|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)
Passenger Lt Donald Cameron 3rd RAAF Maintenance
Passenger Capt Snyder 804th Medical Air Evacuation (survived)
Crashed February 12, 1944 at 10:00am
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 433rd Troop Carrier Group, 66th Troop Carrier Squadron. Nicknamed "Ghost of Billie L".
On February 12, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield on a mission to drop supplies over Kerowagi.
After making an approach, the pilot realized that it was not Kerowagi and
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
catching fire, crashing at Mingendi
Mission just 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.
Daughter Fiona Hocking adds:
"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
10 American C-47's in their group. One, who's number was 237 and nicknamed "Billie
usually piloted by Captain Richard (Dick) A. Grant. On 12th February, 1944,
my father, two other Australians and three Americans set off in "Billie
Nadzab for Kerowagi for a supply drop. They were headed for Kerowagi
when a bank of clouds came up suddenly. The piolt 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 mountin 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"."
433rd Troop Carrier Group unit history Frame 284 Microfilm A0986
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-47 Dakota 42-23713
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February 4, 2018