By Kelly Bell Darwin, Australia, was hot even though it was mid-winter. On the afternoon of July 12, 1942, four newly deployed pilots of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) 49th Fighter Group climbed into the cockpits of their Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk single-engine fighters and lifted off for a training mission. The youngsters were 1st Lt. J.B. “Jack” Donalson and 2nd Lts. John Sauber, Richard Taylor, and George Preddy, Jr. Japanese air raids had recently plagued the area, and this quartet of airmen was being groomed to do something about it. Preddy and Taylor peeled off and played the role of Imperial Japanese bombers while Donalson and Sauber rehearsed their intercepting skills by making dummy attacks on their comrades, but something went wrong. The sun may have blinded Sauber or, rookie that he was, he may simply have misjudged the distance between his and Preddy’s planes. He waited too long to pull up and crashed into Preddy’s tail at 12,000 feet, sending both machines tumbling. Preddy managed to bail out at the last moment, but Sauber’s cockpit was apparently jammed shut. He was killed on impact. Preddy’s chute cracked open seconds before he came down in a tall gum tree that shredded the parachute and sent him crashing through the branches to the ground. Lieutenant Clay Tice happened to be passing by in his own P-40 and saw the mishap. He radioed its coordinat


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