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B-25 Down 1998
William G. Benn, O-21524 5th AF, HQ (MIA / KIA, BR) Wellsboro, PA
Co-Pilot Major Donn C. Young, O-374982 5th AF, HQ (MIA / KIA, BR) Chicago, IL
Engineer Cpl LaVerne D. Van Dyke, 36181125 5th AF, HQ (MIA / KIA, BR) Zeeland, MI
Gunner Sgt Wilfred D. Coyer, 13033298 5th AF, HQ (MIA / KIA, BR) Dunham, KY
Gunner Sgt Herman H. Elsner, 16042693 5th AF (MIA / KIA, BR) Hemlock, MI
Gunner SSgt Michael Ewas, 6914329 5th AF, HQ (MIA / KIA, BR) Detroit, MI
Observer Lt Col. Dan B. Searcy, O-21689 U. S. Army Medical Corps (MIA / KIA, BR) Lewisville, AR
Crashed January 18, 1943
Built by North American. Constructors Number 82-5120. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-12485. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 90th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Algernon IV" in capital letters painted in white on both sides of the nose. The nickname was chosen by regular pilot Captain Ronald Hubbard after his hot rod car he raced as a teenager. For the remainder of 1942, this B-25 was often piloted by Hubbard until he became the Commanding Officer (C.O.) of the 3rd Bombardment Group, 90th Bombardment Squadron.
On January 18, 1943 at 9:45am took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Major William G. Benn on a reconnaissance flight over the north coast of New Guinea. Traveling with the crew as an observer was medical officer Lt Col. Dan B. Searcy, Flight Surgeon for ADVON (5th Air Force Advanced Echelon in Port Moresby). After takeoff, no reports were ever received from this aircraft. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, this B-25 crashed into a mountain in the Chapman Range near Mount Strong.
On January 20, 1943, B-25 Mitchells from the 38th Bombardment Group, 71st Bomb Squadron conducted a search for the missing bomber, but failed to locate it.
This B-25 crashed into the mountain side and broke into pieces. During August 1956, the crash site was first discovered by a Patrol Officer (Kiap) from Tapini. He concluded the pilot flew blind into a valley, and crashed into the mountains. He also discovered at least two sets of remains at the crash site.
Recovery of Remains
During the initial discovery in August 1956, two bodies were recovered from the crash site.
During January 1957 a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle trekked to the crash site. During their investigation, they believed the crash was caused by enemy action based on bullet holes and evidence that the left engine was feathered and the right engine controls were at "full rich" likely indicating that full power was applied to right engine due to the left being feathered. At the crash site, the team recovered six sets of remains. Afterwards, five were individually identified and one was unidentified.
On February 13, 1957 their investigation was reported to the U. S. Air Attaché, who radioed the Chief of Staff, USAF, stating that the wreckage had been found at approximately Lat 08.01S Long 146.52E in the upper Bubu Valley near Mount Strong and reported that six bodies were recovered along with personal identification discs (dog tags) for five of the crew.
Soon afterwards, the remains recovered were transported to the United States for permanent burial as a group representing the entire crew of seven. By March 9, 1957 the status of the crew was changed from Missing In Action (MIA) to Killed In Action (KIA) for each of the crew.
During 1998, Alfred Hagen visited the crash site and removed several artifacts, including a .50 caliber machine gun, the cockpit instrument panel and a propeller blade that he took back to his home in Philadelphia. Also, he located the dog tag of Donn C. Young and located additional remains at the crash site.
During 2018, the Young family was notified by the Department of Defense (DoD) that additional remains in their possession had been DNA tested and positively identified as belonging to Donn C. Young. They were scheduled for individual burial with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. The entire crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
On July 30, 1957 the entire crew was buried in a group burial at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery at section I site 260K in a single grave.
Van Dyke also has a memorial marker in Zeeland Cemetery in Zeeland, MI at the Van Dyke family grave.
Young also has a memorial marker at Highland Cemetery in Mount Pleasant, OH with his name and the names of each member of the crew.
On October 8, 2019 Young was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60 grave 11816.
Searcy also has a memorial marker at Wilson Cemetery in Lewisville, AR.
Alfred Hagen (great-nephew of William Benn):
"[In 1998] I visited the crash site near the village of Omo."
Andrew Folz (great-grandson of Donn C. Young)
"My great grandfather was Major Donn C. Young, Co-Pilot on the B-25C "Algernon IV" Serial Number 41-12485. I was wondering if you had any more information about him."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25C Mitchell 41-12485
"12485 (MSN 82-5120) to Netherlands East Indies AF Mar 190, 1942 but ferried to Australia and impressed Apr 7, 1942 by USAAF and assigned to 3rd BG. MIA Jan 18, 1943 near Mount Strong during recon mission of New Guinea coast from Buna to Gona. 6 crew MIA. Condemned Oct 31, 1944. Wreckage discovered Feb 13, 1957. It is likely that the plane flew blind into a valley and struck a mountain."
Missing Air Crew Report 8648 (MACR 8648) created retroactively circa 1945-1946
Johnstown Tribune "Maj. 'Bill' Benn, Fortress Squadron Leader, Missing" by UP February 26, 1943
General Kenney Reports (1949) by George C. Kenney page 12, 182-183
"That evening I got a real shock. Major Bill Benn was reported missing since ten-forty in the morning when he cleared Port Moresby to look over the airdrome possibilities around a native village called Dona, which was about halfway between Buna and Salamaua. No enemy air activity had been reported all day at Lae or along the north coast of New Guinea. Whitehead reported that he had airplanes out all day searching but no trace of Benn’s plane had been found. Whitey was afraid Benn had run into the mountains when the weather turned bad during the early afternoon. It hardly seemed a good explanation, as Benn was a superior pilot and had with him on this trip as co-pilot a Captain Young, who was another old experienced flyer. Both of them knew the Owen Stanley Mountains from flying over them dozens of times and knew that in bad weather they would have to go to 15,000 feet to play safe in clearing the range. Benn’s loss hurt. He was the one who put across skip-bombing out here and if it hadn’t been for that 63rd Squadron of his we might have been fighting the war in Australia instead of New Guinea. No one in the theater had made a greater contribution to victory than Bill Benn."
U. S. Air Attaché "Recovery of Aircraft Wreckage and Human Remains in New Guinea" February 12, 1957
NAA file Ref: 614/1/25 PART 7 initial discovery and RAAF searcher report are in at page 78 (original discovery) and page 48 (RAAF searcher report)
Lansing State Journal "Status of Bomber Crew Now 'Killed In Action'" by AP March 10, 1957 page 12
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-12485
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William G. Benn "remains were recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Donn C. Young "remains were recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - LaVerne D. VanDyke "remains were recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Wilfred D. Coyer "remains were recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Herman H. Elsner "remains were recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Michael Ewas "remains were recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Dan B. Searcy "remains were recovered"
FindAGrave - MAJ William Grover Benn (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - William Grover Benn (group burial photo, photo)
FindAGrave - MAJ Donn Carlos Young (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Maj Donn Carlos Young (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Donn Carlos Young (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - MAJ Donn Carlos Young (Arlington grave)
FindAGrave - CPL LaVerne Dirk VanDyke (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - LaVern Dirk Van Dyke (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Laverne Dirk Van Dyke (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Wilfred D Coyer (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Wilfred D Coyer (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Herman Henry Elsner (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Herman Henry Elsner (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Michael Ewas (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Michael Ewas (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - LTC Dan B Searcy (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Dan B Searcy (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Daniel Beville “Dan” Searcy (memorial marker photo)
B-25 Down Hunt For A Hero (2003) re-discovery of the crash site in 1998
ANC Explorer - Donn Carlos Young
Fox News "American WWII pilot to get full military burial at Arlington decades after Papua New Guinea crash" October 7, 2019
Stars & Stripes "WWII bomber co-pilot to be buried at Arlington 76 years after South Pacific crash" October 7, 2019
CBS Philly "World War II Vet Buried In Arlington National Cemetery After Philadelphia Man Discovers [sic Rediscovers] His Remains" October 8, 2019
WJLA "Pilot lost in 1943 B-25 bomber crash, finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery" October 8, 2019
Thanks to Larry Hickey, Alfred Hagen and David Forrester for additional information
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