3 March 1942: A Koninklijke Nederlandsch-Indische Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KNILM) Douglas DC-3 airliner, registration PK-AFV, named Pelikaan, was flying from Bandoeng, Java, Dutch East Indies, to Broome, Western Australia. The flight was under the command of Captain Ivan Vasilyevich Smirnov, a World War I fighter ace of the Imperial Russian Air Service. There were three other crew members and eight passengers on board.
And A£300,000 in diamonds.¹
At about 10:30 a.m., as the DC-3 approached the shore of Western Australia, it was attacked by three Mitsubishi A6M2 Navy Type 0 Model 21 (“Zero”) fighters of the Third Kokutai, Imperial Japanese Navy, then based at Timor. The flight was lead by Lieutenant Zenjiro Miyano, IJN.
Captain Smirnov and several others were wounded and the airliner’s left engine caught fire. Smirnov made a crash landing on a beach at Carnot Bay, approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Broome. The fighters continued to strafe the DC-3 on the beach.
The following day, 4 March, the airliner was bombed by a Kawanishi H6K “Mavis” four-engine flying boat, but there was no further injury or damage.
Over the next several days, four of the passengers died of wounds. The survivors were rescued on 9 March.
The diamonds disappeared.
A beach comber, John (“Diamond Jack”) Palmer, later turned in a parcel of diamonds which he said he had found on the beach. These were valued at A£20,447, but were only about 10% of the original amount. Palmer Was charged with stealing the diamonds, and he and two others, John Arthur Mulgrue and Frank Archibald Robinson, were charged with unlawfully receiving the diamonds. They were prosecuted in 1943, but all were acquitted.
PK-AFV was a Douglas DC-3-194B, serial number 1965, built in 1937. It was one of twenty-three DC-3s operated by Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. (KLM, or Royal Dutch Airlines) and was originally registered PH-ALP. It was transferred to KNILM in the Dutch East Indies in June 1940.
The Douglas DC-3 was an all-metal, twin-engine civil transport with retractable landing gear. The airplane was operated by a pilot and co-pilot and could carry up to 21 passengers.
The DC-3 was 64 feet, 5 inches (19.634 meters) long with a wingspan of 95 feet (28.956 meters). It was 16 feet, 11 inches (5.156 meters) high. PK-AFV was powered by two 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 nine-cylinder radial engines. They drove three-bladed constant-speed, full-feathering Hamilton Standard Hydromatic propellers.
The airplane weighed approximately 18,000 pounds (8,165 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 25,200 pounds (11,431 kilograms).
Cruise speed was 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed was 237 miles per hour (381 kilometers per hour) at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters). The service ceiling was 24,000 feet (7,315 meters). Range 1,025 miles (1,650 kilometers).
Between 1937 and 1942, Douglas Aircraft Company built 607 DC-3s in various configurations, before civil production ended and the company began producing the military C-47 Skytrain. The DC-3 was in production for 11 years with 10,655 civil and C-47 military versions, and another 5,000 license-built copies. Over 400 are still in commercial service.
¹ Equivalent to approximately A$21,630,927 in 2017.by