|Pilot Captain Donald D. McEachran, O-169511 (MIA / KIA / BR) Taft, CA
Co-Pilot Captain John W. Scott, O-376130 (MIA / KIA / BR) Camden, IN
Navigator 2nd Lt Sumner L. Beck, O-744826 403rd BS (MIA / KIA / BR) Danville, IA
1st Lt. Mortimer K. Smith, Jr., O-659598 (MIA / KIA / BR) Adams Basin, NY)
Engineer Sgt. Ralph H. Thomas, Jr., 19079598 (MIA / KIA / BR) Pasadena, CA
Radio T/Sgt. John J. Barry, 6987583 (MIA / KIA / BR) Toledo, OH
T/Sgt. Rodney J. Edwards, 6902793 (MIA / KIA / BR) West Palm Beach, FL
Gunner Sgt Otto Russell, 15087861 (MIA / KIA / BR) West Frankfort, IL
Gunner Cpl Homer G. Harper, 19079598 (MIA / KIA / BR) Waterloo, IA
Asst. Engineer / Tail Gunner Cpl Joel
W. Griffin, 18040364 (POW, survived) Baird, TX
Crashed June 26, 1943
Built by Boeing at Seattle. On July 6, 1942 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24448. During July 1942 outfitted at Sacramento Air Depot (SAD) then assigned to pilot Captain Jay P. Rusek, who nicknamed the bomber "Taxpayer's Pride" painted in yellow on the left side of the nose.
This B-17 was ferried overseas to Australia via Hawaii, Christmas and Canton. During take off from from Canton Airfield the bomber suffered engine trouble with the no. 2 engine propeller forcing it to return to Canton to await a new part from Hawaii. When the wrong part was sent, engineer Sgt Frank P. Hohmann had the idea to use a plumbing pipe fitting with the same thread as the part they needed The crew voted to continue to Australia using this non-standard fitting and they completed the ferry flight safely. After landing in Australia, a mechanic noticed the pipe and asked "whether they got hot and cold water from the part too".
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group. Next, assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 64th Bombardment Squadron. Regularly flown by Rusek. This B-17 operated from Mareeba Airfield and later 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby.
Drew C. Wesche (son of Fred Wesche) adds:
"Flown by my father Fred Wesche who was with the 43rd BG, 64th BS. He flew Taxpayer's Pride on a mission in late March or early April, 1943. He sustained a 40mm anti-aircraft hit to the port wing root shows the damage."
On June 26, 1943 took off Dobodura Airfield at 1:45am on a night bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. Strict radio silence was maintained during the mission. Nothing was heard from this bomber after take off. Over the target, this B-17 successfully bombed the target then turned for home base. Within minutes, intercepted J1N1
Irving piloted by Shigetoshi
Kudo who spotted the bomber and made a firing pass using the night fighter's oblique 20mm cannons. This B-17 was hit and set on fire. Tail gunner Griffin managed to parachute out before the bomber crashed into the jungle near Mount Varzin. The rest of the crew were killed aboard the B-17 or during the crash.
At 02:30 hours, other B-17s over the target reported that an aircraft was seen to crash after firing tracer bullets at an unidentified object. A further report was received of a fire on the ground in the same vicinity at 03:38 hours. When this bomber failed to return, the crew were declared missing in action. Also lost on the same mission was B-17E "Naughty But Nice" 41-2430.
Janice Olson adds:
Stanis To Liman was an
eyewitness to 41-24448's shoot down. He was living and/or working
on the plantation at Viveran, and said he and others tried to get to the plane
when it crashed, but the Japanese kept them away. A short interview with
Stanis is in my video collection."
Fates of the crew
Griffin landed safely and was captured by the Japanese. He became a Prisoner Of War (POW) of the Japanese Army at Rabaul.
Joel Griffin recalls:
"One morning while imprisoned, an English speaking Japanese guard named Yano showed me a magazine picture of "Taxpayer's Pride" [published in Asahi Shimbun]. The tail rested upright in a tree, the body of the plane was in shambles."
On November 13, 1943, he was among a group of nine prisoners transported to Japan. He survived the Pacific War and was liberated from Tokyo POW camp (Shinjuku).
This B-17 crashed near Viveran Plantation near Mount Varzin.
After the crash, the Japanese visited the crash site and told locals to keep away. Likely, they buried the crew members at the site.
A Japanese photographer took at least one photograph at the crash site that shows the tail section with a soldier and three locals. Later, this photograph was published in Asahi Shimbun August 7, 1943 with the caption: "This B17F attacked a Japanese base at night but anti-aircraft shot it down in jungle. The crash site was three hours on foot from the base [Rabaul]. Japanese captured an American, who had bailed out, but the rest of crew died in the crash."
Recovery of Remains
Post war, the remains of the crew were recovered by American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) who visit to the crash site. These remains were transported to the United States and buried on March 22, 1950 in a group burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 78 graves 983-983B.
Beck, was not listed among those initially recovery. Several years later, his remains were recovered, the exact circumstances of their recovery and
location are unknown. He was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Lee Count, Iowa.
Justin Taylan visited the site in 2006:
"The largest portion of wreckage is the center section of the wing. The nose section is missing, removed or scrapped. As the wreck is in a fairly accessible location near several villages, holes have been cut into some of the aluminum. Separated from the wing section is a debris field, including the roof of the radio compartment and spine portion of the tail."
The entire crew killed in the crash were officially declared dead the day of the mission. On March 22, 1950, the crew were permanently buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial at section 78 site 983, 983A and 983B.
Griffin passed away October 31, 1944. He is buried at Ross Cemetery in Baird, TX.
Missing Air Crew Report 15995 (MACR 15995) does not note engine and weapon serial numbers
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joel W. Griffin
NARA Records of World War II Prisoners of War - Joel W. Griffin
Donald D. McEachran (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John W. Scott (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Rodney J. Edwards (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sumner Luten Beck (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John J. Barry (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Homer G Harper (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Otto Russell (photo, grave photo)
Ralph H Thomas, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joel Wayne Griffin, Sr (grave photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17 Flying Fortress 41-24448
Pride of Seattle page 9, 12
of the Fifth pages 51-54
MarkStyling Aircraft Illustration - B-17 Flying Fortresses in the Pacific Page 4
MarkSyling B-17F "Taxpayer's Pride" nose art detail
Fortress Against The Sun page 391
Thanks to Brian Bennett, Steve Birdsall, Janice Olson, Edward Rogers and Frank P. Hohmann for additional information
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August 10, 2019