Bakers Creek air crash
A similar USAAC B-17C
|Date||14 June 1943|
|Summary||Crashed on take-off|
|Site||Bakers Creek, Queensland, Australia
|Aircraft type||Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress|
|Aircraft name||Miss Every Morning Fixin|
|Operator||United States Army Air Forces|
The Bakers Creek air crash was an aviation disaster which occurred on 14 June 1943, when a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft crashed at Bakers Creek, Queensland. The aircraft took off from Mackay and crashed approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) south of the airfield. Forty of the 41 military service personnel on board were killed. The crash was Australia's worst aviation disaster by death toll and was the worst accident involving a transport aircraft in the south-western Pacific during World War II.
The aircraft, a Boeing B-17C, serial number 40-2072, known as "Miss Every Morning Fixin" took off from Mackay Airfield just before dawn at about 6 am in foggy conditions, headed for Port Moresby. Soon after, it made a low altitude turn and a few minutes later, crashed. The cause of the crash remains a mystery.
The six crew and 35 passengers were returning to New Guinea after an R&R break. The aircraft was part of the United States Fifth Air Force and was operated by the 46th Troop Carrier Squadron, part of the 317th Troop Carrier Group. It had formerly been one of the B-17s sent to the Philippines in the autumn of 1941 with the 19th Bomb Group and had been converted into a transport after suffering heavy battle damage in a mission on 25 December 1941. Over 1,100 bullet holes were found when the plane returned to Darwin.
The plane earned its nickname due to the constant work needed to keep it airworthy. A former maintenance chief estimated that for every eight hours the plane flew, it needed at least 12 hours of maintenance. During the 10 days before Miss EMF's last flight, mechanics installed a new fuel tank and two new engines, and a satisfactory test flight was made on the previous day.
The sole survivor of the crash was Foye Kenneth Roberts who died at Wichita Falls, Texas on 4 February 2004. Another person, Joseph Gordon Roberts, also of the 317th Troop Carrier Group, was due to be a passenger on the plane, but missed the flight due to sleeping in and arriving late at the airfield.
Due to wartime censorship, nothing of the incident was reported in the media. The Daily Mercury, Mackay's newspaper, reported the following day that a visiting American serviceman had been injured, as well as an editorial expressing the sentiments of locals who knew what had happened. Nothing more appeared in the local media until 21 August 1945, after the war had ended. Victims' relatives received War Department telegrams which said little more than the serviceman had been killed in an air crash in the south west Pacific.
Australia's second worst aviation disaster, the 1960 TAA Fokker Friendship disaster, also occurred at Mackay Airfield.
A memorial was unveiled at Bakers Creek, near Mackay, Australia, on 11 May 1992, consisting of two brick columns aligned northwards on which are mounted flag poles and two brass plaques facing eastwards. Between the columns is a large aircraft propeller of a type fitted to Douglas C-47 / DC-3 / Dakota airplanes that was supplied by the Royal Australian Air Force. The plaques describe the crash and list the men known to have perished as well as the sole survivor. Above the monument is a brass model of a B-17C that was unveiled and saluted by a low-flying 5th AF US Air Force C-130 from Yokota AB, Japan, on 15 June 2003, during 60th Anniversary events marking the crash. A small brass plaque tells about the model. Two brass plaques representing the 46th Troop Carrier Squadron and the 5th Air Force Memorial Foundation are mounted on a plinth in front of the Bakers Creek Memorial: inside a spotlight illuminates the memorial for several hours each night. Annual commemorative ceremonies are held at the memorial, usually in June.
Another memorial to the US servicemen was unveiled on 14 June 2006, near the National World War Two Memorial. After the unveiling, it was temporarily located behind the Australian embassy in Washington D.C.. Because embassies are considered foreign soil, the Bakers Creek Memorial Association (USA) petitioned American lawmakers to relocate the memorial. After several years of negotiation, a dedication ceremony took place 11 June 2009 at the memorial's new home just northwest of the Selfridge Gate in Fort Myer, Virginia.
- Peter Dunn. "Crash of a B-17C Flying Fortress at Bakers Creek Near Mackay, Qld on 14 June 1943".
- Vogel, Steve (3 January 2008). "Searching for a Home for a World War II Memorial". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
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- Coate, Trish (24 May 2009). "Memorial to WWII crash of plane awaits new home". San Angelo Standard-Times. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- Vogel, Steve, "40 Killed in 1943 Crash Receive U.S. Memorial", Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Friday 12 June 2009, Volume 132, Number 189, page A-19.
- Robert Cutler (2003). Mackay's Flying Fortress. Central Queensland University Press. ISBN 1-876780-27-4.