|Pilot Major James M. Burnham, III, O-415488 (MIA / KIA) NC
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Malcolm F. Hutchinson, O-766537 (MIA / KIA) OR
Crew Chief S/Sgt. Alvin C. Topp, 6668404 (MIA / KIA) OH
Observer Major Joseph W. Kuntz, O-390178 (MIA / KIA) MS
Passenger 2nd Lt. Owen B. Clayman, O-881253 (MIA / KIA) CA
MIA September 6, 1945
James M. Burnham was previously part of the 417th Bomb Group, then transferred to
the 309 Bomb Wing after July 1, 1945. Passenger Claymen was on the aircraft to collect some of his luggage left in Leyte.
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas to the Pacific.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 309th Bombardment Wing. Nicknamed "Shifless Skonk".
On September 6, 1945 took off on an administrative flight at 8:40am, and were never seen again, likely lost over Leyte Gulf.
Capt. Douglas F. Dowd was in charge of the search:
"On 7th of Sept. 4 P-68's searched area en route Lingayen to Leyte, paying particular attention to that area between Legaspi and Leyte, including nearby islands. 1 C-47 searched area between Manila and Lingayen. 8 Sept. 10 P-38's and 2 P-61's searched the area en route Lingayen to Leyte paying particular attention to the area South of Manila all the way down to Leyte, including the nearby islands on either side of the course. All AACS Stations have been notified to have all planes on look out for the missing plane."
The entire crew was declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the tablets fo the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Puckett (nephew of Burnham):
"Major Burnham is my mother's brother and the book on her brother
is still open and she would like any information on what happened to
his plane and crew the day the plane was lost."
Francesca Cumero adds:
"Major James McKay Burnham was my Great Grandmother's nephew,. James actually flew Eleanor Roosevelt on one of the legs of her journey in the South Pacific. We had distant family connections through marriage, so they joked around and she introduced him to everyone as her 'cousin James'.
From the stories family have told me, the plane was not the one that Jimmie normally flew. The Shifless Skonk was having engine problems, and Jimmie had only recently been promoted to more important administrative/supervisor duties. Apparently, the regular pilot was not showing up to test the plane, so Jimmie volunteered to take it up on a short flight to Leyte to see what was wrong with it. His entire crew volunteered to go with him."
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July 23, 2020