|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
Passenger Captain Snyder, 804th Medical Air Evacuation (survived)
Crashed February 12, 1944 at 10:00am
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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'."
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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February 12, 2019