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Colin Jermy 1979
|Pilot 1st Lt Ralph E. Freek, O-731963 (MIA / KIA) Mount Shasta, CA
Crew 2nd Lt Kenneth B. Lawton, O-738191 (MIA / KIA) Lewis, IA
Crew 1st Lt James E. Miller, O-662354 (MIA / KIA) Syracuse, NY
Crew SSgt Harold D. Sample, 18069891 (MIA / KIA) New Castle, CO
Crew Sgt Roy E. Johnson, 37188079 (MIA / KIA) Aurora, MO
Crew SSgt Anthony DeLeo, 12089012 (MIA / KIA) Long Island, NY
Crashed January 16, 1944 at 10:30am
Built by North American. Constructors Number 96-16706. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25G-5 Mitchell serial number 42-64827. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
On September 17, 1943 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 38th Bombardment Group (38th BG), 822nd Bombardment Squadron (822nd) at 17 Mile Drome (Durand) near Port Moresby. Assigned to pilot Swonger. No known nickname or nose art.
On October 16, 1943 this B-25 flew its first combat mission, a low level strike over Alexishafen Airfield. When lost, engines: R-2600-13 serial numbers 42-271445 and 43-36322. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns, makers and serial numbers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 1698 (MACR 1698).
On January 16, 1944 at 7:45am took off from 17 Mile Drome (Durand) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt Ralph E. Freek on armed with 300 pound bombs as one of twenty-one B-25s on a barge sweep (Mission 16-B) between Cape Croisilles to Cape Gourd on the north coast of New Guinea. Reaching the Nadzab area, the formation rendezvoused with escorting P-38 Lightnings. At 9:45am the formation arrived over Cape Croisilles and began a barge sweep along coast and strafed native huts and plantations. Over the target area, the weather was light cumulus clouds.
Over Cape Gourdon, seven B-25s from the 822nd Bombardment Squadron (822nd BS) headed south and were intercepted by six Ki-43-II Oscars from the 59th Sentai. At this time, this B-25 was the No. 5 plane in the second flight and was targeted by the fighters. To evade their attacks, pilot Freek attempted a diving maneuver. Other B-25s observed pieces of this aircraft falling away. At 10:30am, last seen between Bunabun Harbor and Uligan Harbor trailing smoke. When this bomber failed to return, the entire crew was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, villagers recovered the remains of the crew and buried them in Aber village cemetery. In 1946, a RAAF Searcher Team visited the wreckage of this aircraft and located the remains of three of the crew in the wreckage.
This B-25 crashed into a coconut plantation near Aber inland from Uligan Harbor (Ulingen) at roughly Lat 5.01° Long 145.40°.
After the crash, Constable Mais visited the crash site and found a the dog tag of Kenneth B. Lawton and reported the crash site to Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU). Postwar, the aircraft was noted in RAAF Survey of Aircraft Wreckage, Papua New Guinea #315 and reported to American forces.
Colin Jermy recalls from 1979:
"Remains of crashed American B-25 on the recently burnt forest floor at Ulingen. It was quite near the coast in a plantation, but I cannot recall if it was north or south of the village. My brother definitely knew what flight it was, because he commented that the navigational instrument seen in the photo of assorted bits, was still set to their course. We collected together all the bits together for the second photo. I also found a Japanese water bottle with a bullet hole through it."
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the 1946 recovery of remains, the crew was transported to the United States for perment burial. The entire crew was buried in a group burial at Fort McPherson National Cemetery at plot R graves 1-2.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ralph E. Freek
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Kenneth B. Lawton
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James E. Miller
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harold D. Sample
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Anthony De Leo name spelled as two words "De Leo"
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25G-5 Mitchell 42-64827
"64827 (38th BG) lost Jan 16, 1944, New Guines"
Missing Air Crew Report 1698 (MACR 1698)
Australian War Memorial (AWM) ANGAU War Diary July 1944 (AWM52 1/10/1/67)
(Page 13) Constable Mais also found an American identification disc (dog tag) marked as follows:
"Kenneth B. Lawton
Joseph E. Lawton
R. F. D. 2
RAAF Survey of Aircraft Wreckage, Papua New Guinea page 9
"#315 | 05.01-145.40 | Aber | USAC Mitchell B-25G 42-64827 | Wreckage recovered near Aber Village"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25 42-64827
FindAGrave - Ralph E Freek (grave photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Kenneth Burddette Lawton (obituary grave photo)
FindAGrave - James E Miller (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harold D Sample (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Roy E Johnson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Anthony DeLeo (grave photo)
Sun Setters of the Southwest Pacific Area (2011) pages 267-269, AII-7 , AIII-22
Thanks to Colin Jermy for additional information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
Jan 16, 1944
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