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|Pilot 1st Lt John E. Hesselbarth, O-403850 (MIA / KIA) Abilene, KS
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Joseph W. Ferguson, O-429779 (MIA / KIA) Pueblo County, CO
Crew T/Sgt Ivan M. Wright, 6823767 (MIA / KIA) LA
Crew Cpl George E. Thigpin, 14014675 (MIA / KIA) Sharkey County, MS
Crew Cpl Hugh W. Douglas, 14020373 (MIA / KIA) Knox County, TN
Crew Cpl Albert H. Smith, 6971033 (MIA / KIA) Jackson Parish, LA
Crashed May 25, 1942
Built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood as the fifteenth B-25C Mitchell manufactured. Constructors Number 82-5083. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-12448. Assigned Neatherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number N5-164 and later renumbered as B-25C Mitchell serial number N5-184. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
In Australia, assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 90th Bombardment Squadron (90th BS). No known nickname or nose art.
On May 25, 1942 in the morning took off from Cooktown Airfield piloted by 1st Lt John E. Hesselbarth on a flight northward to 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby to stage for a combat mission. This B-25 took off again from 7-Mile Drome as one of eight B-25s on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield. Over the target, attacked by approximately fifteen A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) for twenty minutes. This B-25 was last seen under attack by two A6M2 Zeros, losing altitude with both engines on fire. When this aircraft failed to return the entire crew were listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
The entire crew was officially declared dead on November 18, 1945. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Hesselbarth earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Abilene Cemetery in Abilene, KS at Hesselbarth, block 5, lot 2.
Ferguson earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at mperial Memorial Gardens in Pueblo, CO in plot Calvery.
Wright earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Thigpin earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Douglas earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Smith earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Beth Bender (niece of Ferguson)
Previously, co-pilot Ferguson assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group, 91st Bombardment Squadron. He was a A-24 Dive Bomber pilot in flying combat missions from Bali and Java.
Eleven days earlier, pilot Hesselbarth force landed B-25C Mitchell 41-12497 at 3 Mile Drome (Kila) unhurt.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph W. Ferguson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Hugh W. Douglas
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25C Mitchell 41-12448
"12448 (MSN 82-5083) to Netherlands Indies AF with serial in N5-164/184 range Apr 1, 1942 but ferried to Australia and retained by USAAF Shot down by fighters May 25, 1942 on mission to Lae, New Guinea."
3rd Bombardment Group History incorrectly lists date of loss as being May 24, 1942
90th Bomb Squadron History, page 39
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-12448
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - John E. Hesselbarth
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Joseph W. Ferguson
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Ivan M. Wright
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - George E. Thigpin
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Hugh W. Douglas
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Albert H. Smith
FindAGrave - 1Lt John Emmett Hesselbarth (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut John Emmett Hesselbarth (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Joseph W. Ferguson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Joseph Wilson Ferguson (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt Ivan M Wright (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - George E. Thigpin (photos, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Hugh W Douglas (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Cpl Albert H Smith (tablets of the missing photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Daniel Leahy for additional information
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