Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

PELL, Floyd Joaquin

PELL, Floyd J<br /><br />

One of the gallant Kittyhawks which attempted to defend Darwin in 1942. The plane is a burnt out shell in the bush.

Floyd Pell was born on 29 December 1913 in Ogden, Utah, to Wesley Orr and Gertrude Ludwig Pell. His brothers and sisters were Barbara, Robert T. and Charles D.

At the age of twenty, Pell enlisted at the United States Military Academy School, West Point, New York. He enlisted in the United States Air force in 1937 (service number 20701).

On 19 February 1942 Darwin would have been without any air defence if ten P-40 Kittyhawks of the US 33rd Pursuit Squadron, led by Major Floyd Pell, had not turned back from their flight to Koepang due to bad weather. Five of these aircraft landed while the remaining five stayed in the air. Just as the five planes landed, Japanese fighter planes, Zeros or Zekes, were spotted in the air.

After landing, Major Pell dropped his belly tank of fuel before immediately taxiing down the runway to lead his team back into the air. Pell managed to take off but about 16 kilometres northeast of the RAAF field a Zero dove on Pell and fired continually into the P-40’s tail. Pell opened his canopy and parachuted from his aircraft at about 24 metres; his parachute did not have time to open. Pell’s body landed in a hard clay pan about 300 metres from where his plane crashed.

Warrant Officer Leon Bushby of the 19th Machine Gun Battalion saw Pell falling from his aircraft and was the first to arrive at the site where Pell fell. He was able to identify him from a small book in Pell’s chest pocket with his name 'Floyd Joaquin Pell USAAC'. Pell’s body was later identified by his surviving crew members.

A few weeks earlier Floyd Pell had sent his last will and testament to his father in Utah:

'Don’t show it to mom and don’t open it unless notified of a casualty. But then nothing will ever happen to me',
signed 'Da Slug'.

(From Every day a nightmare; American Pursuit Pilots in the defence of Java, 1941-1942)

Floyd was engaged to 2nd Lieutenant Juanita Redmond of Swansea, South Carolina. Redmond served as a nurse in the Philippines and was evacuated by air, seven days before the fall of Bataan. She visited her fiance's grave when she landed in Darwin. Major Floyd Pell was reburied in the United States Military Academy Cemetery, West Point, New York, Section VII Site 52, on 30 September 1948.

To honour Major Pell during World War II, Australia named an airfield and a camp after him. Pell Court in the Palmerston suburb of Moulden is named in his memory. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General MacArthur.

Photograph of Floyd Pell on Page 153 of Every day a nightmare by William H. Bartsch

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