|Pilot 1st Lt. Hugh S. Grundmann, O-394075 (MIA / KIA, BR) OH
Co-Pilot 1st L t LeRoy F. Foltz, O-659882 (MIA / KIA) Vigo County, IN
Crew 2nd Lt Donald L. Bonham, O-437934 (MIA / KIA) Jefferson, OK
Crew 2nd Lt Frank M. Burton Jr., O-724198 (MIA / KIA) Santa Fe, NM
Crew Pfc William A. Takala, 6575590 (MIA / KIA) St. Louis County, MN
Crew Cpl James T. McHugh, Jr., 12038087 (MIA / KIA) Hudson County, NJ
Crew Cpl Harry T. Isles, 13039171 (MIA / KIA) Braddock, PA
Crew Pvt Kenneth E. Dake, 12030269 (MIA / KIA) Olean, NY
Crew Pvt Robert E. McClure, 12029957 (MIA / KIA) Broome County, NY
Crashed August 9, 1942
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2643. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 93rd Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers were not noted.
On August 9, 1942 took off from 7-Mile
Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Hugh S. Grundmann as one of four B-17s led by Major Dean C. "Pinky" Hoevet on a bombing mission against Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. Inbound, this B-17 was flying in the no. 4 position in the formation.
Inbound to the target, the formation encountered bad weather. One B-17 aborted the mission and instead bombed Gasmata Airfield before returning safely. Inbond to the target, this B-17 lagged behind the formation due to engine trouble before arriving over the target area.
Over Rabaul, the three remaining B-17s were intercepted 15-20 A6M3 Zeros from the 2nd Kokutai. During the air combat, the bombers claimed a total of five Zeros shot down by their gunners. Leaving the target area, this B-17 was lagging behind the other two and was not supported by their mutual fire power and was targeted by Zeros and last observed losing altitude while fighting off repeated enemy attacks. Also damaged and later ditched was B-17E 41-2452 (crew rescued). When it failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
This B-17 crashed at Rondahls Plantation near Kabanga Bay. Today the plantation where the crash site is located is known as Makurapau Plantation (Mokurapaua Plantation).
Janice Olson visited in the 1980s:
"I spent quite a bit of time looking for that plane and actually found it. Most of it has been sold for scrap; some of it has been used for pig pens on the plantation and when I was there, there was a heap of useless pieces next to the garage. Found a couple of the engines which the natives couldn't move so the plantation was planted around them. The plantation and locale names have been changed since WW II."
Brian Bennett visited the crash site in the 1980s:
"I had been to this site a number of times many years ago. For a long time it was mixed up with Hal Pease aircraft [B-17E "Why Don't We Do This More Often 41-2429] but of course turned out not to be so. The area where the crew remains were buried was correct and some years ago CILHI re-located all the graves. I recall that CILHI found one hand that had been left behind when the remains were disinterred post war. At one point there was a place on the plantation where a pig pen had been made using quite a lot of pieces of wreckage."
Recovery of Remains
During the war, missionary Father Obereiter visited the crash site and recovered some of the crew's remains and buried them nearby. Likely, the Japanese also visited the crash site and might have buried additional remains.
In 1946 a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle visited this crash site and identified the bomber from the serial number on the tail and located remains of the crew including Grundmann and Takala where individually identified.
Later, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) visited the crash site and recovered more remains including Grundmann and Takala who were individually identified. Also, they recovered the remains buried by missionary Father Obereiter during the war. Afterwards, the recovered remains were transported to the United States for permanent burial.
Dake was individually identified and transported to the Philippines for permanent burial.
During the 1980s, a team from U. S. Army CILHI also visited the crash site and located additional remains including a hand.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Each member of the crew earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously.
On March 14, 1950 the crew recovered including McClure, Isles, Bonham, Burton Foltz, Grundmann, and McHugh were buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial at section 82 sites 1N-1P.
Dake is buried at Manila American Cemetery at Plot A Row 12 Grave 10. He earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart, posthumously.
Note some wartime reference mention the crash site being near Keravat, but this is incorrect
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Hugh S. Grundmann
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - LeRoy F. Foltz
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Donald L. Bonham
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records -
William A. Takala
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James T. Mc Hugh, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Kenneth E. Dake
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert E. McClure
U. S. Army Air Force G.O. No. 62 (1942) - Robert Elzie McClure Silver Star citation
USAF Serial Number Search Results -
B-17E Fortress 41-2643
"2643 crashed Aug 9, 1942 Rohndales Plantation, Mokurapau New Britain"
Diary of Lt. Noda Hidetaka August 9, 1942 via Australian War Memorial (AWM) circa 2005
"Captured Documents No. 32-35 Cont. August 9  After evening meal. there was an enemy air raid. Presently, a formation of 3 Boeing B-17s came from Rabaul attempting to escape towards the east. Our fighter(s) in pursuit at a height of a few thousand meters looked like eagles. Minamizaki..."
NAA "Missing Fortresses" page 11
"[B-17E 41-2452] Aircraft crashed Rondahl's Plantation, Mokurapau, N.B. Remains of crew members buried in vicinity of kiln at Mokurapau. These remains were recovered by A.G.R.S and two were identified as Grundmann and Takala."
Missing Air Crew Report 15660 (MACR 15660)
was created retroactively circa 1945-1946 and only lists the bomber as "B-17" and does not list the serial number.
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2643
No Turning Back (2005) by E. T. W. Fulton page 276
"An American warplane had been shot down on Makurapau and I remember the first time I saw it lying in the kunai grass with vines and creepers growing around it. When Dad first discovered the wreck he arranged for the remains of the servicemen to be sent back to Washington. Sometimes Mary or I would ask to see the plane. It held an eerie fascination for us lying silently between the palms. In those days its markings were still distinct and the metal and paintwork bright. I wondered what the American pilot had looked like and where he came from. It seemed extraordinary to think that he had died on our land."
FindAGrave - 1LT Hugh Smith Grundmann (group burial photo)
FIndAGrave - 1LT Leroy F Foltz (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Leroy F. Foltz (memorial marker photo)
FIndAGrave - 2LT Donald L. Bonham (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Frank Madden Burton, Jr (group burial photo)
FIndAGrave - PFC William A Takala (grave photo)
FindAGrave - CPL James T McHugh, Jr (grave photo)
FIndAGrave - CPL Harry Trevor Isles (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Kenneth E. Dake
FIndAGrave - Pvt Kenneth E Dake (photo, grave photo)
FIndAGrave - PVT Robert Elzie McClure (news, group burial photo)
Thanks to Brian Bennett, Janice Olson, Keith Hopper and Edward Rogers for additional information
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February 14, 2020