Jump to content
SASS Wire Forum

Dan Rowan, Who Knew?

Recommended Posts

Just stumbled across this when reading about notable pilots of the Curtis P-40 Warhawk, which includes Daniel Dale David, a.k.a. Dan Rowan, of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In. 2 kills, shot down & wounded over New Guinea


Scroll down to WW2 Service. 


I learn something new every day.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dang it, Slim!  You got me chasing down rabbit holes!  



Rowan told me depending on where you were flying out of it was either a lot of rain or none at all, slogging through the mud or days of high heat, sun, dust, and humidity. Up in the morning, taking off strafing barges, installations, mortar and troop implacements, engaging enemy aircraft and flying back home. The next day, weather permitting, the same thing. On one of those routine runs he got into a confrontation with several enemy planes and of which he was credited with two kills, although he was sure he took out three that day. One month later, actually on October 24, 1943, Rowan left Tsili Tsili Airfield, again more-or-less on a routine strafing mission of barges south of Madang. Coming in low over the target on a second or third pass in the same general area his plane was hit by ground fire, the engine began losing oil pressure. Noticeably disabled he quickly picked up at least three Japanese fighters on his tail. Not being able to engage them on any kind of an equal basis let alone three to one, he decided to evade them by flying through a narrow gap along a mountain ridge causing the pursuing planes to pull up after one of their group slammed into the the mountains. Attempting to reduce the possibility of attracting any more fighters, staying low Rowan arced around hoping to reach Tsili-Tsilli in order to keep both himself and his aircraft intact. Without oil pressure or the oil needed the engine seized basically loosing most operational control of the aircraft. He decided to set down best he could wheels up on a sandbar that turned out to be part of the Waffa River, a subsidiary of the much larger Markham River about 50 miles northwest of Lae, albeit still in enemy territory.



Several weeks before, a buddy in the same squadron, 1st Lt. Joel D. Thorvaldson, on an interception mission against Japanese fighters was shot up in a dogfight. The engine of his P-40 began to malfunction eventually catching fire. He nursed his plane to a point he had to make a forced landing somewhere on a sandbar along the Waffa River after which he was able to leave the plane basically unhurt. Rowan figured he could do the same thing. Picking out a river and sandbar he began touching down wheels up. Part way along the sandbar his plane hit something partially obscured by the sand, possibly a croc or a log, but too late to do anything about it. The next thing he knew his plane, known as Miss Kathleen II, or more officially Curtiss Wright P-40N 42-104949, was cartwheeling, ending up upside down partly along the sandbar's edge and the heavy brush along the offside of the river. A couple of days later a rescue crew spotted him and took him back to base.

Reports vary about the extent of Rowan's injuries, from just a sprained back to other reports saying it was so severely sprained he couldn't move, with others stating his back was actually broken. Whatever it was Rowan said they taped him up with splints and stuff and took him down to the flight line. However, he told me "his back was so f****d up could barely move let alone climb into a cockpit" --- although he tried. They decided to wait a few days, then a few more days. Eventually he was sent back to the states and he never flew a P-40 again. As far as he knew Miss Kathleen II was still upside down along the river bank. He said back in the states and out of the service, when he was done with the war he was done with the war. He never really discussed any of it much or associate with or look up old buddies. Nor did he join or belong to any groups or clubs or attend any reunions or that type thing. He said he may have been a hero to close friends and family, but being a fighter pilot with at least two kills didn't quite fit the comedian image.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm interested in the part mentioned that his aircraft, 42-104949 has been restored and is now registered as N 537BR

That would be an interesting story.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.