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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 100066
Last updated: 22 September 2019
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Date:03-MAR-1942
Time:
Type:Silhouette image of generic B24 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Consolidated B-24A Liberator
Owner/operator:7th BG, 11th BS, USAAF)
Registration: 40-2374
C/n / msn: 60/Co 6 ?
Fatalities:Fatalities: 21 / Occupants: 21
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:10 miles off Roebuck Bay, near Broome, Western Australia -   Australia
Phase: Combat
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Broome Airport, WA (BME/YBRM)
Destination airport:
Narrative:
On March 3, 1942 at 9:15am at Broome Airfield, Australia, the pilot of 40-2374, Major Edson Kester was given a list of nineteen evacuees from Java to be flown southward to Perth. Among the passengers was Captain Charles Stafford (7th Bombardment Group medical officer) with wounded under his care. Also, seven ground crew from the 17th Pursuit Squadron including Sgt Beatty and Sgt Donoho.

The B-24 took off from Broome Airfield at 9:23am just prior to the Japanese air raid on Broome. Overloaded, this B-24 struggled to climb to 600 feet altitude, and was attacked by A6M2 Zero piloted by Warrant Officer Osamu Kudo who had just strafed the airfield. 40-2374 was hit in the fuselage fuel tank, the bomber caught fire and crashed into Roebuck Bay roughly 10 miles from shore and 7 miles off Cable Beach. On impact, the fuselage broken into two pieces, the wings separated and the pieces sank within three minutes.

During the crash, Donoho was thrown clear of the fuselage and found Beatty. Both donned life jackets and began swimming towards shore for the remainder of the day and night, fighting the 30' tidal waves.

Near shore, Donoho observed that Beatty gave up from exhaustion, and was not seen again. It is claimed that Beatty's body was later found by Australians on the beach. According to a 1943 article by war correspondent George Weller, the Australians who found Beatty's body “found signs of life, but he remained completely delirious. Flown the same day to Perth, he died there in hospital in 24 hours without regaining consciousness”. Beatty is still listed as Missing In Action (MIA), yet presumably was buried in Australia after he died. Reportedly, his brother traveled to Australia years later to search for him, but never found anything. Also, it is possible he was buried in Australia and his remains never recovered by the American military. Or, he in fact died at sea and his body was never found and recovered.

Donoho managed to reach the shore and walked to Broome, arriving at Broome Airfield during the evening of March 4. He angrily reported to Lt. Col Legg that no search had been mounted to search for more of the crew. Afterwards he was sent to the hospital to recuperate, and the next evening evacuated to Perth.

All the crew were officially declared dead on March 3, 1942. Beatty and Bunardzya were officially declared dead on July 3, 1942. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Pilot Major Edson Eugene Kester, O-22354 (MIA / KIA) FL
Co-Pilot Captain William "Bill" Ragsdale, Jr., O-022514 (MIA / KIA) TX
Passenger Sgt Melvin O. Donoho, 18003946, 17th PS, armorer (survived) Covington, OK
Passenger Sgt Willard J. Beatty, 6256686 24th PG, 17th PS (MIA / KIA) CO
Passenger Captain Charles A. Stafford, 022686 Medical Corps (MIA / KIA) WY
Passenger Keats Poad, O-421213 (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger 2nd Lt. Richard L. Taylor, O-427045 (MIA / KIA) NY
Passenger SSgt Howard C. Cliff, 7021697 (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger SSgt John M. Rex, 6581412 (MIA / KIA) UT
Passenger SSgt Elvin P. Westcott, 6386186 (MIA / KIA) MS
Passenger Sgt Samuel F. Foster, 6252463 (MIA / KIA) AR
Passenger Cpl Jack T. Taylor, 18034892 (MIA / KIA) TX
Passenger Pvt Richard G. Sheetz, 13000321 (MIA / KIA) VA
Passenger 2nd Lt. Howard K Petschel, O-412158 7th BG, HQ (MIA / KIA) MN
Passenger Captain Charles A. Stafford, O-022686 Medical Corps (MIA / KIA) WY
Passenger Captain Harry W Markey, O-021663 (MIA / KIA) WA
Passenger Pvt Joseph N. Gordon, 34044808 52nd Signal Battalion (MIA / KIA) TN
Passenger Pfc Nicholas D. Bunardzya, 6999625 (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger Pvt Clarence B. Johnson, 20911984 43d Material Sq, 32d ABG (MIA / KIA) CA
Passenger SSgt Leo D. Steinmetz, 6914316 (MIA / KIA) KS
Passenger Cpl Hubert McDonald, 14029544 (MIA / KIA) GA

Sources:

1. http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/db.asp
2. http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1940.html
3. https://www.ozatwar.com//wa12.htm


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
05-Jan-2012 01:47 Uli Elch Updated [Cn, Operator, Location, Phase, Source, Narrative]
09-May-2014 19:34 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]

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