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  B-17F-5-BO "Hell From Heaven Men" Serial Number 41-24424  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
64th BS

Former Assignments
65th BS

19th BG
28th BS

Click For Enlargement
1943 via Mark Lewis
Pilot  1st Lt. Arthur L. McMullan, O-789192 (MIA / KIA) OH
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Howard G. Eberly, O-662764 (survived, later MIA / KIA Sept 15, 1943) Oregon City, OR
Navigator  2nd Lt. Mac Jilton Sargent, O-733470 (MIA / KIA) OH
Radio  S/Sgt Robert L. Freeman, 37066408 (survived, MIA / KIA) Fort Smith, AR
Gunner  Sgt. Wayne G. Sprecher, 13030648 (MIA / KIA) Gettysburg, PA
Gunner  Cpl. Milburn J. Glanville, 19028619 (MIA / KIA) Wright County, IA
Gunner  Pfc Hermann Bender, 12032743 (MIA / KIA) NY
Gunner  Pvt James M. Grahl, 14049316 (MIA / KIA) SC
Passenger  2nd Lt. John M. Dawson, O-724145 (survived)
Ditched  March 16, 1943 at 2:37am
MACR  15667

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 3109. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24424. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 28th Bombardment Squadron (28th BS). Assigned to pilot Captain Richard Ezzard. Nicknamed "Hell From Heaven Men" (in quotes) in yellow on the right side of the nose.

Steve Birdsall adds:
"[The crew photo depicts] Richard Ezzard crew, and I'm currently in touch with an Australian navigator who flew a few missions with them. I'd also be grateful for any contact with the Glenn Richards family - I'm particularly interested to know if he was awarded a Silver Star. The whole crew of this B-17, including the Australian navigator, were promised a Silver Star for their last mission in November 1942. But after a week's leave in Sydney the Americans went home and the Australian was ordered back to Townsville for reassignment, and never heard any more about the medal."

On October 5, 1942 one of nine B-17s from the 28th Bombardment Squadron led by Major Elbert "Butch" Helton that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 1:50am on a bombing mission against Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. Flying in bad weather, six of the B-17s including this bomber aborted the mission and returned to base.

On November 21, 1942 took off on a five hour mission against two destroyers. Crew members included Frank Hohmann from Jay Rousek's crew shows "a five-hour mission in 41-24424 on 11-21-42 against 2 Destroyers, lost 1 B17 Lt Frost' [41-2536]."

During late November 1942, assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG), 65th Bombardment Squadron (65th BS). In January 1943 transfered to the 64th Bombardment Squadron (64th BS). Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Arthur L. McMullan and continued to fly combat missions until the bomber went Missing In Action (MIA).

Mission History
On March 15, 1943 in the evening took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Arthur L. McMullan as one of six B-17s on a mission to bomb a Japanese convoy off Wewak. The weather was poor with three B-17s aborting the mission before reaching the target. This bomber experienced four hours of bad weather for four hours and climbed to 20,000' and experienced turbulence and icing.

Unable to reach the target and low on fuel, this B-17 aborted the mission, salvoed the bombs and plotted a course bound for Dobodura on the north coast of New Guinea. Due to the bad weather including fog and rain, the B-17 released flares and realized they were over the sea and turned towards land to ditch with the crew assuming crash positions in the radio compartment.

On March 16, 1943 at 2:30am radio operator Freeman sent a radio message "Out of gas and going down for water landing" then seven minutes later "Am OK near Buna". Afterwards, the bomber ran out of fuel and ditched nose first at roughly 100 mph and rapidly sank approximately 15-20 miles north of Buna. When this bomber failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Fates of the Crew
It is presumed that six of the crew went down in the aircraft after the ditching. Three survived the ditching: Eberly, Freeman and Dawson and attempted to swim ashore. Freeman allowed the tide take him to shore but was never seen again. After 13 hours at sea, Dawson and Eberly were able to reach shore and were later rescued and returned to duty.

Memorials
The six missing crew members were officially declared dead on March 16, 1943. Bender was officially declared dead on July 16, 1943. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the mission.

McMullan earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis, TN.

Sargent earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Gethsemani Cemetery in Lima, OH at section CA plot 325.

Freeman earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Sprecher earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Glanville earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Bender earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Grahl earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Eberly later went Missing In Action (MIA) piloting B-17F "Listen Here Tojo!" 41-24552 on September 15, 1943. He earned the Legion of Merit, Air Medal, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, posthumously. After his remains were recovered he was burial at Arlington National Cemetery in a group burial at section 60 plots 7814-7821. He also has a memorial marker at Mountain View Cemetery in Oregon City, OR at section J, block 1, lot 1, grave E.

Relatives
Arthur McMullan, Jr (son of pilot) adds:
"[McMullan] returned to the US in November of 1942, less than four months before his plane ran out of gas. I remember him telling me that he always felt that he had a greater chance of crashing from lack of fuel than from being shot down."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Howard G. Eberly

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress 41-24424
"24424 to 28th BS, 19th BG, transferred to 64th BS, 43rd. BG. Ditched at sea returning from Wewak in bad weather Mar 15, 1943. Only two crewmen survived."
Missing Air Crew Report 15667 (MACR 15667) created retroactively circa 1945-1946
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur L. McMullan
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard G. Eberly
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Mac Jilton Sargent
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert L. Freeman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Wayne G. Sprecher
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Milburn J. Glanville
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Hermann Bender
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James M. Grahl
FindAGrave - 1Lt Arthur L Mcmullan (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Arthur L McMullan (memorial marker photo) date of death March 15, 1943 [sic]
FindAGrave - Lieut Howard C. Eberly (group burial photo, photo)
FindAGrave - Howard George "Junior & Eb" Eberly (photo, obituary, memorial marker)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Howard G Eberly (tablets of the missing photo, photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Mac Jilton Sargent (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lt Mac Jilton Sargent (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Robert Lee Freeman (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Wayne G Sprecher (obituary, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Corp Milburn Jerome Glanville (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - PFC Hermann Bender (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt James M Grahl (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17F Flying Fortress 41-24424
Pride of Seattle (1998) page 8
Flightpath August-October 2012 "Rabaul October" by Steve Birdsall page 54
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume 1 (2015) pages 153-154 (March 15, 1943 mission), 278 (Eberly KIA), 315 (March 15, 1943 loss summary), 327 (64th BS, 41-24424), 328 (65th BS, 41-24424), 344, 394 (index)
Thanks to Steve Birdsall and Mark Lewis for additional information

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Last Updated
October 11, 2021

 

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B-17

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