The Plane that saved Australia
1-hour film documentary by Robert Cockburn.

The Senior newspaper feature "Old, slow and a plane that won the war" about the film.

The Plane that Saved Australia reveals the incredible lost history of Australia’s WWII RAAF Catalina flying boat crews and their secret missions for America's legendary General Douglas MacArthur.  Their mission was to stop Japan. And they did it - in antique planes going slower than a family car that were saved from the scrapyard and a romantic age. 

Tragic, comic, subversive, the brilliant RAAF airmen describe highly dangerous, top secret 20-hour missions to stop the Japanese Navy - in very slow, old vulnerable flying boats! And they succeeded against all odds... only to be lost and forgotten in an ocean of official Australian and U.S. paperwork. But something else is discovered in secret documents.

Flying low level at night, the crews had to get right inside Japanese-held ports across the S.W. Pacific to lay mines. The cat crews stopped one third of Japanese warships and supplies ever reaching the front line, saving countless lives and destruction. They paved the way for General MacArthur’s triumphant return to the Philippines. Hundreds of RAAF Catalina crewmen died and were forgotten.



The Plane that Saved Australia is a highly original mix of observational documentary and investigative journalism - told by veterans and families who match memories with wartime documents with startling results, including General MacArthur's appeal to Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, for Aussie airmen.


Yet the Catalina crews' achievements were all forgotten after the war. Men like Cyril Payne, above, in the flying boat's blister window in 1942, and below back in his old seat decades later.  


 ‘They got more recognition from the Japanese,’ says Bob Cleworth, who campaigns with flying boat veterans for recognition. ‘They saved Australia,’ says WWII Australian intelligence officer Philip Dulhunty as he tries to get a Catalina to fly again from Sydney’s Bankstown Airport to publicise their wartime success. The RAAF Catalina veterans are truly Australia’s “Few”.

The Plane that Saved Australia Copyright Robert Cockburn 2020