Thursday, June 6, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Commemorating The Lives Lost In Bakers Creek Air Crash

Last Sunday, about 100 locals gathered at the Bakers Creek Memorial to pay their respects to the forty lives lost in 1942, following a horrific plane crash that became a part of regional and international history.

Eighty-one years ago, a United States Army Air Force B-17C Flying Fortress, tail number 40-2072, crashed at 6:02am at Bakers Creek, about 6-kilometres south of Mackay airport and 1-kilometre northwards of the Bakers Creek Memorial.

On June 14 of 1943, forty of the 41 American “GIs” on board perished.

The aircraft was operated by the 46th Transport Carrier Squadron (46TCS), 317th Troop Carrier Group (317TCG), of the US 5th Air Force and was enroute to “Maple” (Port Moresby) with passengers who had spent 10 days “R&R” leave in Mackay.

The Bakers Creek Memorial was unveiled and dedicated on 11 May 1992 as a place to honour the 41 Americans aboard the B-17C Flying Fortress, affectionately known as “Miss EMF”.

During the closing of the 2005 ceremony, Keith Payne V.C. said, “For a while they were Australians when they gave their lives here and were interred in Australian soil.”

Each soldier, later repatriated to the USA, gave his life in a selfless way, far from their homes and fighting the war with Australians in New Guinea.

The Australian Ambassador is expected to lay a wreath during the US Army’s ceremony, on June 14, 2024, at America’s Bakers Creek Air Crash Memorial, in Washington, DC.

America’s memorial mimics Mackay’s Regional Bakers Creek memorial. It was unveiled on June 14, 2006, and dedicated on June 11, 2009, at its permanent site, at Ft Myer, Arlington, VA.

It rests on a 750 kg slab of donated Queensland granite that was transported, free, to the USA by QANTAS.

Eighty-one years ago, on 14th June 1943, locals and American visitors were shocked by the Flying Fortress crash at Bakers Creek. US Army Captain Samuel Cutler was in charge of the American Red Cross “R&R” Center in Mackay that hosted American soldiers taking a 10-day break from the war in New Guinea. They were supporting Australians on the Kokoda Trail.

As officer-of-the-day, Captain Cutler supervised loading of the aircraft before its doomed flight. His diary entry about the terrible event was discovered by his son five years after his passing.

They have been honoured and sadly missed by many.

Lest We Forget.

Image sourced from Pacific Wrecks

Australian (William Alick) and US national (Zelda – Graham Jackson’s sister) flags lead the US “Home State” flags of the casualties' home states. Caption: Photo Credit: Colin Benson

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