|Pilot 1st Lt. Wesley E. "Wes" Dickinson, O-404165 (survived)
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Theodore G.
Wuerpel, O-431590 (MIA / KIA) Mexico
Bombardier Sgt John A. Webb, 6383911 (survived)
Gunner Sgt John A. Gibson, 405549
RAAF (MIA / KIA) Tabulam, NSW
Gunner Cpl. Richard M. Haley, 11014921
(MIA / KIA) Grafton County, NH
Passenger Cpl. Earl R. Sevene, 11015350 (MIA / KIA) Washington County, VT
Crashed May 23, 1942
Built by North American in Inglewood, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 90th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On May 23, 1942 one of a six B-25s that took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Wesley E. "Wes" Dickinson on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield. Aboard was Cpl Earl Sevene a ground crew
member who asked Dickinson to join the crew on the combat mission. On the way to the target, one
B-25 aborted the mission, and the remaining five proceeded to the target.
The formation was led by B-25 piloted by Captain Herman Lowery, C.O. 13th Bombardment Squadron, with wingmen B-25 piloted by 1st Frank Timlin and B-25C 41-12462 piloted by 2nd Lt. Keel. The other three were B-25C 41-12491 piloted by 1st Lt. Dickinson with B-25 piloted by Shearer and B-25 piloted by Birnn. Shearer failed to join the formation and aborted the mission, leaving only five bombers to proceed with the mission.
Over the target, the formation was attacked
by four A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai. After dropping their bombs, the B-25 formation
flew southward down the north coast of New Guinea towards Buna. Undetected
due to haze, a solitary A6M2 Zero piloted by WO Gitaro Miyazaki made a head-on pass against this bomber, hitting the right engine and
nose killing two crew: Wuerpel and Sevene.
ordered the rest of the crew to bail out, while holding the B-25 level long
enough for them to escape.
Webb bailed out first, followed by Dickinson. The damaged B-25 crashed near Cape Loena. The rest of the crew were dead and went in with the bomber. When this bomber failed to return, it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was B-25C 41-12462 (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
Dickinson bailed out and landed unhurt near Fufuda and was
assisted by villager named Hangiri who brought
him to Gona Mission Station,
where he waited for MacClaren King to pick him up. During his stay at the mission, he befriended Reverend James Benson and Mavis Parkins. Before departing, he gave his compass to Benson who later used it in his attempted escape from the area. When the MacClaren King arrived at Gona, Dickinson boarded and met Webb who had landed in a nearby village further
down the coast and were transported to Port Moresby. Both returned to duty.
Afterwards, he married an Australian woman and worked
in the computer industry until the 1970s, then retired in San Jose, California. In the late 1990s he corresponded
with the son of Hangiri, Malchus
Webb bailed out and landed unhurt in the jungle and wandered for three weeks before finding a native village. Assisted by the natives, he was escorted to Australian spotters Bald, Irwin and O'Connor at Ioma, then taken to Gona Mission to join Dickinson. and together they were transported by with Dickinson to Port Moresby. Webb
passed away around 1985.
In December 1946, a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle searched for this aircraft, and met with Father Benson, but deemed the aircraft to be unrecoverable.
According to Fufuda villagers, this B-25 crashed in a swamp near the bank
of the Kumusi River. It was known to them for several years after
the crash, but as of the early 2000s, either covered by sediment or swept
out to sea during seasonal flooding.
Sevene was officially declared dead on May 23, 1942. Haley was officially declared dead on November 18, 1945. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. American Legion post in New Hampshire is named after Haley. Australian Gibson is memorialized at Lae War Cemetery on panel 7.
The approximate wartime position of the crash of this B-25 is incorrectly listed as
Lat 4.35 Long 145.32, this location is located on the north coast of New Guinea northwest of Madang near Kar Kar Island
Missing Air Crew Report (MACR), unnumbered created retroactively relates to B-25C 41-12491
90th Bombardment Squadron history, page 38
Report by S/L Rundle on Missing Aircraft Mitchell B-25 41-12491 October 12, 1946
Royal Australian Air Force Survey of Aircraft Wreckage, number 170 page 6, map attachment 12
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Theodore G. Wuerpel
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard M. Haley
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl R. Sevene
Sgt John A. Gibson
2Lt Theodore G Wuerpel (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Earl R Sevene (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sergeant John Arthur Gibson (Lae Memorial)
Corp Richard M Haley (tablets of the missing)
Corp Earl R Sevene (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-12491
Prisoner's Base and Home Again by Father Benson
The Private War of the Spotters page 48-49
"The pilot, W. E. Dickenson (sic) of Delworth, Minnesota asked the bombardier James Webb to jump first and he followed soon afterwards. Astonishingly, Dickenson took a compass bearing on a native village as he was descending. He had little difficulty locating the village and the natives escorted him to Sangara Mission station, just three days walk away. He had a badly wounded right arm and shoulder, but mercifully he survived.
Jim Webb was less fortunate. After his parachuted landing he wandered, hopelessly lost for three weeks before he came across a friendly native village, whose people escorted him to the spotters Bald, Irwin and O'Connor at Ioma. Webb was given attention by the signalmen for four days before he was fit to join up with Dickenson at Gona. These two airmen were transported back to base in the mission schooner 'MacClaren King'."
Letter to Malchus Hangiri from Wesley Dickinson October 8, 1997
I Was Lucky by Wesley Dickinson pages 125-139
Interview with Malchus
Hangiri by Justin Taylan September 7, 2005
Eagles of the Southern Sky pages 142-144, 332
Sgt John Arthur Gibson
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Daniel Leahy for research and analysis
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February 4, 2018