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Eppstein August 1943
|Pilot 1st Lt. Edward E. Bailey, O-519992 (WIA, survived) Helen, WV
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Lawrence Griffin, O-672077 (MIA / KIA) Chicago, IL
Engineer SSgt John H. Brownlee, 16052309 (MIA / KIA) Alede, IL
Radio TSgt Paul L. Thompson, 35350462 (MIA / KIA) Terre Haute, IN
Gunner SSgt Maynard M. Reese, 12078267 (MIA / KIA) Warren Point, NJ
Crashed December 22, 1943
Built by North American Aviation (NAA). Constructors Number 87-8245. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25D-5 Mitchell serial number 41-30080. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
On April 5, 1943 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 345th Bombardment Group (345th BG), 501st Bombardment Squadron (501st BS). Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Edward E. Bailey with crew chief Green. Nicknamed "Little Stinky" (in double quotation marks) with the nose art of a chipmunk cartoon character holding an aerial bomb. Behind is a white vertical stripe. Below the cockpit window was "Lt Bailey". Both tails had a single white horizontal stripe above the serial number. The engine cowlings were painted with a red forward edge.
During early August 1943 converted into a B-25D-1 strafer by the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field near Townsville. then returned to the 501st Bombardment Squadron at Port Moresby.
On November 2, 1943 took off piloted by 1st Lt. Henry A. Kortemeyer on a strike mission against Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. Over the target, the crew took several low level photographs including a Zero taking off, airmen running on the ground and buildings with laundry hanging, proof the low level raid was a surprise.
When lost, engines R-2600-13 serial number 41-28931 and 41-28776. Armed with eleven .50 caliber machine guns, makes unknown, serial numbers listed in MACR 1463. Also armed with two .30 caliber machine guns makers unknown serial numbers 138900 and 136905.
On December 22, 1943 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Edward E. Bailey armed with 300 pound bombs on a strike against Boram Airfield near Wewak. The mission involved all four squadrons of the 345th Bombardment Group (345th BG) led by Captain Marston. The formation was escorted by four squadrons of P-38 Lightnings from the 80th Fighter Squadron (80th FS). The weather and visibility were good.
Over the target first was the 500th BS and 499th BS that targeting Wewak followed by the 501st and 498th targeting Boram Airfield second. This B-25 was part of the last flight led by B-25D "Thumper" 41-30071 pilot Captain Walter D. Kilroy with no. 2 this B-25 and no. 3 B-25D "Tin Liz" 41-30074 pilot 1st Lt. Sylvester K. Vogt.
Over Wewak, the formation was targeted by anti-aircraft fire that was described as the most intense and accurate yet encountered over this target. Already airborne and scrambled were Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) fighters including Ki-43 Oscars from the 59th Sentai and 248th Sentai plus Ki-61 Tonys from the 68th Sentai and 78th Sentai. As the last flight began their turn to attack, the fighters made a firing pass against the B-25s then were engaged by the escorting P-38s and dog fights developed.
As the 501st BS formation turned over Wiruri Mission (Wewak Mission) to begin their strike on Boram Airfield, the Japanese fighters attacked the bomber formation. This B-25 was hit by gunfire from a Ki-61 Tony that impacted the cockpit area including the heater control behind the cockpit causing smoke to fill the interior. Fragments of machine cannon shells also struck the armor plate behind the pilot causing fragments of steel to hit Bailey in his buttocks. The gunfire also damaged the oil cooler in the left engine and started a small fire that was quickly extinguished.
Damaged, Bailey jettisoned his bombs and called over the radio that he was damaged and separated from the formation. To avoid being targeted as a straggler, he opted not to feather the damaged left engine but it was leaking oil. At 9:50am observed by 1st Lt. Vogt as lagging behind the formation but finally entered loose formation with the left engine throwing oil but gradually lost altitude. At 10:45am last seen by a gunner on Vogt's B-25 over the Ramu Valley at roughly 2,000' lagging behind the rest of the formation above the jungle. This B-25 was last seen at 11:05am in the vicinity of Annanberg.
Climbing away and gaining altitude, the damaged left engine finally lost oil pressure but could not be feathered our of control. To compensate, power was added to the right engine. As the pilots struggled to maintain control, the left engine caught fire and began to shake violently and over the intercom ordered the crew to prepare to bail out. Meanwhile, radio operator Thompson sent a message they were going down that was acknowledged. Signaling the crew to bail out, the four other crew members jumped.
Last to bail out, pilot Bailey became tangled in his microphone cable and remained aboard as the bomber entered a spin. Cutting the engines, he applied full right rudder to regain control and leveled out but at the same moment, impacted the jungle, with large trees tearing off both wings and absorbing much of the force of the impact and the fuselage skidded to stop in a small river. On the ground, fuel ignited and caused clouds of smoke.
On impact, Bailey hit his knee on the control column and hit his head on the compass causing a cut. After coming to his senses but in a panic due to the fire, he attempted to exit the co-pilot window but became caught by his harness and landed head first in the river but managed to swim ashore. Meanwhile, ammunition aboard the bomber began to cook off and explode and a cloud of smoke began to rise from the fire. While resting, Bailey hoped the smoke and sound might attract the rest of the crew to assemble but realized they might have landed miles away.
Afterwards, reconnaissance flights were made to the vicinity but no sightings were made of this bomber or crew. The search was led by Captain Darwin G. Heuenschwander.
Fates of the Crew
The four crew that bailed out were never located and their fates are unknown. Possibly, they bailed out too low, their parachutes failed to open or they died attempting to reach safety. All four remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
After the crash, Bailey hoped the smoke and sound might attract the rest of the crew but realized they might have landed miles away. He remained at the crash site overnight waiting for them. On December 23, 1943, he managed to remove one of the life rafts and survival gear from the fuselage. Around 9:00am he inflated the life raft and used it to float with the current that flowed northward. For the next two days, he floated and dragged the raft over shallow areas until the river became a small stream.
Abandoning the raft, Bailey began walking but was unclear of his location or which direction was safety. While walking, he observed some abandoned native villages in the distance but avoided them unaware of their loyalties and because the locals seem to have abandoned them. On January 1, 1944 he was found by a patrol from the Australian Army 2/2 Cavalry (Commando) Squadron and carried him to their base at Faita Airfield where he was admitted into their unit hospital.
In fact, this B-25 crashed on the Sogeram River near Musak north of the Ramu Valley in New Guinea. After the crash, locals reported the crash site to Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) Patrol Officer England in Bena Bena District who instructed the Australian Army 2/2 Cavalry (Commando) Squadron to locate the aircraft.
On January 9, 1944 the patrol visited the crash site but found no evidence of any of the crew.
On April 29, 1946, a portion of a RAAF Searcher Team including Patrol Officer Bentinck, ANGAU and F/O Lloyd S. Cogswell, 12106 walked from Wabusarik to Musak to investigate a crashed aircraft. On April 30, 1946 the team walked to this B-25 Mitchell crash site on the Sogeram River, but no serial number was observed. Afterwards, the aircraft was noted in RAAF Survey of Aircraft Wreckage, Papua New Guinea #357 and reported to American forces.
The four crew members who bailed out were officially declared dead on January 24 1946. All four remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA) All four are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Griffin earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Brownlee earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Alexis Cemetery in Alexis, IL.
Thompson earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Reese earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John H. Brownlee
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Paul L. Thompson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Maynard M. Reese
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25D-5 Mitchell 41-30080
"30080 converted to D-1 strafer (345th BG, 501st BS) damaged and 4 crew bailed out, then continued and crash landed in vicinity of Annanburg, New Guinea Dec 22, 1943. MACR 1463. 4 crew were killed, pilot returned."
Missing Air Crew Report 1463 (MACR 1463) created December 27, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lawrence Griffin
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John H. Brownlee
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul L. Thompson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Maynard M. Reese
FindAGrave - 2Lt Lawrence Griffin (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt John Howard Brownlee (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - John Howard Brownlee (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt Paul L Thompson (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Maynard M Reese (tablets of the missing)
The Cullman Democrat "Lt Edward E. Bailey Crashes In Jungle; Wounded, But Returns" February 17, 1944 page 2
"Cullman Aviator Lost 13 days received decoration: Made Bomber Flight Leader - First Lt. Edward E. Bailey bomber pilot which crashed in the jungles of New Guinea, spent 13 days there before being rescued, according to word received by his mother Mrs. Herman E. Johnson of Helen, West Virginia."
AWM 2/2 Australian Cavalry (Commando) Squadron Australian Imperial Forces, January - June 1944 (AWM52 2/2/54/2) pages 139-140
(Page 139) "9 Jan 44 The Musak patrol located the wreckage of the B 25 which crashed on Dec 21  on the Iapon River at 205135. No trace of the crew has been found and the patrol will commence the return trip tomorrow."
(Page 140) "1 Jan 44 The TPT Sec, with Capt Dexter and Lieut Curran, departed this AM to patrol Tababu and investigate tracks towards Japia. Lieut E. Bayley [sic 1st Lt. Edward E. Bailey] of USAAF, was contacted by this patrol near Usini this P.M. and was escorted to unit hospital [at Faita Airfield]. Piloting a B 25 over Wewak, he was attacked by Zeros [sic Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Ki-61 Tony damaged the bomber] and the plane damaged; returning to base, he ordered the crew to bale out, but was unable to leave the plane himself. He crashed and made his way south. The area in which he crashed in uncertain, but was in the general area north of Musak.”
AWM ANGAU War Diary - February 1944, part 1 (AWM52 1/10/1/21) page 11
(Page 11) "9 Feb 44 Patrol report received form WO II England, P. R. N., PO [Patrol Officer] Bena Bena District, research, carried out by a 2/2 Aust Cav Commando Squadron patrol assisted by WO II England, for survivors of a Mitchell bomber which crashed Nth [north] of Musak about 19 [sic 22] Dec 43. Aircraft was located but no survivors were found. On 1 Jan  pilot of the aircraft was found by a patrol of 2/2 Cav Com Sqd near Usini [?] and escorted to Faita."
RAAF Survey of Aircraft Wreckage, Papua New Guinea page 9
"#357 | 5.17-145.17 | Musak | USAC B-25 Mitchell | Wreckage recovered on Sogeram River"
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-86 (Finschhafen No. 5)
(Page 14) "5. The Musak party left the following day [April 30, 1946] and were away for three days, two American aircraft being located. (See appendix 1 and 2)"
(Page 15) "Synopsis of Aircraft Located - Type: Mitchell B25 No. --- Place: Musak Map Ref.: 145 17E 5 17S Appendix: 2."
Warpath Across The Pacific (1995) pages 52 (map), 83, 84, 98-100 (December 22, 1943) 101 (photos), 102 (Bailey crash), 104 (Bailey crash site depart, raft, trek), 108-109 (Bailey's ordeal), 367 (December 22, 1943), 397 (501st BS, 41-30080 crashed into a river near Atemble [Atemble]), 436 (Bailey acknowledgment), 437 (index Bailey), 443 (index Little Skinky)
248th Hiko Sentai: A Japanese “Hard luck” Fighter Unit Part 3 by Richard Dunn
Thanks to Lawrence J. Hickey and Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis
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Dec 22, 1943
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