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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2476  
5th AF
7th BG
9th BS

Former Assignments
19th BG

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
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2287. On December 24, 1941 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2476 and flown to McChord Field.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) and ferried overseas by pilot 1st Lt. Walter W. Sparks, Jr. via the African route. On January 26, 1942 arrives at Surabaya on Java as a replacement aircraft and transfered to the 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 9th Bombardment Squadron (9th BS). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On January 29, 1942 took off from Malang Airfield on Java piloted by 1st Lt. Walter W. Sparks, Jr. as one of five B-17s (three from 7th Bombardment Group plus two B-17s from the 19th Bombardment Group) on a bombing mission against Balikpapan. This was the Sparks crew's first combat mission. Aboard, Major Robinson volunteered to fly as co-pilot and observer leading the formation. 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 at roughly Lat 3.26S Long 116.27E.

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 at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Sparks earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Hickory Grove Cemetery in Inverness, Mississippi.

Robinson earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for this mission because he volunteered to fly with an inexperienced crew. He also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Cease earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Biggers earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Clear Springs Cemetery in Choctaw County, Mississippi.

Drake earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Hamman earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Terrell earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Pritchard earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Laughlin earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He also 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."
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)
FindAGrave - 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)
FindAGrave - 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)
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 (2001) pages 116, 118-119, 121, 123-124, 386, 409
B-17E 41-2476 Narrative Jack Waid, 47FTW Historian
Thanks to Margo Robinson French for additional information

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Last Updated
September 30, 2021


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