The Missing Aircraft and Crew|
June 12th, 1942
by Don Rholl
On June 12, 1942 an SOC took off from the Brisbane River with Taylor as pilot and Rholl as radioman on a routine patrol flight. When we returned to the shoreline it was foggy and our two landmarks ( Twin Peaks to the west of Brisbane and Mother's Island at the mouth of the Brisbane river) were not sighted. Because of wind conditions he observed, Taylor thought we should be south of the river. Accordingly, we flew north along the coast but found nothing familiar. Later Taylor told me to break radio silence and contact the ship but I was unsuccessful. It seems the radioman standing watch on our frequency preferred stateside music instead.
Still later Taylor said we were getting low on fuel and should look for a likely landing spot. A few miles later we saw a small bay with a long dock and a soldier standing watch on it. We landed and taxied close enough to ask the soldier if we could taxi to the beach without fear of hitting a coral reef. When he said yes we started to do so but in just a few yards got stranded on a sandbar. We then asked if I could wade to the dock on the sandbar and were again told yes. I did so after removing my shoes and socks, climbed the piling and cut my bare feet in dozens of places on barnacles. I found a phone, contacted the SLC told them we were in New Hervey, went back to the beach and found the plane was gone. In a moment a small fishing boat came around a bend towing the plane. When I left the plane the less weight allowed it to clear the sandbar and drift with the current. We beached the plane and tied it down for the night with much appreciated help from the locals.
There was an army camp here and fortunately there were two available cots for us. We also found out we were not far from an Australian air base. We contacted them and got the promise of two drums of aviation gas the next morning. Then we repaired to the local restaurant and pub for refreshments.
During the evening many folks came in for a visit and we told our story many times. One man asked if I had stepped on a groper (octopus) while under the dock and I said no. He then asked if I had seen any sharks and again I said no, I was sure he was pulling my leg but he explained there were indeed sharks up to four feet long in the bay and could do serious damage to a careless or unsuspecting person.
We had a good sleep that night and were treated to a hearty Australian Army breakfast in the morning. The Australian Air Force truck and gas arrived and it seemed the whole town was there to watch the proceedings. The first thing done was to place a roll of fencing in the water and unroll it so the entire part of the plane in the water was enclosed with a fence. When I asked why they said no one would go in where there were sharks without the fencing to protect them. Well! So much for pulling my leg. We thanked everyone profusely and had an uneventful trip back to the SLC
At every reunion I always ask if anyone remembers the missing plane incident and found only one who did. It always seemed unusual that those in V Division didn't remember. Now, in the deck logs Sandy is working on, a revealing fact. The log for June 12 records that a plane was launched to look for the missing aircraft. Not a word about looking for the missing crew. I guess we really were expendable.
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