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  B-17G-85-DL Flying Fortress Serial Number 44-83581  
USAAF
5th AF
13th RG
2nd ERS

PacificWrecks.com
USAAF c1944
Pilot  1st Lt. Dale V. Hannigan, O-1296206 (MIA / KIA, BR) PA
Co-Pilot  F/O Clifford Steen, T-10342 (MIA / KIA, BR) CA
Crew  2nd Lt. Donald A. Bliss, O-2081386 (MIA / KIA, BR) MI
Crew  SSgt Albert E. Grajeda, 3955465 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew  Sgt Russell K. Gerbracht, 36614275 (MIA / KIA, BR) IL
Crew  Sgt Henry B. Eldridge, 35704350 (MIA / KIA, BR) IN
Crew  Sgt Anthony E. Paratoe, 19090075 (MIA / KIA, BR)
Crew  Sgt Aershel Dennison, 36949621 (MIA / KIA, BR)
Crew  Sgt Robert C. Kupferschmid, 37601422 (MIA / KIA, BR) MS
Crashed  September 1, 1945 at 8:00pm
MACR  16238

Aircraft History
Built by by Douglas at Long Beach under contract for Boeing. Constructors Number 32222. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17G-85-DL Flying Fortress serial number 44-83581. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 13th Rescue Group (13th RG), 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron (2nd ERS) "Snafu Snatchers". No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engine serial number not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 16238 (MACR 16238).

Mission History
On September 1, 1945 at 8:00pm took off from Morotai piloted by 1st Lt. Dale V. Hannigan on an operational flight bound for Merauke in western New Guinea. The weather conditions are not noted on MACR 16238. At 8:00pm, this B-17 crashed into the sea in the vicinity of Okaba near Merauke. When this B-17 failed to arrive it was officially declared missing. The cause of the crash was never determined.

Search
After the crash, darkness, strong winds and rough seas prevented any immediate search from being mounted.

Recovery of Remains
Over the next three days three bodies washed ashore in the vicinity and were buried by local people at the Okaba Cemetery. The dead bodies were identified by their dog tags and included crew members: Patatore, Dennison and Eldridge. Later, other bodies washed ashore. In total, native people in the area located and buried the bodies of eight of the nine crew members.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Since this aircraft was lost over a non-combat area, none of the crew or passengers earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Hannigan is buried at Red Lion Cemetery in Red Lion, PA.

Steen is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section O, site 1094.

Bliss has a marker at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, IL at section C site 404.

Grajeda earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA) and is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. Gerbracht also has a memorial marker at St. Paul's Am. Lutheran Cemetery in Stewart, MN.

Gerbracht has an unknown burial likely in his hometown in the United States.

Eldridge is buried at Glen Haven Cemetery in Harrison, OH on section 7.

Paratoe has an unknown burial likely in his hometown in the United States.

Dennison has an unknown burial likely in his hometown in the United States.

Kupferschmid is buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot D row 12 grave 48.

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Dale V. Hannigan
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Clifford Steen
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Albert E. Grajeda
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Henry B. Eldridge
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert C. Kupferschmid
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17G-85-DL Fortress 44-83581
"83581 crashed into sea Sep 1, 1945 in the vicinity of Okaba, Merauke. All 9 on board killed."
Missing Air Crew Report 16238 (MACR 16238) created retroactively circa 1945-1946
2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron - Squadron History - September 1945
"But for our departure tragedy struck our Squadron. On September 1st a B-17 crew consisting of Lieutenant Hannigan, Lieutenant Bliss, Flight Officer Steen, Staff Sergeant Grajeda, Sergeant Kupferschmid, Sergeant Gerbracht, Sergeant Eldridge, Sergeant Paratore and Sergeant Dennison took off from Morotai on an operational flight to Merauke, New Guinea. The plane never reached its destination. It crashed near Okaba, Dutch New Guinea and not one of the crew of nine members escaped death. Just what caused the crash will always remain a mystery. The natives of the area recovered 8 of the 9 bodies and burial services conducted by the natives were held for the men."
NAA "Fortress - Missing U.S. Aircraft, Fortress B17G 44-83581" page 18
FindAGrave - Dale V Hannigan (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Clifford Steen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Donald A Bliss (grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Albert E. Grajeda
FindAGrave - SSgt Albert E Grajeda (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Russell Karl Gerbracht (photo, memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Sgt Henry B Eldridge (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert C Kupferschmid (tablets of the missing)

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Last Updated
September 1, 2020

 

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