|Pilot 1st Lt George Leo Cantello, O-388884 (KIA, BR) Calumet, WI
Crashed June 8, 1942 at 12:15am
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number unknown and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On June 8, 1942 at 12:15am, Japanese submarine I-24 surfaced about four miles off the coast of Sydney and fired ten shells at 30 second intervals at Sydney. Six of the shells failed to explode and the other four caused minor damage to houses and one indirect casualty. For the second time in a week, Sydney was under direct attack by the enemy. At Bankstown Airfield, Lt. Cantello received a phone call saying that Sydney was being shelled. He was the only pilot available at the time and immediately took off from Bankstown Airfield and climbed to 1,000' to intercept the submarine. After take off, his engine failed and the Airacobra plummeted to the ground and exploded in flames north of Hammondville, killing him in the crash.
This Airacobra crashed
north of Hammondville which was a small farming community (today Hammondville is a suburb of Sydney). Afterwards, his body was recovered.
Cantello was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Afterwards, a public memorial service was held for Cantello in Sydney.
Postwar, his remains were permanently buried at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl) at plot C, row 640.
John Jewell, then a very young boy, witnessed the crash of the Airacobra and tried over many years to raise interest with American authorities about the crash. During the 1980's, the US Consul in Sydney started an investigation involving the United States Air Force Historical Research Centre, American Battle Monuments Commission, Washington National Records Centre and members of the 41st Fighter Squadron. On June 12, 1988, the citizens of Bankstown unveiled a memorial to the memory of 1st Lt Cantello as part of a Bicentennial project. It is located in Lieutenant Cantello Reserve. The plaque reads:
The Honourable John C. Dorrance
Consul General of the United States of America
To commemorate the dedication of this memorial to
1ST LT. GEORGE LEO CANTELLO (0-3888) USAAF
Commander 41st Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, who gave his life nearby on 8th June, 1942 in the defense of Sydney. Alderman C.R. Conway, J.P. (Mayor)
Don Cantello (son of George Cantello)
FindAGrave - George Cantello (photo, grave photo, memorial photo)
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400"
Australian War Memorial Collection Database - Item P05600.002
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February 4, 2018