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  B-17F-10-BO "Taxpayer's Pride" Serial Number 41-24448  
5th AF
43rd BG
64th BS

Former Assignments
19th BG
30th BS

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19th BG c1943

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43rd BG April 1, 1943

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Asahi Shimbun Aug 7, 1943

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Brian Bennett 1983

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Janice Olson 1995

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Justin Taylan 2006
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
Bombardier  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
Asst. Radio  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
MACR  15995

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 3133. 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" in yellow capital letters on both sides of the nose.

Wartime History
During August 1942 ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific via Christmas and Canton. During take off from from Canton Airfield the bomber had 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 landing in Australia on August 23, 1942. On the ground, a mechanic noticed the pipe and asked "whether they got hot and cold water from the part too".

Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 30th Bombardment Squadron (30th BS). No known nickname or nose art.

On November 14, 1942 assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG), 64th Bombardment Squadron (64th BS). Nicknamed "Taxpayer's Pride". Regularly flown by pilot 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 1943. He sustained a 40mm anti-aircraft hit to the port wing root shows the damage."

On March 30, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain Frederick F. Wesche with co-pilot 1st Lt. Leslie W. Neumann armed with eight 500 pound bombs as one of two B-17s on a night mission anti-shipping strike against suspected Japanese shipping off Finschafen. Over the target, each bomber made individual runs dropping flares and bombing individually. On his first run, Wesche targeted what he believed was a destroyer and at low altitude released two bombs that missed. Afterwards, he made three more bomb runs and observed light anti-aircraft fire. With his last bomb during his fifth bomb run just before releasing the bomb, the fuselage at the left wing root was hit by a 40mm shell that caused damage including disabling the radio, damaged hydraulics and no. 1 and no. 2 engines. Damaged the no. 1 engine was feathered but sparks from the electrical system ignited leaking hydraulic fluid and bottled oxygen. Aboard, the last bomb failed to release and was jettisoned while wounded waist gunner SSgt Guy W. Clary, 14029712 used a fire extinguisher to fight the fire. Also injured was co-pilot Neumann. Flying on three engines with no instruments, Wesche opted to divert to land at Dobodura Airfield. When the plane overflew Oro Bay in the early morning, it was targeted by Allied anti-aircraft fire and was forced to circle out to sea for two hours until sunrise. While attempting to lower the landing gear, the flaps did not work and engines could not be cut and continued off the runway into kunai grass before coming to a halt. The two wounded crew were rushed to the hospital.

On April 1, 1943 the 40mm anti-aircraft hit to the port wing root was photographed. Afterwards, assigned to the 481st Service Squadron for repairs.

Mission History
On June 26, 1943 at 1:45am took off Dobodura Airfield piloted by Captain Donald D. McEachran as one of three B-17s from 64th BS, plus six B-17s from 65th BS and four B-24D Liberators from 403rd BS on a night bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. Nothing was heard from this bomber after take off as strict radio silence was maintained during the mission. The formation experienced mild weather inbound to the target and bombed causing several fires and secondary explosions.

Within minutes of turing home, this B-17 was intercepted J1N1 Irving pilot 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. Only tail gunner Cpl Griffin managed to bail out before the bomber crashed into the jungle near Mount Varzin. The rest of the crew were killed in the attack or on impact.

At 02:30am, other B-17s over the target reported that an aircraft was seen to crash after firing tracers 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 listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was B-17E "Naughty But Nice" 41-2430.

Janice Olson adds:
"[PNG resident] 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 Army and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and was transported to 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, Griffin was among a group of nine Allied POWs 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 the Asahi Shimbun newspaper on 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, 1994. He is buried at Ross Cemetery in Baird, TX at A-AA-1-31-8.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Frederick F. Wesche
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Leslie W. Neumann
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Guy W. Clary
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John W. Scott
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Sumner L. Beck
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Mortimer K. Smith, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ralph H. Thomas, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Otto Russell
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Homer G. Harper
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joel W. Griffin
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-10-BO Fortress 41-24448
"24448 (43rd BG, 64th BS, "Taxpayer's Pride") show down by Japanese J1N1 night fighter near Mt Varzin on mission to Rabaul Jun 26, 1943. 9 KIA, 1 POW."
NARA U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Car Files - Guy W. Clary admission March 1943, discharge April 1943
Missing Air Crew Report 15995 (MACR 15995) created retroactively circa 1945-1946 does not list any engine serial numbers or weapon makers or serial numbers
Asahi Shimbun August 7, 1943 photo of crash site with 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."
NARA Records of World War II Prisoners of War - Joel W. Griffin
FindAGrave - 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)
FindAGrave - 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 (1998) pages 9, 12
Forty of the Fifth (1999) 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 (2001) page 391
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume I (2016) pages 159 (March 30, 1943), 232 (June 26, 1943), 235-237 (Griffin POW), 319 (June 26, 1943 crew), 327 (64th BS, 41-24448), 341 (photo), 343, 404 (index Taxpayer's Pride), 406 (index Wesche)
Thanks to Brian Bennett, Steve Birdsall, Janice Olson, Edward Rogers and Frank P. Hohmann for additional information

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Last Updated
February 5, 2024


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