Sunday, 2 December 2012

Secrets of Umkomaas: The Mystery of the Missing WWII Plane in the Umkomaas River

Not many people know about the WWII plane that is buried in the marshy waters of Umkomaas river. Here’s what we found out for you!

On the 30th March 1944 during a routine practice battle formation, two Kittyhawks (5067 piloted by FO Brown) and 5006 (piloted by PO Smith) collided in mid air.

5006 managed to make a forced landing next to the river and pilot Smith escaped with his life. The second plane was not so fortunate; Brown was unable to bale from the plane and went down with the craft on the south bank of the Umkomaas river near the site where Saicor is today.

In the 1980s a group made numerous attempts to recover the wreckage of the craft but at the time the exact location of the plane was unknown and the site simply not found. After much speculation about the whereabouts of the sunken Kittyhawk, another group managed to locate it but the wreckage has been left in place because the pilot is still aboard and at the request of his family the site was declared a war grave and therefore it cannot be moved.

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36 Hawk which reduced development time and enabled a rapid entry into production and operational service. The Warhawk was used by the air forces of 28 nations, including those of most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in front line service until the end of the war. It was the third most-produced American fighter, after the P-51 and P-47; by November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facilities at Buffalo, New York.

Warhawk was the name the United States Army Air Corps adopted for all models, making it the official name in the United States for all P-40s. The British Commonwealth and Soviet air forces used the name Tomahawk for models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk for models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants.

6 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns with 150-200 rounds per gun
250 to 1,000 lb (110 to 450 kg) bombs to a total of 2,000 lb (907 kg) on three hardpoints (one under the fuselage and two underwing).

The South African air force had three squadrons of Kittyhawk deployed during WWII.

Famous South African kittyhawk pilot
Jack Frost: SAAF, the highest scoring air ace in a South African unit, with 15 victories (seven on the P-40); missing in action since 16 June 1942.

Umkomaas is a gem of history and interesting places to visit. When you book your accommodation and stay at Ocean Park Guest House,  speak to Lana about the local places of interest; we’d be happy to point them out.