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Email from Arch Simpson to Graham Orphan of Classic Wings Down Under
Thursday 13 September 2001 regarding the crash of P-40N A29-414

“Yes I know a lot about [P-40N Kittyhawk A29-]414 HU Z. I watched it prang at Tadji. It was flown by a special close mate Jim Harvey. What happened was 78 was ordered (under McArthur’s strategy of bypassing points of resistance, and establishing new bases in lightly defended areas) to fly from Cape Gloster, on the western tip of New Britain to a point named Tadji, but at our time of take it was still in enemy hands and there was no proper strip. However we were assured that heavy bombing had softened up the resistance, the landing force was on the beach head and securing a perimeter, and the strip building machinery was disembarking. When we got to the point of no return, (insufficient fuel reserves to get home) we were informed “All was well, and the strip would be ready by the time we arrived”.

My No 2 and I were nominated to patrol the area while the squadron landed, and – bloody hell!! over on their back went a couple of the first to land. What had happened was some of the bomb craters of the softening up attacks were deep enough to open the water table (the strip was almost on the beach) and of course filling these [with] loose earth just made a mud trap.

The whole squadron was running low on fuel, so the only remedy was to bulldoze the belly up aircraft off the strip, and watch with interest as the next attempted to land.

Of course it was a bit of a gamble as to whether a wheel hit one of these craters, except where another aircraft had gone over and there was much disturbed mud. Poor old Jim was not lucky. I watched him make his approach – looked good but suddenly there was a duck egg blue belly and the bulldozer moving in. Jim did spill a bit of blood for which he was awarded the “Purple Heart” but he was OK the next day."

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