USAAF B-24 Consolidated Liberator 41-23825 Wreckage
- Aircraft wreck
- North and Cape York
Mount Straloch, Hinchinbrook Island 4849
At 8.15am on the morning of 18 December 1942, a USAAF Liberator bomber known as 'Texas Terror' lifted off from Garbutt airbase, Townsville, for Iron Range on Cape York Peninsula. The aircraft disappeared into an overcast sky, but failed to make it. Searches were mounted, but by January 1943 no trace of the bomber had been found and its disappearance was written off as another small unsolved mystery of the war. By late 1943 the Pacific frontline had moved far to the north of Australia and the loss of the 'Texas Terror' had been all but forgotten, when two Aborigines searching gullies on Hinchinbrook Island for alluvial tin, reported finding some burned US currency in the creeks at the southern base of Mount Straloch.
Early in January 1944, over a year after the aircraft’s disappearance, several experienced rock climbers were engaged to search the steep face of the mountain which is covered with dense tropical rainforest rising to sheer cliffs 920 metres in height. Most of the ridges are unscaleable and the only practical route is up the bed of a ravine filled with large round granite boulders displaced by the torrential rains of the wet season. The mystery of the 'Texas Terror's' disappearance was finally solved after the searchers hauled themselves over 750 metres up the southern flank of Mount Straloch and came across the wreckage.
The aircraft had struck the face of the mountain some 150 to 180 metres below the summit where the steep slope of the rainforest ends in vertical granite cliffs. The wreckage remains scattered over a large area with part of the fuselage remaining at the point of impact. An outer wing and motor lie wedged in a crevice above. An inner wing and landing gear lie in the forest below, with two motors at the base of the cliff. Part of a tail fin, still carrying the number 123825 on faded camouflage, lies in a nearby ravine. An aluminium cross was erected near the point of impact in 1960 as a memorial to the eleven US crew and passengers who died.
The 'Texas Terror', serial number 41-23825, was a newly arrived Liberator bomber that had been ferried across the Pacific in early November 1942. Built by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation at their San Diego plant at a cost to the taxpayer of US$287,276, it was the first of a run of twenty-five B-24 D-7’s for the USAAF.
The aircraft piloted by Lieutenant James Gumaer, left Amberley airfield, Brisbane, for Iron Range Advanced Operational Base on Cape York Peninsula, carrying a reduced crew of five. On route to Iron Range the aircraft landed at Garbutt air base, Townsville, to pick up a group of five US military passengers and a US civilian representative of Pratt and Whitney whose motors powered the B-24. The most senior of the military passengers was Colonel Carroll Riggs commanding officer of the US 197th Coastal Artillery who was paying his first visit to the anti-aircraft detachments at Iron Range. Accompanying him was Lieutenant Raymond Dakin, also of the 197th, carrying a payroll for the gunners who had not been paid since their detachment from Townsville to Iron Range in August.
On leaving Townsville the aircraft flew into severe turbulence. Over Hinchinbrook Island, in poor visibility, the pilot crashed into Mount Straloch and all crew and passengers were killed. Several early clues as to the fate of the 'Texas Terror' came from local civilian sources. At about 9.00am while Ingham was being lashed by a heavy storm, residents heard an aircraft circling overhead. At about the same time inhabitants near the small coastal settlements of Lucinda and Halifax reported having seen a flash high on the face of Mount Straloch. For several nights thereafter, workers at a nearby sugar mill claimed that in certain light conditions they could see reflections from metal on the mountain. The authorities discounted these sightings, considering that the aircraft would have been much further north by 9.00am on the day it went missing. Air searches for the missing aircraft were abandoned. A final determination on the loss of the 'Texas Terror' would later find from a watch found at the site that the time of the crash was 0905 hours. The flight had lasted just 50 minutes after departure from Garbutt.
Over a year later, after the tip-off by Aborigines and discovery of the wreckage by climbers on 7 January 1944, the remains of the crew and passengers were recovered and interred at the US Armed Forces Cemetery at Ipswich, close to Amberley where the flight originated. After the war the remains were interred as a group at Fort McPherson National Cemetery, Maxwell, Nebraska, USA.
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Michael Musumeci. Iron Range Airbase: Carved in the Cape York jungle 1942–1945. Michael Musumeci, Mareeba, 2008.
Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.