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Robert Greinert 2003
|Pilot Captain Frank Peter Bender, O-392735 (survived)
Co-Pilot F/Sgt Edgar Horace Hawter, RAAF 406129 (KIA, BR) Mullalyup, WA
Bombardier Sgt. Robert T. Middleton, 7002713 (KIA. BR) MS
Top Turret TSgt Arnold M. Thompson, 691204 (survived)
Engineer Sgt. Vernon McBroom, 14006568 (KIA, BR) Vicksburg, MS
Gunner Sgt Ian Chetwood Hamilton, RAAF 405378 (KIA , BR)
Crashed July 26, 1942
Built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood. Constructors Number 82-5427. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-12792. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 90th Bombardment Squadron (90th BS). Nicknamed "Aurora" painted in yellow on the side of the nose.
On July 25, 1942 during the afternoon, took off from Charters Towers Airfield on a flight to 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby to stage for a bombing mission the next morning.
On July 26, 1942 one of five B-25s that took off 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain Frank P. Bender on a mission to attack enemy seaplanes off Gasmata on New Britain. The B-25s were from both the 90th Bombardment Squadron (90th BS) and 13th Bombardment Squadron (13th BS).
Meanwhile, nine A6M Zeros from Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) Sasai Chutai took off from Lae Airfield on a mission to patrol over Buna. The first chutai was led by Lt(jg) Jun'ichi Sasai with wingmen FPO1c Toshio Ota and FPO3c Masuaki Endo. The second chutai WO Tora'ichi Takatsuka with wingmen FPO3c Noboru Sato and F1c Yoshio Motoyoshi. The third chutai was led by FPO1c Saburo Sakai with wingmen FPO2c Masayoshi Yonekawa and FPO3c Yoshio Mogi.
At 8:15am, the Zeros spotted and intercept the bomber formation over the Buna area. The bombers believed they were under attack by approximately 10-15 enemy fighters and immediately jettisoned their bombs, aborted the mission and turn back for Port Moresby.
This B-25 was hit by gunfire and caught fire then went into a spin and eventually exploded before crashing into the ground. Only two of the crew were able to bail out: pilot Bender and the turret gunner Thompson. The rest of the crew died in the interception or impact. Also lost was B-25C 41-12470 (MIA).
The other three B-25s were chased by Sasai, Ota and Sakai back to Port Moresby and sustained further damage. Over 7 Mile Drome, Sakai strafed a P-40 Kittyhawk from No. 76 Squadron before the trio of Zeros withdrew at 8:50am. Afterwards, all nine Zeros landed back at Lae Airfield and claimed three enemy bombers shot down.
Fates of the Crew
While attempting to exit the aircraft, Captain Bender became trapped in the cockpit when the B-25 went into a spin. He was miraculously blown free when it exploded and managed to deploy his parachute though he sustained injuries to his knee. Bender landed close to the wreckage of his plane (roughly 12 miles southeast of Buna) and also about a mile away from Japanese forward patrols.
Friendly natives assisted Bender in reaching the crash site where he identified the remains of Flt. Sgt. Hawter and Sgt McBroom and Sgt Middleton. The natives buried the bodies next to the crash site. Afterwards, Bender was led to Isivita Mission and met Reverend Henry Holland.
Meanwhile, Sgt. Thompson was able to bail out successfully and landed unhurt. Later, he was assisted by natives and led to nearby Isivita Mission and met Reverend Henry Holland.
Aided by members of ANGAU and native people, Bender and Thompson spent the next three weeks walking and being carried in stretchers made from bush materials over the Owen Stanley Range to the southern coast of New Guinea. They finally reached a mission station and were taken to Abau Island and then transported by boat back to Port Moresby.
This B-25 crashed near Isoge. In 1945, a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle visited the site of the crash and recovered the remains of the crew.
Recovery of Remains
At the site, the team found the remains of Sgt Hamilton along with his identity disc in the wreckage. His remains were initially buried at Soputa Cemetery and later transported to Bomana War Cemetery for permanent burial.
What was thought to be two sets of remains were recovered and turned over to American Graves Registration (AGRS) who identified the remains of Americans Sgt McBroom and Sgt Middleton. Their remains were transported to the United States for permanent burial. In fact, the remains included a third individual, RAAF F/Sgt Hawter whose remains were unintentionally sent with them and all three were buried together in the United States.
The four crew members killed in the crash were officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, RAAF Sgt Hamilton was buried at Bomana War Cemetery at B8. A. 9. Sgt McBroom, Sgt Middleton RAAF F/Sgt Hawter were buried together in a group burial at Vicksburg National Cemetery at section W site 17527-17529.
Bender earned the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster and Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster. He remained in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and retired with the rank of Colonel and served in the Korean War and Vietnam War and served as a military attaché in Caracas and with Strategic Air Command (SAC) until he retired in 1965. He passed away on May 9, 2003 at age 87. On June 16, 2003 he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 66 grave 6484.
Douglas M. Thompson (son of Arnold M. Thompson)
Patricia Carol Thompson Mahoney (daughter of Arnold M. Thompson)
Dorothy Middleton Young (sister of Robert T. Middleton)
Previously, Captain Frank Peter Bender survived the crash of B-25C "Salvo Sadie" during a ferry flight to New Guinea on April 24, 1942. Co-pilot, Flt Sgt Hawter, has two service flights in NAA. Likely, he used his younger brother's birth certificate to enlist because he was too old to fly. This was not discovered until after his loss.
NARA - ADD - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Vernon McBroom
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25C Mitchell 41-12792
"12792 (3rd BG, 90th BS) shot down 40 mi NW of Buna, New Guinea Jul 26, 1942. Pilot and upper gunner parachuted to safety, 4 other crew members KIA."
Central Press "Wounded in U.S. - Jap New Guinea Air Battle" September 15, 1942
True Comic March No. 33 "Hit The Silk!"
Samurai! describes the July 26, 1942 interception [Saburo Sakai incorrectly identifies the bomber as "B-26"]
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-12792
CWGC - F/Sgt Edgar Horace Hawter
FindAGrave - Virtual Cemetery created by PacificWrecks.com - B-25C "Aurora" 41-12792
FindAGrave - Sgt Edgar Horace Hawter (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert T Middleton (grave photos)
FindAGrave - Vernon McBroom (grave photo)
CWGC - Sgt Ian Chetwood Hamilton
FindAGrave - Sergeant Ian Chetwood Hamilton (Bomana War Cemetery)
FindAGrave - Col Frank Peter Bender (grave photo)
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC Explorer) - Frank Peter Bender
Eagles of the Southern Sky (2012) pages 213-214
Thanks to Edward Rogers, Larry Hickey, Daniel Leahy and William McCollum for additional information
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