61st Service Squadron
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Guyton M. Christopher, O-789369 (MIA / KIA) DeKalb County, GA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. John Y. Barbee (survived) Colorado Springs, CO
Bombardier MSgt Meyer Levin, 6975479 (MIA / KIA) Brooklyn, NY
Navigator 2nd Lt. Judson S. Ramaker, O-733464 (MIA / KIA) Hartford County, CT
Gunner SSgt Jack L. Matisoff, 6573440 (survived) Los Angeles, CA
Crew Sgt Sidney Schwimmer, 39678760 (survived) NY
Gunner Sgt Joseph R. Bayles, 14070416 (MIA / KIA) Leflore County, MS
Crew Sgt David D. Patrizi, 13037717 (MIA / KIA) Mercer County, PA
Crew Sgt Joseph E. Wrenn, 14034973 (MIA / KIA) Caswell County, NC
Ditched January 7, 1943 at 3:35am
Built by Boeing at Seattle. On June 19, 1942 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-1-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24383. Ferried overseas by pilot Lt. Lewis A. Anderson via Hickam Field then across the Pacific and developed engine trouble at Christmas Island Airfield before arriving in Australia in early August 1942.
On August 14, 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force, 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd Bombardment Squadron to pilot Anderson. On August 25, 1942 this B-17 accidentally taxied into a telephone pole. Afterwards, assigned to the 61st Service Squadron for repairs. On September 7, 1942 assigned to 64th Bombardment Squadron to pilot 2nd Lt. Guyton M. Christopher. No known nose art or nickname.
On January 6, 1943 at 5:00pm took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt Guyton M. Christopher with co-pilot 2nd Lt. John Y. Barbee on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy bound for Lae. The bomber had two bomb bay fuel tanks for extended range plus thirty flares to shadow the convoy and drop flares to assist with a possible night attack against the convoy.
Flying alone, at 10,000', this B-17 located the convoy before dark, spotting the ships and escorting fighters, but they never flew up to challenge them. Near the end of their patrol, they attempted contact the squadron to learn if another bomber would replace them, but had radio problems. This bomber continued to shadow the convoy until January 7, 1943 at 2:30am.
Turning back for base, the bomber encountered bad weather over the Owen Stanley Mountains and was forced to make repeated attempts to cross the mountains and climbed to 29,000' and was unable to locate Port Moresby.
Out of fuel 3:35am, ditched into the Gulf of Papua roughly 30 miles off the southern coast of New Guinea.
During the ditching, six of the crew went missing: Christopher, Ramaker, Levin, Bayles, Patrizi and Wrenn. When this B-17 failed to return, the crew were reported as Missing In Action (MIA). The three surviving crew: Barbee, Matisoff and Schwimmer were badly injured but managed to deploy a life raft that Levin had release before he went missing.
That morning, B-25C "Ole Cappy" 41-12938 took off at 9:40am to search for the missing B-17 flying 100 miles out to sea on course of 1900 searching a width of roughly 50-60 miles but made nil sightings and returned at 11:45am.
Later, that same day, a RAAF Anson from 1 Communication Unit spotted the survivors and reported their position. The men saw a Short Empire flying boat overflew the three men and spotted the life raft and reported the downed crew.
Fates of the Crew
Thirteen hours after the crash, by a crash boat rescued the three surviving crew: Barbee, Katisoff
and Schrimmer and transported them back to Port Moresby.
six missing crew members were officially declared Missing In Action (MIA) the day of the mission. All six are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Christopher earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) posthumously, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart posthumously. He is also memorialized at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta, GA.
Ramaker earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart posthumously.
Levin earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DSC), Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart posthumously. For his role in the December 10, 1941 mission as bombardier aboard B-17C 40-2045, Levin was hailed as the first Jewish-American war hero and "Meyer Levin Day" was celebrated in Brooklyn, NY with a commemorative plaque given to his parents by local politicians. He continued to fly combat missions with the 43rd Bombardment Group in Australia and New Guinea until he went Missing In Action (MIA) on January 7, 1943. In Australia, he had an Australian wife and fathered a son.
Bayles earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart posthumously.
Patrizi earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at Section MI, site 275.
Wrenn earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart posthumously.
Matisoff passed away in 1988. He is buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, CA.
Schwimmer passed away December 21, 1988. He is buried in Poiley Tzedek Cemetery in Syracuse, NY row 20.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Guyton M. Christopher
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John Y. Barbee
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Judson S. Ramaker
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Jack L. Matisoff
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Sidney Schwimmer
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph R. Bayles
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - David D. Patrizi
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph E. Wrenn
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-1-BO Fortress 41-24383
"24383 (63rd BS) ditched in Gulf of Papua after fuel exhaustion Jan 1, 1943. 6 crew KIA."
Missing Air Crew Report 16075 (MACR 16075)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Guyton M. Christopher
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Judson S. Ramaker
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Meyer Levin
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph R. Bayles
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David D. Patrizi
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph E. Wrenn
FindAGrave - 2Lt Guyton M Christopher (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Guyton M Christopher (photo, grave photo)
Home of Heroes - The Distinguished Service Cross A-B-C via WayBack Machine (Christopher DSC citation)
"The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Guyton M. Christopher (0-789369), Second Lieutenant (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as an Officer of a B-17 Heavy Bomber in the 64th Bombardment Squadron, 43d Bombardment Group (H), FIFTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 6 January 1943, against enemy ground targets in the Southwest Pacific Area. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Second Lieutenant Christopher on this occasion, at the cost of his life, have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 5th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.," Headquarters: U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, General Orders No. 34 (1943)"
FindAGrave - 2LT Judson S Ramaker (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Jack L. Matisoff (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sidney Schwimmer (grave photo)
FindAGrave - MSgt Meyer Levin (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Joseph R Bayles (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt David D Patrizi (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SGT David D Patrizi (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Joseph Earl Wrenn (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-24383
Pride of Seattle page 7
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 235, 328, 391, 430 (footnote 29, ferry flight arriving August 6, 1942)
Ken’s Men Against The Empire Volume I (2015) pages 99 (map), 109-110 (January 7, 1943 mission), 313 (41-24383 loss), 324 (63rd BS: 41-24383), 396 (index Levin)
Hall of Valor - John Y. Barbee (Silver Star citation)
"John Y. Barbee, United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against an armed hostile force while serving with the FIFTH Air Force in the Pacific Theater of Action during World War II. Headquarters, 5th Air Force, General Orders No. 107 (1943)"
WintersExpress - John Barbee July 12, 2018
"After his high school graduation, Barbee entered the military in 1939. Because he was already a pilot, he quickly progressed to becoming a B-17 pilot. Some of his first training in Texas was flying the P-39 (a forerunner to the P-40), and the B-18. He flew B-17s in the South Pacific, an received significant awards, including the Purple Heart and the Silver Star because of his World War II experiences."
John Y. Barbee 43rd Bombardment Group, B-17 Flying Fortress Co-Pilot
Thanks to John Y. Barbee and Edward Rogers for additional information
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February 18, 2020