B24 Liberator A72-80

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Am including this account as it sort of turned up during researches about A72-80.

Short history of demise of RAAF
B24 Liberator A72-133

27 Apr 1945 Friday;
Returning from raid on Java, at 0100hrs, SQNLDR Wawn radios aircraft in trouble, now heading for Truscott. Last message at 0351hrs “ditching” - thought to be on south coast of Sumba (Soemba) Island, which is a few miles south of Flores, and west of Timor in the Indonesian Archipelago.

At first light, three Venturas from Truscott depart for search. They report seeing a silver coloured Liberator with markings SJ-B near tip of Cape Mangen (Nangeh?) on south coast of Sumba Island. Aircraft appears to be intact, wheels down in shallow water about 200 yards off beach. Port engine burnt out, collapsed nose wheel. No sign of survivors.

Later, two Mitchells are dispatched to look for survivors, an enemy motor vessel seen approaching crash site, fires are observed on beach near Cape, but too dark to see if they were lit by survivors.

28 Apr 1945 Saturday;
Higher echelon officers in the RAAF were worried that the IFF(Identification Friend or Foe) unit in Liberator had not been destroyed.

Early morning, two Mitchells are tasked to provide cover for ASR(AirSea Rescue) Catalina and attack any enemy in vicinity. Mitchells came under heavy AA fire from beach, receiving some damage (apparently the Japanese had removed the .50 cal guns from the Liberator).

Later that day four Mitchells also departed from Batchelor AFB with task of destroying the Liberator with bombs. Came under fire from shore. All bombs missed.

A Ventura following from Truscott also attempted bombing run, but kept above small arms fire. All bombs missed the target.

29 Apr 1945 Sunday;
Four 18 SQN Mitchells depart Truscott to attempt to bomb and destroy the seemingly charmed Liberator. All bombs missed. A72-133 was then strafed, but although many hits were seen, no significant damage was observed.

As the war, and the Squadrons were moving North, this was the last operation on A72-133.

SQNLDR Wawn and his crew were captured by the Japanese and eventually returned to Australia after the war. Accounts of their capture and treatment can be found in the “B24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia” Newsletter.

Although the official “write off” card has this aircraft “..
destroyed by own aircraft 16 May 1945” The aircraft apparently sat defiantly tail up, nose down in the surf, until broken up piecemeal by the locals and sold for scrap.

(information sourced from “Truscott – the diary of Australia's secret wartime Airbase” by John and Carol Beasy. Published by Australian Military History Publications 1995, also from B24 Squadrons of Australia Newsletter December 1999, issue #50, and recent information.)

DJHursthouse March 2008

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning - we will remember them | dvdh707@gmail.com

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