On 25 February 1942, after 25 days at sea, the USAAF 89th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bomb group arrived in Brisbane, and immediately established camp at Ascot. The first three Douglas A-20As with which the squadron was to be equipped, arrived less than a month later by sea, followed in the months ahead by 39 more.
Considerable difficulty was encountered by the squadron in getting the A-20s into operation, their two main weaknesses inadequate range and insufficient forward firing power. In May, these inadequacies were eliminated by installing two additional 450-gallon (2,046 litres) fuel tanks in the bomb bay, and fitting four .50 calibre guns to the nose, supplementing the existing .30 calibre guns at a modification centre established at Amberley. Numerous problems arose due to these modifications resulting in hydraulic failure and crash-landings, one A20A, 40-123, being destroyed. Finally, these problems were solved and training commenced. Through the months of June, July and early August the 89th Bomb Squadron, then based at Charters Towers, was preparing to enter combat. In August, the squadron worked closely with No 30 Squadron (RAAF) and their Beaufighters in combined operations in the Townsville area. After running three practice missions with the Beau- fighters, the 89th's A-20s departed for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on 29 August 1942. In this flight of A-20s, was one, s/n 40-166, carrying the nickname, Little Hellion, flown by Lieutenant Fred Klatt, one of his passengers being Lieutenant John Robinson, the squadron engineering officer. Little Hellion was to have a remarkable life and re-birth, and this is its story, which is also the story of determination and perseverance under extremely difficult conditions. This is an excerpt from an article written by Bruce Hoy in 1999 for Flightpath magazine. Besides the A-20A 40-166 (Little Hellion), we will show the other aircraft A-20A 40-3153 (Yellow Fever) which was a part of making Steak & Eggs a reality.
CRASH LANDING OF STEAK & EGGS ON THE LOW WOODED ISLAND ON 11 JUNE 1944
On the 11 June 1944, en-route to Sydney, Steak and Eggs encountered bad weather and, running low on fuel, made a forced landing on the beach of The Low Wooded Island, Coral Sea, which is further north along the coast from Cooktown.
Images - Gordon Birkett
OUR COMBINED PROJECT “OPERATION STEAK & EGGS”
Many stories have been written, and told, about this A20 Havoc and what it meant to the morale of the personnel of the 89th Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group, 5th USAAF during their air campaign against the Japanese in New Guinea, 1943.
It must be explained why it was important for John Jewell and myself to return parts of that aircraft to its country of origin and especially to those surviving veterans who created this aircraft from two wrecked A20 Havoc airplanes. John Jewell, a boy at the time, and his family became involved with the 3rd BG during WW2 when they were based at Charters Towers, Queensland. He met many of the 3BG aircrew that flew in operations from Charters Towers against the Japanese in New Guinea during 1942.
My involvement began years later by chance when I came across names of American servicemen listed in a book. Of those persons mentioned I just happened to select one that was attached of the 3rd BG. As a result of our involvements, John and I have had the pleasure attending reunions in the United States and meeting some of the veterans and their families. It is safe say that John and I will always remember those reunions.
During April last year, when I learned that John Jewell was going to attend the September 2010 reunion at Meredith, New Hampshire, I conceived the idea of the possibility of salvaging some pieces from the wreckage of Steak and Eggs to enable John to present them to the surviving veterans on both our behalf. My early requests for assistance from our Navy and Water Police were unsuccessful. I advised John of my problem. John holds the rank of Rear Commodore, North Queensland Squadron, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard. He recommended I contact Commander Helen Greaves, Cooktown Flotilla, part of the North Queensland Squadron. Helen knows John and she and the Flotilla members were immediately supportive of our project when it was explained to her. Unfortunately, due to extremely bad weather conditions and a vessel problem they were unable to get to the Low Wooded Island, Coral Sea, where the wreckage of Steak & Eggs lies, before John left Australia for the reunion.
During the reunion John explained to the veterans and their families about our project & the reason why he could not present any pieces personally to them during the reunion. However, he gave his word of honour that pieces from Steak & Eggs would be obtained and posted over to the surviving veterans who had been instrumental in building Steak & Eggs from the parts of two wrecked A20 Havoc airplanes at Port Moresby, New Guinea.
Late in November 2010, there was a very short two days break in the heavy weather conditions. Helen rang John at short notice to come to Cooktown from Townsville and accompany her crew to The Low Wooded Island. Unfortunately John could not make it in time. Tidal conditions at the time were not ideal as the two engines and main spar were under water. However sufficient small pieces were collected after a detailed search.
We posted the pieces of Steak & Eggs to Bill Robinson who received them recently.
Both of us feel we have accomplished a very special project, with the aid of the Helen Greaves & the Cooktown Flotilla, in returning parts of the A20 airplane called Steak & Eggs to the United States after 68 years, which was the last time these veterans saw her fly away from them in New Guinea back in 1943.
It is John’s & my way of acknowledging the sacrifices made by the 3rd Bombardment Group personal during their defence of Australia during the dark days of 1942/43.
LEST WE FORGET.
With best wishes,
I was recently honored with a piece of Steak & Eggs sent me by my mate, John Jewell, who lives in Townsville, Australia. The photo in the frame was sent by Jack Heyn, another mate who served with the 3rd Bombardment Group from Savannah to Mindoro, Philippine Islands during WWII. Another mate, Bruce Buchan of Frankston, Australia also deserves thanks for making it possible for me to have this piece of 89th Squadron history.
UPDATE: In July 2014, I sent Mr. John Spatharos the framed photo and piece of Steak & Eggs sent me by John Jewell.