This Day in History: 1945-03-22

GPCAPT Deryck Kingwell was awarded the DSO for his actions in returning his Liberator and crew safely to base on 22 March 1945. Kingwell and his crew in B-24J Liberator, A72-59, (USAAF No. #44-41389), of 24 Squadron RAAF, were taking part in a bombing mission on two Sugar Dog vessels from 7,000 feet above Bima harbour on Sumbawa Island. They encountered a Japanese Oscar and a Zeke. The Zeke dropped four unidentified cylinders less than a meter long and a few centimetres in diameter. Kingwell took evasive action and the cylinders missed the Liberator by about 15 metres. The Oscar then started to strafe the Liberator. The Liberator was hit, severing an aileron cable, cutting electrical wires in the nose and wounding Kingwell and his bombardier, FLGOFF A.G. Worley. The Liberator was also hit in the tailplane, rudder and two engines. During the third attack by the Oscar, the B-24 was hit by a heavy four foot long chain which smashed the front turret perspex and hydraulic system disabling the turret. The chain also then damaged the port tailplane and fin. The ball turret gunner was unable to see because his turret Perspex was covered in hydraulic oil. The origin of the chain was a mystery. The Oscar and the Zeke continued to attack the Liberator. In all they made about 9 strafing attacks over a forty minute period. The nose gunner, FLTSGT J.S. Thompson, was also wounded, but he continued to fire at the two Japanese aircraft until his turret ceased working. The flight engineer SGT W.J. Wignal was able to repair the broken aileron cable using some wire rope. The hydraulic and electrical systems, including the autopilot remained inoperable. When Kingwell arrived over Fenton airfield he found that the starboard undercarriage leg would not lock down. He circled the airfield for an hour and a half while unsuccessfully attempting to lock down the leg. Low on fuel, he was committed to make a forced landing. He bought the main wheel tyre down on the tarmac with a deliberate sideways jolting action in an attempt to lock in the undercarriage leg, which was successful. Source: Ozatwar website