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38th RS / 431st BS
|Pilot 1st Lt Earl J. Cooper (survived)
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Richard J. Ebrenz (survived)
Crew 2nd Lt Jim B. Buchanan (survived)
Crew 2nd Lt John A. "Davey" Crockett (survived)
Crew 1st Lt Joaquin Castro, O-428914 (survived) Mission, TX
Crew Pvt Don C. McCord, Jr. (survived)
Radio Cpl Mac L. Lucas (survived)
Crew Chief TSgt Jesse R. Broyles, 06761221 (survived) Bexar County, TX
Crew Sgt Lee W. Best, 06581083 (survived) Lincoln County, ID
Ditched December 27, 1941
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.
Assigned to the 11th Bombardment Group, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron / 431st Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
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 around Hawaii. Returning in the evening, this B-17 became lost, ran out of fuel and ditched into the sea roughly 40 miles south of Kauai Island. One of the crew 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 at sea for three days.
On December 30, 1941 spotted by PBY Catalina 2303 piloted by Ensign Frank M Fisler with co-pilot Leonard Howard Wagoner landed in rough seas and over three hours rescued the nine survivors who later returned to duty.
1st Lt Joaquin Castro later went Missing In Action (MIA) on February 1, 1943 as co-pilot aboard B-17E 41-9151. He was officially declared dead on January 11, 1946.
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.
Rescuing Catalina pilot Frank M. Fisler later went Missing In Action (MIA) on March 5, 1943 as pilot aboard PB4Y-1 Liberator 31950.
Some sources list the date of the ditching as December 26, 1941
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 pages 62, 383
USAF Serial Number Search Results B-17E 41-2402
PBY Catalina Foundation - Guardian Angel -- A True Story
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joaquin Castro
FindAGrave - 1Lt Joaquin Castro (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Joaquin Castro (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Jim Bright Buchanan (grave photos)
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Jim Sawruk for additional information
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