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  A-20G-20-DO "Benny's Baby" Serial Number 42-86772 Tail J
USAAF
5th AF
312th BG
387th BS

Former Assignments
417th BG

PacificWrecks.com
PacificWrecks.com
April 17, 1944

PacificWrecks.com
RAAF Nov 1985

Pilot  2nd Lt. Glen D. Benskin, O-665378 (rescued)
Gunner  Sgt Winfred "J. J." Westerman, 17038017 (rescued)

Crashed  April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday" at 17:05
MACR  13320

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 417th Bombardment Group. On March 20, 1944 transferred to the 312th Bombardment Group, 387th Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot 2nd Lt. Glen D. Benskin. Nicknamed "Benny's Baby" with tail letter J. When lost, engines R-2600-23 serial numbers 42-107052 and 43-107153. Weapon serial numbers not noted in MACR.

Mission History
On April 16, 1944 took off from Gusap Airfield at 11:05am on a mission Hollandia. Returning, the formation encountered a severe weather front and was flying with five other A-20s led by A-20G "The Texan" piloted by Smart. Benskin's radio had stopped functioning during the mission, and tried to gesture to Smart with his hands. Disoriented, he became convinced Smart was lost, became frustrated and broke away from the formation to fly onward on his own.

Inland and alone, this A-20 ran low on fuel and elected to force land into a swampy area near Karbunka village roughly 20 miles northeast of Annamberg, about 200 yards south of the Ramu River. As Benskin landed, the aircraft cut a swathe through the kunai and spun clockwise before coming to rest at 17:05 near sunset. Both crew were unhurt in the landing. During the crash the forward fuselage became twisted jamming the cockpit canopy shut and gunner Westerman was able to help Benskin to escape through the left window.

Overnight, the two were attacked by mosquitoes. Benskin recalled later:
"The first night was sheer agony - it was hard to believe that there could be so many mosquitoes in the world. At any given moment we were able to wipe hands down our sleeves and kill a hundred or so in one pass. This was in addition to the leeches which constantly attached themselves to our ears and lips."

Search
The next day, two flights of six A-20s searched for this aircraft towards the middle Ramu Valley area. Within an hour, the aircraft and crew were located. In the morning, a RAAF Boomerang first located the crash site and dropped them a note telling them to remain with the aircraft. An liaison aircraft from 25th Liaison Squadron orbited the crash site and photographed the aircraft and dropped a map to them. The crew was ordered to proceed westward about 10 miles to the Keram River where they would find friendly villages.

Despite their instructions, the pair tried to cut a path to the edge of the jungle for shelter from the heat and swamp, but it took two days to reach the jungle due to the thick kunai grass. Cutting the grass, Benskin cut his knee with his machete and it quickly became infected. Giving up, the pair gave up and returned to the aircraft.

Rescue
The river area where they were was unsuitable for rescue by PBY Catalina. Instead, the crew were dropped a map instructing them how to reach a nearby clearing where they would clear a runway for a liaison plane to land. To assist them, P-40s from the 49th Fighter Group flying from Gusap Airfield dropped drop tanks and strafed them to burn off vegetation in the clearing.

Using their raft to the bank of the Ramu River, the pair floated downstream naked, keeping their clothing and weapons aboard the raft for a half mile to reach the clearing, reaching it at night during a heavy rainstorm.

On April 25, The crew were dropped bolo, axes, shovels, tools, air ma tresses, shelter halves, toilet articles, canned food, cigarettes, magazines and clothing. They were ordered to construct a small 225' runway so a liaison aircraft could land to rescue them and camped in the clearing. After four days of work, they completed a runway aided by dry weather. On May 1, an L-4 piloted by SSgt Walter James from the 25th Liaison Squadron landed in the clearing to rescue them. With Benskin aboard who was weakened from his infected machete wound, scrub typhus, blood poisoning and malaria, the L-4 took off and landed at Faita Airfield then Gusap Airfield. That same afternoon, the L-4 returned to rescue Westerman. Afterwards, Benskin who had lost 40lbs was hospitalized for six weeks.

Wreckage
This A-20 remained in situ until 1985. During November 1985, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) salvaged this aircraft, removing the outer wing panels and lifting the aircraft with a CH-47 Chinook to Madang. Shipped to Australia and moved to Amberley Airfield.

Many parts of this A-20 were used in the RAAF restorations of DB-7B "J is for Jessica" A28-8 and A-20G "Hell'N Pelican II" 42-86786 restorations during 1988-1991. Until 2002, the remaining pieces of salvaged parts were placed into storage at RAAF Point Cook. During 2002, remaining parts of this aircraft were possibly disposed, traded or sold by the RAAF.

References
Black Sunday page 7, 32, 55 (photo) 56-57, 79-80 (map) 92, 96, back cover (photo)
Rampage of the Roarin' 20s pages 358, 104, 105 (photos)

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

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A-20

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