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5th AF Jan 5, 1943
43rd BG Jan 30, 1943
43rd BG c1943
43rd BG c1943
43rd BG May 20, 1943
|Pilot Major Paul I. "P. I." Williams, O-418154 (MIA / KIA) OK
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt John S. Rippy, O-730964 (POW, executed November 25, 1943) CA
Bombardier M/Sgt Gordon R. Manuel (survived) Hodgdon, ME
Navigator 2nd Lt. Richard U. Aguirre, O-733398 (MIA / KIA) ID
Engineer S/Sgt Robert B. Gills, Jr., 33122679 (MIA / KIA) VA
Radio Sgt Edward Driscoll, 36047422 (MIA / KIA) IL
Asst Radio / Waist Gunner Sgt Lawrence L. Rexroat, 18004066 (MIA / KIA) OK
Waist Gunner Sgt Robert A. Curry, 11007351 (POW, executed December 9, 1943) OK
Belly Turret Pfc William R. Smith, 15098049 (MIA / KIA) OH
Tail Gunner Sgt Joseph F. Murray, 13047717 (MIA / KIA) Lebanon, PA
Passenger 1st Lt. Robert F. Heller, O-398021 380 BG, 529 BS (MIA / KIA) IL
Crashed May 21, 1943
By 1943, the nose contained a scoreboard with claims for seven enemy ships, 18 enemy aircraft and 68 bombing missions. Plus, nine heart markings for Purple Heart medals awarded to crew members for wounds sustained on combat missions.
On May 20, 1943 during the afternoon this B-17 took off from 7-Mile (Jackson Drome) near Port Moresby, flying northward to stage from Dobodura Airfield where a bomb load of 300 lbs bombs and 20 lbs fragmentation cluster bomb were loaded for a night mission over Rabaul.
At 3:48am, this B-17 arrived at the initial point over the Warangoi River to begin its bombing run against Vunakanau Airfield. Tracked by J1N1 Irving night fighter piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo maneuvered below the B-17 and opened fire with its obliquely mounted 20mm cannons.
The B-17 was hit from below in the No. 3 and No. 4 engines. A few seconds later, the No. 1 and No. 2 engines were hit and the bombs ignited. Pilot Williams turned the stricken B-17 to the southeast and headed for the St Georges Channel and ordered the crew to bail out. Only Rippy and Manuel were able to parachute out, the rest of the crew perished when the B-17 crashed into the sea and exploded on impact, ripping off the tail and wing. According to Manuel, the night fighter circled the crash site and strafed.
This bomber was the first victory of a Japanese night fighter victory using oblique cannons. The same Irving next shot down B-17E 41-9011 and landed at Lakunai Airfield at 5:35am, having expended only 178 rounds.
Fates of the Crew
2nd Lt John S. Rippy parachuted out second and landed in the sea. He made it to shore south of Induna Island and north of Talilis Plantation. Captured by the Japanese, he was transported to Rabaul where he was imprisoned at the Japanese Navy POW camp. On November 25, 1943 he was executed along with four crew members of B-17E 41-9011.
Manuel died on August 16, 1950 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 8 site 6423 RH.
Janet Kimble (niece of SSgt Robert Gills)
Dan Reichard (nephew of Sgt Joseph Murray)
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