Crash site evokes wartime reflection | Michael Gorey

Crash site evokes wartime reflection

Milady wreckage

A drive to Cox Peninsula today, just across the harbour from Darwin but 100km by road, led to the wreckage of a WW2 American bomber.

Known as "Milady", the B24J Liberator aircraft crashed on 17 January 1945 when returning from a training exercise, killing all six men aboard.

A bumpy track through dense bush takes visitors to where metal parts lay strewn where they fell more than 70 years ago.

According to a history compiled by Jack Ellis, Lorraine Gardner and Jill Mumme, the cause of the disaster is unknown.

The aircraft was part of the 5th US Air Force 380th Bombardment Group, serving under RAAF command to fly bombing missions over Japanese supply lines in the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea.

In addition to attacks on Japanese oil supply, the 380th was heavily engaged in harassing the enemy’s shipping fleet. They also targeted Japanese airfields.

The 380th’s key role was to counter a threatened Japanese invasion along Australia's northern coast. It was also charged with training RAAF personnel on the B24 while Australian squadrons were being re-equipped with this aircraft.

Milady was so named for its nose art of a naked woman sitting on a bomb — something today's military commanders would no doubt disapprove.

The crash site was declared a heritage area in 2002 and information signs were erected.

The airmen killed were:

  • 2nd Lt Bobby T. Neal
  • 2nd Lt Walter E. Scanlon Jr
  • 2nd Lt William G. Ward Jr
  • 2nd Lt Richard W. Walsh
  • Sgt Francisco Caballero
  • Sgt Gerald D. Sacre

They were buried initially at the Adelaide River War Cemetery and later at the Rookwood US Military Cemetery in Sydney before their bodies were exhumed and returned to the United States after the war.

Australians should be grateful they gave their lives to protect our nation.

Visiting the crash site was a graphic reminder of how close we came to being invaded.

Milady nose art

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