CRASH OF A DC3 CIVIL AIRCRAFT
INTO A USAAF B-17E FLYING FORTRESS
AND A DUTCH LOCKHEED LODESTAR
ON 18 FEBRUARY 1942

 

The first twelve B-17Es to move to Australia from Hawaii after Pearl Harbor made their first stop at Plaines des Gaiacs, on New Caledonia where they checked with the only Operations Officer at the airfield. He advised that he had been out of radio contact with Australia for the previous three days and he had no idea what the weather was like over the Coral Sea.

Unbeknown to the crews of the 12 aircraft, a large tropical cyclone had just crossed the coast near Cardwell north of Townsville and had then moved back out to sea north of Mackay. Extensive damage and loss of life occurred from flooding in the Dawson and Callide Valleys.

Only two of the twelve B-17Es made it through this large tropical storm to Garbutt airfield in Townsville on 19 February 1942. They were the B-17s piloted by Bill Lewis and Harry Spieth. The other ten B-17Es of US Navy Task Force 11 diverted to Archerfield airfield in Brisbane.

On 18 February 1942, some Dutch airmen arrived at Archerfield on three Lockheed Lodestars. On that same day, six B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 88 Reconnaissance Squadron of the 7th Bomb Group arrived at Archerfield from Hawaii. They were part of the 10 B-17's that were diverted to Archerfield as a result of the cyclone.

Harold N. Chaffin's B-17E, #41-2430 "Naughty But Nice", was damaged that night when an Australian DC3 civilian aircraft, VH-ACB,  piloted by Keith Virtue, ran into it while taxiing. The civilian aircraft also badly damaged a Dutch Lockheed Lodestar, # LT922, which was parked beside the American B-17. Chaffin's B-17 suffered damage to its starboard wing, the tail and part of its fuselage. Fortunately the parked aircraft had nobody in them at the time that they were hit by the civilian aircraft.

The Lockheed Lodestar's fuselage was completely wrecked and was subsequently written off. B-17 #41-2430 finally re-joined its unit in Townsville on 27 February 1942. As a result of this accident it had missed out on being involved in the first B-17 mission to Rabaul on 22/23 February 1942.

B-17E Flying Fortress “Naughty But Nice” was to take part in an attack on Vanakanau Drome, Rabaul on 26 June 1943. At the time there was no evidence that the aircraft reached the target, but navigator 2nd Lt. Holguin was a POW in Japanese Army Camp on Rabaul and was later repatriated to America. The remains of #41-2430 were subsequently located in the lower Bainings, East New Britain where they still exist today.

CREW MEMBERS OF #41-2430

2nd Lt Charles E. Trimingham (0-727282)
2nd Lt. William J. Sarsfield (0-791243)
2nd Lt. Francis G. Peattie (0-727655)
2nd Lt. Hensen H. Knott (0-669320)
2nd Lt. Jos I. Holguin (0-728388)
T/Sgt. Leonard A. Gionet? (11009541)
T/Sgt. Robert L. Christpherson (17817152)
S/Sgt. Henry Garcia (19680310)
S/Sgt. Robert E. Griebel (37139583)
S/Sgt. Pace P. Payne (18081362)

The following two personnel were initially shown as members of the crew on a military crash card that I have but they were then deleted for some reason:-

Cpl. Homer C. Harper (17042548)
Cpl Joel N. Griffin (18040364)

B-17E #41-2430 "Naughty But Nice" was one of the B-17s of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron, 7th Bomb Group that arrived over Hickham Field on 7 December 1941 in the middle of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. It had originally been delivered to the Salt Lake SAD on 30 November 1941. It was written off on 28 June 1943.

 

Harold Chaffin was later involved in rescuing
General Douglas MacArthur and his entourage
from the Philippines on 17/18 March 1942

 

Netherlands East Indies Air Force Home Page

 

VIRTUE IN FLYING
By Joan Priest

Page 122
Keith Virtue was rather too heavily involved in the arrival of the first American aircraft for their Air Force's liking.  After ten months in the R.A.A.F., that omnipotent - and omnivorous, it seemed - wartime organisation   Manpower decreed that former senior airline captains return to civil flying and the ferrying of troops, officials and supplies.  On the Brisbane - Sydney run one February afternoon, Keith was approaching Archerfield in a D.C.3 with Jason as co-pilot.

'There had been a drought for months, and they'd just had a storm,' he says. 'There was three or four inches of slush and water sitting on top of the hard ground.  We could see all the water and decided not to use the flaps, as I might break them.  So I landed towards the east, and we didn't know it, but three Fortresses had arrived from the American Air Force, and Dutch aircraft had parked   just around where where I'd be finishing my run.  I saw them in time but the brakes were no good on that greasy stuff, so I tried to ground loop to dodge them but I couldn't.  We went through a Lockheed Lodestar belonging to the Dutch Air Force (and my old acquaintance, Van Messel, was very unhappy), damaged a wing on a Fortress and poked the wing of the D.C.3 into the side of it.  The Americans weren't happy either but I hadn't been warned they were there and we had no means of knowing.'

 

b-17e.jpg (9016 bytes)

B-17E Flying Fortress

 

The sequel was ironic.  The two Fortresses he had missed flew north to Denpasar in Bali the next day and the Japanese bombers came over and blew them to pieces.  The one that Keith had damaged was flying again in two days - the only one saved.

 

NOTE:-  Roger Marks' book shows the date as 17 February 1942. A document I have from the Headquarters of the USA Air Forces in Australia written by 1st Lt. Elmore G. Brown shows the date as 18 February 1942. Bruce Hoy advised that the date was 18 February 1942.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Queensland Airfields WW2 - 50 Years On"
By Roger R. Marks

"Virtue in Flying"
By Joan Priest

Document prepared by 1st Lt. Elmore G. Brown, titled:-

"Headquarters, USA Air Forces in Australia
A-4. Aircraft Movements Status & Statistics Section
Location and Status of Damaged Aircraft in Australia"

"The Lady and The Navigator" by Bruce Hoy
Air Niugini's PARADISE magazine

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I'd like to thank Chris Jamesson and Bruce Hoy for their assistance with this page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

I need your help

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©  Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 11 July 1999

This page last updated 31 August 2015