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  C-47A-30-DL "Ghost of Billie L" Serial Number 42-23713 Nose 237
USAAF
5th AF
433rd TCG
66th TCS

Click For Enlargement
via Hocking c1943

Click For Enlargement
USAAF c1943

Pilot  1st Lt Paul F. Jacobs, O-669730 (survived)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt George W. Felton, O-1286624 (survived)
Crew Chief  S/Sgt Thanes J. "Tom" Benish, 33264443 (survived)
Radio   Sgt Ralph L. Hibbs, 32270243 (WIA, slight head injuries, survived) Mercer County, NJ
Passenger  Flight Lt. Donald Cameron 3rd RAAF Maintenance Company (survived)
Passenger  Captain Snyder, 804th Medical Air Evacuation (survived)
Crashed  February 12, 1944 at 10:00am
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Constructors Number 9575. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47A-30-DL Dakota serial number 42-23713. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 433rd Troop Carrier Group, 66th Troop Carrier Squadron. Nicknamed "Billie L." and later renamed "Ghost of Billie L." with the nose art of a nude woman with her legs crossed and her right hand behind her head. Nose number (buzz number) 237 on the sides of the cockpit.

Mission History
On February 12, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by 1st Lt Paul F. Jacobs on a mission to air drop supplies over Kerowagi. While making their approach, a cloud bank came up and the pilot tried to tried to pull up. Despite applying full power, the aircraft continued to settle towards the runway, landing about halfway along, struck a hut with its wing, and went over an embankment, breaking the fuselage, both engines caught fire then crashed at 10:00am near Mingendi Mission a couple of miles short of Kerowagi. Afterwards, the fires were extinguished and the crew survived unhurt with only radio operator Hibbs suffering slight head injuries.

Relatives
Fiona Hocking (daughter of Donald Cameron):
"My father, Don Cameron, was in the 3rd Australian Air Maintenance Company in New Guinea in 1943 based at Nadzab. His company was in a joint operation with the American 66th Troop Carrier Squadron - the 'Biscuit Bombers'. There were ten American C-47's in their group. One, who's number was 237 and nicknamed 'Billie L' was usually piloted by Captain Richard (Dick) A. Grant. On 12th February, 1944, my father, two other Australians and three Americans set off in 'Billie L' from Nadzab for Kerowagi for a supply drop. They were headed for Kerowagi when a bank of clouds came up suddenly. The pilot said he didn't like the look of it and dad agreed that they should turn back. The cloud came in too fast and with next to no visibility, they crashed into Mingendi Mission, the left wing clipping a hut and the fuselage broke in two. Somehow, all on board escaped. Dad told the Chief he could have the plane and any supplies they could salvage and asked if someone could get a message to Kerowagi for them. The message said that they had crashed, all were OK and requested immediate evacuation from Kerowagi. The Chief then had all six stretchered to Kerowagi which Dad said took most of the day. The next day Dick Grant flew up in another C-47 and landed on what Dad describes as no longer than a cricket pitch. The natives helped turn the plane around and back it up into the bushes so that only the front wheels were on the landing strip. When all were on board, Dick revved the plane until it was shaking and then released the brakes. The plane dropped off the side of the mountain and he used the thermals to keep it airborne until they had the necessary air speed to fly. Another C-47 was commissioned to replace 'Billie L' and they named her 'Ghost of Billie L'. Dad turn 85 in April this year and he said he wishes he had a photo of all 10 planes in their group with their insignia on them. He can't remember all of their names - just three: 'Billie L', 'Suzie Q' and 'Dewars'."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ralph L. Hibbs
USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-47A-30-DL Dakota 42-23713
"23713 (MSN 9575) delivered May 21, 1943 - 5th AF Brisbane Jul 16, 1943 - Condemned Feb 15, 1944 accident"
433rd Troop Carrier Group unit history Frame 284 Microfilm A0986
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-47 Dakota 42-23713
Thanks to Fiona Hocking for additional information

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Last Updated
February 12, 2019

 

Tech Info
C-47
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