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NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
B17E FLYING FORTRESS CRASH, WHENUAPAI AIRPORT, AUCKLAND
1942

Early in the morning of Tuesday 9 June 1942, the first B-17E Flying Fortress to visit New Zealand, (serial number 41-2667, and known as the Texas Tornado,) crashed shortly after take off from Whenuapai Airport, West Auckland killing all eleven crew and passengers on board.

The plane, on a flight from Auckland to Laverton near Melbourne, departed at 12.30am and barely got airborne before it crashed with a full bomb load into the uphill slopes on the nearby farm of George SINTON. Two of the four 500lb bombs onboard exploded, blowing the Sinton house of its foundations, injuring George Sinton and waking many residents of north and west Auckland.

Many thought that the explosion heralded the arrival of the much feared Japanese invasion, but these fears were soon dispelled by the silence which followed due to the news blackout of anything of military nature. The official announcement and the release of those killed was not made public in New Zealand until 21 December 1945.

Why was the B17 in New Zealand? It appears that the main purpose of the visit was to make final plans for the imminent arrival of the American forces to New Zealand, which was to be used as a springboard for the war in the Pacific and also for rest and relaxation from the war zone for those serving. However it was not known why the B17 was carrying a full bomb load.

Those killed were first buried at the Waikumete Cemetery in West Auckland. The caskets were borne by six RNZAF trucks from the Khyber Pass funeral home. During the war a special American war cemetery was established at Waikumete and the bodies of the victims were re-interred to that portion of the cemetery. At the end of the war the bodies were then transported back to the United States and buried with full military honours.

Those killed were:

BRUCE James Co-pilot Captain USAAF
BRUNSON Charles P Crew Technical-Sergeant USAAF
CHILDERS* Curtis L Crew Private USAAF
CLANTON John R Crew Corporal USAAF
COBB Richard E Pilot Colonel USAAF
COHN Harry Crew Sergeant USAAF
GILBERT/GITHERD Jesn Passenger Captain Free French Navy Liason Officer
HERRIOTTS/HERRIOTTA James Crew Corporal USAAF
HOFFMAN E H Crew Lieutenant USAAF
HURST E W (B W) Passenger Lieutenant US Navy
LOPEZ J F Crew Sergeant USAAF

For further information see:
Magazine Articles – NZ WINGS – October 1993, February 1994
Web sites -
PACIFIC WRECKS
WINGS OVER NEW ZEALAND AVIATION FORUM
When Exploding Flying Fortress Awoke Auckland

* Curtis L. Childers, Private First Class, U.S. Army Air Forces, 07083882, 31st Bomber Squadron, 5th Bomber Group, Heavy, Entered the Service from: Florida, Died: June 9, 1942, Buried at: Plot B Row 1 Grave 271, Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CHILDERS/2002-05/1022211580


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