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  A-20G-25-DO "Big Nig" Serial Number 43-9436 Tail V
USAAF
5th AF
3rd BG
89th BS

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RAAF October 1994

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Richard Leahy 1994

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Justin Taylan 2006

Pilot  2nd Lt. Tom Reading (survived)
Gunner  S/Sgt Burke L. Cock (survived) Brownsville, PA

Force Landing  May 3, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-20G-25-DO Havoc serial number 43-9436. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 89th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Big Nig". A Damon Runyon style red-Indian character was painted on the left side of the nose by 89th Bombardment Squadron C.O. Captain Edward Suor. Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. James L. Folse with crew chief R. J. Campbell.

Mission History
On May 3, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Tom Reading (flying his 10th mission) with gunner S/Sgt Burke L. Cock on a strike mission against Wewak. Over the target, hit by ground fire that caused an oil leak and a broken crank shaft. Returning, this A-20 force landed into a fresh water swamp. Both of the crew survived unhurt.

Fate of the Crew
Afterwards, both crew were L-5 Liaison from the 25th Liaison Squadron and returned to duty.

Wreckage
Until 1984, this A-20 remained in situ submerged in a fresh water swamp known as Bumbura Swamp near Chugabaru with only the tip of the tail visible above the waterline.

During 1985, Michael Claringbould convinced the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) that this A-20 was another complete A-20G Havoc worth salvaging. On November 20, 1985, RAAF No. 12 Squadron, conducted a search using Claringbould's co-ordinates and located the aircraft.

Salvage
During October 1994, a team from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) used air bags to raise this A-20 to the surface. When the nose was exposed, the nose art and nickname were still clearly visible. Inside the cockpit, 2nd Lt. Thomas Reading's flight goggles and thermos (still half full of coffee) were located. Afterwards, this A-20 was lifted using a Mi-26 Helicopter and transported to Madang Airport and later shipped to Australia.

Display
Several artifacts recovered from "Big Nig" were placed on display RAAF Amberly Museum, including the severed return oil line with shrapnel damage that caused the force landing, the pilot's flight goggles and thermos found in the cockpit. Later, these items were transferred to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook and put on display.

Storage
In Australia, this A-20 was placed into storage at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook. Parts from this A-20 were used in the restoration of A-20 "Hell'N Pelican II" 42-86786.

In late 2004, the RAAF decided not to store this fuselage any longer and traded it to Precision Aerospace / Murry Griffiths. The aircraft was transported aboard a trailer from RAAF Museum at Point Cook to Precision Aerospace.

During late 2004 to 2006, this A-20 was displayed at Precision Aerospace / Pacific Fighters Museum with the nose art covered in plastic. While in storage, external restoration was performed including repainting the fuselage and the original markings of A-20G "Big Nig" 43-9436.

During 2009, "Big Nig" was reportedly to be traded to the United Kingdom in exchange for a Spitfire. The deal was never completed and this A-20 remains at Precision Aerospace / Precision Airmotive at Wangaretta Airport.

Relatives
Louis Folse (son of 1st Lt. James L. Folse)

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20G-25-DO Havoc 43-9436
"9436 ('Big Nig', 89th BS) force-landed in Bumbura Swamp, New Guinea 1944 and abandoned. Salvaged Aug 16, 1944. Recovered 1994 for use by RAAF Museum in restoration of A-20s A28-8 and 42-86786. Remains of this aircraft noted in storage at RAAF Amberley, Australia November 2002, for disposal by RAAF Museum now that their two A-20 restorations are complete."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - A-20G Havoc 43-9436
Pacific Ghosts CD-ROM covers the history and salvage of this aircraft
Forty of the Fifth
pages 54 - 57

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

Tech Info
A-20

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