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  B-17E "Flagship Texas No. VI / Strip-Straffer" Serial Number 41-9207  
5th AF
43rd BG
64th BS

Former Assignments
19th BG
65th BS

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Henning 1943

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Brian Bennett 1987

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Mark Reichman 2007
Pilot  1st Lt. Ernest A. Naumann, O-427762 (POW, executed November 25, 1943, MIA / KIA) Baldwin, NY
Co-Pilot  1st Lt. Winslow G. Gardner, O-728853 (MIA / KIA) Menan, ID
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Oliver R. Alvin, O-669943 (MIA / KIA) North Branch, MN
Navigator  2nd Lt. Charles H. Lewis, O-791838 (MIA / KIA, BR) Brooklyn, NY
Engineer  TSgt Thomas H. Fox, 6977438 (POW, executed June 1943, BNR) Mechanicsville, NY
Radio  SSgt Paul J. Cascio, Jr., 13072715 (POW, survived) Masontown, PA
Ball Turret  SSgt Virgil E. DeVoss, 6917104 (MIA / KIA, BR) Danville, OH
Gunner  Sgt Bruno R. Bukalski, 15082036 (MIA / KIA, BR) Kouts, IN
Radio  Sgt Albert Smith, 13028645 (MIA / KIA, BR) Philadelphia, PA
Tail Gunner  Pfc Charles H. Green, Jr., 12011992 (POW, executed June 1943, BNR) Morgantown, WV
Crashed  June 1, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2679. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-9207. Also known as simply "207" for the last three digits of the serial number. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia arriving in the middle of 1942.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 435th Bombardment Squadron. This B-17 flew at least fourteen combat missions and while in service had a SCR-521 air to surface radar installed with a dipole antenna in the nose and additional antenna wires above the fuselage and below the wings.

This B-17 had two nicknames on each side of the nose but is unclear when or who nicknamed the bomber but was likely while in service with 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) in the middle of 1942. This bomber retained both nicknames and nose art while in service with the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men".

On the left side of the nose was "Flagship Texas" No. VI" (with "Flagship Texas" in double quotation marks in block letters with roman numerals VI). This nickname was in reference to the DC-3 "Flagship Texas" NC14988. Also known as simply "Texas No. 6" or "Texas #6". On the right side of the nose was "Strip-Straffer" in block letters with the nose art of a boy pulling off his shorts wearing an American Airlines pilot's hat turned to the side. Presumably, both nicknames were painted by a crew member with an association with American Airlines prewar and inside joke between the pilots or air crews.

On October 9, 1942 took off piloted by 1st Lt. Arnold R. Johnson on a photographic reconnaissance mission over Rabaul. Over the target, intercepted by three Zeros. Hit by gunfire that damaged the no. 3 and no. 4 engines, aboard tail gunner Cpl Ralph C. Fritz was killed and co-pilot Sgt David R. Sinclair, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was wounded but returned safely.

During January 1943 transfered to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men", 65th Bombardment Squadron (65th BS) "The Lucky Dicers" but was not accepted for weeks, likely due to repairs or overhaul. In total, this B-17 flew three missions with the squadron.

On February 14, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Melville V. "Dutch" Ehlers on a mission over Rabaul.

On March 3, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Raymond E. Crawford on a mission during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

On March 12, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Raymond E. Crawford on a mission against Rabaul.

During March 1943 assigned to the 64th Bombardment Squadron (64th BS). Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Ernest A. Naumann with crew chief TSgt Richard O. Henning.

On April 10, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Salisbury on its first mission with the 64th BS over Wewak. By late April 1943, the SCR-521 radar was removed as it was not effective and increased drag reducing range.

On May 26, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Ream on a reconnaissance mission over Kavieng.

Mission History
On June 1, 1943 at 10:10am took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Ernest A. Naumann on his first mission flying as a pilot on an armed reconnaissance mission over New Britain. This B-17 was armed with bombs and intended to fly over both the northern and southern coasts. At 2:00pm roughly four hours into the mission, this B-17 transmitted their last radio message received was over the Wide Bay area. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

In fact, ten minutes later at 2:10pm intercepted by a dozen A6M Zeros from 251 Kōkūtai (251 Air Group) over the Gasmata area. This B-17 was quickly hit by gunfire that caused a fuel leak that ignited into a long flame that extended past the tail. In the cockpit, Naumann activated the fire suppression system but moments later the fire resumed with even greater intensity. Realizing the fire was out of control, Naumann ordered the crew to bail out as the wing was starting to disintegrated and began to angle downward in a dive.

Meanwhile, bombardier Alvin opened the bomb bay doors and salvoed the bombs to allow the crew to bail out. Inside the bomb bay standing on the catwalk was radio operator SSgt Paul J. Cascio, Jr. and engineer TSgt Thomas H. Fox. As both prepared to bail out they became trapped by the g-force as the bomber began to dive. Suddenly, gasoline vapors caused an explosion an altitude of roughly 6,000'. During the explosion, Naumann, Cascio, Lewis, Alvin and possibly Gardner were blown clear of the bomber by the fuel tank explosion. Only Naumann and Cascio were wearing parachutes.

After the explosion, this B-17 began breaking up before it crashed near the summit of Hong Kong mountain on the eastern aspect of Waterfall Bay inland from the southern coast of New Britain. Three of the crew went down with bomber and died in the explosion or on impact: Lewis, Bukalski and Smith.

Afterwards, search missions were flown but no trace of the bomber or the crew was found.

Fates of the Crew
During the explosion, Naumann, Cascio, Lewis, Alvin and possibly Gardner were blown clear of the B-17 when the fuel tank explosion and all landed in different areas. Only Naumann and Cascio were wearing parachutes and were able to deploy them successfully and landed safely.

Cascio delayed opening his parachute until he entered a cloud fearing he might be strafed by the Zeros. He descended safely and landed in trees with a Zero flying over him after he landed. When he released his harness he fell to the ground and sprained his ankle and hid for the rest of the day, thinking he was the sole survivor from the crew. The next morning, he departed but avoided walking paths and feared the native people were loyal to the Japanese. Walking in the area, he found the bodies of Alvin and Lewis, both thrown clear by the explosion, neither was wearing a parachute and both bodies were badly mutilated. For two more days, Cascio wandered alone in the jungle until June 4, 1943 when he found a hut and heard a dog and child and a friendly native approached and gave him a root to eat and dried his clothing by their fire then walked to a nearby village where he saw a U.S. parachute hanging. Next he was taken to another village and reunited with the other three survivors: Naumann, Green and Fox.

Naumann who was wearing his parachute and landed safely. He also saw the bodies of Alvin and Lewis. He located the crash site of the B-17 and inside or in the vicinity found the bodies of DeVoss, Smith and Bukalski who died on impact.

Miraculously, Fox and Green did not have parachutes but landed unhurt. Fox was badly burned from the explosion and Green had two minor wounds in his left knee which became gangrenous over the next week.

Gardner was never found. The surviving crew believed he landed elsewhere but in fact he was killed inside the bomber or on impact with his remains in the nose section.

The three survivors: Naumann, Green and Fox found each other and were taken to a nearby village. On June 4, 1943 they were reunited when Cascio joined them. On June 5, 1943 a native who spoke English arrived and discussed taking the Americans to the south coast where they could get medical treatment and better food. While in the village, Fox and Green were in pain from their wounds. Several times, Fox asked for a pistol to kill himself. On June 7, 1943 in the morning the group departed with natives carrying Fox and Green in stretchers made from bush materials. The group walked for roughly eight hours to a coastal village and were walked to the center and the carriers walked away screaming and running when a Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) patrol emerged and captured the entire group.

As Prisoners Of War (POWs) all four were taken aboard a boat to a nearby observation post. On June 13, 1943 both Green and Fox were taken away under the pretext they were being taken to the hospital at Gasmata and were never seen again. During 1946, a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle concluded both were taken to Mal Mal (Malmal) and both were executed sometime in the middle of June 1943. Their bodies were buried in a bomb crater.

On June 21, 1943 Naumann and Cascio were tied and blindfolded and transported by boat to Rabaul and detained at the Japanese Navy POW Camp at Rabaul operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Keibitai (Naval Special Police), 81st Naval Guard Unit. Both were interrogated for information but only gave their name, rank and serial number. While detained, both were tortured and denied food and medical care.

On November 25, 1943 Naumann and eleven other Allied prisoners were taken from the POW camp. Civilians who in the same camp included Reverend Joseph Lamarre. Afterwards, he was told by the guards that the twelve POWs were being transported to Japan. Two weeks later a group of Indian POWs informed Reverend Lamarre that the twelve had been beheaded on the outskirts of Rabaul. The group executed included Naumann plus five other 43rd Bomb Group B-17 crew members including Naumann, Burnside, Mulligan and George from B-17E 41-9011 and Curry from B-17E "Honi Kuu Okole" 41-9244.

Cascio became sick with malaria and lost his appetite and refused to eat food and fasted for ten days and expected to die. The Japanese gave him better food but he became sick when he ate and but was able to eat only rice in soup. On July 14, 1943 Cascio plus other six crew from B-17F "The Reckless Mountain Boys" 41-24518 were embarked on a ship that departed Rabaul and three days later arrived at Truk. The POWs were taken ashore and detained in jail cells and further questioned. Cascio was too weak to answer and was put on another ship but two days later taken to a hospital on Truk where he received his first medical treatment consisting of pills and powers as malaria treatment that only reduced his symptoms.

On July 27, 1943 Cascio was again blindfolded and embarked aboard a destroyer. During the ten day voyage to Japan, he was subjected to more interrogations but was too weak to answer and was disembarked at Yokohama. Next, detained at Ofuna Camp and was only interrogated once more and was given poor food and continued to suffer from malaria including a bad attack on December 25, 1943 during church services. A fellow POW Australian Lt. Commander Palgrave E. Carr gave him quinine pills that allowed him to fully recovered.

On March 15, 1944 a group including Cascio was transported to work at the Ashio Copper Mine under the direction of the Imperial Japanese Army. During this period, he worked at the copper smelter and was allowed a bath only once a week. On June 7, 1945, transferred to another camp at Ashio with poor conditions infested with lice and fleas and was occasionally issued two cigarettes per day. At this location during a four month period, the prisoners received approximately twenty Red Cross parcels with supplies.

In August 1945, an interpreter told the prisoners the U.S. had dropped two atomic bombs and if they dropped a third the Japanese had orders to kill all prisoners. On August 20, 1945 the POWs were no longer required to perform labor. On August 27, 1945 two U.S. planes overflew the camp and dropped supplies including cigarettes, soaps, magazines and other supplies. On August 29, 1945 there was another air drop with K rations, cigarettes, clothing and other items. On August 30, 1945 the air drop included a note saying it would not be long before they were liberated.

On September 4, 1945 boarded a train to Tokyo. At the end of the Pacific War, his body weight was only 100 pounds and was given abundant food by the Red Cross. On September 24, 1945 liberated from Tokyo POW Camp (Shinjuku) Tokyo Bay Area 35-140. Afterwards, he spent a month and a half in the hospital in Okinawa and the Philippines. Afterwards, he was transported aboard USS Admiral C. F. Hughes across the Pacific Ocean and arrived at San Francisco on October 15, 1945. He was hospitalized in San Francisco then transported to Virgina. Finally, on October 27, 1945 he returned home. Soon afterwards, he married Wanda Eve Cascio.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, Naumann and Cascio saw the bodies of Alvin and Lewis, both thrown clear by the explosion, neither was wearing a parachute and both bodies were badly mutilated. Also, Naumann saw their bodies and also located the crash site and saw the bodies of DeVoss, Bukalski and Smith in the wreckage.

During August 1944 when the Allies captured Mal Mal (Malmal), the remains of Green and Fox were located in a bomb crater and exhumed and reburied at Jacquinot Bay War Cemetery. Later, their remains were exhumed and reburied in the USAF Cemetery at Finschafen.

On March 12, 1946, a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle visited the crash site and recovered the remains of at least three crew members along with a ring with the first two of three initials being "A. H." (Albert Smith). After the recovery of remains, the three sets of remains were buried at USAF Cemetery at Finschafen. After the remains were identified as DeVoss, Bukalski and Smith the three were shipped to the United States for permanent burial.

This B-17 crashed at the summit of Hong Kong mountain inland from the southern coast of New Britain at approximately Lat 5.26 Long 151.47. The crash site is roughly two and half hours walk form Rem village.

During 1987, the crash site was investigated by a team from US Army CILHI led by a Captain Benny Woodard with Brian Bennett. In the nose wreckage, the team recovered remains that were later identified as Gardener.

Brian Bennett recalls the 1987 investigation:
"I recall fondly the CILHI team on that mission led by a Captain Benny Woodard who was a true officer and a gentleman. We humped in for two days and the last about 600' straight up. I was the scout with one local and I carried the 090 Stihl chainsaw up with 36" bar plus the oil and gas. I cut the LZ and only then did the Huey turn up.

The wreckage is widely scattered. The wing tip is away from the two main areas of wreckage and the wing tip was used as shelter for a night by the crew before the locals took them down to a place called Ram village [not on the map as was moved to the coast back in the 1950's. Look for Tokai-Ram.

At 41-9207 I found the data plate in the tail, and recovered the external emergency life raft release cover. It is essential to get duplicate serial numbers or stencils from elsewhere on the aircraft. Four survived mid air explosion of aircraft but all later captured by Japanese after being turned in by local 'polis boi' [Papuan Police officer or village police officer]. Two late sent back to Japan and two wounded executed at Palmalmal. There were two local men at that time [1987] that had been in the party of locals that had gone to the crash site.

Should not forget that there are still crew missing from this aircraft and that the area was never gridded and swept by metal detector. Still crew missing on this one as two had "candled" when the ship blew up in the air. The two large pieces of ball turret were dug out by CILHI back in 1987. We found the navigator Gardener only. Janice Olson visited this site briefly years ago. She would only have seen the wreckage where the ball turret is."

Gardner was identified in 1991 by a few bone fragments and a boot. His personal effects recovered included pieces of his uniform, a metal case with wire-framed glasses, comb and boots, straps off his flight jacket and coins.

Fritz tail gunner Killed In Action (KIA) on October 9, 1942 is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at section P site 529.

Five of the crew from June 1, 1943 remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA): Naumann, Lewis, Alvin, Green and Fox. All five are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Lewis was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker placed by his father during the 1960s at Mount Ararat Cemetery in East Farmingdale, NY.

Alvin was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Naumann was officially declared dead on January 24, 1946. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Green was officially declared dead on January 24, 1946. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Fox was officially declared dead on January 24, 1946. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville, NY at section M1 grave 3.

On February 3, 1950 DeVoss, Bukalski and Smith were buried in a group burial at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery at plot I, site 58-59.

Bukalski earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Saint Marys Catholic Cemetery in Kouts, IN.

Gardner was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. After his remains were identified, a rosette was placed next to his name at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.. Gardner also had a memorial marker in Hyrum City Cemetery in Hyrum, UT at plot G-14.5-8 the memorial reads "In memory of Lt. Winslow G. Gardner Nov 23, 1920–June 1, 1943 died in action on New Britain".

On May 2, 1991 the remains of Gardner were returned to Hyrum, UT. On May 4, 1941 a memorial service was held at Larkin Sunset Lawn Mortuary followed by burial at Hyrum City Cemetery at the same plot where his memorial marker is located. One of the people in attendance was his college sweetheart, Louise Larkin (née Dixon) of Ogden, UT. Gardner met and dated Louise Dixon at Weber College where he was studying dentistry, took aviation courses, was student body treasurer and took flying lessons. In November 1942 she flew out to San Francisco to see him off before he went overseas. The day before he departed, he asked her to marry him and she accepted and the couple was engaged until he went missing. Later, she married Elijah Ferrin "Ferrin" Larking. Gardner flew a total of 40 missions before he went missing. Artifacts associated with Gardner are displayed at Fort Douglas Museum at Fort Douglas Airfield.

Cascio passed away on January 29, 2006 at age 84. He is buried at Baltimore National Cemetery in Baltimore, MD at section P site 267.

Larry Lewis (nephew of Charles H. Lewis, author Sadie's Boys)

Dorothy Cascio Morse (sister of Cascio)
"Three of my brothers served in WWII in the South Pacific. My oldest brother Andrew Cascio was a mechanic in the US Air Force for 11 years when he resigned. My brother Paul J. Cascio was also in the US Air Force, an aerial gunner and radio man. He was missing for 19 months when we learned he was a Japanese prisoner, a total of 28 months in Tokyo Camp Number 2. During the time Paul was missing my youngest brother Joseph Cascio, US Army Infantry was killed on Morotai Island on September 6, 1944. He was 20 years old. I have always been very patriotic and wish I could witness a Freedom Flight. I have never heard of them. God bless every one who has served our country, past and present."

Paul J. Coleianne (nephew of Cascio)

Eila Mae Gardner (mother Gardner)
"[The Salt Lake Tribune "Memorial Service Honors Co-Pilot Lost in WWII" May 5, 1991] I feel that now my son has come home for his final rest."

Note, DeVoss is spelled De Voss (two words) in some references
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ernest A. Naumann
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Winslow G. Gardner
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Oliver R. Alvin
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Charles H. Lewis
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Paul J. Cascio, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Bruno R. Bukalski
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Albert Smith
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Charles H. Green, Jr.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E 41-9207
"9207 crashed on top of Hong Kong Mountain Apr 12, 1943. Four crew survived, but were executed by Japanese."
WW2 Nomoninal Roll - David Rowley Sinclair, 407809
FindAGrave - Corp Ralph C Fritz (KIA October 9, 1942 grave photo)
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File does not list Naumann, Fox or Green as reported POWs
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Paul J. Cascio, Jr.
Testimony of Paul J. Cascio, Jr. August 26, 1947
RAAF Status Card B-17E 41-9207
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E 41-9207
News "Missing Hero Earnest A. Naumann DFC and Air Medal For Missing Hero"
43rd Bomb Group Official History incorrectly notes this aircraft as a "B-24"
The Ottawa Citizen "Remembering Is Too Easy" by Charles Lewis November 10, 1991
News article "Family learns fate of missing airman" Winslow Gardner
The Salt Lake Tribune "Utah Co-Pilot Makes Final Flight Home, 48 Years After Losing His Life in WWII" May 2, 1991 page 1
The Salt Lake Tribune "Memorial Service Honors Co-Pilot Lost in WWII" May 5, 1991 page 29
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ernest A. Naumann
FindAGrave - 1Lt Ernest A Naumann (photo, news)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Winslow G. Gardner "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - 1Lt Winslow Green Gardner (photo, news, memorial marker, tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Oliver R. Alvin
FindAGrave - 2LT Oliver Robert “Bob” Alvin (photo, memorial marker photograve photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles H. Lewis
FindAGrave - 1Lt Charles H Lewis (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2LT Charles H Lewis (memorial marker)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas H. Fox
FindAGrave - TSgt Thomas H Fox (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Thomas Henry Fox (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Paul J Cascio Jr. (grave)
FindAGrave - SSGT Virgil E De Voss (photos, grave photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Bruno B Bukalski (grave photos)
FindAGrave - Bruno B Bukalski (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Albert Smith (grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles H. Green Jr.
FindAGrave - PFC Charles H Green (tablets of the missing photo)
MIA: That the Lost May be Found (2012) by Mark Reichman mentions this aircraft
Ken’s Men Against The Empire - The Illustrated History of the 43rd Bombardment Group During World War II - Volume I: Prewar to October 1943 The B-17 Era (2016) pages 198-200 (June 1, 1943 mission), 198 (photo "Flagsip Texas" No. VI" 218 (Profile #14 with radar antennas), 223 (Profile #14a, #14b details), 317 (June 1, 1943 crew killed), 327 (64th BS 41-9207), 329 (65th BS, 41-9207), 343, 363 (photo "Strip-Strafer), 363-364 (Profile #14), 372, 388 (index Casco) 391 (index Flagship Texas No, IV), 404 (index Strip-Strafer)
Sadie's Boys (2017) by Larry Lewis nephew of Charles H. Lewis
Thanks to Brian Bennett and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
February 13, 2024


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