Sunday History Photo, NT/WA

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 01:52
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The Last Log of 'Shady Lady'
A B-24D Liberator bomber, Shady Lady took off from near Darwin, on Australia's north coast, late in the afternoon of Aug. 13. The 12-plane squadron was to bomb oil refineries at Balikpapan, Borneo — a 2,700-mile round trip that at the time was the longest attempted in any theater of World War II.
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Aug. 13, 1943 (Friday)
0800: Left Fenton as part of 12-plane squadron for Darwin to gas up for longest strike mission yet pulled in any theater of war. Target: Balikpapan, Borneo, round trip 2,300 nautical miles.
0900: Landed at Darwin, North Australia. Col. Miller's ship had to return to Fenton. Lt. Roth in Beautiful Betsy smashes tail skid on landing, out for trip.
1000-1200: Assigned rooms in shell-torn Darwin barracks. Pilots and bombardiers briefed.
1200: Have dinner in bullet-ridden mess hall.
1740: Rev up engines, taxi to the strip, then just barely skim trees as we take off. Very heavy load.
2000+: Pass over Timor just after dusk. Guns test fire OK. Weather good so far.
2130+: Pass over Tijger Islands (mostly shoals). ETA for Salajar Islands (T.P) runs out. Solid undercover.
Original flight plan abandoned. Decide to pull a landfall on Borneo to hit below Balikpapan. Head 280 degrees and shortly run into rain, sleet, and lightning storm. Ship blown all over the sky.
Aug. 14, 1943 (Saturday)
0115: Over target. Begin run but interphone system in nose goes out so bombs not dropped. Can’t get out of searchlights. Ack-ack perilously close to tail. Circle and begin second run. Lights catch us and ground batteries open up as we drop bombs minus pilot-bombardier communication. All fall in target area. Sure hit on storage tank. As we were “tail-end Charlie,” an Australian photographer was flying with us. For some reason he failed to get pictures on the run. Pilots veto third run due to gas supply and worsening weather.
0200: Leave target area. Blazes seen for 10 minutes after we head home. Fly down Borneo Coast and run into electrical storm. Altitude 13,000 feet but cumulo-nimbus clouds tower far above us. Pretty bumpy. Fear weak tail.
0300+: Hit Laut Island and change course to hit Timor Island before dawn. After an hours flying we hit a tremendous front. Pilots want to go around it. I warn about ebbing fuel and need for maintaining course.
Plane takes several headings, including near reciprocals, to skirt weather. Not much luck, so we resume course home.
0600: Arrive over huge island just before dawn. We think it is Timor. ETA using 140 ks. indicates so. Decide to head for the strip at Drysdale mission and refuel. Think of lightening ship.
0700: Come upon another huge island just before dawn. This is Timor. Adverse winds in the last frontal zone must have cut our ground speed a lot. Course takes us over Koepang, the Jap base. We can’t avoid it because our engineer gives us about two hours in the air.
0705: Waist gunners notice two Jap fighters leaving the drome. We make up our minds to go down fighting.
Pilots put on power and descend to 1,500 feet just over the water. Sun rising on our left wing. Zekes fly between us and sun, pull ahead, then make alternate head-on attacks. Interphone out. Forward turret fails to function. Gunner simply sits there and points useless weapon at enemy on each pass. We think we are hit forward. Investigation reveals oil burning on gun. Top turret goes out due to failure of booster pump. Gunner manually keeps useless gun swinging at enemy. Tracer bullets pass by my window and under No. 2 engine. Close. On Zeke breakaway, waist gunner has him in range when his gun jams. The two Zekes press the attack for nearly an hour. Coordinated.
0800: We hit low, scattered cumulus deck. Safety. Zekes make couple more passes then disappear. We suspect they may be following. Gas getting pretty low. No sight of coast.
0845: Pilot prepares crew for water landing if Australian coast not sighted by 0915.
0905: Land way ahead. Hope we can reach it. Very hazy out. Turns out to be huge shoals. Gas so low pilot decides to put tanks on cross-feed.
0910: Another possible shoreline ahead. Perhaps more shoals. Turns out to be the Australian mainland. Thank goodness.
0930: Over a very rugged coastline. Our fight with the Japs had forced us right of coarse so we turned left and started to look for Drysdale Strip. We knew it was inland a bit but the visibility was less than 10 miles and the pilot did not want to head over rough ground unless he could actually see the dirt runway, especially with gas so uncertain.
0945: Pilot makes decision to land in an area of salt flats so the crew braces for crash landing. Plane almost to stop when right gear bogs down and nose wheel crumples, pushing nose into the sand with a jolt.
Quickly we scramble out escape hatches but no fires break out. Only casualty: Flying Officer Rustin, Australian photographer, who is thrown against waist hatch. Slight cuts on nose and forehead. Shady Lady seems OK except for nose turret and wheel. Hit ground 16:35 after take-off.
The plane lands on the desolate Anjo Peninsula, the northwest part of Napier-Broome Bay in the Kimberly region, about 60 miles northwest of the Royal Australian Air Force landing strip at Drysdale mission, near Kalumburu. They are about 312 miles southwest of their take-off point in Darwin.
Our water supply low. Flies are very thick and headnets are godsend. Late afternoon we sight Lockheed and send up a flare. They drop food but water containers split on landing. Signals indicate: "Rescue party will reach you tomorrow afternoon."
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Aug. 17, 1943 (Tuesday)
0700-1230: After an early breakfast, we piled aboard the Lockheed-Hudson with F/Lt. O’Neill and his crew for the 250-mile trip back to our home base at Fenton. As we neared the airfield, the gunners inserted their guns and test fired them. I wondered what was up. On gazing groundward, I saw the smoking ruins of a plane.
Believe it or not, had we arrived a few minutes sooner, we would have been in great danger. The Japanese had just carried out a bombing raid on Fenton Field. Actually the Jap bombers must have passed over us as we approached to land. And so ends the log of Shady Lady for she never flew in combat again.
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On Sept. 10, after being partially repaired and disarmed to lighten, Shady Lady is flown out of the marshes and back to Fenton, but the bomber never flies in combat again. The plane's nose turret sits on the salt pan to this day, and tire marks from the landing are still visible.
At the end of the month, 21 Japanese aircraft bomb and strafe Drysdale airfield and the nearby mission. The attack destroys the mission building and kills five civilians, including Father Thomas, the priest who gave the Shady Lady crew a tour of the mission and the friendly gift of watermelon.

Shady Lady's Base on EO


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Reply By: Rockape - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 04:13

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 04:13

Thanks for the great history lesson.

Here is a photo of the plane mentioned early in the story, Beautiful Betsy, she rests on Kroombit tops west of Gladstone.

Have a good oneImage Could Not Be Found
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Follow Up By: Member - joc45 (WA) - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 23:03

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 23:03
That's an amazing and tragic story in itself.
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Reply By: Rick (S.A.) - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 09:38

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 09:38
Another top job - well done Doug
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Follow Up By: Member - Doug T (NT) - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 11:00

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 11:00
G'day.... if your up this way call in but not at the Showground, I'm at Mt Bundy so turn off opposite the Loco , about 3.5 Klms along that road.
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Reply By: mechpete - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:16

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:16
Hi Doug T.
keep up the great photos of the top end in war time ,
I look forward to it each week ,
visited Fenton in 93 and found it very interesting .
keep em coming
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