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19th BG 1942
Brian Bennett 1988
Justin Taylan 2003
|Pilot Captain Harl Pease, Jr., O-34206 11th BG, 93rd BS (POW, executed, MIA) Plymouth, NH
Co-Pilot F/Sgt Frederick Wentworth Earp, 403325, RAAF, attached 93rd BS (MIA / KIA, BR) Penrith, NSW
Bombardier 1st Lt. Robert B. Burleson, O-412726 (MIA / KIA) AL
Engineer S/Sgt Rex E. Matson, 6657964 (MIA / KIA) IN
Radio Sgt Alvar A. Liimatainen, 160292712 (MIA / KIA, BR) Marquette County, MI
Navigator 2nd Lt. Richard M. Wood, O-433161 (MIA / KIA) OK
Gunner Sgt David W. Brown, 6296430 (MIA / KIA, BR) TX
Gunner Sgt Chester M. Czechowski, 6915712 (POW, executed, MIA) Cook County, IL
Crew Sgt Fred W. Oettel, 19048522 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crashed August 7, 1942
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2429. On November 29, 1941 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2429 at Boeing Field and departed piloted by Lt. John E. Dougherty. Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (88th RS). No known nickname or nose art.
On December 6, 1941 took off from Hamilton Field piloted by Major Richard H. Carmichael with crew no. 1 leading an unarmed ferry flight bound for Hickam Field. The rest of the crew included co-pilot Captain James W. Twaddell, 2nd Lt Donald O. Tower, 2nd Lt Kermit E. Meyers, Aviation Cadet Theodore I. Pascoe, TSgt Wallace A. Carter, SSgt Jack R. Tribble, SSgt Sam Tower and SSgt Harold D. Boyer.
On the morning of December 7, 1941 incoming Japanese aircraft detected on radar were dismissed as the expected flight of B-17s. The formation of B-17s arrived during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu. Reaching Diamond Head, the B-17 observed unidentified aircraft, anti-aircraft fire and smoke and diverted to Bellows Field but also found it under attack and instead landed at Haleiwa Field where it was armed and refueled. While the ground, an A6M2 Zero strafed the airfield, but did not damage this bomber.
After the attack, flown to Hickam Field. This B-17 had the three-color camouflage scheme at the Hawaiian Air Depot (HAD) with dark green, olive drab and tan upper surfaces with gray lower surfaces. During late December 1941, this B-17 operated from Hickam Field flying reconnaissance missions off Hawaii.
On March 16, 1942 took off from Garbutt Field at Townsville piloted by Captain William Lewis with B-17E "San Antonio Rose II" 41-2447 on a flight to Batchelor Field near Darwin as one of four B-17s to stage for a mission evacuate General Douglas MacArthur from Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao. Originally, B-17E 41-2434 was selected for MacArthur but when the engines were unable to start and did not participate.
Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 93rd Bombardment Squadron. Later, assigned to the 40th Bombardment Squadron. While in Queensland, this bomber was nicknamed "Why Don't We Do This More Often".
On August 6, 1942 this bomber was at Mareeba Airfield. During the evening, Captain Harl Pease and his crew landed B-17E 41-2668 at Mareeba Airfield after having experienced an engine valve failure. On the ground, they boarded this bomber and took off from Mareeba Airfield and flew to 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby to participate in a bombing mission scheduled for the next morning against Rabaul to support of the American landings at Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
On August 7, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain Harl Pease, Jr., on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. Aboard was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) co-pilot F/Sgt Frederick Wentworth Earp, who was attached 93rd Bombardment Squadron (93rd BS). This bomber was deemed to have weak engines and had aborted several missions, but could still fly. Pease insisted on flying the aircraft on the mission.
After the bomb run, this B-17 was last seen over Vunakanau Airfield, defending A6M2 Zeros concentrated on Pease's aircraft, causing it to loose altitude and knocked out an engine. The bomb bay fuel tank was seen to drop out on fire. None of the other B-17s observed this bomber to crash.
Edward M. Jacquet, pilot of B-17E "Tojo's Jinx" 41-2462 recalls:
"[This bomber was on his right wing] We hollered and screamed for the formation to slow down to protect Harl [Pease]. We broke silence on our radios but of course they were very unreliable radios. Later the other pilots said they never heard us."
When this B-17 failed to return it was declared Missing In Action (MIA). For his actions that day, Pease earned the Medal of Honor and the entire crew earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), posthumously.
Fates of the Crew
Two of the crew Pease and Czechowski managed to bailed out and landed safely. Both were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW) and were transported to Rabaul and detained. Father O'Connell, a missionary interned at Rabaul reported seeing Pease and Czechowski alive.
On October 8, 1942, a group of six POWs including Pease and Czechowski were taken from captivity, presumably to work as laborers at one of the airfields. Later that afternoon, some of their clothing was returned to the prison and it was inferred the six were executed. Their remains have never been located and both remain Missing In Action (MIA).
This B-17 crashed near the junction of the Powell River and Mavelo River (Henry Reid River) on Makurapau Plantation to the north of Wide Bay on East New Britain. After the crash, the remains of the seven crew aboard were recovered by Father Obereiter and buried at Makurapau Plantation behind a kiln.
On March 25, 1946 this crash site was visited by a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle near the junction of the Powell River and Mavelo Rivers (Henry Reid River) on Makurapau Plantation, about seven miles west-northwest of Tol, far from where it was last observed.
On June 25, 1946 an American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) team visited Lamarien along the Powell River to visit an aircraft wreck the team believed was a "P-38 Lightning" [sic]. The next day, June 26, 1946 the team was guided four hours inland to the crash site and incorrectly identified the wreckage as a B-25 Mitchell [sic, they investigated this B-17).
The crash site was broken into three distinct parts. The first section of wreckage was the fuselage mostly in the river. Natives reported they had seen the remains of three alongside this wreckage, but were likely washed down the river. The second section of wreckage was a one wing and an engine, roughly 200 yards away from the river. The third section was another wing, engine and part of the fuselage. Under the second and third sections, two complete sets of remains were found including several coins and a diamond ring, but no identification tags. Tooth charts were taken and the team departed the same day.
Inside the wreckage were the remains of two of the crew: the co-pilot and radio operator. The Australians identified the remains of F/Sgt Earp. The American authorities were contacted about the other remains.
During 1986 a team from US Army CILHI led by Captain Woodard with Brian Bennett visited the crash site.
Brian Bennett adds:
"Our CILHI camp back in 1986. I remember that the wreckage was well scattered and was consistent with the aircraft having blown up in the air. From the lat / long position if you run a radius of about 500 meters then this will safely enclose the wreckage scatter of the B-17. This includes the area of interest of David Billings and his "Earhart Project". I was of the opinion years ago and still am that it is highly unlikely that the engine that David claims to be from Model 10 Electra that Amelia Earhart was flying is in fact one of the engines from B-17E 41-2429. We were on site for two weeks and did not find all the wreckage let alone all the engines. The rivers are the Powell River or Henry Reid River."
During 1988, team from US Army CILHI led by Captain Woodard with Brian Bennett again visited the crash site. The fuselage door and a radio (with two 7.7mm bullet holes in it) was recovered from the crash site and donated to the Kokopo Museum where they are on display.
Recovery of Remains
The remains of two of the crew were identified: Australian Earp and Liimatainen. Possibly, the remains of other crew members might be buried as unknowns (X-Files) at Manila American Cemetery.
The American crew were officially declared dead on different dates. Pease, Burleson, Wood, Oettel and Brown were officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. Matson and Czechowski were officially declared dead on December 13, 1945.
Pease was officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. Hearned the Medal of Honor, posthuomously, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Holderness, NH. On September 7, 1957 Portsmouth Air Force Base (Portsmouth AFB) was renamed Pease Air Force Base (Pease AFB) in honor of Hal Pease. In 1991 when the base closed due to Base Realignment and Closure Commission a portion of the former base became Pease Air National Guard Base (Pease ANGB).
Earp was officially declared dead the day of the mission on August 7, 1942. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), posthumously. After his remains were recovered, he was buried at Bitapaka War Cemetery (Rabaul War Cemetery) at grave H. D. 5.
Burleson was officially declared dead on December 13, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Matson was officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), Silver Star, Air Medal and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Methodist Cemetery in Ellettsville, IN. He is also memorialized on the Tippecanoe County War Memorial in Lafayette, IN.
Liimatainen was officially declared dead the day of the mission on August 7, 1942. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. After his remains were recovered, he was buried at Park Cemetery in Marquette, MI.
Wood was officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Brown was officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Brown also has a memorial marker at Childress Cemetery, Childress, TX.
Czechowski was officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Oettel was officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2429
"2429 delivered Salt Lake SAD Nov 30, 1941. Assigned to 88th RS, 7th BG, then 7th BG, 88th RS. Arrived over Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. Used to evacuate MacArthur's staff from Del Monte, Philippines Mar 25, 1942 Shot down Rabaul, New Britain Aug 7, 1942. MACR 16020. Harlpease received Medal of Honor for action."
7 December 1941 - The Air Force Story - Appendix D - B-17s Arriving During the Attack page 157
"B-17E 41-2429 / Crew No. 1: Capt Richard H. Carmichael, Capt James W. Twaddell, 2d Lt Donald O. Tower, 2d Lt Kermit E. Meyers, Avn Cdt Theodore I. Pascoe, TSgt Wallace A. Carter, SSgt Jack R. Tribble, SSgt Sam Tower, SSgt Harold D. Boyer."
Missing Air Crew Report 16020 (MACR 16020) was created retroactively circa 1945-1946
AGRS Operation One, Mission 3 "Investigate crashed P-38, Missing Air Crew Report" page 1-4 [sic, report relates to the crash site of B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2429, misidentified as a P-38 Lightning during the investigation]
NAA Document "Fortress (41-2439) [sic]"
RAAF Casualty Card - Fortress B-17E 41-2439 [sic]
A typo exists that notes this bomber as serial number 41-2439. This incorrect serial has been occasionally reproduced. Crew member Czechowski is spelled "Chikowsky" [sic] and "Czechowske" [sic] in some records. Crew member Liimatainen is also listed as "Leomatinen" [sic] in some records.
NARA "World War II Prisoners of War Data File" - Harl Pease Jr.
NARA "World War II Army Enlistment Records" - Fred W. Oettel
NARA "World War II Army Enlistment Records" Alvar A. Liimatainen
NARA Records of World War II Prisoners of War - Harl Pease Jr. last "Died as Prisoner of War"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harl Pease Jr.
FindAGrave - Capt Harl Pease, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Harl Pease, Jr (photo memorial marker photo)
CWGC - Frederik Wentworth Earp
FindAGrave - Flight Sergeant Frederick Wentworth Earp (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - FLT O Frederick Wentworth Earp (memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert B. Burleson
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert B Burleson (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Rex E. Matson
FindAGrave - SSgt Rex E Matson (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Rex E Matson (Tippecanoe County War Memorial)
FindAGrave - Sgt Rex E. Matson (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Alvar A. "Oliver" Liimatainen (photo, grave photo, DFC citation)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard M. Wood
FindAGrave - 1Lt Richard M Wood (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David W. Brown
FindAGrave - Sgt David Wayne Brown (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt David Wayne Brown (memorial marker photo)
NARA Records of World War II Prisoners of War does not list Czechowski as an official POW
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Chester M. Czechowski
FindAGrave - Sgt Chester M Czechowski (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Fred W. Oettel
FindAGrave - Sgt Fred W Oettel (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2429
On Wings We Conquer (1990) pages 104 (MacArthur rescue), 123-140, 177 (A-13: MacArthur Rescue), 181-184 (A-17: Rabaul Mission 41-2629 sic [41-2429])
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 18, 156-157 (March 16, 1942), 384 (41-2429)
Echoes From an Eagle (2016) page 53-55
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 95 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Peace [sic Pease]
What Really Happened to Harl Pease? by John Mitchell and Fay Benton
RAAFDB - FSgt Frederick Wentworth Earp via WayBack Machince November 27, 2014
"Frederick Wentworth Earp Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) citation: For extraordinary heroism in action between Queensland, Australia and Rabaul, New Britain on August 6-7 1942. When the airplane, in which he was co-pilot returned to its base in Queensland, Australia, from a bombing mission at Lae, New Guinea because of a disabled engine, Flight Sergeant Earp knowing that his group was to execute on the following day an important mission in which the participation of every available airplane was essential, volunteered to accompany his airplane commander on this mission in an airplane which had been declared unserviceable for combat duty. Rejoining his Squadron at Port Moresby after having flown almost continuously during the preceding nineteen hours, he took off, after only three hours rest, in a mass attack by his group on an enemy-occupied airdrome near Rabaul, New Britain. Despite interception by about thirty enemy fighters as the target was approached, the group made a highly successful bombing attack. During the hostile fighter action, the airplane in which Flight Sergeant Earp was a crew member, was on the wing which bore the brunt of the enemy attack lasting for twenty-five minutes. It was observed to drop a blazing bomb-bay tank and fall behind the formation. It did not return to its base."
Center for Research Allied POWS Under the Japanese - Execution of Aviators at Rabaul October 8, 1942
NARA RG 331 Box 943 Rabaul documents & cannibalism
"Royal Australian Navy - 18 September 1945 Subject: Information concerning U.S. Army personnel captured at Rabaul
Capt. Peace of New England and Photographer Chikowsky [sic Czechowski] of Chicago: Baled out of a B-17 near Kabakual, near Rabaul."
Center for Research Allied POWS Under the Japanese - Execution of Aviators at Rabaul October 8, 1942
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Brian Bennett and Edward Rogers for additional information
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POW / MIA
2 Prisoners, Executed
Medal of Honor
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