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USAAF Nov 1942
USAAF Feb 28, 1943
USAAF March 3, 1943
|Pilot 1st Lt. Woodrow W. Moore, O-789340 (MIA / KIA) Dillon, SC
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Louis I. Miller, O-661858 (MIA / KIA) Centralia, WA
Bombardier 2nd Lt John W. James, Jr., O-727101 (MIA / KIA) Curtis, OK
Navigator 1st Lt. William R. McCamy, O-790267 (MIA / KIA) Scottsboro, AL
Engineer T/Sgt William C. Gassmann, 14064524 (MIA / KIA) Baltimore, MD
Radio S/Sgt Alfred F. Westphal, 12032059 (MIA / KIA) Bronx, New York
Asst Radio S/Sgt Fletcher B. Gilbert, 19062635 (MIA / KIA) Livingston, CA
Left Waist Gunner S/Sgt Thomas Brown, 13064517 (MIA / KIA) Keith, KY
Right Waist Gunner S/Sgt Chester L. Bugher, 18108111 (MIA / KIA) Jinita, OK
Tail Gunner S/Sgt Alfred E. Dow, 11016764 (MIA / KIA) Dover-Foxcroft, ME
Crashed March 3, 1943
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 3041. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-1-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24356. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men", 63rd Bombardment Squadron (63rd BS). This B-17 was nicknamed "Ka Puhio Wela" meaning Double Trouble in the Hawaiian language on the right side of the nose and "Double Trouble" on the left side of the nose. No known nose art.
On November 13, 1942 at 1:00am took off piloted by 1st Lt. Byron "Dutch" Heichel as one of seven B-17s on another bombing mission against Tonolei Harbor (Tonolai) off southern Bougainville. Over the target, Heichel claimed to see an aircraft carrier and made a bomb run over a light crusier claiming two bomb hits.
On January 1, 1943 one of six B-17s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Woodrow W. Moore on a early morning attack against Lakunai Airfield near Rabual at 4:20am. Inbound to the target, one B-17 aborted the mission. Over the target, this bomber had an unsuccessful bombing run and the bombs were salvoed over Simpson Harbor instead.
On March 3, 1943 took off from Mareeba Airfield during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea with B-17F "Lulu Belle 41-24358 and another B-17 on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy of transports and destroyers bound for Lae.
Over the target target at approximately 10:30am this B-17 and two others were attacked by enemy Zero fighters. During a firing pass, one of the Zeros hit the cockpit section causing a fire to ignite inside the fuselage that extended out the waist windows and tail.
Damaged, this bomber released its bombs (reportedly at a target) and seven were observed to bail out. From B-17 "Lulu Belle" flying alongside at roughly 7,000' a photograph of the stricken bomber.
Of the seven that bailed out, one fell out of his parachute harness and fell to his death. The other six parachutes deployed successfully but were strafed unmercifully by "clipped wing" [A6M3] Zeros. At 1,000' the tail wrenched off and floated downward. The rest of the bomber crashed into the sea. A few moments later it sank beneath the waves.
Gordon Manuel recalls in 70,000 to One:
"A fortress from the 63rd Squadron [this B-17] was hit by flak. The flak just blew a tail off the ship and she started down. There was no saving her. It was dreadful to watch. Then six of her boys jumped. Their chutes opened and they started to float down. From nowhere, like vultures leaping on a wounded rabbit, the Zeros dove. They had been hiding up above in the clouds. They didn't aim at us or any of the other Forts but at the six men in chutes. They killed them, all right. I watched that, feeling cold and sick, and I said to myself. 'That's all, brother, that's all. Now I know. I know what we're fighting now. Not men - beasts."
Captain Willis E. Brady witness to the crash of the B-17:
"The four officers and one man remained in the plane. The bombing run was completed and the pilot pulled the plane up a little out of formation. He gave a salute and a big smile and headed the plane down for the water. The plane was observed to break in two pieces at an altitude of approximately 300 feet. This plane went down in the middle of the Jap convoy. Much strafing was done in this area later and anyone alive could quite possibly have been killed by our own planes."
After the loss, the entire crew was recommended for the Silver Star. In the end, the officers were awarded the Silver Star and the enlisted men the Air Medal, posthumously. Alfred F. Westphal was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) but it is unclear if for this mission or prior actions.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Moore earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Riverside Cemetery in Dillon, SC date of death incorrectly listed as March 4, 1944.
Miller earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at an unknown location, likely in his hometown in the United States.
James earned the Silver Star, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
McCamy earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Cedar Hill Cemetery, Scottsboro, AL.
Brown has a memorial marker at Rosedale and Rosehill Cemetery, Union, NJ.
Tom Dow (nephew of Alfred Dow)
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-1-BO Fortress 41-24356
"24356 (43rd BG, 63rd BS, *Ka-Puhio-Wela*) shot down by A6M3 during Battle of Bismarck Sea Mar 3, 1943. 7 bailed out, one fell out of harness, rest machine gunned in their chutes."
70,000 to One (1947) by by Quentin James Reynolds pages 58-59
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-24356
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Woodrow W. Moore
FindAGrave - 1Lt Woodrow Wilson Moore (photos, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lt. Woodrow Wilson Moore (memorial marker photos) date of death March 4, 1944 [sic]
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Louis I. Miller
FindAGrave - 2Lt Louis Ivan Miller (tablets of the missing photo, memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John W. James
FindAGrave - 2Lt John W James, Jr. (photo, tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William R. McCamy
FindAGrave - William R. McCamy (photo, memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William C. Gassmann
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Alfred F. Westphal
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Fletcher B. Gilbert
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas Brown
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Chester L. Bugher
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Alfred E. Dow
Pride of Seattle (1998) by Steve Birdsall page 6
Forty of the Fifth (1999) by Michael Claringbould pages 110-115
Ken’s Men Against The Empire The Illustrated History of the 43rd Bombardment Group During World War II Volume I: Prewar to October 1943 The B-17 Era (2015) pages 78 (Heichel November 12-13, 1942 missions), 100-101
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