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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2402  
11th BG
38th RS / 431st BS
USAAF 1941
Pilot  1st Lt Earl J. Cooper (survived)
Co-Pilot  1st Lt Joaquin Castro, O-428914 (survived) Mission, TX
2nd Co-Pilot  2nd Lt Richard J. Ebrenz (survived)
Navigator  2nd Lt John A. "Davey" Crockett (survived)
Bombardier  2nd Lt Jim B. Buchanan (survived)
Radio  Cpl Mac L. Lucas (survived)
Asst Radio  Pvt Don C. McCord, Jr. (survived)
Engineer  TSgt Jesse R. Broyles, 06761221 (survived) Bexar County, TX
Asst Engineer  Sgt Lee W. Best, 06581083 (survived) Lincoln County, ID
Ditched  December 27, 1941
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructor Number 2213. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2402. Ferried overseas to Hickam Field.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 11th Bombardment Group (11th BG), 38th Reconnaissance Squadron (38th RS) / 431st Bombardment Squadron (431st BS). No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On December 27, 1941 took off piloted 1st Lt Earl J. Cooper from Hickam Field on Oahu as one of sixteen B-17s on a search mission off Hawaii. Returning in the evening, this bomber became lost, ran out of fuel and ditched into the sea roughly 40 miles south of Kauai Island. One crew member was killed in the crash. When this bomber failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Fates of the Crew
The surviving crew successfully deployed their life rafts and survived in the open sea for three days.

On December 30, 1941 their life rafts were spotted by PBY Catalina 2303 piloted by Ensign Frank M. Fisler with co-pilot Leonard Howard Wagoner that landed in rough seas and over a three hour period rescued all nine survivors.

1st Lt Joaquin Castro later went Missing In Action (MIA) on February 1, 1943 as co-pilot aboard B-17E Flying Fortress 41-9151. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. Castro is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission, TX at section MS1 row D site 29.

Buchanan retired as a Major in the U. S. Army. He passed away on January 25, 1982 and was buried at Hill Crest Cemetery in Holly Springs, MS.

Fisler who performed the PBY Catalina rescue assigned to Patrol Squadron 51 (VP-51)

Ensign Frank M. Fisler later went Missing In Action (MIA) on March 5, 1943 piloting PB4Y-1 Liberator 31948 on a bombing mission against Japanese shipping off southern Bougainville.

Some sources incorrectly list the date of ditching as December 26, 1941 or that one of the crew died in the ditching.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joaquin Castro
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Jesse R. Broyles
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Lee W. Best
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2402
"2402 ditched during search and attack mission 40 mi S of Kauai Island, Hawaii Dec 27, 1941. 1 crew killed."
Tar Heel Junior Historian "Tar Heels in World War II" by Lt. Colonel (Ret) Sion H. Harrington III Spring 2008
"Hailing from the tiny community of Ivanhoe in the southern tip of Sampson County, then Ensign Frank Moore 'Fuzzy' Fisler served as a navy pilot with patrol squadron VP-51. On December 30, 1941, only twenty-three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Fisler was on patrol in a seaplane when his crew spotted men floating in the rough seas below. Unsure of the stranded men’s nationality, and realizing the dangers involved in trying to land in rough seas, Fisler radioed his headquarters at Pearl Harbor requesting permission to attempt a rescue. Due to the risks involved, officials at the base denied permission. Fisler asked his crew members if they wanted to leave the men to drown or risk their own lives in an attempt to rescue them. They wanted to try saving the men. Miraculously, Fisler’s plane was not torn to bits or swamped when it landed on the turbulent seas. Using a small rubber boat, the rescuers spent three dangerous hours picking up the nine men, who turned out to be the crew of an American bomber. The weight of the extra men made it a challenge for the heavily overloaded seaplane to take off. By another miracle, it got airborne and landed safely back at base. Thought to have received the first Navy Cross of World War II, Fisler personally received his medal at Pearl Harbor from Admiral Chester Nimitz. Sadly, Fisler would lose his life during combat in March 1943."
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 62, 383
Living On and Under the Wing: A Biography of: Lt. Joaquin Castro by Arnoldo Guerrero Jr. pages 54-58 [PDF]
PBY Catalina Foundation - Guardian Angel -- A True Story
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joaquin Castro
FindAGrave - 1Lt Joaquin Castro (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Joaquin Castro (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Jim Bright Buchanan (grave photos)
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Jim Sawruk for additional information

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020


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