B24 Liberator A72-80

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Attack on Isuzu

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(Page still under construction).

This incident and loss of the two Liberators has only incidental connection to A72-80, which crashed two weeks prior, F/LT E.V. Ford was witness, and my uncle, Ross V. Hanns, was second pilot of the Catalina which eventually rescued the survivors.

Most of this information came from Dean Norman, a researcher for the website
ADF SERIALS; as well as www.combinedfleet.com and www.hazegray.org


6 Apr 45

B-24L Liberator A72-77

FLTLT Eric Valentine Ford 255138 (Pilot)
WOFF C.G Vickers (2nd Pilot)
FLTLT Lance Dixon Crowther 403560 (Nav)
FLTLT William Laing 406568 (Bombardier)
FLGOFF Bernard Thomas Jordon 406568 (W/AG)
WOFF Alan Noel Collins 424373 (W/AG)
FSGT Keith Jowett White 433632 (Air Gunner)
FSGT Leslie Raine 439612 (Air Gunner)
FSGT John Munro Waddell 443444 (Air Gunner)
FSGT Ian Faichnie 431408 (Air Gunner)
SGT W.W. Sayers (Flt Engineer)

B-24L Liberator A72-81

FLGOFF Sydney Leonard McDonald 411524(Pilot)
PLTOFF Keith Arthur Roy Brown 426804 (2nd Pilot)
FLGOFF Peter Albert Mouatt 405523 (Nav)
FLGOFF Alexander George Worley 435236 (Bombardier)
WOFF K.R. Shilling 406816 (W/AG)
FSGT Leslie Kenneth Walmsley 435740 (Air Gunner)
FSGT John Stanley Thomson 438779 (Air Gunner)
FSGT Ronald Joseph Banks 436999(Air Gunner)
FSGT Trevor Edward Bowen 439863 (Air Gunner)
FSGT Allan Davis 431280 (Air Gunner)
SGT Walter Joseph Wignall, MID, 17299 (Flt Engineer)

In Kupang Harbour at around dawn on the 6th April 1945, the Japanese "Natori" class light Cruiser ISUZU (Captain Matsuda) takes on board an army detachment and, with minesweepers W-12, W-34 and torpedo boat KARI as escorts, departs for Sumbawa.

Meanwhile Nine B24 Liberators, flying in three elements of three, commenced taking off from Fenton airstrip in the Northern Territory at 0455hrs on the morning of 6th. The formation consisted of three 21 SQUADRON aircraft and six 24 SQUADRON aircraft. The make up of the first element was,
WGCDR R.E. Bell as No.1 and formation leader, FLTLT W.W. Kirkwood as No.2 and FLTLT E.V. Ford as No.3. The final element was made up of SQNLDR G.J. White as No.1, FLTLT W. Court as No.2 and FLGOFF S.L. McDonald as No.3.

The Liberators were to rendezvous with B-25 Mitchells from No.2 Squadron that were to strafe the ships, however the rendezvous was not made and the Mitchells, with fuel critical, continued onwards.

They had been ordered to attack the cruiser “Isuzu” and its escort vessels that had been reported in the vicinity of Sumba Island, west of Timor. The ships were sighted between 0930 and 0945hrs approximately 20 miles East of Sumba Island.

The Mitchells find the cruiser near the north coast of Sumbawa and press home their attack causing  damage to the starboard bow of the ISUZU.

It was some 10-20 minutes later that the Liberators arrived and began their attack, only to be met with an intense barrage of anti-aircraft fire. They do, however, make some hits on the bow section of the ISUZU, causing considerable damage, but fail to sink it.

Bomb burst near Isuzu

Aerial view of bomb busts near the
(from original print)

During the first attack run, made at about 1000hrs from 13,000 ft through intense and accurate flak, B24 A72-81, flown by FLGOFF McDonald, was the first to be lost. They were attacked by two Japanese A6M3 “Hamps” from the 10 o’clock position, in line astern closing to within 50 feet, the B24 crew fighting valiantly by returning their fire to keep the fighters at bay before they broke away underneath.

Shortly after this attack FLGOFF McDonald’s aircraft lost height by 50 feet but still managed to remain in formation. Smoke was then seen to be coming from the cockpit. Just after the bombs were jettisoned the nose wheel compartment opened and two of the crew were seen to parachute away while another three parachuted from the forward bomb bay.

The Liberator then went into a steep climb and appeared to stall. With flames seen in the nose wheel and bomb bay compartments the aircraft turned over on it’s port wing and dived about 6000 feet before recovering. Again, the aircraft appeared to climb very steeply and then stalled once more, entering a second dive of about 45 degrees heading towards the cruiser but disintegrated about 3000 feet above the sea.

A72-77 (F/L E.V. Ford) was the next to be lost. A second bombing run made at the same height proved disastrous. A fighter made an attack from 11 o’clock (position). The front gunner seemed to have him covered but did not stop him.
Later that day, three American  submarines (SS-321 "
BESUGO", LtCdr H.E.Miller;  SS-328 "CHARR", Cdr F.D.Boyle; and   SS-252 "GABILAN", LtCdr W.B.Parham) catch up with the elusive cruiser in Sape Strait.  BESUGO fires 9 torpedoes which miss the ISUZU, but sink the minesweeper W-12. The ISUZU makes it into Bima Bay and offloads troops.

Before dawn the next day, 7th April, as ISUZU leaves Bima with KARI and W-34, CHARR makes long distance radar contact and alerts the GABILAN.  At 6a.m. GABILAN attacks and one of her torpedoes strikes the cruiser below the bridge causing  flooding in the forward section and considerable loss of speed.  At about 8.30 a.m. CHARR manouvres into position and fires four torpedoes, with three hits. Shortly afterward, the bow of the ISUZU breaks off, she capsizes and sinks at 07 38S, 118 09E. The sinking is witnessed by the British submarine


WOFF Vickers recounted;
The sight of one of our aircraft going down in flames did not add anything to our feeling of security. The second bombing run made at the same height proved disastrous for us. A fighter made an attack from 11 o’clock (position). The front gunner seemed to have him covered but did not stop him. He closed to 100 feet, My first intimation of being hit was an explosion and runaway motor No.3. I then realised the aircraft was on fire. The Bombardier’s Compartment and starboard main plane was quickly an inferno.”

    SGT Sayers also described the action in explicit detail;
“I wondered who would be next as the flak was so intense. I did not get a very good view of the bomb bursts because we turned off to port after bombs away and I was busy watching for fighters, which had been reported in several places. We came in on the second run with 4 bombs on the racks. There were some bursts of heavy at the correct height, but to port of us. The skipper and the nose gunner were discussing a reported fighter, and the bomb aimer chipped in and said he could see it dead ahead. The skipper then called “Go on, nose gunner, let him have it.” And the front gunner commenced firing. The next second we were hit on No.3 and oil, smoke and pieces of cowling whizzed by the waist window."

  WOFF Vickers continues;

“Up to this time there was no appreciable difficulty in controlling the aircraft. The flames were licking around my ankles when the skipper, FLTLT E.V. Ford, signalled me to abandon the aircraft. My next coherent recollection was on floating down and unconsciously feeling for a cigarette. On looking about  no other chutes were visible but I could see the aircraft taking its final plunge into the sea. On striking the water I had no difficulty in releasing my harness and inflating my Mae West.”

With the starboard wing now well alight FLTLT Ford ordered the abandonment of the aircraft.
SGT Sayer escaped the blazing aircraft by jumping through the rear hatch and it was also thought that W/OFF Collins, F/SGT Faichnie, F/SGT White had also escaped. The aircraft had been holding a steady course but then rolled over to port and plunged to the sea, exploding on impact.

Final plunge of A72-77
(from original print)


W/OFF Schilling was the sole survivor of FLG/OFF McDonald’s crew to be rescued and recalled later at No.1 Medical Receiving Station;
It was the first enemy fighter that got us. No hits were seen on the enemy. The Engineer (SGT W.J. Wignall) used the fire extinguisher which proved to be absolutely useless. The fire drove SGT Wignall into the bomb bays. I did not see him again. The Captain ordered the crew to bail out. The second pilot (FLG/OFF K.A.R. Brown) escaped through the bomb bays. I followed about thirty seconds later. About 2 minutes later another member jumped. He did not appear to have a parachute. I went out the bomb bays head first, counted six, and pulled the release cord. It took about 12 minutes to come down during which time I counted six members parachuting from FLT/LT E.V. Ford’s A72-77. An additional member appeared to drop without a parachute.”

What W/OFF Schilling was witnessing then was the destruction of FLT/LT Ford’s Liberator.


If this wasn't bad enough for the crewmen in the water, a 43SQN Catalina (
A24-54, Pilot F/L Bullman) arrived and had no sooner pulled to safety the last of the three men from the water when it was strafed by a Japanese plane. The enemy plane’s bullets ripped through the rescue aircraft severing fuel lines, setting fire to the aircraft immediately and sprayed burning fuel over the back of WOFF Schilling that was extinguished by SGT Sayers with a sleeping bag. Jumping into the water the three survivors and the crew of the Catalina escaped the burning aircraft. Minutes after the attack an Air-Sea rescue Liberator arrived over the scene and dropped two large dinghies and a supply canister about 600 yards away from them. It took over an hour for nine of the 11 men in the water to reach the dinghies. Once in the dinghies they struggled to reach the remaining two crewmen but by the time they reached their location the men could not be found.    

A24-54 Burning on water

A24-54 burning in the water.          
(from original print)


Approximately two hours later, a second Catalina (
A24-58, Pilot F/L Gorrie) was directed to the downed crew by a Liberator, then landed after 30 minutes battle with the heavy seas. When the last of the survivors had been picked up a Japanese “Irving” was sighted making for the Catalina. The enemy attacked as the Catalina commenced its take off, scoring no damage nor did they return fire. Airborne, F/L Eldin Moore in A72-72 (?) commenced a running battle that lasted for approximately 20 minutes  until the “Irving” at last broke off. The Catalina headed for Darwin and arrived at 2230 hrs that night.


(this from
TRUSCOTT -The diary of Australias secret wartime Airbase -- J AND C BEASY) page 171 
"From very early on in the morning darkness, preparations were being made at the strip to launch the assault on the ISUZU  convoy. Eleven Mitchells from 18 SQN were the first off from Truscott followed closely by a further ten from No2 SQN. The plan was for the Mitchells to rendezvous with an attacking force of Liberators (out of Fenton) at the Southeast end of Sumba Island.  The Liberators were late so, with fuel critical, the Mitchells decided to press on alone. The 18 SQN aircraft (then only numbering ten as one aborted due to engine trouble) were consequently the first to sight the enemy convoy some 40 miles west of Koepang.  In a formation spacing of 150 feet at an altitude of 10,000 feet, the NEI Mitchells pressed home a determined attack on the prize target - the ISUZU."

(from other sources..)
First Catalina A24-54, second Catalina A24-58 Pilot F/Lt. Gorrie (Ross Hanns second pilot? Ross went 'soaring' in May 1996)  F/Lt. Eldin Moore pilot of A72-72 played shepherd, and received the DFC for this action. He "folded his wings" in May 2002.

As of 2005 -W/O Schilling was alive, and living in Perth. W.A

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

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