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O8 Type Crash Launch

Ship History
Built as an O8 Type Crash Boat for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Assigned to RAAF Marine Section Air-Sea Rescue. This vessel operated in Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby.

Wartime History
On July 28, 1943 this launch arrived during the afternoon at the crash site of B-25D Mitchell 41-30496 and recovered the bodies of three of the crew: Ducci, Mack, and Steele despite extremely difficult conditions.

On July 29, 1943 this launch returned with RAAF Sgt Ritchey and six Americans from the 71st Bombardment Squadron returned to the crash site of of B-25D Mitchell 41-30496 and recovered the bodies of the two remaining crew. Departing, for reasons unknown the launch exploded, caught fire and sank to the waterline with the two bodies aboard.

Fates of the Crew
The rescue crew were dropped a life raft by a B-17 Flying Fortresses and swam to nearby Bavo Island to await rescue. Unaware the rescuers were on the island, B-17 Flying Fortresses commenced a three hours of bombing runs against the island from 30,000'. The rescuers took cover among the rocks, wounding four of the Americans.

Meanwhile, another rescue launch from 45 OBU Marine Section arrived with Ft. Lt. John Shelton aboard and spotted them on Bavo Island and proceeded between bombing runs to treat the men. Spotted by an orbiting B-25, a life raft was dropped and the bombing practice runs aborted. Afterwards, Shelton earned the Medal of Freedom from the U. S. Army and Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for this and other rescues he performed.

Air Sea Rescues - Moresby Area extracts from No. 74 wing file 908/1/P1 taken a Port Moresby on 4th December 1944 page 1-2
Marine Section - Port Moresby Area notes on conversation with O. C. F/O J. Wilcox and FSgt A. Smelt at Moresby on December 7, 1944, pages 1-2 states bombing aircraft were B-24 Liberators
Wrecks & Reefs pages 11 (map), 26, 126-127, 218

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Last Updated
August 18, 2018


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