|Pilot 1st Lt Ross B. Lemmon Jr., O-791219 (MIA / KIA) MS
Co-Pilot 1st Lt Lowell Wathen, O-742229 (MIA / KIA) IN
Bombardier / Navigator 1st Lt David L. Somervell, O-672989 (MIA / KIA) MD
Engineer SSgt Arthur L. Thompson, 18031836 (MIA / KIA) OK
Radio-Gunner SSgt Stanley M. Rovinsky (MIA / KIA) Scranton, PA
Gunner SSgt Galen A. Day, Jr., 16047056 (MIA / KIA) WI
MIA January 14, 1944
Built by North American as a B-25D-20 Mitchell. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the South Pacific.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 42nd Bombardment Group, 70th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. This aircraft was converted to a B-25D-1 strafer at the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field near Townsville. In this configuration, the bomber had ten 50 caliber machine guns (four in side blister gun packs on each side of the nose), plus two 30 caliber machine guns. When lost, engines R-2600-13 serial numbers 42-77985 and right 42-76964. Machine gun serial numbers were not noted.
On January 14, 1944 took off from Renard Field on a flight northward to Stirling Airfield prior to the mission. Then, took off at 1:45am from Stirling Airfield on a night bombing mission against Lakunai Airfield at Rabaul. This B-25 was second to take off, with clear weather. The tower reported it had no difficulty, this was the last time it was seen, according to Capt. William S. Southern, Assistant Operations Officer. Next to take off was their wingman, B-25 piloted by F/O James F. Gage, but he was never able to make contact with this aircraft after take off. It was believed that it crashed sometime after departure. Facing bad weather, the formation instead bombed Narium, New Ireland and Buka. This aircraft failed to return at 6:30am. It is possible this plane crashed due to bad weather, mechanical failure, or proceeded alone to the Rabaul area, unaware other B-25s bombed alternate targets instead. When this B-25 failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Afterwards, Tokyo radio reported that one Mitchell bomber was shot down on January 14, 1944. If true, it is likely the plane reported by the Japanese was this aircraft the only loss on the mission. If they were indeed shot down or claimed is unknown. Records for the 251 Kokutai flying J1N1 Irving night fighters do not record any claims for enemy aircraft shot down or encountered on January 14, 1944, or for dates previous or afterward.
There was a recommendation that the entire crew receive the Distinguished Flying Cross from Major Wylmot E. Paxton, C. O. 70th Bombardment Squadron. The recommendation goes on to say "At the same time the crew was about to strike, Torokina radar station picked up an emergency I.F.F. "blip" from a position toward Rabaul. Night fighters were reported by other aircraft in that area on that night. But, the recommendation for the DFC was declined by the commanding General 13th Air Force.
Postwar, this Misisng In Action (MIA) case was coded 7-1180. On January 24, 1949 an AGRS search team aboard LST 711 arrived at Blanche Harbor commanded by Lt. Col Bryan and SFC Botham and Pfc Vance and Pfc Sninsky landed on Mono Island and searched for information about this loss. Chief Roy Ruitana and interpreter John Laticana and a teacher Timothy Biani were questioned, but said they had seen no crashes around their island. Afterwards the team searched Stirling Airfield without result and the search was abandoned and recommended the case be closed.
Officially, on a board of review convened and declared the crew were unrecoverable on September 26, 1949.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on February 4, 1946. Memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. The entire crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.
Lemmon also has a memorial marker at Crescent Heights Cemetery in Pleasant Hill, IL.
Wathen also has a memorial marker at Park Lawn Cemetery and Mausoleum in Evansville, IN.
Somervell also has a memorial marker at Parsons Cemetery in Salisbury, MD.
Day also has a a memorial marker at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison, WI at section 7, lot 557 in a vault memorial.
Steven Tsavlis (nephew Stanley M. Rovinsky) adds:
"MACR #1668 is actually 'missing' from the microfiche at the National Archives. MACR #1668 was checked out in 1948 by 'Alan - AGO' and was not available when the microfilm was made. Stanley had the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, which indicated that he flew well in excess of 50 missions."
Missing Air Crew Report 1668 (MACR 1668)
42nd BG Microfilm: Squadron Mission #75
Kodochosho, 251 Kōkūtai, January 12-16, 1944 (no enemy aircraft intercepted or claimed)
The Crusaders: A History of the 42nd Bombardment Group page 50 (photo), 64
"The 14th (January) saw a double-header staged against Vunakanau and Lakuani. Vunakanau was hit, but Lakuani had to be passed up, and bombs intended for it were dropped on New Ireland and Buka. Lieut. Ross B. Lemmons, Jr., and crew, of the 70th failed to return from this mission."
Earthmovers page 79 (photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ross B. Lemmon Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lowell Wathen
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David L. Somervell
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur L. Thompson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Stanley M. Rovinsky
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Galen A. Day Jr.
1Lt Ross B Lemmon, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Ross B. Lemmon, Jr (memorial marker photo)
1Lt Lowell Wathen (tablets of the missing)
Lowell Wathen, Jr (memorial marker photo)
1Lt David Lynn Somervell (tablets of the missing)
David Lynn Somervell (memorial marker photo)
SSgt Arthur L Thompson (tablets of the missing photo)
SSgt Stanley M Rovinsky (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SSgt Galen A Day, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Galen Augustus Day, Jr (memorial marker photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-30566
Thanks to Steven Tsavlis for additional information
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February 18, 2020