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  B-25C-20 "Skilla" Serial Number 42-64570  
13th AF
42nd BG
390th BS

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Brian Bennett 1982

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Justin Taylan 2003
Pilot  1st Lt. Earl Swartzfager, O-736576 (MIA / KIA)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Robert K. Williams, O-736587 (MIA / KIA)
Navigator  2nd Lt. Kenneth R. Hough, O-674771 (MIA / KIA) Ottawa, KS
Engineer  S/Sgt Harold F. Tague, 37111602 (MIA / KIA) Malvern, Iowa
Radio  T/Sgt Victor L. Koppang, 16004538 (MIA / KIA)
Gunner  Arthur A. Merzlock, 16000064 (MIA / KIA)
Crashed  January 20, 1944 at 1:35pm
MACR  1788

Aircraft History
Built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C-20 Mitchell serial number 42-64570. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then overseas to the South Pacific (SoPAC).

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 42nd Bombardment Group (42nd BG) "The Crusaders", 390th Bombardment Squadron (390th BS). Nicknamed "Skilla". When lost engines R-2600-13 serial numbers: 42-271125 and 42-271235.

Mission History
On January 20, 1944 took off from Stirling Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. Earl Swartzfager on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. This aircraft was one of nine B-25s that staged through Torokina Airfie;d / Piva Airfield on Bougainville before proceeding to the target.

Over the target, this B-25 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, causing severe damage to the tail control surfaces. Other aircraft in the formation observed it to suddenly nose over and turn into a vertical bank, before the nose dropped into a inverted spin and crashed into the ground.

This B-25 crashed crashed between Warangoi Rivers and Sigut Rivers, near the bank of the lbrangoi River.

Postwar, a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) visited this crash site and recovered some remains that were transported to the United States for burial.

In 1982, the crash site was rediscovered during logging activity and confirmed by Brian Bennett from one of the engine serial numbers. The next year, the remains of the crew were recovered by US Army CILHI. After a long period of analysis Central Identification Laboratory has been able to probably establish individual identifications for the entire crew, and the case was resolved in 2004.

Brian Bennett adds:
"An elderly lady, Fern Lord contacted me in 2004 to thank me for helping find her brother. The lab had just asked her for DNA sample. I could not place the crewman's name, but hunted it out and found that he was on B-25 42-64570. I reported the finding of this site and it was recovered for remains in 1983."

The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. In 1949, the entire crew was buried in a group burial at Fort McPherson National Cemetery at section R site 46.

After the recovery of remains in 1982, Hough was buried at Highland Cemetery in Ottawa, Kansas. Tague is buried at Arlington National Cemetery section 66 site 1752. Merzlock is buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery at section 9 site 398.

A section of this beautifully preserved nose art is displayed at the Kokopo Museum near Rabaul.

The Crusaders: A History of the 42nd Bombardment Group page 65
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 42-64570
Bruce Hoy Diary 13 September, 1983
Kansas City Star "Vet to be put to rest, along with ID doubts" September 4, 2004
Thanks to Bruce Hoy and Brian Bennett for additional information

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Last Updated
January 12, 2023


Tech Info

6 Missing
1983 - 2004

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