Harl Pease, Jr., O-34206 11th BG, 93rd BS (POW, executed, MIA) Plymouth, NH
Co-Pilot F/Sgt Frederick Wentworth Earp, 403325, RAAF (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) 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, BR) IL
Crew Sgt Fred W. Oettel, 19048522 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crashed August 7, 1942
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2429. Delivered to the U. S. Army on November 29, 1941 at Boeing Field flown away by pilot Lt. John E. Dougherty. Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group, 88th Reconnaissance Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On December 6, 1941 took off from Hamilton Field piloted by Major Richard H. Carmichael leading an unarmed ferry flight bound for Hickam Field. 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 and painted in 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 1942, this B-17 flew reconnaissance missions from Hickam Field over the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii.
On March 14, 1942 piloted by Captain William Lewis on a mission to evacuate General Douglas MacArthur flying from Townsville via Darwin northward to Del
Monte Airfield in Mindanao and then flew him southward to Batchelor Field.
Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group, 93rd Bombardment Squadron. Later, assigned to the 40th Bombardment Squadron.
On August 6, 1942 this B-17 was at Mareeba Airfield. During the evening, Captain
Harl Pease and his crew landed B-17E 41-2668 at Mareeba Airfield after experiencing an engine valve failure. They boarded this B-17 instead 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
on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul.
This aircraft 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 dropping their bombs over Vunakanau Airfield,
defending A6M2 Zeros concentrated on Pease's aircraft, causing
it to descend and knocking out an engine. The bomb bay fuel tank was seen to drop out on fire. No one observed the plane crash, but
it was never seen again.
Edward M. Jacquet, pilot of B-17E "Tojo's Jinx" 41-2462 recalls:
"[Pease was on his right wing] We hollered and screamed for the formation to slow down to protect Harl. 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 awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, 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 transported to Rabaul and detained at the Rabaul POW Camp. 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 the POW Camp, presumably to work as laborers at one of the airfields. Later that afternoon, some of their clothing was returned to the prison camp, and it was inferred that they had all been 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. 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 village along the Powell River about this aircraft wreck the team believed was a P-38 Lightning. 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 (in fact, they investigated this aircraft wreck). The wreck was broken up into three distinct parts. The first was the fuselage mostly in the river. Natives reported they had seen the remains of three alongside this wreckage, likely washed down the river. The second group 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.
Australian Earp was attached to the 19th BG, 93rd BS. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (posthumously). He was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After his remains were recovered, he was buried at Bitapaka War Cemetery at grave H. D. 5.
Matson earned the Distinguished Service Cross (posthumously), Silver Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster (posthumously).
The American crew member 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. Each American crew member is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
After the recovery of remains Brown was buried at Childress Cemetery, Childress, TX.
Liimatainen is buried at Park Cemetery in Marquette, MI.
Pease also has a memorial marker at Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Holderness, NH.
Matson also has a memorial marker at Methodist Cemetery in Ellettsville, IN and his name is on the Tippecanoe County War Memorial in Lafayette, IN.
USAF Serial Number Searh 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."
AGRS Operation One, Mission 3 "Investigate crashed P-38, Missing Air Crew Report" page 1-4
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 also listed as 'Chikowsky' and 'Czechowske'. Crew member Liimatainen is also listed as 'Leomatinen'.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harl Pease Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert B. Burleson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Rex E. Matson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard M. Wood
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David W. Brown
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Chester M. Czechowski
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Fred W. Oettel
NARA "World War II Prisoners of War Data File" - Harl Pease Jr.
NARA "World War II Army Enlistment Records" - Fred W. Oettel
"World War II Army Enlistment Records" Alvar A. Liimatainen
FindAGrave - Capt Harl Pease, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Capt Harl Pease, Jr (memorial marker)
Flight Sergeant Frederick Wentworth Earp (Rabaul War Cemetery and memorial)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert B Burleson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SSgt Rex E Matson (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Rex E Matson (Tippecanoe County War Memorial)
Sgt Rex E. Matson (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Alvar A. "Oliver" Liimatainen (grave)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Richard M Wood (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt David Wayne Brown (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Chester M Czechowski (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Fred W Oettel (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2429
RAAFDB - FSgt Frederick Wentworth Earp includes DSC citation and grave photo
On Wings We Conquer pages 123-140, 181-184
What Really Happened to Harl Pease? by John Mitchell and Fay Benton
CWGC - Frederik Wentworth Earp
FindAGrave - Harl Pease (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Harl Pease (tablets of the missing name)
FindAGrave - David W. Brown (photo)
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 18, 384
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]
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Brian Bennett and Edward Rogers for additional information
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August 10, 2019