On 7 January 1943, forced to ditch at sea after an engine was shot out during a bombing raid on Lae Harbor, New Guinea. 33rd Squadron's YEAH, B-26 #40-1421, landed just off shore in Hercules Bay near Wu Wu River. S/Sgt.. Joseph P. Papp, radio operator, and Sgt. Jack C. Mosley, bombardier went down with the ship. Lt. Norman E. defers, died from injuries before reaching shore. Ambushed by natives, who mistook him for a Jap, S/Sgt. William Brown was shot and killed. The others, Lt. Leonard Nicholson, pilot, Lt. Jack I. Childers, co-pilot, and Cpl. Thomas. A. Moffit scattered into the jungle. Moffit, Nicholson and Childers, each on their own, were found by friendly natives and returned to Port Moresby within two weeks. The story, as reported in a newspaper clipping of unknown origin:
"SOMEWHERE IN NEW GUINEA. Monday - Three of the crew of an American bomber destroyed by the Japanese have gone to Australia after having played their parts of one of the most exciting of New Guinea's "escape" dramas. Lieutenant Leonard Nicholson (pilot), Lieutenant Jack Childers, (co-pilot), and Corporal T.A. Moffitt (gunner) are the only survivors of the crew of seven. A fourth, a staff sergeant, swam to shore after the plane crashed but was later killed.
"Lt. Childers said that one of the engines of the plane was shot out by anti-aircraft fire and the bomber crashed into the sea. The radio operator and the bombardier were drowned. Moffitt got ashore and was picked up by a friendly native, who led him to an Australian camp. The American was taken to a jungle airstrip and flown to Port Moresby.
"Escape was not so easy for other survivors. Nicholson, Childers, and the staff sergeant, who was later killed, swam ashore. They carried the navigator, who had been hit by an anti-aircraft shell that had almost severed his leg. He died soon after his friends put him on the beach. The other three believed they were in Japanese territory and worked southeast along the coast, expecting to meet an enemy patrol.
"Next day they saw an R.A.A.F. Beaufighter. The crew of the Beaufighter, Warrant Officer Ken Kirley of Cootamundra, and Flight-sergeant Cummins, of Camperdown (Vic.) saw the Americans waving their yellow Mae Wests. Realizing how close the party was to the Japanese, the airmen dropped them a map showing their position and some food. Next day while they were getting ready to start make their way to an Australian camp, shots were fired at them and the staff sergeant was killed. Nicholson and Childers were parted in the scrub, and alone on the beach next day Childers saw two Beaufighters coming, and scrawled in big printed letters on the sane: "
"In the Australian planes, Flight-sergeant Fred Anderson, of Sydney, and Flight-sergeant J. G. Yeatman, of Newcastle, took off their boots and tossed them to Childers. Yeatman took off his flying suit, and dropped it to the American. The Beaufighters dropped food, a medical kit, and a map of the locality, with a message; "You are one hour's walk from the Japanese. An enemy patrol is close at hand."
"With the aid of the map Childers found a deserted native village. Two days later he saw a native. When the native was convinced he was an American, he took Childers up stream to a place on the river where an Australian sergeant had his camp. The Australian told Childers that Nicholson had been at the camp two days before. Nicholson had been picked up in the scrub by two natives who had brought him to the Australian. Both Americans were flown to Port Moresby."
Recalling his ordeal a half century later, Childers wrote: "I noticed natives with children and an outrigger canoe pulled up and partially hidden on the beach on the opposite side of the river. After what seemed like an hour with me waving and gesturing and they waving they finally launched the outrigger and slowly came across. After about an hour or talking and gesturing with the native man in Pidgin English he finally agreed to guide me to 'big white chief at Ioma (pronounced Yoma) on top.'
"Before we left in the outrigger, the native took me about a 100 yards back in the jungle and showed me a crashed Japanese two seat (tandem) plane with two skeletons in Japanese uniforms. These were the only Japanese I saw, dead or alive, on the entire trip. We didn't stay at the wrecked plane but a few minutes and after I and women and children were aboard the native outrigger we proceeded slowly up river. At any time a plane was heard the outrigger was taken under overhanging branches of trees. We stayed there until the sound of the plane had faded away.
"When I got to Ioma the next day I met Major Watson (who was) an American from, I think, Cleveland, Ohio. At the start of World War II he was commissioned a major in the Australian Army, due to his long time experience with the copra and coconut plantations in New Guinea and his long experience with the natives there. With the aid of Australian corporals and sargeants and radio men he organized small squads of natives, trained them in the use of a rifle and usual with an Australian corporal or sergeant in charge they tried to aid downed Allied airmen and also to keep a close watch on any Japanese patrols that might be in the area. I learned later that it was one of these squads of natives operating at the time without their Australian sergeant who fired on us walking down the beach from ambush. This particular squad of natives had reported back that they had killed a Japanese soldier who was taking two captured airmen down the beach."