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  A-20G-25-DO "Joy Baby" Serial Number 43-9039 Tail S
USAAF
5th AF
3rd BG
13th BS

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Colin Jermy 1979

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Justin Taylan 2003

Pilot  2nd Lt. Billy D. Sanders (survived) Piggott, AR
Gunner  ?
(survived)
Force Landed  April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday"
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built at Douglas. Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 13th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Joy Baby". On the left engine cowl was painted "Jane" in yellow script by the crew chief.

Mission History
On April 5, 1944 piloted by Baldwin flew a bombing mission against Hollandia.

Mission History
On April 16, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield at roughly 10:30am one of nine 13th Bombardment Squadron A-20s led by C.O. Major Richard Walker on a low level strike mission against Hollandia. This A-20 took off last and had to fly at higher throttle settings to catch up to the rest of the formation, consuming extra fuel.

Returning from the mission, the formation encountered a severe weather front. Sanders became lost in cloudy weather, separated and lost but managed to follow the New Guinea coastline in hopes of locating Saidor Airfield.

This A-20 ran out of fuel and force landed with the landing gear down near the Malas River. During the landing, the nose wheel collapsed, and the right wing impacted a tree, but both crew were unhurt in the landing. This A-20 was the 3rd Bombardment Group's only loss on the mission that was later dubbed "Black Sunday" for the number of aircraft lost.

Fates of the Crew
The crew was unaware they were behind enemy lines and believed they were inside Allied territory. Together, they built a shelter on the beach and lit a bonfire to attract the attention of friendly forces or aircraft. Using their survival kit, they managed to catch several fish and went to sleep for the night. Only a few minutes walk inland was the North Coast Road, used by the Japanese forces moving between Madang and Hansa Bay.

Rescue
The next day, spotted by four P-38H Lightnings from the 36th Fighter Squadron led by 1st Lt. Orville Hermann, who reported their position and orbited the area to cover their rescue.

Responding to their call, a US Navy PBY Catalina piloted by Lt. Merritt from VPB-34 from USS Half Moon, who had just rescued another downed air crew. Circling, they spotted a column of Japanese soldiers a half mile away approaching the crash site.

Even when the PBY Catalina taxied up to them, both were still unaware that they were behind enemy lines. Sanders even invited the Navy crew members to join them for a swim before departing.

The Catalina's nose gunners response is unknown, but this humorous incident was quickly reported to 5th Air Force commander General Kenney at Nadzab, as one of the few humorous stories from "Black Sunday", and he even mentioned the incident in his memoirs, recalling his reaction to the rescue "That evening we got a chance to smile."

November 6, 1944 Saunders earned the Air Medal from Col. Jared V. Crabb for completing 45 missions.

Wreckage
After the rescue, the intact wreckage was strafed by American aircraft, setting the center section on fire to prevent it from falling into Japanese hands.

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Billy D. Sanders

Black Sunday page 97
General Kenney Reports page 388
Thanks to Colin Jermy and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Information
A-20
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