Mullalyup to Mississippi – Part II.

CONTINUED from Part I.

In a further report of the incident, Bender described informing Hawter that as it was impossible for the two of them to exit the aircraft from the pilot’s hatch, he, Hawter, could escape from the bottom hatch in the navigator’s compartment. Bender surmised that Hawter had been overcome by the smoke or flames. He himself was thrown clear of the aircraft after it went into a spin and exploded, and managed to deploy his parachute in time and land within a short distance of the still burning aircraft, which had impacted the ground at a spot initially described as being ‘about 12 miles (19.3km) south east of Buna.’

According to Sgt. Thompson, the only other known survivor, Captain Bender identified the three sets of human remains he found at the crash site and buried them “30 miles north west of Buna.” It emerged many years later, however, that Bender had only identified the two American bodies, those of Sgts. McBroom and Middleton, and buried them. The other set of remains Bender stated was still in the burning wreckage and unable to be positively identified or retrieved. These were assumed to be those of Hawter, as it was thought at the time that the other Australian, Sgt. Hamilton, had successfully parachuted from the falling aircraft.

Captain Bender, who was wounded, and Sgt. Thompson, eventually made their way, with a great deal of assistance, to safety. Bender was later recommended for the award of the (U.S.) Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on this and the previous day.

In late August, Hawter’s mother Edith received a letter from a Colonel John H. Davies, Commander of the Third Bombardment Group, United States Army Air Corps, dated the 14th of that month, extending condolences for the loss of her son. It was the first notification the family had received.

The situation in Papua at the time was still acute, and with the Allied air forces still building their strength, the administrative support was lagging. That Hawter had been serving in a U.S. unit beyond the normal RAAF channels of communication further muddied the waters.

Indeed, RAAF Headquarters, North-Eastern Area, only received notification on the 1st of September that Hawter was missing, and even then, the information of the incident was conflicting, for the RAAF was informed that Hawter’s body had in fact been buried, which was not the case.

It was at this point that Hawter’s use of his younger brother’s name and date of birth – the real Clive Hawter was then serving in “A” Squadron of the 2/10th Australian Armoured Regiment, 1st Australian Armoured Division – came to cause problems for administrative staff in both the RAAF and USAAF.

With the assistance of Hawter’s sister, who resided at 12 Landsdowne Rd, St. Kilda, Victoria, and worked at Southern Command Headquarters in Swanston Street, Melbourne, Hawter’s real identity was confirmed, however nothing further about his fate was available until war’s end.

In late 1945, the wreckage was revisited, and remains discovered underneath. I.D. tags belonging to other RAAF member of the crew, Sgt. Hamilton, who was initially thought to have parachuted from the aircraft and possibly been taken a prisoner of war, were found in the vicinity. The remains, which were initially thought to have been from two people, and were buried after their discovery in the U.S. War Cemetery at nearby Soputa, were confirmed by dental examination in early December the same year, as those of Sgt. Hamilton.

INCOMPLETE (Please bear with me!).

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