|Pilot 1st Lt. John M. Huber (resuced)
Thomas Smith (resuced)
Force Landed January
Built by Douglas. Shipped partially disassembled
from the United States to Townsville,
where it was assembled. On January 14, 1944 this aircraft was assigned to the 312th Bombardment Group, 389th Bombardment Squadron, with no tail letter.
19, 1944 took off from Garbutt Field near Townsville piloted by 1st Lt. John M. Huber as one of six A-20s on a ferry flight via Horn Island Airfield bound for Port Moresby. This aircraft was the fifth A-20 in the formation with with wingman A-20G 42-86620 piloted by Young.
During the flight, the pair encountered overcast and rain. Afraid they overshot Horn Island, the pair turned around and searched for the island, flying west instead of northeast. Young expressed doubt about their course, but Huber continued to fly westward until their planes began to run low on fuel.
Spotting an beach in Morington Island in the Wellesley Islands this A-20 successfully force landed on the beach with the landing gear down. The crew survived unhurt. Nearby, A-20G 42-86620 landed nearby with the landing gear retracted.
Fates of the Crew
At the time, both crews believed they had landed at Horn Island and waited for five days with their aircraft. On the sixth day, they attempted to use their life rafts to reach another island and paddled at night to take advantage of calmer seas.
On January 28, 1944 a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Catalina piloted by Flight Lt. Bert Delahunty from 43 Squadron based at Karumba spotted the men and landed to rescue the four crew members from the two downed aircraft and transported them to Karumba where they recovered for three weeks.
Three weeks later,
a RAAF amphibian transported a group to the pair of downed aircraft in an attempt to repair them. This A-20's engines started, but was unable to taxi in the sand. Instead, Australian mechanics stripped the aircraft for spare parts, removing the machine guns and other equipment. The rest of the aircraft was abandoned.
Other sources incorrectly state the force landing was January 16, 1944
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20G-20-DO Havoc 42-86724
The Crash Landing by Eliot R. Young, Jr.
Rampage of the Roarin' 20's pages 56-57, 59 (photos), 363 incorrectly lists loss as 1/16/44
Thanks to Eliot Young, Jr. for additional information
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January 18, 2019