|Pilot Lt. George Leland Hutchinson (KIA, BR) San Francisco, CA
Co-Pilot F/O Thomas N. Rowe, 400293 (KIA, BR) South Yarra, VIC
Engineer A1c Kenneth L. Murphy, 15165 (KIA, BR) Five Dock, NSW
Radio LAC Arthur D. Meadow, 9034 (MIA / KIA) Solomontown, SA
Asst Radio LAC Allan Downes, 16809 (MIA / KIA) Dalglish, WA
Gunner Sgt Doug C. Coote, 407763 (KIA, BR) Port Elliot, SA
Port Waist Gunner LAC Bruce E. Craigie, 22050 (MIA / KIA) Leura, NSW
Starboard Waist Gunner Cpl Tom Keen, 9351 (survived) Townsville, QLD
Rear Gunner Cpl Jack R. Wyche, 12217 (MIA / KIA) Lidcombe, NSW
Crashed January 21, 1942
The pilot, George "Hutch" Hutchinson was an United States Navy (USN) pilot who was serving with the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia. At the start of the Pacific War, he volunteered to fly with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He flew missions including searching for the HMAS Sydney and a bombing raid against Truk. He became the first American killed in action in the New Guinea theater.
Built by Consolidated as a Model 28-5MA at San Diego during 1941. Constructors Number 259. Purchased by Qantas Empire Airways (QEA). On August 18, 1941 departed San Diego on a delivery flight to Australia arriving at Rose Bay Seaplane Base on August 26, 1941. Registered in Australian as VH-AFJ. On August 28, 1941 arrived at Rathmines Seaplane Base.
Delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Catalina serial number A24-9. On October 4, 1941 assigned to 11 Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On January 21, 1942 took off from Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby at 7:35am on a mission to deliver radio equipment to Salamaua. They flew down the coast to the east to Baniara, then to the north coast of New Guinea. They spotted about 13 Japanese fighters returning form a strike on Salamaua, and tried to escape by climbing into clouds at 7,000'. Sited, they were attacked shooting at one of the Zeros and causing it to fall away, but where fatally hit. The aircraft, with the dead crew members aboard crashed near Yambo. When lost, this Catalina became the first reconnaissance aircraft shot down in New Guinea.
As the PBY dove, and gunner Keen was thrown out, without his parachute attached but managed to get it attached in the air. When opened, the Zeros strafed him, while he pretended to be dead. Keen made his way through the jungle to a village, and took him down to Hopoi to a German missionary, Mr. Lehner, who had witnessed the dogfight. Ten days later, he helped him to Nadzab, Wau and Post Moresby ten days later.
This aircraft crashed and burned near Yambo. After the crash, Yambo villagers visited the crash site and recovered several bodies that were ejected during the crash. Also, they recovered items including tools and guns that had the wooden handles burned away during the fire.
During late 1943, Australian forces recovered the remains of the crew found at the crash site.
In 2002, a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Team including Greg Williams visited the crash site and met with descendants of the villages from Yambo who helped Cpl Keen escape to Lae.
The entire crew as officially declared dead the day of the mission. Four of the crew: Meadow, Wyche, Downes and Craigie remain Missing In Action (MIA) and are memorialized at Lae War Cemetery at panel 7.
After the recovery of remains, Hutchinson was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section B, site 139. Three of the crew are buried at Lae War Cemetery. Murphy at D. D. 1, Rowe at D. D. 4 and Coote at D. D. 5.
ADF Serials - Catalina A24-9
RAAFDB - Consolidated PBY Catalina A24-9
CWGC - Arthur Drohen Meadow
CWGC - Kenneth Laurence Murphy
CWGC - Thomas Nicoll Rowe
CWGC - Allan Downes
CWGC - Dougla Charles Coote
CWGC - John Edward Bruce Craigie
CWGC - Jack Raymond Wyche
FindAGrave - George Leland Hutchinson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Flying Officer Thomas Nicoll Rowe
FindAGrave - Aircraftman 1st Class Kenneth Laurence Murphy
FindAGrave - Corporal Jack Raymond Wyche
FindAGrave - Leading Aircraftman Arthur Drohen Meadow
Leading Aircraftman Allan A Downes
Sergeant Douglas Charles Coote
World War Two Nominal Roll - Thomas Henry Keen
"The day a Cat's luck gave out" by Robert Piper
Air Force Magazine "Escape under deadly fire" by WGDCR Mary Anne Whiting and Greg Williams Aug 24, 2017
"In 2002, an Air Force team visited the site and met with descendants of the villagers from Yambo who helped CPL Keen get back to Lae.
FLTLT Greg Williams (now WGCDR Williams, Deputy-Director Aircraft Wrecks and MIA Investigation, History and Heritage Branch - Air Force) spoke to an elderly man from the village who recalled the day CPL Keen walked into the village.
The man recalled that CPL Keen was bloodied and in obvious shock.
The wreck of the aircraft remains buried in the thick jungle in the hills above Yambo, and lies as a permanent memorial to the service and
sacrifice of the crew of Catalina A24-9."
Thanks to Greg Williams, Daniel Leahy and Robert Piper for additional information
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June 29, 2019