afterwards, his electric compass stopped working and he became lost and proceeded southward until he reached an unfamiliar coastline. With very little fuel remaining, one engine cut out, forcing him to force landed in what he thought was kunai grass but turned out to be a swamp. He landed unhurt.
There is also another P.38 wreck, also on another grass patch or probably a swamp during the wet season, further east from the one I have photographed. This one is closer to the coast and I have only seen it from the air.