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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2635  
USAAF
5th AF
19th BG
30th BS

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19th BG c1942

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Brian Bennett 2001

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CILHI April 2001
Pilot  1st Lt John S. Hancock, O-417619 (MIA / KIA) Haileyville, OK
Co-Pilot  Sgt Robert H. Burns, 6999729 (MIA / KIA) Belleville, IL
Navigator  1st Lt. James W. Carver, O-725946 (MIA / KIA) Eagle Pass, TX
Engineer  Cpl Hiram D. Wilkinson, 16014049 (MIA / KIA) Grand Rapids, MI
Radio  Sgt Edward R. Cipriani, 13012501 (MIA / KIA) Monessen, PA
Gunner  Sgt Mac S. Groesbeck, 19011114 (MIA / KIA) American Fork, UT
Gunner  Sgt Raymond A. Maxwell, 18037760 (MIA / KIA) Stephenville, TX
Gunner  Cpl Curtis T. Longenberger, 6890994 (MIA / KIA) Berwick, PA
Crashed  November 1, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2446. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2635. During February 1942 flown to Lowry Field for outfitting then flown to Hickam Field.

Wartime History
During late May 1942, took off from Hickam Field with an extra bomb bay fuel tank to Midway Airfield on Eastern Island to search for Japanese Naval forces and participated in the Battle of Midway then returned to Hickam Field.

Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 30th Bombardment Squadron (30th BS). No known nose art or nickname. During May 1942 ferried overseas via Fiji then onward to Australia arriving June 21, 1942 then flown to Wagga Wagga Airfield. During June 1942 flown to Garbutt Field at Townsville.

On October 23, 1942, one of six B-17s from the 30th Bombardment Squadron that took off piloted by Major Allen Lindberg on a night time bombing mission against Japanese shipping off Rabaul.

Mission History
On November 1, 1942 in the early morning hours took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt John S. Hancock armed with 1,000 pound bombs as one of six B-17s on a night mission to bomb Japanese shipping in Tonolei Harbor on southern Bougainville. Inbound to the target, the formation experienced bad weather. This B-17 failed to return and the crew was declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Wreckage
In fact, this B-17 crashed into the northern side of a ridge line inland from Milne Bay. Likely, the B-17 was attempting to descend below bad weather and was unable to see the ridge at night. During the impact, the fire from the fuel tanks destroyed most of the fuselage. Aboard, the two 1,000 lbs unexploded bombs did not explode.

On February 24, 1999 a hunter located a the crash site roughly eight hours walk from Nigila and Gopai, inland from Alotau at Milne Bay. Later, he reported the site to a Red Cross worker and took them to the site. Together, they discovered a watch, comb and the dog tag of James W. Carver.

JAMES W. CARVER
0-725946 T42 A
MRS.P.S. CARVER
543 FORD STREET
EAGLE PASS, TEX

They also discovered larger wreckage which had the numbers '12635' stenciled in yellow, and painted on a background of what appeared to be a red vertical stripe and human remains. Afterwards, the Red Cross worker reported the site and provided photographs including the tail serial number to the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby who relayed the information to U.S. Army CILHI.

Recovery
During March 2-3, 1999 a team from U.S. Army CILHI including Brian Bennett visited the crash site and designated it "PNG #102" and human bones were found amongst the wreckage. Villagers provided additional remains and personal effects found at the site since the initial discovery.

During April 2001, another team from U.S. Army CILHI undertook a full recovery at the crash site to locate additional remains. At the site, team recovered additional remains and personal effects including a sidearm with initials carved into the grip, two women's rings, a clear glass bottle filled with a red liquid that could be men's hair tonic or cologne, still fragrant. And a gold bracelet with "John Hancock" embossed upon it. Carver's navigation kit and a cigarette lighter with his initials on it were also recovered.

Identification
In April 2001, U.S. Army mortuary and casualty department notified Hancock's brother, Walter R. Hancock that bone fragments, personal effects and a gold I.D. bracelet associated with his brother were found. He volunteered a DNA sample to help in the identification of the remains but passed away on October 18, 2001 before the identification was made.

On December 21, 2004 Hancock's relatives were informed his remains were identified and his gold I.D. bracelet returned to them.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead on December 7, 1945. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing after the crew were identified a rosette was added next to their names.

After the identification of the remains, the crew were permanently buried in the United States.

Hancock earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. On April 23, 2005 he was buried at Memory Gardens in McAlester, OK. He was the first World War II loss from his hometown and the American Legion Post in Haileyville, OK was named in his honor.

Burns earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He married Mildred who he met at a Moose Lodge dance in Belleville, IL, and married before he went overseas. A fan of big-band music who played the trombone, he had brought his instrument mouthpiece with him overseas to keep his lips in shape for when he returned home, says his sister, LaVerne Artnak of South Park, PA. That he vanished without a trace stunned his family. "My mother grieved. I think she grieved until she went to her death, and she was 95 when she passed away," Artnak says.

Carver earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. On January 29, 2005 he was buried at Maverick County Cemetery in Eagle Pass, TX. Carver was nicknamed "Scootie" and turned 22 just a few weeks before the mission when he was lost. Assigned to the 30th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 19th Bombardment Group, Lt. Carver was a navigator but substituted as co-pilot on his final mission. Previously, he flew 19 combat missions. In a letter to his father, James told of missions where they fended off Japanese fighter planes. "Don't breathe a word of this to mama." At war's end, his mother still held out hope that he was alive in a Japanese POW camp. He played football, he was co-captain of the team at Eagle Pass High School, and enjoyed hunting, fishing and roping. To pay the tuition at A&I College in Kingsville (today Texas A&M University-Kingsville) his father sold his horse "Ernesto". He was a sophomore majoring in petroleum engineering at Texas before he joined the Army Air Corps in January 1942. Sent to navigation school at Mather Field in California, Carver graduated third in his class. He went overseas to Australia and was promoted to a 1st Lieutenant before his loss.

Wilkinson earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Pleasant View Cemetery in Petersburg, MI. Hiram "Dave" Wilkinson was 33. He passed up a furlough and a "date" with his sister to join a combat flight crew. "I expect to enjoy my date somewhere in the Pacific" he wrote home.

Cipriani earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. His local paper eulogized him as an honor student, Class of 1939, and a champion debater. He urged his parents not to worry. "Whatever happens will happen" he wrote. He also has an individual grave at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60 site 8246.

Groesbeck earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Richfield City Cemetery in Richfield, UT at plot D, section 12, grave 06. Groesbeck was age 26, a Mormon raised on a small farm, volunteered to fly on that last mission because the crew was short handed. Born June 19, 1916, in Holden, Utah, then moved with his family to Roosevelt, Utah, where they lived for five years. The family then moved to Highland, Utah, where he went to high school and attended Utah State Agriculture College for one year and studied diesel mechanics. He was active in the LDS church and had callings in church including dance director because he loved to dance.

Maxwell earned earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at East Memorial Cemetery in Stephenville, TX. Two years after he vanished, his parents lost a second son killed in Italy. A third brother, Calvin, served on a Navy troop carrier and during shore leave in Australia in 1942 missed seeing Raymond in a cafe by 15 minutes and never saw his brother again.

Longenberger earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. After his loss, his mother, Agnes, kept a spare bedroom waiting for her lost son. He prepared a letter in case he died: "We have to lose men to win a war. You all can rest assured that I have died fighting." A few months after the crash, the parents of crewman Curtis Longenberger received a letter from the pilot's tent mate. The writer praised the crew's courage and said they flew that night despite engine problems. "Nothing seemed to stop those boys," wrote Lt. J. M. Moore. "Off they flew into the dark skies to bomb those who started all these heartaches and sorrows."

On April 28, 2005 the remains of the crew that could not be individually identified were buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60 site 8245. This burial includes remains believed to be Cipriani, Burns, Longenberger, Wilkinson, Groesbeck, Maxwell, Hancock and Carver. The grave had the epitaph inscribed "downed aircraft Solomom [sic Solomon] Islands December 7, 1945 [sic date declared dead]". Later, the grave was replaced with an updated grave with the corrected epitaph "Downed aircraft - Papua New Guinea November 1, 1942".

Relatives
Kathryn "Kay" Hansen Cunningham (niece of James W. Carver)
"He was the brother of my mother, June Carver Hansen. I was told that the painting on the airplane is a Red Devil. Everyone in our family is so very grateful for all the work that was done to bring my uncle and his crew mates home. I do have copies of a few of the letters he sent home. Thank you for your website and all the information in it."

LaVerne Artnak (sister of Robert H. Burns)
"My mother grieved. I think she grieved until she went to her death, and she was 95 when she passed away."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John S. Hancock
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert H. Burns
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James W. Carver
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Hiram D. Wilkinson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Edward R. Cipriani
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Mac S. Groesbeck
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Raymond A. Maxwell
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Curtis R. Longenberger
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2635
"2635 (19th BG) lost on ops to Buil-Baisi, PNG Nov 1, 1942."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2635
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John S. Hancock "remains recovered"
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - John S. Hancock (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT John Strother Hancock (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT John S Hancock (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - John S. Hancock (grave Memory Gardens photo, obituary)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert H. Burns
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Robert H. Burns (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert H Burns (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert H Burns (group burial Arlington photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James W. Carver "remains recovered"
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - James W. Carver (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt James Walter “Scootie” Carver (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lieut James "Scootie" Walter Carver (grave Maverick County Cemetery photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - 1LT James Walter “Scootie” Carver (group burial Arlington photo)
McAlester News Capital "Obituary for John Strother Hancock" April 22, 2005
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Hiram D. Wilkinson "remains recovered"
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Hiram D. Wilkinson (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Hiram Davis Wilkinson (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Hiram Davis Wilkinson (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Hiram Davis Wilkinson (memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward R. Cipriani
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Edward R. Cipriani (group burial Arlington photo)
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Edward R. Cipriani (grave Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Edward Ralph Cipriani (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Edward R. Cipriani (group burial Arlington photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Mac S. Groesbeck
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Mac S. Groesbeck (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Mac S Groesbeck (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Mac S Groesbeck (photo, group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - Mac S. Groesbeck (photo, memorial marker Richfield City Cemetery photo, obituary)
Desert News "Obituary of Mac S. Groesbeck" March 17 2005
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Raymond A. Maxwell
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Raymond A. Maxwell (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Raymond A Maxwell (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SGT Raymond A Maxwell (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Raymond A Maxwell (grave East Memorial Cemetery photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Curtis T. Longenberger "remains recovered"
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Curtis T. Longenberger (group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - Curtis T. Longenberger (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Curtis Theodore Longenberger (photo, group burial Arlington photo)
FindAGrave - Curtis T. Longenberger (grave Pine Grove Cemetery Annex photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Curtis T Longenberger (photo, obituary)
Thanks to Janice Olson and Brian Bennett for additional information

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Last Updated
December 5, 2021

 

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