A USAAF bomber crew sets off from Darwin, Australia on Friday 13 August 1943 on an impossibly long mission which it can complete only if it gets lucky as well as getting the navigation right.
They demonstrate huge skill and immense dedication, meet with a mixture of luck and the devil, and crash-land after 16h 35min airborne.
In 2011, 68 years later to the day Alice Craig, the widow of the aircraft commander visited the tidal salt pan on Australia’s remote northern coast, where the Consolidated B24 Liberator set down, riddled with bullet holes and out of fuel. The wheel tracks are still there, although the aeroplane isn’t. The crew survived only because three Aborigines on walkabout found them and helped them stay alive until rescue.
During her Australia visit last year, in Sydney Alice received a Presidential Citation on behalf of her husband, Lieutenant Douglas Craig and the crew of eleven.
Aviator-turned-film-director Tristan Loraine has tracked this remarkable piece of aviation history and created a documentary film that accompanies the crew of Shady Lady, the last of the group of 11 Liberators, on their mission to hit the Japanese-controlled oil refinery in Balikpapan, Borneo.
As only the work of an aviator/director could, this film faithfully tracks the problems and dilemmas the commander and crew faced: lack of weather data; electrical storms; navigation challenges; radio silence; enemy attack from the ground and air; and finally what to do when the crew accepted that the remaining fuel was simply not enough. Loraine gets you on board with the crew: you feel the tension, the foreboding, the noise and, eventually, the fatigue they must have felt.
This is a story of wartime hope and courage, endurance, and a fascinating combination of circumstances that leads to a unique operational denouement.