345th October 16, 1943
345th October 16, 1943
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Donald Stookey (POW, executed March 3/4, 1944, BR) Portland, OR
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Herschel D. Evans (POW, executed March 3/4, 1944, BR) Little Rock, AR
Engineer SSgt Ernest S. Roberts, 18069713 (POW, executed, MIA / BNR) Arapahoe, CO
Radio SSgt Max Gerstein, 35355778 (POW, executed, MIA / BNR) Indianapolis, IN
Gunner SSgt Thomas H. Laird, 34444568 (POW, executed, MIA / BNR) Savannah, GA
Ditched October 16, 1943
Built by North American as a model D-20. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 345th Bombardment Group, 500th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Modified to a strafer version D-1 by the 4th Air Deport at Garbutt Field near Townsville. When lost, engines R-2600-13 serial number 42-77012 and 42-76928.
On October 16, 1943 took off from 17 Mile Drome (Durand) near Port Moresby on a mission over Wewak. Over the target, hit by anti-aircraft fire in the right engine and ditched three miles northeast of Cape Moem, remaining afloat for 90 seconds and allowing the crew to escape. Five crew were last seen in life rafts by circling B-25s and P-38s that dropped them rafts.
Fates of the Crew
The entire crew were captured by the Japanese Navy and became Prisoners Of War (POW) and taken Kairiru Island. The two officers: Stookey and Evans were transported to Rabaul. On March 3/4, 1944, both were executed at Tunnel Hill. The three enlisted men: Roberts, Gerstein and Laird were executed at Saint John's Mission on Kairiru Island.
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, the remains of Stookey and Evans were recovered and transported aboard USAT Albert M. Boe to the United States.
Stookey and Evans were officially declared dead on March 5, 1944. After their remains were recovered, both were buried on March 21, 1950 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 78 grave 930-934.
The other three crew: Roberts, Gerstein and Laird were officially declared dead on January 22, 1946 and are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. All three remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Harlan N. Hatfield (nephew of Roberts)
"My uncle SSgt Ernest S. Roberts was on this aircraft. He came from Arapahoe, Colorado a small town out near Kansas Colorado border.
He is still MIA but is carried officially as dead in 1946."
Missing Air Crew Report 935 (MACR 935)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Ernest S. Roberts
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Max Gerstein
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas H. Laird
FindAGrave - Donald L Stookey (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Herschel D Evans (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Ernest S Roberts (tablets of the missing photo)
SSgt Max Gerstein (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Thomas H Laird (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-30561
Warpath Across The Pacific
pages 61-62, 64, 91, 366, 392, 416
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May 22, 2017