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43rd BG 1943
|Pilot 1st Lt Harold S. Barnett, O-421584 (MIA / KIA / BR) Henry County, MO
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Sidney S. Bossuk, O-72769 (MIA / KIA / BR) Vineland, NJ / Bronx, NY
Bombardier 2nd Lt Warren V. Seybert, O-734614 (MIA / KIA / BR) Park Rapids, MN
Navigator 2nd Lt James G. Burke, O-669983 (MIA / KIA / BR) Brooklyn, NY
Engineer Sgt James B. Candy, 18064952 (MIA / KIA / BR) Dallas, TX
Radio T/Sgt Anthony H. Woillard, 17075312 (MIA / KIA / BR) St. Louis, MO
Radar Sgt William A. Mackay, 414624 RAAF (MIA / KIA / BR) Wooroolin, QLD
Asst Engineer Sgt Robert A. Burtis, 12033755 (MIA / KIA / BR) Trenton, NJ / Allentown, NJ
Asst Radio Sgt Donald W. Carlson, 17038206 (MIA / KIA / BR) Cozad, NB
Tail Gunner Sgt Phillip J. Lohnes, 6930892 (MIA / KIA / BR) St. Michael, ND
Crashed June 30, 1943
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 3228. On August 2, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-25-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24543 and flown to Cheyenne. On September 16, 1942 arrived Hamilton Field then ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
On September 28, 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG), 403rd Bombardment Squadron (403rd BS). Nicknamed "I Dood It" on both sides of the nose below the two smaller rectangular navigator's windows. Named after comedian Red Skelton's character "Mean Widdle Kid" Junior from his Raleigh Cigarette radio program, whose favorite phrase: "I dood it!" became part of the American lexicon. Assigned to Lt. James T. Murphy.
On September 29, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Lt. James T. Murphy armed with 500 pound bombs with B-17F "Fightin' Sweed" 41-24520 in a storm on a mission to bomb a light cruiser reportedly off Buna. Searching for two hours in the storm without results, they were notified the report was in error and instead bombed Buna Airfield and were fired on by anti-aircraft guns but both bombers returned safely.
As a field modification, installed was a B-17E nose cone with a reinforced gun mount with a socket at the center for a single .50 caliber machine gun.
On December 8, 1942 took off piloted by Col. Ramey as one of four B-17s on a mission to bomb Japanese warships south of Rabaul. The B-17s bombed individually from 2,000' and were intercepted by Zeros.
During February 1943, transfered to the 63rd Bombardment Squadron (63rd BS). Often flown by pilots Derr and Harry Staley. Assigned to crew chief Gordon D. Williams with ground crew including James J. Conway, Jr., Joseph F. Gillis and Anthony Pecoraro.
On March 26, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Staley on a night bombing mission against enemy shipping in Wewak Harbor. Over the target, nothing was sighted and harbor installations were bombed instead. Returning, this B-17 landed at Dobodura due to low fuel, refueled then took off for 7-Mile Drome. When this bomber failed to arrive on time, it was assumed the bomber was missing and a search party was being organized when it returned safely before 15:00.
In late March 1943, the nickname "I Dood It" was over painted with a rectangle of dark green or black paint. Sgt Ernie Vandal painted Walt Disney character "Pluto" sniffing the ground on both sides of the nose forward of the large nose windows. On the right side of the nose, Pluto had the outline of two puffs of air coming from its nostrils and a chain extending to the co-pilot's window on the right side of the nose. On the left side of the nose was only Pluto (without the chain or puffs). No nickname was painted on the bomber but became known as "Pluto" or "Pluto II" due to the loss of B-17F "Pluto" 41-24384 on March 26, 1943.
On April 1, 1943 during the afternoon took off piloted by Captain Robert N. Keatts with B-17F "Talisman" 41-24537 on a bombing mission against shipping in Kavieng Harbor. Due to clouds over the target, this B-17 instead bombed the runway at Kavieng Airfield.
On April 9, 1943 took off piloted by Captain Robert N. Keatts on a reconnaissance mission over the north coast of New Guinea. Over Finschafen, intercepted by three Ki-43 Oscars. Aboard, bombardier MSgt Richard G. Tennant was wounded when his .30 caliber machine gun jammed and a round detonated in the chamber.
In early June 1943, this bomber was equipped with an experimental radar detection apparatus with Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Sgt William A. Mackay was assigned to the crew as radar operator.
On June 8, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome one of six B-17s flown to Dobodura to stage for a mission that was canceled and returned to Port Moresby.
On June 9, 1943 at 11:30pm took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Lt. James T. Murphy as one of seven B-17s from the 63rd BS on a night mission to bomb Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. The formation also included four B-17s from the 64th Bombardment Squadron (64th BS) plus a single B-17 and four B-24 Liberators from the 403rd Bombardment Squadron (403rd BS). On June 10, 1943 around 3:30am the bombers reached the target area and saw search lights on the ground and anti-aircraft fire. Aboard this bomber, two of the gunners observed an unidentified twin engined fighter shadowing their bomber at 5 o'clock high position. Also, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) radar operator Sgt William A. Mackay detected the plane. This was a Japanese Navy J1N1 Irving night fighter piloted by W/O Satoru Ono and might have been lining up for an attack against this B-17 but it went into a shallow dive before the bomb run and escaped.
On June 30, 1943 at 1:30am took off from Dobodura piloted by 1st Lt Harold S. Barnett as part of a formation of bombers from the 43rd Bomb Group (43rd BG) including fourteen B-17s and four B-24s that took off individually for a night bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. Aboard was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) radar operator Sgt William A. Mackay.
Takeoffs and bombing runs were made independently by each individual bomber. Over the target, this B-17 was spotted and intercepted by J1N1 Irving piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo, who opened fire with his oblique 20mm cannons and observed this bomber crash into the mountains southeast of Cape Lambert. This was Kudo's last night fighter victory over Rabaul.
When this bomber failed to return from the mission it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Other air crews reported they were attacked over the target by enemy night fighters.
This B-17 crashed near Kulit village roughly six miles inland from Mandres Plantation on the Gazelle Peninsula on East New Britain. Afterwards, native people visited the crash site. Later, a Japanese Army patrol arrived and investigated the crash. At least one of the crew was buried in a shallow grave. Possibly, other crew members were also buried individually or in a group burial.
After the crash, an expatriate civilian detainee Mr. O. H. Zander and his son Mr. O. H. Zander, Jr. witnessed "a Boeing plane" [this B-17] crash and afterwards recovered items from the wreckage including a leather cushion and a case. His son located one body with a belt marked "J. G. Burke" with two packs of cigarettes and buried the body.
Postwar, the crash site was located by RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle. On June 23, 1946 a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) visited the crash site. On February 24, 1947 a second visit was made by AGRS. During May 1951 a third visit was made by AGRS.
On August 19, 2002, Brian Bennett visited the crash site and photographed the wreckage including the wing section, fuel tank, landing gear leg and other wreckage.
Brian Bennett adds:
"B-17F 41-24543 was visited shortly after its crash by locals and by a Japanese patrol a bit later. Several sets of remains were recovered post war from shallow graves at this site. There is a very good chance that there are still significant remains on site."
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, the crash site was visited (date unknown) by RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle. The wreckage was described in some early reports as a "B-24" [sic, B-17] that crashed June 29, 1943 [sic] or June 30, 1943 according to locals that found a belt with the name "J. G. Burke"
On June 23, 1946 the crash site was visited by a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS). They recovered two complete sets of remains which had been buried by natives. They also recovered four sets of partial remains found in the wreckage.
On February 24, 1947 a second visit was made by American Graves Registration Service (AGRS). They located a complete set of remains identified as TSgt Woillard and another partial remains were recovered.
As a result of the two visits, the remains and partial remains were deemed to represent eight individuals. Reportedly, a fountain pen was used to identify one of the crew members.
In May 1951, a third visit was made by American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) investigated the crash site in an attempt to locate the grave of Burke. One of the original burials was again found and in the presence of Mr. Zander and a native but no additional remains were located. The native confirmed the remains from the burial searched were recovered previously.
Afterwards, the recovered remains were buried at USAF Cemetery, Fischaffen #5 (Fischaffen No. 5) as unknowns (X-Files) at graves X-96 (later identified as Burke) at grave 1463, X-97 (included based on circumstantial evidence, but later identified as U.S. Army Pfc Curt Verch, Jr., 32502006 KIA December 15, 1944), X-98, X-99, X-100, X-101 (these four unknowns were deemed to be the rest of the crew), X-250 (later identified as Woillard) and X-251. By June 16, 1947 the graves were exhumed and buried at group burial X-250 at plot 2 grave 97. The recovered remains were deemed to be the is air crew.
A the time of recovery, it was believed individual identifications could be established for Burke and Woillard. Later, after examination of the remains by Central Identification Laboratory, it was found that the incomplete condition precluded any sound basis for individual identification. Therefore, all the recovered remains were placed into four caskets and deemed to represent the entire crew.
The group burial was designated 6929-GB-80. During August 1951, exhumed and transported to the United States as shipment SF-229-R via San Francisco then by rail to Saint Louis for permanent burial.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. The American crew members earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. On November 7, 1951 the entire crew, including the RAAF crew member were permanently buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in group burial at section 84 sites 403, 404 and 405.
Burtis also has a memorial marker at Allentown Methodist Cemetery in Allentown, NJ.
Alma Barnett (mother of 1st Lt Harold S. Barnett)
Bernice M. Barnett (widow of 1st Lt Harold S. Barnett)
Nathan Bossuk (father of Sidney S. Bossuk)
Bertha Bossuk (mother of Sidney S. Bossuk)
Elaine F. Rose (widow of Sidney S. Bossuk)
Sidney Bossuk (nephew of Sidney S. Bossuk)
"I am the nephew of 2nd Lt Sydney Bossuk. I was named after my late Uncle."
Patrick Burke (father of James G. Burke)
Ann Burke (mother of James G. Burke)
Don Casey (cousin of James Burke):
"James Burke (whom everyone in the family knew as Seamus, the Irish for James), is a first cousin of mine."
Liam MacKay (grandson of Sgt William A. Mackay):
ArmyAirForces.com forum posting by Liam MacKay, January 2006 (please contact us if you read this)
"I am trying to track down info on aircraft B17F 41-24543 of the 43rd group/63rd squadron. It may have been called "Pluto 2". My grandfather was a radar operator/gunner on this aircraft. It failed to return from a mission over rabaul around 1943. The wreck was located some years later by a local in the mountains near rabaul. We are planning a visit to the wreck site and would like to gather as much information as possible about the aircraft/crew/circumstances of its loss etc."
"My grandfather was William Alexander MacKay of the 41st RDF (41st Radar Direction Finding) Royal Australian Airforce. The 41st was attached to the 43rd BG and he served as a radar operator/gunner on the aircraft. I haven't been able to find any info on this aircraft anywhere on the net. Sites that list lost B17s always seem to skip it. I did find it listed on a 43rd site as "Pluto 2" and the a list of the ground crew but no other info. We are keen to make contact with the family of any other crew members and see if we can track down more details of the circumstances of the loss and any photos of the plane/crew that others may have. We do know that an American recover team scouted the site around 1948 and recovered the remains of the crew. Originally it was through to be a B24 wreck until they found a fountain pen belonging to one of the crew. From this they were able to identify the aircraft. You refer to MACR. What is this pardon my ignorance? Thank you again for your reply and information, it is greatly appreciated."
Charles Burtis (father of Sgt Robert A. Burtis)
Note, this bomber is also referred to as "Pluto II" to differentiate it as the second B-17 nicknamed "Pluto" in the 63rd BS to differentiate it from B-17F "Pluto" 41-24384.
Australian crew member Mackay is also spelled "Mc Kay" (two words) in some sources.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harold S. Barnett
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Sidney S. Bossuk
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Warren V. Seybert
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James G. Burke
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James B. Candy
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Anthony H. Woillard
WW2 Nominal Roll - William A. Mackay
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert A. Burtis
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Donald W. Carlson
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-25-BO Fortress 41-24543
"24543 delivered to Cheyenne Aug 2, 1942; transferred to Hamilton Sep 16, 1942; assigned to 5th Air Force, 43rd BG, 63rd BS at Sumac Sep 18, 1942, named ("Pluto"); MIA Jul 2, 1943 [sic]. No MACR [sic]."
Diary of the 63rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group
"26 March 1943 – Departed Jackson at 0130. Target: shipping Wewak Harbor. Bomb load; 4 ships with 8 X 500# inst demo, 3 with 4X 100# inst demo.
554 Murphy didn't take off on account of engine trouble. Nothing was sighted by the remaining crews.
358, Denault, 537 O'Brien, 574 Derr dropped their bombs on harbor installations.
455 Diffenderfer, 543 Staley, 417 Trigg dropped theirs on the town and runway.
543 Staley landed at Dobodura on the way back because of lack of gas. Search party consisting of Lt Murphy and Capt Thompson's crew were organized and were about to take off when 543 landed. Squadron on readiness at 1500."
RAAF Searcher Team "Research For Missing Personnel U.S.A.A.F B17F 41-24533" by S/L Keith Rundle pages 1-4
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Harold S. Barnett
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Sidney S. Bossuk
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - James G. Burke
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Robert A. Burtis
Missing Air Crew Report 16047 (MACR 16047) created retroactively circa 1945-1946 contains several errors
(Page 3) "Date: 1 July 1943 [sic June 30, 1943] Type: B-17 Circumstance: Aircraft failed to return from a mission over New Britain. The plane was observed on the return trip flying over friendly territory between Cape Nelson and Port Moresby in the vicinity of the Owen Stanley Mountains [sic, this is incorrect, crashed on New Britain], A thorough search failed to reveal any trace of the plane or its crew."
NAA "Mackay William Alexander: Service Number - 414624 : Date of birth - 08 Jul 1913 : Place of birth - Southport QLD : Place of enlistment - Brisbane : Next of Kin - Mackay Irene" [RAAF Personnel File - Mackay William Alexander] (NAA: A9301, 414624)
NAA "Presumption of death - Casualties in Royal Australian Air Force Units - Minutes" (NAA: A705, 166/1/319 PART 3)
"MacKAY W A – (Sergeant); S/N – 414624; A/C – Fortress B17-N 21-24543; Place – Dobadura, PNG; 30.6.1943"
NAA "MacKAY, William Alexander - (Sergeant); Service Number - 414624; File type - Casualty - Repatriation; Aircraft - Flying Fortress B17 F41-24543; Place - Rabaul, New Guinea; Date - 30 June 1943" (NAA: A705, 166/26/169)
Finschhafen #5 PNG X File (Unknown) Reference X-01 thru X-3133 (PDF pages 104, 262-264)
Finschhafen #5 PNG Miscellaneous (PDF page 3-4)
American Graves Registration Service "Reference is made to board proceeding recommending identification" 30 June 1950 pages 1-2
"1. a. That the remains of Unknown X-96, USAF Cemetery Finschhafen #5, Unit A, Page 5 be identified as 2nd Lt. James G. Burke, O-669983.
1. b. That the remains of Unknown X-250, USAF Cemetery Finschhafen #5, Unit A, Page 6, be identified as T/SGt Anthony W. Woillard, 17075312.
3. Report by [RAAF Searcher Team S/L] Rundle, copy inclosed [sic enclosed], reveals that the scene of crash involved was twice visited, and that on the second visit, 24 February 1947, a complete remains identified as Anthony H. Woillard and a partial remains were recovered. Report further stated that grave of 2d Lt. Burke may still exist. Therefore, it is requested that this office be furnished with correct current designation and location of the two (2) remains recovered on the second visit and also the result of any further investigation to locate the grave of 2d Lt. Burke."
FindAGrave - Harold S. Barnett (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sidney S. Bossuk (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Warren V. Seybert (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - James G. Burke (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - James B. Candy (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Anthony H. Woillard (photo, group burial photo)
CWGC - William A. Mackay
FindAGrave - William Alexander MacKay (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Robert A. Burtis (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Robert A. Burtis (group burial photo)
FIndAGrave - Donald W Carlson (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Phillip J. Lohnes (group burial photo)
RAAF Survey of Aircraft Wreckage, Papua New Guinea
"#99 | 04.24-151.57 | Mandres Plantation | USAC Fortress B-17F 41-24543 | Wreckage recovered in Mandres Plantation"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17F Flying Fortress 41-24543
Moonlight Interceptor (1985) mentions this loss
Pride of Seattle (1998) page 14
Pacific Wrecks Forum - B-17 "Pluto" notes about B-17 41-24543 vs B-17F 41-24384 (2009-2010) post by Steve Birdsall July 24, 2009, November 23, 2009, June 18, 2010
Mark Styling - B-17 Flying Fortresses in the Pacific, page 3 artwork of B-17F 41-24384 "Pluto" incorrectly puts B-17F 41-24543 nose art and nose glass onto B-17F 41-24384
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 263 (September 29, 1942), 280, 320 (December 8, 1942 mission), 371 (June 30, 1943 mission), 392
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume 1 (2015) pages 160, 164, pages 201-202 (July 9-10, 1943 mission, night fighter and Mackey) 237 (photo), 237 (June 30, 1943 mission, photo), 238 (June 30, 1943 mission, photo Mackay), 319 (Appendix II Personnel Killed 41-24543), 325 (Appendix III 63rd BS), 330 (Appendix III, 403rd BS), 337, 338 (photo), 394 (index I Dood It), 397 (index Mackey), 401 (index Pluto II)
Kensmen: 43rd Bomb Group (H), 5th AF Association - The 43rd's B-17 Flying Fortresses (124543 Pluto II)
"Gordon D. Williams - C.C. James J. Conway, Jr. Joseph F. Gillis Anthony Pecoraro"
43rd Bomb Group Assocation Newsletter Issue 157 October 2021 "Pluto Crash Site in Papua New Guinea 43rd Bomb Group B-17" by Justin Taylan pages 4-8
Thanks to Steve Birdsall, Brian Bennett, Les Bennett, Larry Hickey and Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis
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