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by Michael Claringbould
Aerosian Publications  1995
Soft cover
80 pages
index, maps, photos

Language: English

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Helluva Pelican
The History Recovery and Restoration of a Douglas A-20 Bomber From New Guinea's Jungles

This book covers the complete wartime history, rediscovery and salvage of A-20G "Hell'N Pelican II" 42-86786, with forward by former pilot Charles H. Davidson. The book's title is derived from a comment from the 312th Bombardment Group reunion at Niagara Falls in 1985. When the author present a memento from the aircraft to Davidson and he retold its story, and audience member should "Hey Charles, your airplane musta been a Helluva Pelican!".

Author Michael Claringbould became involved with this aircraft wreck and the former pilot, meeting him in 1985 and visiting him in retirement in Houma, Lousiana. Also, he accessed crew chief "Fudgie" Figuerido, Robert Strauss (C.O. of the 312th) and other pilots from the squadron.

The first chapter details the wartime history of the A-20 and Davidson flying from Gusap Airfield. Chapter two details the April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday" mission. The next chapter covers the escape and rescue of the crew including a day to day diary of the trek.

Chapter four details Claringbould's 1979 rediscovery of the intact wreck. Chapter five details the RAAF "Operation Venture One" to salvage the aircraft. Claringbould was part of the ground crew and provides a daily diary of events and details associated with the successful salvage operation.

The final chapter details the restoration of the A-20 and appenxises, including Davidson's escape and evasion report dated May 8, 1944, 312th BG A-20s that were lost on "Black Sunday" and A-20 "Big Nig" plus a detailed appendix.

For anyone interested in a detailed combat history, escape and evasion story and details on the rediscovery and salvage of one of the best preseved A-20 wrecks in the world, this book is a must. Claringbould has gone on to research and write Black Sunday, exploring the entire April 16, 1944 mission and many other books and articles on the topic of the 5th Air Force.

Interview with author Michael Claringbould

Review by  Justin Taylan

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

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