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  B-25C Mitchell Serial Number 41-12486  
5th AF
3rd BG
13th BS

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Paul Carpenter 1942

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Justin Taylan July 2003
Pilot  Lt. Leland "Sonny" A. Walker (WIA, survived)
Co-Pilot  Lt. Donald E. Anderson (survived)
Bombardier  Sgt. Joseph A. Gerchow (survived)
Gunner  Cpl Lowell A. Anderson, 17027320 (KIA, BR) Vermillion, SD
Gunner  Cpl Lowell K. Hammond, 11009288 (WIA, died of wounds) Worcester County, MA
Force Landed  May 8, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood. Constructors Number 82-5121. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-12486. This aircraft was intended for the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF). Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia and retained by the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF).

Wartime History
On April 22, 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 13th Bombardment Squadron (13th BS). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On May 8, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Lt. Leland A. Walker on a solo reconnaissance mission over Lae. Over the target, this B-25 was intercepted by two A6M2 Zero from Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) piloted by FPO3c Sadao Uehara and F1c Takeshi Kobayashi that took off from Lae Airfield at noon on a two hour Combat Air Patrol (CAP). During a roughly one hour battle, the pair's gunfire disabled the left engine and damaged the hydraulic system which minimized the effectiveness of the lower Bendix turret.

Damaged and flying on one engine, pilot Walker fled back to Port Moresby, chased by the pair of Zeros. Meanwhile, on the ground at Lae Airfield, six additional Zeros took off to intercept, but it is unclear if they joined the combat or which pilots were at their controls, likely pilots from the prior CAP mission.

The pair of Zeros chased the B-25 all the way back to Port Moresby. Returning from the mission, neither pilot claimed it for unknown reasons, possibly because they did not witness the crash landing. Each Zero returned with only a single bullet hole in each aircraft.

Damaged, Walker elected to force land on Fishermans Island (Daugo) believing it was a smooth sandy surface. On impact, the B-25 hit coral boulders causing a bumpy and rough landing that shredded the bomber and destroyed the nose.

When lost, this was the first B-25 Mitchell from the 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG) B-25 lost in combat. This aircraft was officially condemned on November 26, 1943.

Fates of the Crew
Gunner Anderson died in the crash landing, Pilot Walker suffering bad burns in the crash and was unable to assist the crew. Afterwards, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for this mission and his efforts to save the crew. Gunner Hammond was badly injured and was transported to the hospital where he died later the same day.

This B-25 crash landed in roughly the center of Fishermans Island. On August 17, 1942 mechanics from the 3rd Bombardment Group traveled to Fishermans Island and stripped the B-25 wreckage for usable parts. They removed the machine guns and other salvageable components.

During September 1942, Curtiss-Wright Technical Representative Paul Carpenter visited the crash site:
"On another occasion we had an opportunity of going to an island some few miles off Port Moresby [Fishermans Island] to look at a B-25 which had been damaged in a fight and belly landed on this coral island, when it was seen impossible to make its home airdrome. The coral rocks had pretty well torn the under part all to bits and a fire started which pretty well cleared out the center section. The wings and engine had lots of salvageable parts and were evidentially stripped. No one seemed to know for sure what happened to the crew, but if they got out of it it was a miracle. There were burned parts of their parachutes and Mae Wests, but there were no traces of that terrible smell which always lingers around the spot where humans beings have burned or cooked."

During the late 1980s or early 1990s, local people removed the aluminum for sale as scrap metal leaving only the two engines, two landing gear legs and other smaller bits of the aircraft.

Justin Taylan visited the crash site during July 2003:
"I visited this wreckage, although little wreckage remained, it is a very historic aircraft wreck."

Justin Taylan visited the crash site on March 4, 2014:
"I returned to this aircraft to confirm if it was still there. The same four pieces remained. Since 2003, the cylinder heads on both engines had been chipped off and scrapped leaving only the cylinders. We also found bullets impacted into the coral, possibly from the strafing Zeros."

The two crew that died in the crash were officially declared dead the day of the mission.

Hammond was buried at USAF Cemetery #1 Port Moresby (Hanuabada Cemetery). Postwar, exhumed and reburied at Ipswich Cemetery (USAF Cemetery Brisbane) then transported to the United States for permanent burial. Hammond is buried at Hawaii National Cemetery (Punchbowl) at plot B grave 954.

Anderson was buried at at USAF Cemetery #1 Port Moresby (Hanuabada Cemetery) at grave number 155. Postwar, exhumed and reburied on August 20, 1945 at USAF Cemetery Brisbane (Ipswich Cemetery). On December 19, 1947 exhumed again and transported to the United States for permanent burial. Anderson is buried at Bluff View Cemetery, Vermillion, South Dakota.

Walker earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his World War II service. He remained in the U.S. Air Force (USAAF) and served in the Korean War and Vietnam War. He retired with the rank of Colonel. He passed away on June 11, 1979 at age 61. He is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, CO at row R, site 2858.

Gerchow passed away on October 11, 1995 at age 76. He is buried at Port Hudson National Cemetery in Zachary, LA at section I site 397.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Lowell A. Anderson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Lowell K. Hammond
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25C Mitchell 41-12486
"12486 (MSN 82-5121) to Netherlands East Indies AF Apr 1, 1942 but ferried to Australia and retained by USAAF. Condemned Nov 26, 1943"
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Lowell A. Anderson
Paul Carpenter Curtiss-Wright Technical Representative Report No. 16, September 23, 1942
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-12486
Military Hall of Honor - Col Leland Arthur Walker, Jr. (biography, Distinguished Service Cross citation)
Eagles of the Southern Sky (2012) pages 107-108, 331
FindAGrave - Leland Arthur Walker, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joseph A Gerchow (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lowell A. Anderson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Lowell Knight Hammond (grave photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Walt Houghton for additional information

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Last Updated
August 10, 2021


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