Australia's Worst Air Disaster B-17 40-2072 'Pamela/Miss EMF'
This photo was with my Dad's WWII items.
It has been confirmed by Col Benson and Bob Cutler of the Bakers Creek Memorial Association that this photo of B-17C 40-2072 'Pamela/Miss E.M.F.' is one of possibly only four photos that are known to exist. B-17C 40-2072 crashed shortly after take off on June 14th, 1943 from Mackay Airport, Queenlands Australia, coming down in Bakers Creek killing 40 of 41 American military personnel. At the time it was the worst aviation disaster of a fixed wing aircraft and still remains Australia's greatest loss. Because of war time censorship it was not reported and the families were simply told that their loved ones had been killed in an air crash in the South Pacific. It wasn't until 1992 that the incident was recognized and a memorial was erected at the sight of the crash. In June of 2011 a service and memorial will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, USA to honor the loss of these long forgotten servicemen.
B-17C 40-2072 had an incredible history worthy of a movie. It was in the first mass flight of land based aircraft to make the journey from the mainland USA to Hawaii on March 31, 1941. On December 8th, 1941 it was based at Clark Field, The Philippines as part of the 19th Bombardment Group when the Japanese attacked. It was hit over 1,000 times defending against the Japanese landings. On December 25th, 1941 it withdrew to Australia, helping to evacuating 28 pilots. On December, 24th 1942 it suffered structural wing damage in a dive from 20,000 to 12,000 feet during a bombing mission. It was repaired and assigned to the 317th Troop Carrier Group, 46th Troop Carrier Squadron.
There are two Army Air Force photos of B-17C 40-2072 known of. This is what was written on those photos:
'Seems as if they used the star for a target. this ship is still flying August 21, 1942. It sunk 2 loaded transports, one destroyer, one sub from 20,000 feet with one bomb, and has shot down 21 planes including a 4-engined flying boat. It has bombed landing parties and enemy occupied airdromes in the PI. It got 2 direct hits from 3" AA and had over 1000 machine gun holes in it. It was always flown by the same crew. It never had a man killed aboard it, and only 3 slightly hurt. It evacuated 28 pilots from Del Monte at night in a tropical storm and flew to Australia."
My Dad was a Master Sergeant with the 433rd Fighter Squadron of the 475th Fighter Group 'Satan's Angels' from May 1943 to March 1944 based in New Guinea and The East Indies during WWII. He was originally deployed with the 41st Fighter Squadron of the 35th Fighter Group. He took photos and kept a journal. In his journal, which I've posted in this collection, he writes of taking a flight on a B-17 returning from a Rabaul bombing raid October 22nd 1942. That B-17 flew from New Guinea to its base at Mareeba Australia, aka Hoevet Field. Mareeba was where B-17 40-2072 was stationed with the 19th Bombardment Group before it was damaged on a raid and converted into a transport. It's possible this is where this photo was taken and perhaps the B-17 that my Dad flew on. Or it could have been one of his other return flights later when it was a transport.
Another theory is that the 19th Bomb group was stationed in Melbourne from March 2nd - April 17th 1942 and Dad, and his 41st Fighter Squadron, traveled through Melbourne on their way to be stationed in Ballarat on March 8th. Dad took some photos of Melbourne at this time.
Professor Robert Cutler wrote a book about B-17C 40-2072 called "Mackays Flying Fortress".
List of those killed