Book on 39th Fighter Squadron & Baker's Creek Crash

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Book on 39th Fighter Squadron & Baker's Creek Crash

Post by Edward »

The diary of Capt. Samuel Cutler has been published in "Over and Out!": Sam's Story.

Capt. Cutler was a ground officer with the 39th Fighter Squadron "The Flying Cobra's" from April - November 1942 and he covers their movement to New Guinea in June 1942 and transition from the P-400 Airacobra fighter to the P-38 Lightning. He was also an eyewitness to the terrible crash of the B-17C at Baker's Creek on 14 June 1943 which claimed 40 lives.

Cutler flew to Port Moresby several days before the arrival of the Squadron's pilots in early June 1942 and describes what he sees. His diary provides a lot of interesting details about the personnel and activities of the 39th Squadron and the 35th Fighter Group, supply problems and occasionally points out abuses by U.S. officers.

Anyone interested in the history of the 39th Fighter Squadron, the 35th Fighter Group, the Bakers Creek air crash and the US Army Air Force in the Townsville area (1942-1943) should consider adding this to their library. You can browse through the pages at Google Books.

"Over and Out!": Sam's Story
The Private War Diary of Captain Samuel Cutler, Army Air Corps
US Forces in Australia, 1942-1944

Robert S. Cutler ed.
(Xlibris 2011)
250 pages w/ photos

$29.99 - hardback
$19.99 - paperback ... okid=77594

$9.99 - ebook available through ISBN 13: 978-1-4568-1623-0


- May 18, 1942. Had talks with young pilots of our squadron. One [Lt. Richard Suehr], age 23, bailed out and crash¬ landed north of here last February. He tells of coming down in unexplored bush area enroute to Darwin. Lost for 52 days trying to reach civilization. He saw no people, only cattle. No food except wild berries and frog caught bare handed.

- May 28, 1942. Woke at 5:30 AM. Had a cup of tea for breakfast and buttered toast, English style. Boarded Hudson bomber for a water hop of 350 miles, Coen to Moresby, over the Coral Sea. Rode at 4,000 feet altitude all the way. About three hours out from TVL, and one hour-away from Port Moresby, the pilot received a message that an air raid was in progress at Moresby. We set up the guns on the plane and took battle stations. I manned port machine gun (30 cal., Vickers).

- September 18, 1942. ". . . Our squadron now is switching to the P-38 (Lockheed Lightning) airplanes. Higher, faster, two motors -- will bring battle to the Japs, instead of running from them. . . . Our squadron now increased in size. More pilots are arriving from 32 to 52 and 30 instead of 24 airplanes. Have a new commanding General, General George C. Kenney, who wants our squadron to fight hard. . . ."

- January 19, 1944. Met an old Cavalry friend, Al Geddes. He’s a Major, now. Told me some good news. He was Group Commander of my old 8th AB Group, now in Brisbane. He’s going to be flying to the U.S., next week. Hope he makes it in a C-54, four-motor plane. Happy Landings, Al, old cobber -- “Over and Out!” * * *

"World War II diary of the late Samuel Cutler of Springfield describes tragedy and loneliness of war"
Springfield-area news
Sunday - May 29, 2011

The Springfield native was the last to see 40 passengers alive before a plane crash killed them in Australia in 1943. Samuel L. Cutler closed the door of a plane and watched it take off, but to his shock, it stayed aloft for only minutes. In his World War II diary now available in a book, Cutler, a Springfield native who died in 1990, wrote about how the plane dropped from the sky and killed 40 servicemen in Australia. Cutler was the last to see the servicemen alive and it haunted him. “What a day and a TRAGIC one....killed while flying at 200 mph. Terrible,” Cutler wrote June 14, 1943

His son, Robert S. Cutler, shepherded the diary and edited the book that he calls a labor of love. “I think my daughter said it in the forward, that somewhere, Sam is smiling. What is the line about a story with legs? It’s a Springfield story about a Springfield boy,” said Cutler, 78.

The book is “Over and Out! Sam’s Story: The Private War Diary of Captain Samuel Cutler, Army Air Corps U.S. Forces in Australia, 1942-1944” (Xlibris Corporation, 250 p., 2011). The book is a quick read loaded with detail. On page 185, Cutler writes of exploring the plane wreckage and finding a playing card jammed half-way into a tree by the force of the crash.

Some of the chapters begin with scene-setting text written by Robert Cutler. The first diary entry is Feb. 18, 1942 as Capt. Cutler’s convoy leaves Bangor, Maine. The last is May 20, 1944 in Australia. Norman Corwin, former Republican reporter, wrote the introduction for the book filled with photographs of Cutler with kangaroos, army life and the crash wreckage.

Robert Cutler places the occasional “War News Update,” such as this one in March 1942: “General Douglas MacArthur arrives in Darwin from Philippines to take command of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific. When asked about the Philippines, he replies, ‘I shall return.’”

Diary entries address a soldier’s heartbreak at not getting mail – “Tough when you expect some and don’t get it”– and hometown references to the Eastern States Exposition and Agawam Race Track. Robert Cutler, like his father a Springfield native, is an engineering management professor who splits his time between Pennsylvannia and New Mexico. Samuel Cutler was duty officer on the runway at Bakers Creek, near the northern seaside town of Mackay, Australia June 14, 1943. The duty required that Cutler read aloud the roll of 41 passengers and shut the door of the B-17C “Flying Fortress.” Only one passenger survived. The cause of the crash was never determined. Robert Cutler writes in the book that factors probably included fog restricting visibility, an inflight malfunction of one of the four engines, crew inexperience, and the gross weight of the plane, passengers and cargo.

Converting his father’s diary into a book is just the latest effort Cutler has made to commemorate the crash. One of his successes came in 2009 with dedication of the Baker’s Creek Air Crash Memorial at the Selfridge gate to Arlington National Cemetery in Fort Myer, Va. That ceremony included U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, a friend of Samuel Cutler’s. Neal wrote in an email Thursday he can picture Cutler wearing his trademark VFW hat and trench coat. “While serving his country honorably in World War II, Sam became a part of history when he witnessed a tragic plane crash in Australia killing 40 American servicemen,” Neal wrote. "He kept a diary and his incredible story can now be told.”
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richard rudd
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Re: Book on 39th Fighter Squadron & Baker's Creek Crash

Post by richard rudd »

Would be interesting to see a picture of the memorial at the Selfridge gate, Arlington National Cemetary, Ft Myers.
Beside the Bruce Hwy at Bakers Creek there is also a memorial, a tower with a large brass B17 C on top. The actual crash site is slightly further east towards the coast, I believe.
There is also a small publication, telling the tragic story, with photos available.
I'll see if I can round up a pic and the full title and author

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