B-17F Mid Air Collision near Rigo, PNG, 17 April 1943

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Anthony J. Mireles
Joined:Tue Nov 07, 2006 8:26 pm
Location:Calumet City, Illlinois
B-17F Mid Air Collision near Rigo, PNG, 17 April 1943

Post by Anthony J. Mireles » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:16 pm

4-17-43. Coral Sea, Papua, New Guinea. At 1546, two Boeing B-17F airplanes collided in mid-air about three miles off shore of Rigo, Papua, New Guinea, killing seven crewmembers aboard B-17F # 41-24425, which crashed into the Coral Sea about 30 miles southeast of Jackson Airdrome, Port Moresby, Papua, New Guinea. Four fliers escaped injury and were able to safely land at Jackson Airdrome aboard heavily damaged B-17F # 41-24355. Killed in the crash of B-17F # 41-24425 were: Capt. Charles N. McArthur Jr., pilot; 2Lt. LaRue Haralson, co-pilot; TSgt. Joseph C. Whitelaw, engineer; Sgt. Robert R. Greenwood, assistant engineer; Sgt. George N. Neuman, radio operator; Pvt. William N. Phillips, passenger; Pvt. Brony C. Wysocki, passenger. Landing safely in B-17F # 41-24355 were: Capt. H. Giddings, pilot; 1Lt. Leslie Neumann, co-pilot; Sgt. Alvin K. Hartley, engineer; SSgt. Arthur Sansone, radio operator.

The airplanes were part of a three-ship flight that had taken off at 1450 hours from Jackson Airdrome on a formation and transition training flight. The three airplanes practiced formation flight and cross-over turns for about 45 minutes. Capt. Charles H. Giddings was piloting the lead airplane (B-17F # 41-24355) of a three-ship formation echeloned to the right; Capt. Stanley G. Salisbury was piloting the number-two B-17; Capt. Charles N. McArthur Jr. (B-17F # 41-24425) was flying in the number-three position. It is likely that all three captains occupied the co-pilot seat of their respective airplanes during the flight. Capt. Salisbury found it necessary to feather the number-one propeller, causing his airplane to lag behind the formation.

The lead airpalne and the number-three airplane entered a diving turn to the right and then leveled out at about 2,500 feet indicated altitude while the number-two airplane maintained a straight ahead course. Capt. Salisbury restarted the number-one engine while his top turret gunner, SSgt. Elliot Dresden, observed the formation off of the bomber's right rear quarter. The number-three airpalne closed up to the right of the lead airplane and then attempted a cross-over to the left. The number-three airplane crossed over the top of the lead airplane and it's port propellers collided with the lead airplane's tail section, severing the top half of the rudder and part of the vertical stabilizer. The number-three airplane entered a gentle turn to the left before entering a steep left bank and rolling to an inverted dive. The pilot of the number-three airplane attempted to pull through as in a Split-S. the airplane almost pulled through at the bottom of the half loop, entering a 45-degree dive at about 500 feet agl. The pilot failed to recover and the airplane dove into the sea and exploded into flames, killing all on board instantly.

Lead airplane co-pilot 1Lt. Leslie W. Neumann stated to investigators, "[While] on a transition and [formation] training flight an air collision occurred between two of the airplanes. Formation cross-overs were practiced. Just before the accident we were in an echelon to the right with my airplane leading. I was in the pilot's seat. Number-two broke formation and very shortly thereafter we felt our airplane being hit by the number-three man. I, being on the left, observed this airplane to go off to the left for several seconds, perhaps ten to fifteen seconds, in a fifteen degree bank. I noticed nothing wrong with the plane but suddenly the angle of bank increased until the plane was upside down, then it appeared to almost complete the half-loop but struck the water while going down at about forty-five degrees. The plane at this time was about four miles away but appeared to be all in one piece before it hit the water. It was diving at sufficient speed to cause a streamer to appear off of the right wing. The turning seemed to stop after the airplane got on its back. On striking the water it burst into flames and fifteen or twenty seconds later the fire and everything disappeared from sight, only smoke hanging over the spot. We did not investigate or search the area because our tail section was sufficiently damaged to make it wise to land immediately." (64BS/43BG) (505). The USAAF Form No. 14 Aircraft Accident Report contains several good photographs. Copyright 2009-Anthony J. Mireles/Woody Jason Publishing.

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