THE LOSS OF USN R4D-5 (C47) 39067 "Blue Goose"
6 images in this album.
ADF-Serials Image Gallery
CRASH SITES and MEMORIALS
Compiled by Grahame Higgs
Just look at this tortured tree... You can almost hear voices coming from those wounds, telling the story of how it came to be this way.
In 1945 the United States Navy stationed an R4D-5 (C47, Dakota) at Guildford W.A. also referred to as RAAF Dunreath. The aircraft was assigned to the Commander Submarine Force, Seventh Fleet and due to its light blue colour scheme, was known affectionately as the Blue Goose. Built by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation in the USA it carried the constructors number 10017. The USAAF number was 42-24155 and the US Navy number was 39067, delivered new to them in 1943.
Early in the morning of 19th April 1945, before dawn, Blue Goose was loaded for a flight to Adelaide.
Ten men and three women boarded the aircraft, they were:
Lt William C Armstrong, USNR Pilot. Ensign Victor F Padelsky, USN Co-pilot.
A.M.M. 1c Robert A Dunleavy. A.M.M. 2c Stanley A Gober, USNR.
A.R.M. 1c James A Glenn, USNR. Commander R.R. Helbert, RN
Lieutenant Commander Montrose G McCormick, USN. Lt (jg) Sidney S Cook USNR.
C.R.E. Robert V Daly, USN. Tech BuShips C.L. Nelson.
Anne Woodward, American Red Cross. Geraldine Crow, American Red Cross.
Cecil Nichols, American Red Cross.
This evocative period photograph could almost be the Blue Goose loading her passengers on the morning of 19 April 1945 for that ill fated flight to Adelaide.
At 05:30 am the RD4-5 departed Perth and climbed to the east into a band of thick fog.
Blue Goose departed off Perth Runway 11 towards you and tracked to the left of this picture.
Just three minutes later, while the radio operator was in mid sentence communicating with 6 Fighter Centre Headquarters at Belmont, Blue Goose crashed into the Darling Range at Gooseberry Hill due west of Perth. All on board were killed by impact as the aircraft struck the rising stony ground in front of the tree in the title picture. The left wing sheared off and came to rest against a house that had been narrowly missed by the fuselage. With sufficient fuel for a flight to Adelaide, the main portion of the aircraft burned profusely, the tail however, broke away on impact and came to rest facing 180 degrees to the direction of flight, on a granite outcrop approximately 50 feet beyond the tree and in doing so escaped the worst of the fire.
Photo of the tail published in the Perth Daily News 19th April 1945.
You can just make out the ambulance centre left, and the first aid kits hanging on the inside of the open door of the aircraft.
The same location to-day with the granite outcrop where the tail came to rest and among which four of the occupants were found. Note the proximity of the house in the background.
The careering aircraft destroyed the water tank seen in the title picture and just visible through the trees in the centre of the picture above. Incredibly, as it was the sole source of water for the occupants of the house, the US Navy replaced and refilled it that day!
The Blue Goose crashed on private property, 735 feet above mean sea level and 10 degrees to the right (south) of runway heading. The US Navy enquiry did not determine why the aircraft should be there so soon after take off. Personally I am not a subscriber to Pilot Error conclusions. Pilots are among the most professional group I have worked with and I find it difficult to believe that Lt Armstrong would have purposely flown the aircraft into danger. I have observed that, if the aircraft were to have tracked 10 degrees to the left (north) of runway heading instead of right, she would have passed down the Helena Valley to safety. Consequently I would like to contact anyone who can tell me the departure procedure off RWY11 in 1945 or what navigation aids were available then.
Initially the male casualties were buried in Karrakatta Cemetery, with the three ladies going to Sydney. Later the men were exhumed and taken to Rookwood Cemetery in NSW. I believe they may have now all been returned to the USA.
During my research into the loss of the Blue Goose I learned from several sources that there had been a -serious- party in Adelaide Terrace (Perth) the previous evening at which most of the passengers were present. Apparently it was a jovial lot that boarded the aircraft some hours later. I prefer to think of them as settling down in the VIP seats of the RD4-5, comfortable chatting and cheerful, remaining oblivious to what caused their eternal flight to Adelaide.
The crash of the Blue Goose was the worst air accident in WA history and remained so until the loss of ANA flagship Amana, a DC4 lost near York in 1950 when all four engines failed - but that is another story!
With the kind permission of the property owners, I am currently coordinating a Memorial Plaque to be placed here on the granite outcrop and dedicated to those lost in the crash of the Blue Goose. If you wish to attend that occasion or if you can add further to the story of the Blue Goose, I would be pleased to hear from you.
In researching this crash I am indebted to the following for their kind assistance and forbearance:
Mrs Barbara Harper-Nelson. Mr Phil McCulloch. Mr & Mrs M Bartlett. Mr & Mrs D Fairs. Ms Andrea Duff. Mr Peter Dunn.
ADF-Serials Image Gallery
CRASH SITES and MEMORIALS