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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number ?  
10th AF
7th BG
9th BS

Pilot  Captain Elmer L. Parsel (KIA / BR) Plymouth, OH
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Duke M. Paul (KIA / BR) Buncombe County, NC
Passenger  Major Norman J. Lewellyn (KIA, BR) Jefferson County, KY
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Robert P. Spreng (KIA / BR) Richland County, OH
Navigator  2nd Lt. George C. Harkess (KIA / BR) Washington County, PA
Crew  Sgt Raymond J. Gregor (KIA / BR) Allegheny County, PA
Crew  Pfc Owen B. Knox (KIA / BR) Lawrence County, OH
Crew  Pfc James C. Paounoff (KIA / BR) Hampden County, MA
Crew  Pfc Willie T. Stokes (KIA / BR) Harris County, TX
Crashed  April 2, 1942
MACR  none

Crew History
Captain Elmer L. Parsel was assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group, 7th Squadron in the Philippines. On December 22, 1941 during the morning he bombed enemy ships off Davao and transports in Lingayen Gulf on a mission that lasted over 32 hours. For this mission, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for "Courage, determination, and extraordinary flying skill on completing a bombardment mission of extreme importance." As of April 1942, he was one of the most seasoned B-17 pilots in the Philippines.

Major Norman J. Lewellyn was a non-flying senior aide to Major General Lewis H. Brereton. During the night of December 24, 1941 departed the Philippines with Brereton as a passenger aboard a U.S. Navy PBY Catalina that flew southward to Surabaya on Java landing on December 25, 1941. On February 23, 1942 when Brereton departed to take command of the command of the 10th Air Force (10th AF) in India, Lewellyn joined.

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number unknown. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress model and serial number unknown. Ferried overseas via the African route to Java.

Wartime History
This B-17 participated in the Java campaign then evacuated to Darwin. In Australia, assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 9th Bombardment Squadron (9th BS). No known nose art or nickname Afterwards, this B-17 was assigned to the 10th Air Force (10th AF) and operated from Asansol Airfield in India.

Mission History
On April 2, 1942 in the early evening took off from Asansol Airfield in India piloted by Captain Elmer L. Parsel on a bombing mission against warehouses and docks at Rangoon in Burma. Aboard as a passenger was Major Norman J. Lewellyn who participated in the mission to gain combat experience.

During the take off, this B-17 slipped off the runway, possibly because the crew forgot to unlock the controls. Trying to avoid a stump on the right side of the runway, Parsel pull up sharply and the nose and landing gear lifted off the ground but the tail impacted the stump, tearing off one of the tail elevators. The bomber climbed to roughly 100', then rolled over and crashed into a gully near the runway. The entire crew was killed in the crash. Luckily, the bomb load did not detonate.

Meanwhile, another B-17 in the flight suffered mechanical trouble, and the entire mission was aborted.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of the crew were recovered and buried. Postwar, their remains were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Each earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. On September 20, 1951, interred at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in a group burial at plot F graves 271-272.

Paul also has a memorial marker in Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC at section N lot 60.

Are you a relative of Lewellyn or another member of this crew? Do you have any additional details on this mission?
Contact us.

USAAF Accident Reports - April 4, 1942
incorrectly lists passenger Lewellyn as the pilot
Diary of Major General Brereton, references to Lewellyn
FindAGrave - Captain Elmer L. Parsel (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Willie T. Stokes (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Raymond J. Gregor (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - George Cresswell "Bud" Harkess (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Owen B Knox (grave photo)
FindAGrave - James Constantine Paounoff (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Duke Marion Paul (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Duke Marion Paul (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Robert Paul Robert Paul Spreng (grave photo)
Fortress Against The Sun page 34, 62-63, 65, 68-69, 81, 96, 103, 135, 396, 404, 406-7, 409, 412, (references to Parsel)
Thanks to William Bartsch for additional information

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Last Updated
September 29, 2021


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