|Pilot 1st Lt. Orbry H. Moore, O-793431 (MIA / KIA) Nurfreesboro, TN
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt John C. Heath, O-672098 (MIA / KIA) Austin, TX
Engineer Sgt Michael H. Kicera, 13022239 (POW executed March 4-5, 1944, BR) Clearfield, PA
Radio TSgt John M. Barron, 36321185 (POW executed March 4-5, 1944, BR) Phoenix, AZ
Gunner SSgt William C. Harris, 6973602 (POW executed March 4-5, 1944, BR) Taylorville, GA
Ditched November 2, 1943
Built by North American. Constructors Number 87-8259. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25D-5 Mitchell serial number 41-30094. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 345th Bombardment Group, 501st Bombardment Squadron on April 5, 1943. Nicknamed "Hellzapoppin" with nose art depicting a devil running over fire. Converted to a strafer variant (B-25D-1) by the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field near Townsville during early August 1943, then returned to Port Moresby. Assigned to pilot Lt. Orbry H. Moore with crew chief Decobellis.
On September 27, 1943 this B-25 flew on a low level strike against Wewak. Later, on October 12, 1943 flew a low level strike against Rabaul, escorting a damaged B-25 returning from the mission.
When lost, this B-25 was equipped with engines R-2600-13 serial numbers (left) 41-29565 (right) 42-77357. The weapon serial numbers were not noted in Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 1219.
On November 2, 1943 took off from Port Moresby a low level mission against Rabaul. Over the target, this B-25 was hit by anti-aircraft shell burst after crossing a ridge just prior to making its attack run, causing the right engine to catch fire, but used the fire extinguisher system and continued on the bomb run.
Afterwards, this B-25 made a controlled landing in the sea off Rapopo roughly three miles east of Rapopo Airfield at approximately Lat 4.20 Long 152.01. Observing the ditching, a flight of bombers led by B-25D "Arkansas Traveler" 41-30594 attempted to provide cover over the ditching site and fought off a group of Zeros attempting to make strafing passes on the downed bomber.
Missing Air Crew Report 1219 (MACR 1219) page 4:
"Statement of Captain Wilfred J. McGowan, November 30 1943: On Tuesday, November 2, 1943, in a strike on Rabaul harbor, I observed the crash landing of ship number 41-30094. This ship had been hit by accurate anti-aircraft fire in the right engine nacelle while over the target. I did not see any definite damage to him over the target, because my wing man was between his ship and mine. Also I could not see his right nacelle due to his position. After straffing a secondary target the formation pulled up and I was in a position to see that ship 41-30094 was in trouble. We were about thirty (30) feet below and a little to the left and back from it. It started burning and in a few seconds the whole nacelle and part of the wing were on fire. The wheel dropped down from the nacelle and then the pilot, 1st Lieut. Orbry H. Moore maneuvered his ship over the top of the formation and headed or the beach. He had good control and was still straffing as he was going down. The plane was burning very bad by this time and sections of the nacelle and wing were falling from it. Captain John M. Manders and his flight pulled over to cover the crash landing and fight a group of Zekes which were attempting to make passes at the crippled ship, I last saw th ship as he went below the palm trees on the beach a few miles east of Rapopo strip. At the approximate point of the crash landing I observed a cloud of white smoke rising above the trees."
Fates of the Crew
The fate of the two officers: Moore and Heath are unknown. Both remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
The three enlisted men were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners of War (POW). In early March 1944 they were detained at the Tunnel Hill POW Camp. On March 4-5, 1944 all three were executed during the Talili Bay Massacre (Tunnel Hill Massacre) and buried.
Towards the end of the Pacific War, to cover up the executions and war crimes, the Japanese claimed that approximately forty Allied prisoners were killed by Allied bombing during an air raid while at Talili Bay after being evacuated from Tunnel Hill and their bodies were cremated and their bodies were cremated and the ashes placed into a single box. The Japanese rehearsed a story that the prisoners were killed in an Allied bombing when a bomb scored a direct hit on their shelter.
Recovery of Remains
In September 1945 when the Allies occupied the Rabaul area, they interrogated personnel from the 6th Kempei Tai who claimed the Allied prisoners who died during the Tunnell Hill Massacre (Talili Bay Massacre) were killed by an Allied bomb and turned over a box with their cremated remains. This was a lie to cover up their murder.
Afterwards, the cremated ashes the Japanese claimed were those killed at Talili Bay were divided proportionally based on the number of victims (23 Americans and 5 Australians) with 3/4 of the ashes to the Americans and 1/4 of the ashes to the Australians.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on January 15, 1946. Moore and Heath are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
The American ashes including what was deemed to be the remains, Kicera, Barron and Harris were permanently buried on March 21, 1950 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial at section 78, Site 930-934.
Moore has a memorial marker at Crossville City Cemetery in Crossville, TN.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25D-5 Mitchell 41-30094
"30094 (345th BG, 501st BS, "Hellzapoppin") shot down and ditched off Rapopo, S of Rabaul, New Guinea Nov 2, 1943. MACR 1219. 4 POW, 3 of them murdered in 1944."
Missing Air Crew Report 1219 (MACR 1219)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25D Mitchell 41-30094
Warpath Across The Pacific pages 48, 83, 85, 88, 90-91, 213 (profile) 367, 397, 403 (photo)
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - William C. Harris
NARA World War II Prisoner of War Data File - John M. Barron
NARA World War II Prisoner of War Data File - Michael H. Kicera
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Orbry H. Moore
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John C. Heath
FindAGrave - Lieut Orbry Homer Moore (memorial marker photo)
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida pages 19 (footnote 12 - Tunnel Hill Massacre), 94 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Cassera [sic], Kicera, Harris), 93 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Barron)
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February 18, 2020
MIA / POW