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22nd BG c1942
22nd BG July 2, 1942
Brian Bennett 2004
|Pilot 2nd Lt Robert R. Hatch (survived) NC
Co-Pilot Fl/Sgt Eddley A. “Bob” Daniels, RAAF (survived) Ravensthorpe, WA
Navigator Lt John Bevan (survived)
Bombardier Sgt Don Maye (survived)
Radio Sgt Leonard G. Robinson (survived)
Turret Gunner Cpl. James F. Shemberger (survived)
Flight Engineer/Gunner Sgt. R. I. Slater (survived)
Force Landed August 7, 1942
Assigned to pilot 2nd Lt. Robert R. Hatch "Junior". Crew chief was William "Bill" Chiako, later crew chief was Clark. Nicknamed "Dixie" painted in white on the left and right side of the nose. Later, a white squiggly line was painted below the nickname. Below the cockpit window on the left and right side of the nose were bomb markings indicating combat missions flown, several with a star above for good results.
On March 28, 1942 part of a formation of B-26s flown from Amberley Field to Garbutt Field near Townsville, and afterwards taxied down Duckworth Street to park at Stock Route Airfield in front of the home of the Cardell family.
Wings Around Us by Rodney G. Cardell page 24:
On April 5, 1942 took off from Garbutt Field at 1:30pm piloted by 1st Lt. Robert R. Hatch with co-pilot 2nd Lt. Jay Zeamer and navigator 2nd Lt. Carrol W. Casteel, armed with four 500 lbs bombs on a flight to 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby to stage for its first combat mission. The flight included ten B-26s, most from the 19th Bomb Squadron along with six B-25 Mitchells from the 3rd Bomb Group. During the flight, one B-26 aborted the mission due to engine trouble while the remainder landed at 7 Mile around evening.
On April 6, 1942 this B-26 flew its first combat mission. One of ten B-26s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 3:00am with the same crew aboard on a mission to bomb enemy shipping in Simpson Harbor off Rabaul, while the B-25s bombed Gasmata. After take off, there was poor visibility and rain that resulted in two B-26s being unable to find the formation and both aborted the mission. Over the target intercepted by A6M4 Claudes and fired on by anti-aircraft guns. Although the B-26s dropped their bombs over the target, they failed to cause any significant damage and returned to 7-Mile Drome by 10:35am to refuel and departed back to Garbutt Field.
On April 10, 1942 took off from Garbutt Field in the afternoon piloted by 1st Lt. Robert R. Hatch on a flight to 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby to stage for a combat mission the next morning, with the crews overnighting in their bombers, armed with 500 lbs bombs.
On April 11, 1942 this B-26 flew its second combat mission. One of eight B-26s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a bombing mission against Rabaul shipping and airfields. Over the target, B-26 piloted by Lt. Krell with B-26 piloted by Lt. Ray on the right wing and this bomber on the left wing overflew Blanche Bay then over Simpson Harbor at 4,500'. Despite heavy clouds and anti-aircraft fire, the formation bombed the Rabaul dock area but failed to cause any damage. Over the target, Hatch and Ray claimed to see an "enemy carrier", actually axillary carrier Kasuga Maru. After dropping their bombs, the formation was intercepted by enemy fighters before they departed the target area and escaped into clouds. After landing, Hatch confronted Krell about not attacking the carrier instead.
On April 30, 1942 this B-26 flew its third combat mission. Took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 5:00am piloted by Hatch armed with 100 pound bombs along with B-26 "Diana's Demon" 40-1495 and B-26 "Lil' Rebel" 40-1388 on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield. Arriving at dawn at 600' altitude, the bombers released their bombs over parked aircraft. Hatch's bombs landed behind a twin engined bomber. On the ground one bomber and four Zeros sustained shrapnel damaged, one Zeros destroyed and one Zero heavily damaged. Leaving the target, the formation was intercepted by seven A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kokutai but none of the B-26s were damaged and returned safely.
On April 30, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 5:00am piloted by Herron armed with 100 pound bombs along with B-26 "Dixie" 40-1496 and B-26 "Lil' Rebel" 40-1388 on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield. Arriving at dawn at 600' altitude, the bombers released their bombs over parked aircraft. Herron reported his bombs fell within 10' of the parked planes setting off explosions and fires.
On May 2, 1942 this B-26 flew its fourth combat mission. One of seven B-26s that took off from 7-Mile Drome on a bombing mission against enemy shipping in Simpson Harbor off Rabaul. Over the target, the formation sustained heavy anti-aircraft fire and this B-26 was hit in the right engine and engine nacelle. Departing the formation was chased for 30-40 minutes by A5M4 Claudes and A6M2 Zeros before reaching clouds over Saint Georges Channel and returned to 7-Mile, then departed in the afternoon back to Garbutt Field.
On June 9, 1942 this B-26 flew its fifth combat mission, one of eleven B-26s that took off from from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Hatch armed with 100 pound bombs on a mission against Lae. Aboard this B-26 was observer U. S. Army Major General William F. Marquat. 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. Flying at 11,000' the formation saw B-25 Mitchells from the 3rd Bomb Group under attack by A6M2 Zeros. To avoid the fighters, B-26 "Kansas Comet II" 40-1433 piloted by 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. During the combat, Hatch protected B-26 piloted by Lt. Powell that was damaged by gunfire.
Low on fuel, near the north coast of New Guinea, Lt. Hatch spotted a dry river bed overgrown with kunai grass near a river and decided to belly land. Before landing, the crew disarmed their single 1,000' bomb and jettisoned it before making a perfect force landing wheels up.
Fates of the Crew
The next morning, the crew destroyed the bomb sight and used the plane's remaining fuel to burn the bomber. For the next four days, the crew wandered in swamps in the vicinity trying to find their way to safety while camping at night on dry ground and eating wild sugar cane before reaching a river and a native village they thought was abandoned, until the people revealed themselves. Shemberger wrote: "Finally the natives returned, and we gave them some coins we had for one of their pigs which they roasted for us still alive and kicking."
Afterwards, they agreed to provide two canoes and advised the crew to proceed down the Mambare River, where the crew camped on a sandbar in the middle of the river. After three days, they reached the coast and were taken to Duvira to Anglican missionary Romney Gill. There, they met Sgt Ranta the sole survivor of B-17E 41-2435. After resting for a day, the Americans walked northward along the coast.
Passing Bau village where they saw the wreckage and grave of P-39 Airacobra piloted by 2nd Lt. Magre. Turning inland, they were escorted by a Police Boy who escorted them to an Australian spotters station that radioed their whereabouts to Port Moresby and a B-17 dropped supplies to them including food and medicine to treat those who contracted malaria. Shemberger wrote: "Slater and I came down with malaria, and the commandos gave us quinine, which helped our recovery. They radioed Port Moresby o our arrival and a B-17 flew over and dropped supplies to us. The Australian War Mothers send along a package for each of us. Those packets were certainly appreciated: tooth paste, soap and cigarettes. They also dropped boots to replace our worn out ones. I scored a pair - side 11 1/2! Walking through the jungle with new boots can sure give one blisters. The delivered spam and rice tasted good after what we had been used to."
Afterwards, the group walked into the mountains, sleeping in native villages before reaching Garaina Airfield. Once they arrived, a radio message was sent for a plane to pick them up. On September 3, 1942 a RAAF Hudson landed to transport the group back to Port Moresby, twenty-eight days after their force landing. After being debriefed, the crew was given leave in Australia.
During 2004, a team from JPAC including Brian Bennett visited this crash site. The last two digits of the tail serial number "96" was visible. The mud was dug out to reveal the fuselage "1496", positively identifying this aircraft. At the time, the top turret's right 50 caliber machine guns remained in situ, the left one was removed. At the time, several artifacts including one of the cockpit seats and the aircraft's ladder were in the nearby village.
Brian Bennett adds:
Mark Robinson (son of L. G. Robinson)
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