NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
USAAF LIBERATOR CRASH - WHENUAPAI AIRFIELD, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
MONDAY 02 AUGUST 1943
Thanks to Peter Cook and his book Roll of New Zealand's Second World War Dead - ISBN 9780473457358
At 2.20am on Monday 02 August 1943, an American B-24 Liberator [C-87 41-24027], a bomber rebuilt to accommodate freight, left Whenuapai Airport, Auckland for Australia, under US Air Transport Command. On board were five US crew, 22 Japanese civilians interned from Tonga), including ten children, and three Thai students. During 1943, the New Zealand Government planned to repatriate the Japanese in exchange for British and Allied prisoners of war.
Not long after take-off the plane crashed into the mangrove swamp adjacent to the airport. Three of the crew, eight Japanese (one woman dying later) and the three Thai were killed.
An investigation later found that the accident was due to crew fatigue (126 flying hours in the previous 26 days) and the lack of a pre-flight check list.
The story was kept quiet in New Zealand for many years and was uncovered during research for a television show in 2003.
The Japanese and Thai who were killed were: -
|UENO||Saturo [Laturo] *||27y||Female|
* Died 19 August 1943 at the Auckland Hospital.
They were cremated at the Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland. The American bodies were removed from New Zealand to be buried in US Veteran cemeteries.
The Captain was Herschel Verd LAUGHLIN. He is buried at the Golden Gate Cemetery, San Bruno, California. His death date is noted as 01 August 1943. Herschel's obituary [The Telephone Register, McMinnville, Oregon, Thursday, August 5, 1943 - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/3599711/herschel-verd-laughlin]
states that he had been a commercial pilot for 17 years and was employed by the United Air Lines on a government contract. He was the son of A.H. Laughlin of Carlton, and was born at Tillamook on December 3, 1895. A veteran of
the First World War, Mr. Laughlin received his pilot's training at that time, and for several months had been flying planes and war materials to the Pacific war area. He was a graduate of McMinnville high school. He leaves his
wife, Rosella; his father, who resides at Carlton; two sisters, Mrs. N.G. Inskeep of McMinnville, and Mrs. Andrew Jacobsen of Seattle, Wash., and a brother, Stanford, of Carlton.
The Telephone Register, McMinnville, Oregon, Thursday, August 19, 1943 - MEMORIAL SERVICES HONOR FLIER Memorial services were held Thursday afternoon in the Macy chapel for Herschel V. Laughlin, veteran west coast airline pilot, who was killed recently while flying the military transport service in New Zealand. The McMinnville Elks lodge was in charge, with the Rev. S.J. Osborne, the chaplain, officiating. One of the first "million-miler" pilots, he was credited with 15,000 flying hours during 15 years with airlines from Seattle to San Francisco. Laughlin has flown transport planes over the same route his grandfather, Samuel Laughlin, followed in crossing the plains to Oregon in a covered wagon. Born in Tillamook 48 years ago, he learned to fly at Kelly Field, Texas, with the army air corps prior to his participation in the First World War. He farmed at Monroe for five years following the war, then resumed his flying career for the forest patrol. He joined an airline in 1926. He is survived by his widow, Rosella; his father, A.H. Laughlin, Carlton; two sisters, Mrs. N.G. Inskeep, McMinnville, and Mrs. Andrew Jacobsen, Seattle, Wash., and a brother, Stanford of Carlton.
The Flight Engineer was George ALLEN civilian from United Air Lines contracted to ATC, USA, Air Transport Command (ATC, USAAF). Said to be buried 2 August 1943, Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland then repatriated to USA late 1940s.
The Flight Radio Operator was Henry Daniel PROCHASKA who was a civilian contract employee under contract to the USAAF [US Army Air Force]. He worked for United Airlines Corp. Henry was born on the 10 May 1919 at Hennepin, Minnesota, USA to Charles William PROCHASKA and Josephine Isabella nee SCHNURR of Bohemian (Czechoslovakia) and German ancestry. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of The Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.
The First Officer was Robert John WISDA, who was found standing by a burning tyre trying to keep warm. His career was noted as [https://airandspace.si.edu/support/wall-of-honor/capt-r-john-wisda]:
- Hired by United Air Lines, November 10, 1941, as a co-pilot trainee at Tracy, California; graduated and assigned as co-pilot on DC-3 aircraft, May, 1942, to Chicago, Illinois.
- During World War II flew as co-pilot on regularly scheduled airline trips as well as Military Transport Service charters within the United States. Flew C-87 aircraft (cargo and passenger version of the B-24) in the South Pacific for the Air Transport Command. Injuries suffered, due to aircraft malfunction while transporting Japanese prisoners of war, necessitated rest and recuperation for eight months, 1943-44.
- Promoted to Captain, March 15, 1945, for United Air Lines in Chicago, Illinois. Transferred to Los Angeles domicile in 1952 to live in Santa Monica, Calif.
- Aircraft flown: Many light airplanes; Boeing 247, DC-3, C-87, DC-4, DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, Boeing 377. Flew Boeing 747, Los Angeles to Hawaii islands during the final ten years of a delightful profession as a pilot. Retired from United Air Lines, March 15, 1980. Total flight hours: 30,000. Total Miles: 10,000,000. - Set United Air Lines speed records: 1949 CHI-LGA, DC-3; 1959 PDX-LAX, DC-7; 1960 SEA-LAX, DC-8; 1964 BAL-LAX, DC-8; 1965 LAX LAX-EWR, DC-8.
- Honorable Discharge USAF August 2, 1943.
The navigator was Paul ULLMAN. He was possibly the Paul Wesley Ullman, born 17 December 1919 Palmer, Iowa, USA who was employed by the Boeing School of Aeronautics at Alameda, California on the 1 July 1941.
The Japanese and Thai survivors were: -
For further information see -
Livingstone, Bob (1998). Under the Southern Cross: The B-24 Liberator in the South Pacific. ISBN 1-56311-432-1.]
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