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|Pilot 1st Lt. William T. Pearson, O-795445 (MIA
/ KIA) NY
Gunner MSgt Donald N. Gamage, 11050806 (MIA / KIA) MA
Crashed February 15, 1944 at 10:00am
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-20G-20-DO Havoc serial number 42-86616. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 13th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On February 15, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. William T. Pearson on a low level strike mission against Japanese shipping in Kavieng Harbor off Kavieng.
Over the target, this A-20 was reportedly damaged from the explosion of a bomb released by the proceeding plane. Leaving the area, this A-20 was observed with the right engine on fire and right propeller feathered.
At 10:00am crashed into the sea roughly 35 miles south-southwest of Kavieng. On impact, observed to cartwheel and break into three pieces when making a water landing. The pieces sank within three minutes with no apparent survivors. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
After the crash, other A-20s in the formation circled the crash site twice before departing. Afterwards, PBY "Arkansas Traveler" 08139 landed to search for the downed crew but found no trace of the crew.
Nathan G. Gordon, pilot of PBY "Arkansas Traveler" 08139 recalls:
"We went to the location we had been given, and could see die marker, some wreckage and a raft. We could not see if anyone was down there though, so we put down in the water to find out for sure. Any open sea landing has a lot of dangers. As I said, there were large swells in the water this day. I tried to align the plane with the swells so we could land with them in the same direction.
We dropped a smoke bomb at one end, and another down at the far end of where I wanted to land to judge the wind. We were going to land in between the swells. I made a good landing by power stalling the plane. This meant bring it in really slow and cutting the power so the plane drops out of the sky straight down to land in the shortest distance. When the plane hit the water, the crew reported that some rivets had popped out of the bottom pontoon!
I pulled the plane up so that the guys in the fuselage could investigate. There was no sign of the crew, they must have been dead or drowned. We found some debris - oil, dye marker two life jackets and a half inflated raft."
Both crew were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Both are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Pearson earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Gamage earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Note, there are two reports Missing Air Crew Report 16315 (MACR 16315), one related to this aircraft and the other related to the loss of A-20G 42-86728 both lost on the same mission from the same squadron. Likely, one report was incorrectly number, but each is different in content and page count.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20G-20-DO Havoc 42-86728
"86728 (3rd BG, 13th BS) shot down by AAA during attack on Kavieng, New Britain Feb 15, 1944. 3 crew killed."
Missing Air Crew Report 16315 (MACR 16315) [Pearson/Gamage] created February 15, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William T. Pearson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Donald N. Gamage
FindAGrave - 1Lt William T Pearson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Donald N Gamage (tablets of the missing)
Thanks to Phil Fazzini and Edward Rogers for additional information
Feb 15, 1944
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