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|Pilot Captain Herschall R. Henson (KIA, BR)
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Francis W. Fritzmacher (KIA, BR)
Navigator 1st Lt. James Bastion (KIA, BR) TX
Bombardier TSgt John T. Doran (KIA, BR) PA
Engineer TSgt John A. Samara (KIA, BR) VA
Crew Sgt Lawrence W. Donker (KIA, BR) NY
Crew SSgt Louis N. Camp, Jr. (KIA, BR) TX
Crew Cpl Robert G. Case (KIA, BR) OH
Crew Pvt Jack C. Kaynor (KIA, BR) MI
Crashed September 13, 1942
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd Bombardment Squadron at Charleville Airfield. During late August, detached for service with the 19th Bombardment Group, 93rd Bombardment Squadron operating from Mareeba Airfield.
On August 25, 1942 took off Mareeba Airfield piloted by Major Felix Hardison leading a nine bomber formation on a mission against a Japanese convoy off Milne Bay. Over the target, the B-17s could find no targets and afterwards landed at 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby before returning to Mareeba Airfield.
On August 26, 1942 one of eight B-17s that took off from Mareeba Airfield at 4:00am piloted by Major Felix Hardison leading the formation on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy off Milne Bay. Weather inbound to the target was horrible with a ceiling of only 2,000' or less. Between 6:30am to 7:45am the formation bombed from roughly 1,500' and experienced accurate anti-aircraft fire from the ships. This B-17 had bomb rack problems that prevented the bombs from releasing and required the B-17 to make a dozen runs from between 1,400' to 2,800'.
On September 4, 1942 took off piloted by Captain Jay Rousek on a reconnaissance mission over the Coral Sea.
During takeoff from Mareeba Airfield this bomber caught fire and crashed about a half mile off the end of the runway. It burned for a short time then exploded, fully loaded with bombs and fuel, killing the entire crew. The noise of the explosion was heard as far away as Yungaburra and the shock wave affected homes in the town of Mareeba three and a half miles away.
Chris Lind adds:
Take off roll was too late so Henson apparently applied full war power to engines and appeared to hauled back on yoke thus pitching the aircraft into nose high attitude. This was witnessed by a local who was standing on access road at end of the strip, who was returning home from a function. The aircraft lifted off but overloaded and under powered flew for 1/4 of an mile off the end of the bomber strip then crashed into a dry creek bed and exploded.
Parts of which still lie there today. Mareeba Shire council has a small section on a plaque with inscription mounted on its council building wall to mark the event. I recovered a flare tube, wing attachment section and shattered nose cone from a 500lb GP bomb from the site in 1986 and presented then to the Cairns Historical Society museum. As a footnote... the tail gunner woke the next day and shocked everyone with his appearance as all thought he was dead. Also, I spoke to the son of a turnip farmer adjacent to the bomber runway who told me that on occasion, his father, who was devoutly religious and a non drinker along with other people, had seen what appears to be a group of men standing at the end of the runway or sometimes on the runway in the early morning light. When approached they seem to ‘fade to nothing’.”
Postwar, they were transported to the United States. Buried at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl) are Doran and Case, grave details unknown. Kaynor at plot F site 123. Buried at Arlington National Cemetery is Bastion at section 1 site 105-B.
Samara is buried at Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Virginia at site 724. Donker is buried at Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale NY at plot H grave 9083. Camp is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery at plot Q site 12.
Grave details on the other crew members are unknown, but presumed to be buried in private cemeteries.
On the September 17, 2011, a bronze plaque to honor this bomber's crew was dedicated at Mareeba Airfield.
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