405th BS Aug 5, 1943
Peter Maynard 1986
Walt Brenner 1989
Rich Taylor 1997
Walt Deas 2001
Pilot Major Williston M. Cox, O-426370 (POW, survived) TN
Pilot Captain Robert L. Herry, O-421090 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) TX
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Robert J. Koscelnak, O-732556 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) Orange, CA
Navigator 1st Lt Louis J. Rittaco, O-660907 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) NJ
Engineer S/Sgt Raymond J. Zimmerman, 39304264 (MIA / KIA) OR
Radio T/Sgt Hugh W. Anderson, 38069521 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) Aspermont TX
Ditched August 5, 1943
Built by North American as a model D-5. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 405th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Elusive Lizzie". Later, it was renamed "Miss America", then both nicknames were then completely covered by 38th Bombardment Group's "Green Dragon" nose art motif insignia.
On August 5, 1943 took off from 17-Mile (Durand) near Port Moresby piloted by Cox on a barge sweep off Madang and a strike against Madang
Airfield. Damaged by anti-aircraft fire, this B-25 ditched between Wongat Island and the coast of New Guinea. During the ditching, Zimmerman drowned
Fates of the Crew
Afterward, the rest of the crew swam to Wongat Island and were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Together, they were transported to the Kempei Tai Headquarters at Amron where they were repeatedly beaten and interrogated over twelve days.
Around August 17, 1943 Major Cox was
seporated and flown to Rabaul, and then
transported aboard ship to Japan. He survived the war at Omori POW Camp in Tokyo.
On August 31, 1943, the other four crew members: Koscelnak, Louis. Ritacco and Hugh Anderson, were blindfolded and escorted down from Amron to an execution ground. Each was bayoneted then beheaded. Afterwards, Owen Salvage, the sole survivor of B-25D 41-30221 was also executed. Lastly, Robert Herry was tied between two posts and bayoneted to death.
Post war affidavit L/Cpl Yasukuni Tani. (clerk, Kempei Tai Amron) states:
“The actual execution was to be three prisoners by Kempei Tai and two by headquarters Sentry Guard Unit. However, 1st Lt. Matsumoto’s Kempei Tai members said, “We will execute the three prisoners for the revenge of the death of our comrade, Cpl Nakano. This Matsumoto’s Unit had a conflict several weeks ago at Kesa village, which is located at the head of the Ramu River. The three prisoners were blindfolded and escorted down the mountain to the execution ground by the Kempei Tai members and Sgt Major Kawawa, Cpl Ishikawa and S.Pvt Ozawa. After about 20 minutes had elapsed, Matsumoto’s Kempei Tai group came back and said, “The execution is over now, we will proceed back immediately” and walked towards Kempei Tai Headquarters."
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, New Guinea natives assisted US Army AGRS to locate and recover the remains of at least two members of the crew from the graves where they were buried at Amron. These remains were buried at Finschhafen Cemetery as unknowns.
On March 15, 1948, that dental charts for unknowns X-17 and X-14 compared favorably with those of Herry and Koscelneck, but awaited further medical evidence before making an identification. Later, these remains were positively identified.
On September 5, 1979, this B-25 was located by
"I was a keen diver and lived in
Madang at that time. I was snorkeling off Wongat looking
for a reported sunken aircraft said to have crashed there.
After hours in the water, I dived down for the last time
and there on the seabed lay the B-25. I returned to Madang
grabbed some scuba gear and with another diver headed back
to explore and photograph the aircraft. Within a few days
of the discovery, vandals removed the side guns and other artifacts."
Since then, this wreck has become a popular dive site. It is fully
intact except for the port engine which is missing (torn off during the ditching). The port wing tip is at
and the starboard
wing is at 25 meters. The main body of the plane is at about
18 meters depth. The four machine guns
are visible through the damaged nose section
and ammunition hoppers visible. There is still a considerable number
of 50 caliber rounds inside but they are cemented
into place by sealife. Both cockpit hatches are
open. Large sponges
and fans cover the wreck.
Zimmerman was officially delcared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
After the identification of the recovered remains, Koscelnak was buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot C row 16 grave 59. Anderson was buried in 1950 at Aspermont Cemetery in Aspermont, TX at block N.
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25D Mitchell 41-30118
The Bomber Reef a DVD by Walt Deas tells the complete history of this aircraft and its wartime mission, and explores the wreck underwater.
Death At Amron by Walt Deas
National Geographic April 1988 page 436
FindAGrave - Hugh Anderson (grave photo and news articles)
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May 13, 2014
POW / MIA
Death at Amron
The Bomber Reef