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  A-20G-25 "Shag On" Serial Number 43-9134 Tail N
USAAF
5th AF
8th Service Group
360th Service Squadron
CRTC School

Former assignment
312th BG
388th BS

PacificWrecks.com
USAAF 1944
Pilot  2nd Lt William N. Sleeth, O-782801 360th AsG, HQ (MIA / KIA) Torrance, CA
Gunner  Cpl Wendell H. Shepherd, 35221683 360th AsG, HQ (MIA / KIA) Barnesville, OH
Gunner  Cpl Gordon O'Brien, 13179254 360th AsG, HQ (MIA / KIA) Philadelphia, PA

Crashed  February 9, 1945
MACR  12255

Aircraft History
Built at Douglas. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAF) as A-20G-25-DO Havoc serial number 43-9134. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
During February 1944, assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 312th Bombardment Group (312th BG), 388th Bombardment Squadron (388th BS). Nicknamed "Shag On", with a seated woman looking over her shoulder and opening her brassiere. Also "Passionate Peggy" painted on the left gun access panel. Assigned to pilot 2n Lt. M. D. Gentry whose regular gunner was Lyle Ferguson and crew chief SSgt Fry. This A-20 was base at Gusap Airfield during March - May 1944 flying combat missions, it remained in service with the squadron until October 1944.

Afterwards, assigned to the 8th Service Group (8th SvG), 7th Airdrome Squadron (7 ADS) part of the Far East Air Force - Combat Replacement and Training Center (FEAF-CRTC) based at Nadzab Airfield. When lost engines R-2600-23 serial number 43-105590 and R-2600-A5DO constructors number 37276. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns including six guns in the nose and two in the Martin top turret makers and serial numbers unknown.

Mission History
On February 9, 1945 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt William N. Sleeth as part of a four plane formation led by A-20 Number 967 piloted by Captain David M. Gilliam on a combat mission to attack installations on eastern of Muschu Island. The weather was ceiling and visibility unlimited (CAVU).

At 8:00am as the formation was releasing their bombs, this A-20 observed to disappeared and a larger column of smoke and fire was obsered on the beach at the edge of the water between Cape Barbara and Cape Warber on Muschu Island. The crash was observed by A-20 #967 pilot Captain David M. Gilliam and gunner Sgt James W. Emery in another A-20. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). The cause of the crash was unknown.

In fact, this A-20 was shot down by anti-aircraft machine gun fire fired by the Japanese Army 33rd Machine Cannon Company directed by Sgt-Maj Nakoto Tsutsui who later claimed "The plane nose-dived and burst into flame as it hit the ground".

Search
No search efforts were deemed necessary for this aircraft.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the Japanese on the island recovered the burned remains of at least two members of the crew and buried them roughly seven yards from the crash site.

Wreckage
This A-20 crashed and burned in shallow water roughly two feet deep and partially above water and on the beach of Muschu Island. After the fire, only the tail section remained with serial number "39134" still visible on the wreckage.

On December 5, 1945 the Australian Army 6th Division, Headquarters Captain Douglas H. Bruce, NX112697 swam ashore to inspect the wreckage of A-20 on the beach and reported it was destroyed by fire but the tail section was intact and the serial number "39134" [43-9134] was visible on the tail. Afterwards, Captain Bruce interrogated two Japanese Prisoners Of War (POW) detained on Muschu Island including Sgt-Maj Nakoto Tsutsui from the 33rd Machine Cannon Company on Muschu Island who claimed to have shot down an aircraft and Capt. Yoshio Morooka who also confirmed he remembered the shoot down.

Interrogation of Capt. Morooka Yoshio, 63 AA Bn.
4. Q. Do you remember a bomber being shot down on 9 Feb 45? A. Yes, I heard about it. I was on the other side of the island.
5. Q. Do you know if the crew were killed? A. They were all buried as far as I know.
6. Q. What unit was in the vicinity of Map Ref. 284209? A. 33 Machine Cannon Coy. The CO was 1/Lt. Ogata but he died of illness.
9. Q. Were there any records kept of air crashed on the [Muschu] island? A. No.
10. Q. Do you know what sort of plane this was and whether it had any number on it? A. I do not know as I only heard about it.
11. There were three in the crew and only two bodies were recovered. Do you know what happened to this body? A. I could not say, but someone from that unit [33 Machine Cannon Coy.] may be able to help you."
Interrogated at HQ 6 Div. 4 Dec 45 by me. Capt. (D. H. Bruce)
I certify that the above writing is a true translation of the witness's statements. (A certified true copy)"

Interrogation of Sgt-Maj Nakoto Tsutsui, 33 Machine Cannon Coy.
4. Q. Did you see the plane crash? A. Yes
5. Q. What happened to the crew? A. The plane was in flames when I saw it crash and the men were burnt.
6. Q. We have information that one of the crew was thorn clear. A. No, as far as I know they were all killed.
7. Q. Did you watch the plane burn?A. Yes, from a distance. I examined the remains later and saw only the skull of one man which I buried.
8 Q. When was this? A. On 9 Feb 45.
9. Q. Can you show me the spot where you buried the skull? A. Yes. [The Jap soldier showed me the spot and explained how the high tides had washed the bank away. The spot is about seven yards in front of the plane, and the water is about two feet deep,
10. Q. Who was in charge of this area of the [Muschu] island? A. I was. Sgt-Major Okubo was on the other side of the Island.
11. Q. Who shot the plane down? A. I did with a machine gun. The plane nose-dived and burst into flame as it hit the ground.
12. Q. Are you sure none of the crew escape the crash? A. I'm sure they couldn't.
Interrogated on Muschu Island. 5 Dec 45 by me. Capt. (D. H. Bruce HQ, 6 Div.)
I certify that the above writing is a true translation of the witness's statements. (A certified true copy)"

Memorials
The entire crew was declared dead the day of the mission. Each member of the crew earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. All three are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Shepherd also has a memorial marker at Union Cemetery in Morristown, OH.

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William N. Sleeth
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Wendell H. Shepherd
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20G-25-DO Havoc 43-9134
Missing Air Crew Report 12255 (MACR 12255) created February 10, 1945
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - William B. Sleeth [sic, N.]
(Page 20) Statement by Capt. D. H. Bruce of War Crimes Board
(Page 21) Interrogation of Capt. Morooka Yoshio, 63 AA Bn.
(Page 22) Interrogation of Sgt-Maj Nakoto Tsutsui, 33 Machine Cannon Coy
(Page 30) "Battle Casualty Report - Killed on Muschu Island, Wewak, New Guinea area plane was shot down by enemy machine gun fire."
Interrogations of Japanese Prisoners Of War (POW), Sgt-Maj Nakoto Tsutsui (AWM 54 1010/9/88)
WW2 Nominal Roll - Douglas Haig Bruce, NX112697
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - A-20A Havoc 43-9134
Torrance Herald "William Newton Sleeth Is Reported As Missing" March 8, 1945
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William N. Sleeth
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Wendell H. Shepherd
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gordon O'Brien
FindAGrave - 2Lt William Newton Sleeth (obituary, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Corp Wendell H Shepherd (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Corp Wendell H. Shepherd (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Gordon O'Brien (tablets of the missing photo)
Rampage of the Roarin' 20's (2009) pages 56, 62 (photo), 198 (color photo), 355, 370 (photo), 374 (photo)

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020

 

Tech Info
A-20

MIA
MIA
3 Missing

Map
3.25
143.35
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