|Pilot 1st Lt. Walter W. Sparks, Jr., O-371902 (MIA / KIA) MS
Co-Pilot Major Stanley K. Robinson, O-017388 C. O. 7th BG, HQ (MIA / KIA) CA
Navigator 2nd Lt. Richard W. Cease, O-409912 (MIA / KIA) PA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. William T. Biggers, O-431791 (MIA / KIA) MS
Engineer SSgt J. Gordon Drake, 6563404 (MIA / KIA) IA
Radio Operator Cpl Cecil R. Hamman, 6931724 (MIA / KIA) Payne County, OK
Ball Turret Pfc Lloyd N. Terrell, 13014663 (MIA / KIA) MD
Tail Gunner Pfc Charles T. Pritchard, 20939124 (MIA / KIA) OR
Observer 2nd Lt. Jack T. Laughlin, O-413459 (MIA / KIA) TX
Crashed January 29, 1942
Built by Boeing at Seattle. On December 24, 1941 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2476 at McChord Field.
2nd Lt Nyblade, W.F. O-420395
S/Sgt R. F. Kennedy, 6372675
Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group and ferried overseas by pilot 1st Lt. Walter W. Sparks, Jr. via the African route. On January 26, 1942 arrived at Surabaya on Java as a replacement aircraft then transfered to the 7th Bombardment Group, 9th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On January 29, 1942 took off from Malang Airfield on Java piloted by 1st Lt. Walter W. Sparks, Jr. on a bombing mission against Balikpapan. This was the Sparks crew's first combat mission. Major Robinson volunteered to fly as co-pilot / observer to lead the formation. This bomber was one of five B-17s (three from the 7th Bombardment Group with two from the 19th Bombardment Group). Returning, the formation was attacked by Japanese fighters and this B-17 was hit in the tail and began loosing altitude and speed and was protected by the other bombers.
After completing another bomb run over ships off Balikpapan, the formation turned back to base but enemy fighters persisted in attacks.
Loosing speed, this B-17 fell behind and looked for a place to crash land. Descending to roughly 1,000' part of the tail elevator was observed to break off and the B-17 crashed into the sea nose first off southeastern Borneo into Makassar Strait.
Later, B-17E 41-2454 piloted by Lt. Skiles circled the crash site, but no survivors were seen.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Because Robinson had volunteered to fly with this inexperienced crew, he was posthumously earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and promoted to Lt. Col.
Hamman earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Sparks has a memorial marker at Hickory Grove Cemetery in Inverness, Mississippi.
Biggers has a memorial marker at Clear Springs Cemetery in Choctaw County, Mississippi.
Laughlin has a memorial marker at Westlawn Cemetery in Del Rio, TX.
Margo Robinson French (daughter of Robinson)
"I lost my Father when he was shot down over the Makassar Strait in 1942. His name is Lt.Col. Stanley Keith Robinson, Army Air Corps. I saw a report on TV many years ago about remains that were found of WW II pilots, some from the ocean, and that gave me hope of one day finding my father's remains. He was awarded posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). He was leading a squadron of B-17s in an attack on a Japanese convoy in the Makassar Strait, even though he was ordered to have a break in flying due to the many missions he had flown. Instead, when he discovered that the other pilots were inexperienced in flying B-17's he convinced his commanding officer to allow him to lead the squadron in the mission. His plane was the only plane shot down in that mission. It has been a life long dream of mine to return my Father's remains to the states."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2476
"2476 delivered McChord Dec 24, 1941. Assigned 19th BG Java Jan 26, 1942. Transferred to 7th BG, 9th BS. Shot down off Java Jan 29, 1942. All crew KIA."
A day in the life of Second Lieutenant Jack T. Laughlin: The forgotten Story of his final day 29 Jan 1942
"Appendix B 28 January 1942 Wednesday - 28 Jan 1942, at approximately 1215, aircraft B-17E tail number 41-2476 and crew (Capt Walter W. Sparks, 0-371902, 2nd Lt Nyblade, W.F. 0-420395, 2nd Lt Jack T. Laughlin, 0-413459, 2nd Lt W. T. Biggers, 0-431791, S/Sgt G.J. Drake, 6563404, PFC L.N. Terrell, 13014663, Cpl C.R. Hamman, 6931724, PFC C.T. Pritchard, 20939024, S/Sgt R. F. Kennedy, 6372675) arrived in Malang, Java. (source Java 1942). Lt Nyblade and S/Sgt Kennedy were from the 19th and 11th Bomb Groups, most likely their B-17E had to be left behind due to mechanical issues. (Source – a note with file date of 16 Jun 2008, file number 8-A2 and Special Orders Number 7, dated 11 March 1942). There was minimal activity on the 28th though “Bloody Shambles,” states, on Wednesday, 28 January 1942, “From Balikpapan during the morning two A6Ms patrolled as far as Samarinda II, where two Brewsters were seen on the ground. The Japanese fighters, flown by Lt Sasai and NAP 2/C S. Isihara, attacked these and destroyed both in flames. With only one Dutch fighter remaining at the by-passed base, it was then evacuated."
Fortress Against The Sun pages 116, 118-119, 121, 123-124, 386, 409
B-17E 41-2476 Narrative Jack Waid, 47FTW Historian
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Walter W. Sparks, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Stanley K. Robinson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard W. Cease
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William T. Biggers
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - J. Gordon Drake
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Cecil R. Hamman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lloyd N. Terrell
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles T. Pritchard
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack T. Laughlin
FindAGrave - Capt Walter W. Sparks, Jr (memorial marker photo)
1Lt Walter William Sparks, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - LtCol Stanley Keith Robinson, Sr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Richard Wellington Cease (tablets of the missing)
2Lt William Troy Biggers (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - William Troy Biggers (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Jack Thomas Laughlin (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FIndAGrave - Lieut Jack Thomas Laughlin (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt J Gordon Drake (photo,
tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Cecil Richard Hamman (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Lloyd N Terrell (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Charles T Pritchard (tablets of the missing)
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
February 22, 2018