Meyer Levin was born in Brooklyn, New York and was Jewish-American. He grew up in the East Flatbush area and graduated from Public School 186 (P. S. 186). Levin enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) with serial number 6975479. After training sent overseas to the Philippines. Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 14th Bombardment Squadron (14th BS) as a bombardier.
On December 10, 1941 took off from San Marcelino Airfield as bombardier aboard B-17C Flying Fortress 40-2045 piloted by Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr. as one of six B-17s bound for Clark Field to stage for a mission. Only three landed at 7:30am this bomber plus B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel and B-17D 40-3086 piloted by Montgomery. The other three did not land fearing a Japanese air raid.
On the ground, this B-17 was only partially armed with three 600 pound bombs before taking off again at at 9:30am in haste fearing another Japanese air raid and was one of four B-17s on a mission to bomb Japanese ships off Aparri and Vigan on northern Luzon. During the night, this convoy had been spotted and earlier that morning was bombed during the first American bombing mission of the Pacific War.
Over Aparri, B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel spotted enemy transports and released his bombs from 25,000' before being jumped by Zeros and diving down to 7,000'. Arriving over Aparri next, this B-17 arrived over the ships and pilot Kelly saw no targets and proceeded south towards Vigan where Kelly spotted heavy cruiser Ashigara (falsely claimed to be Battleship Haruna). Bombardier Cpl Meyer Levin salvoed all three bombs from 22,000' and claimed one hit and observed a seaplane taking off from warship. In fact, no damage was sustained to Ashigara and no battleship was part of the invasion force.
Before landing at Clark Field, this B-17 was intercepted by A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai including Saburo Sakai. During the first firing pass, the Zeros hit the nose section with gunfire that damaged the pilot's instrument panel and killed SSgt Delehanty instantly when the top of his head was blown off. Afterwards, the same Zeros made repeated firing passes and started a fire in the bomb bay that engulfed the rear of the bomber. Heavily damaged, Kelly ordered the rest of the crew to bail out while the pilots held the bomber level. Several of the crew were strafed by the Zeros as they descended but landed unhurt. For his role in the mission, Levin earned the Silver Star. Afterwards, he was hailed in the press as the first Jewish-American war hero.
On March 13, 1942 he was evacuated by plane from the Philippines to Australia. Afterwards, he was assigned to 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) as a bombardier and continued to fly B-17s combat missions over New Guinea. In early May 1942 he participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea and claimed to bomb a Japanese transport of 15,000 tons and was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to his Silver Star. In Australia, he had an Australian girlfriend who he married and fathered a son.
During November 1942 he was sent back to the United States for a visit home to Brooklyn, New York that celebrated "Meyer Levin Day" with a commemorative plaque given to his parents by local politicians. Afterwards, he returned to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and was assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) and continued to fly combat missions and was promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant and had flown more than 50 missions.
On January 6, 1943 at 5:00pm took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby as bombardier aboard B-17F Flying Fortress 41-24383 piloted by 2nd Lt Guyton M. Christopher on a mission to shadow the same 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, the crew ditched into the Gulf of Papua roughly 30 miles off the southern coast of New Guinea.
Fates of the Crew
During the ditching, six of the crew went missing including Levin. 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 and were later rescued.
Levin wad officially declared Missing In Action (MIA) the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Levin earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DSC), Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart posthumously. His first Silver Star was for his role in the December 10, 1941 mission as bombardier aboard B-17C 40-2045.
Samuel Levin (father)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Meyer Levin
FindAGrave - MSgt Meyer Levin (photo, tablets of the missing)
Nunroe News-Star "Pacific Bombing Hero Is Killed" by Associated Press February 18, 1943
The Jewish Exponent Editorial about Meyer Levin February 26, 1943
The Southwest Jewish Chronicle "Editorial: Colin Kelly's Bombardier Joins His Captain" March 1, 1943 page 3
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle "Would Name School After Meyer Levin" April 29, 1943
The Daily News "The Bombardier Meyer Levin" by Elliot Rosenberg March 26, 1999 page 41
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 65-68, 71, 142, 242, 314, 372, 382, 397, 401, 450, 457
December 8, 1941 (2003) pages 137, 237, 408, 435, 517, 537, 543, 554
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)
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