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  B-26 "Kansas Comet II" Serial Number 40-1433  
USAAF
5th AF
22nd BG
19th BS

Pilot  2nd Lt. Walter Krell (WIA, survived)
Co-Pilot  P/O Graham Brindley John "Robbie" Robertson, 412717 (KIA, BR) Hay, NSW
Navigator  2nd Lt. Gene Grauer (WIA, survived)
Bombardier  Cpl Walter R. Darden (WIA, survived)
Crew Chief  TSgt John W. "Johnny" Wilson (survived)
Radio  Sgt Norton (WIA, survived)
Turret Gunner  Cpl Foley (WIA, survived)
Engineer  SSgt John W. Engleman
(WIA, survived)
Crashed  September 13, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Martin. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26 Marauder serial number 40-1433.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 22nd Bombardment Group, 33rd Bombardment Squadron at the Hawaiian Air Depot (HAD) at Hickam Field. During February 1942 transfered to the 19th Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot 2nd Lt. Walter Krell with crew chief TSgt John W. Wilson.

Ferried overseas departing Hickam Field piloted by 2nd Lt. Walter Krell on a ferry flight across the Pacific arriving at Archerfield Airfield on March 24, 1942. Nicknamed "Kansas Comet II" after the loss of B-26 "Kansas Comet" 40-1473 crashed on April 21, 1942.

This B-26 operated from Iron Range Airfield but flew northward to 7 Mile Drome to fly combat missions, returning to Australia afterward to avoid being caught by Japanese air raids against Port Moresby.

On April 9, 1942 this B-26 flew its first combat mission.

On April 22, 1942 took off from Garbutt Field piloted by Krell on a flight to 7 Mile Drome arriving in the late afternoon to stage for a bombing mission the next morning.

On April 23, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome at 8:30am piloted by Krell one of seven B-26 on a bombing mission against Rabaul armed with 100 pound bombs and firebombs. One B-26 failed to take off while the remaining six B-26s proceeded towards the target but encountered bad weather over the Solomon Sea and the southern coast of New Britain and bombed Japanese ships in Simpson Harbor and were intercepted by Zeros. After their bombs, and flying at 200', gunner Pvt Alvin M. Ethridge aboard this B-26 claimed a Zero shot down that exploding in midair.

On June 9, 1942 one of eleven B-26s that took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Walter Krell leading the first flight on a bombing mission against Lae. The mission planned for B-17s from the 19th Bomb Group and B-25s from the 3rd Bomb Group to attack the target first to draw away enemy fighters allowing the B-26s to bomb Lae. Senior officers had requested to fly aboard the B-26s as observers on some of the B-26s. Flying at 11,000' the formation saw B-25 Mitchells from the 3rd Bomb Group under attack by A6M2 Zeros. To avoid the fighters, Lt. Krell changed to the alternate target, Salamaua bombing the town and Salamaua Airfield from 5,000-11,000'. Spotted by A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kokutai, the B-26s were attacked while still climbing and were attacked from the front, sides and rear and chased southward to Cape Ward Hunt where Airacobras from the 39th Fighter Squadron were waiting and engaged the Zeros allowing the B-26 to return to 7 Mile Drome.

On August 26, 1942 took off from Iron Range Airfield piloted by Krell and flown to 7 Mile Drome piloted by Krell leading three other B-26s from the 19th Bombardment Squadron as part of a total force of 19 B-26s from the 22nd Bombardment Group.

On August 27, 1942 took off at at dawn took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Captain Krell with co-pilot P/O Robertson leading six other B-26 on a mission to bomb Buna Airfield escorted by fourteen P-400 Airacobras from the 35th Fighter Group. This attack was to prevent any Japanese from taking off while another force of a dozen B-26s bombed Milne Bay. By 7:15am, Krell's force was over Buna Airfield and the escorting Airacobras were intercepted by Zeros. The B-26s released their 100 pound bombs from an altitude of 1,500' but many bombs failed to release over the target. Afterwards, the B-26s landed at 7 Mile Drome to refuel and departed for Woodstock Airfield.

On September 1, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome around noon piloted by Krell with RAAF co-pilot Robertson leading a formation of nine other B-26 armed with 100 pound bombs on a mission against Lae Airfield. Although scheduled to take off first, one of the other B-26s started their engines prematurely, and this B-26 ended up being the last to lift off. After take off, one B-26 aborted, another was unable to locate the rest of the formation and aborted and a third aborted due to mechanical problems. The remaining seven B-26s led by this bomber reached the target at an altitude of 9,300'. Anticipating anti-aircraft fire, Krell skidded the formation but spoiled the aim of their bombs with roughly half falling into the sea. The other half of the bombs hit Lae Airfield. Returning, they encountered friendly fighters over Cape Waria. Returning to 7 Mile Drome, Krell was the first to land and met the pilot who started his engines first, threatening him with his pistol and to kill him if he ever pulled a stunt like that again. After refueling, the B-26 departed in the afternoon for Cairns Airfield.

Mission History
On September 13, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Krell as one of seven B-26s plus seven more B-26s from 14 Mile Drome. Krell was leading the second force on a bombing mission against Lae. Arriving over the target at 11:00am at an altitude of 11,200', the second force dropped their 100 pound bombs over the Markham River Road to the northwest end of Lae Airfield causing fires on the ground. The formation experienced intense anti-aircraft fire during their run before returning to Port Moresby.

After refueling, this B-26 took off again on a flight southward to Iron Range Airfield. While landing, this bomber hit a termite mound and crashed into a compressor truck then caught fire. Other sources mention suffered brake failure and running off the end the runway, causing the nose gear to collapse. In the crash, RAAF co-pilot Robertson was trapped in the cockpit and died. Also killed in the crash was the driver of the compressor truck.

Krell and engineer Wilson were burned trying to rescue the trapped co-pilot, entering the cockpit from a hole in the fuselage while the plane burned and used their bare hands to tear away the aluminum but were unable to move the two armor plates from behind the cockpit seats. They were forced to abandon their efforts due to the smoke, and cooking off .30 caliber bullets inside the nose section. Krell collapsed and was burned in the attempted rescue.

On the ground, others rushed to the burning aircraft to aid the surviving crew. The six injured were taken away in stretchers at treated in the hospital for their injuries. Afterwards, three of the crew were transfered to Townsville for further treatment. The wounded crew members eventually healed and returned to duty.

In total, this B-26 flew at least sixteen combat missions before it crashed.

Memorials
Robertson was killed in the crash. His remains were recovered and transported to Townsville then permanently buried at Mareeba Old Cemetery at grave D593 (GRM/4).

References
This B-26 Marauder's nickname is also listed as "Kansas Comet #2" in some sources.
CWGC Casualty Details - Graham Brindley John Robertson
World War 2 Nominal Roll - Graham Brindley John Robertson
FindAGrave - Graham Brindley Robertson (grave photo)
Oz @ War -13 September 1942 - Crash of a B-26 Marauder at Iron Range

Revenge of the Red Raiders pages 105-108, 108, 495
pages 80, 105-108 (June 9, 1942 mission), 134, 137-138, 141-142, 302 (profile), 495, 517, 546-547, 612 (index)

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-26
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