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David Gillis 1969
Richard Leahy 1999
John Douglas 2001
Lt Math L. English, O-792567 (MIA / KIA) Decatur, GA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Leonard T. Coby, O-748916 (MIA / KIA) Brooklyn, NY
Bombardier / Navigator 2nd Lt Elmer J. Hohman, O-743785 (MIA / KIA) Pittsburgh, PA
Engineer S/Sgt Paul J. Molica, 19084181 (MIA / KIA) San Jose, CA
Radio T/Sgt Harry B. Kirk, 35462746 (MIA / KIA) Corpus Cristi, TX
Force Landed April 12, 1944
Built by North American Aviation (NAA). Constructors Number 96-16714. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25G-5-NA Mitchell serial number 42-64835. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 38th Bombardment Group (38th BG), 822nd Bombardment Squadron (822nd BS). No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines R-2600-13 serial number 41-29362 and 42-28431. The nose 75mm cannon was removed and replaced by two extra .50 caliber machine guns. Nose guns .50 caliber machine guns serial number 153865, 106276, 677789, 386266, 385433, 148150. Side guns .50 caliber machine guns serial number 397919 and 561859. Top turret .50 caliber machine guns 87269 and 85732. Waist .50 caliber machine guns 74380 and 27640.
On April 12, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by 1st Lt Math L. English on a low level strafing mission against Hollandia. This B-25 was one of six from the 822nd Bombardment Squadron (822nd BS). Returning, this B-25 suffered an engine failure and successfully force landed intact in kunai grass roughly fifty miles south-southeast of Wewak.
After the landing, the entire crew of five were spotted by other B-25s in the formation and appeared to be unhurt from the landing. Other B-25s in the formation dropped supplies to them and leaflets in Pidgin English informing local people to assist them to reach Allied lines. When this aircraft failed to return, the crew as was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
On April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday" B-25G Mitchell 42-64837 of the 822nd Bombardment Squadron (822nd BS) was sent search for the crew, escorted by four P-38 Lightnings from the 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 36th Fighter Squadron (36th FS). Starting at 11:45am the formation searched the area but did not spot any of the crew. At 1:30pm the escorting P-38s ran low on fuel and the formation departed. Returning from the search mission, the four P-38s became lost in bad weather and only the flight leader, P-38H pilot Zielinski returned safely. The other three went Missing In Action (MIA) including: P-38H 42-66555, P-38H 42-66832 and P-38H 42-66668.
Sometime afterwards, the B-25 wreckage was bombed and strafed to prevent it from being captured by the Japanese. As a result of these attacks, the bomber burned, but the rear fuselage, tail section and wings remained intact.
Fate of Crew
At the time of the force landing, the nearest Allied forces were hundreds of kilometers east at Dumpu. The crew had little hope of being rescued, unless an airstrip could be cut into the vegetation.
According to villagers, the crew survived and walked as far as Paiambit, where they were captured by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) then taken to Moim north of the Sepik River. At the village, they were were made to dig their own graves, then shot. According to local people there were only three graves (not five) at Moim. Who is buried at Moim, if anybody, has yet to be ascertained.
There is a complete file in the Australian War Memorial (AWM) collection that refers to "Five survivors from an unidentified aircraft, possibly RAAF", which crashed west of Moim in March / April 44". There were no Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft wrecks anywhere near this area. This file, beyond any doubt whatsoever, refers to the crew of this B-25.
The file reveals that during 1945, one of the Japanese Prisoners Of War (POWs) interrogated at Wewak was Lt. General Nakano Hidemitsu, Commanding Officer of the Japanese Army 51st Division. He claimed, among other things, that a Colonel Hori Keijiro, Commander of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, then based at Marienberg, had knowledge of the capture of five Allied airmen circa March-April 44. The Australian legal team then interrogated Keijiro, also captured at Wewak, who signed a statement that five airmen indeed had been brought to him at Marienberg from an unidentified airplane loss in March/April 1944.
Keijiro said he then forwarded the prisoners to Wewak to fall under the jurisdiction of Lt-Colonel Suzuki Notoaki, a staff officer of the Headquarters of the Imperial 51st Division. Notoaki, also interviewed, said however that he could recall only two airmen arriving even though he never saw them. The arriving airmen, whatever number, were then side tracked to Major Veda (full name not quoted) of the 4th Kōkūtai who interrogated them separately and reported results of the interrogation to 18th Army Headquarters.
It is clear from Keijiro's affidavit that he deliberately provided a minimum of information. If in fact there are three US airmen buried in a grave at Moim, was it Keijiro who ordered three of Englishs crew taken there to be executed. If so, were English and another officer taken to Wewak, perhaps under Veda's orders? If an interrogation report was sent by 4th Kōkūtai as claimed, then somewhere in U. S. or Australian intercept archives might be a signals intelligence intercept which should have two surnames, and the results of this interrogation.
This B-25 crash landed in a remote swamp area north of the Sepik River and south of Urimo. During the wet season, the area is partially flooded. The fuselage is burned out from strafing by B-25s from the 38th Bombardment Group (38th BG) to destroy the bomber. Seasonally, vegetation grows around the aircraft and a circular hole is located forward of the right wing, possibly a bomb crater from a near miss when bombed.
During 1948, this crash site was not visited by a RAAF Searcher Team, due to the water level of swamps and because the Sepik River was flooded. They believed the site was accessible during the dry season overland walking northward from Timbunke.
David Gillis visited in 1969:
"As the kunai grass was too high at the time I touched down lightly on the port wing to allow my passenger to get out and take the B&W photos. As you can see the .50 caliber links had been taken out of the bins some time before judging by the rust stains on the fuselage. I returned some months later and found a clear area to land so I could check out the wreck myself. The links were still in the same position. As to where the wreck was located I am sorry to say that I cannot give an exact location other than to say “I think” it was south east of Wewak between East Sepik Plains airstrip and the Sepik River. It was located in a large expanse of kunai and very obvious from the air, which makes me think that it would have been recovered (or got at!!) many years ago. Now, after viewing your East Sepik ID, I am 99% sure that it was B-25G 42-64835."
During January to March 2010, a team from JPAC J2 (History Department / R&A) visited the crash site by helicopter and investigated the wreckage. To this day, the B-25 remains in situ and is visible from the air.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on February 6, 1946. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
English earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Gibson Methodist Church.
Coby earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Hohman earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Molica earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Kirk earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Jeff English (great nephew of Math English)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Math L. English
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Leonard T. Coby two duplicate entries with identical details
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Elmer J. Hohman
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Paul J. Molica
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harry B. Kirk
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25G-5 Mitchell 42-64835
"64835 (822th BS, 38th BG) crash-landed in Papua New Guinea following strafing attack Apr 12, 1944. Crew of 5 survived the landing but are believed to have been captured by the Japanese. They were never seen again, presumed executed by their captors. The plane is still there."
Missing Air Crew Report 3981 (MACR 3981) created April 13, 1944
Augusta Chronicle "Gibson Flier Was Last Seen On Wing In Jungle" July 16, 1944 page 3
"...was last seen standing with the crew of his plane on the plane's wing in a northern New Guinea jungle, his command officer wrote Lieutenant English's sister, Mrs. Erette M. Harell, o Gibson."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25 42-64835
Sun Setters of the Southwest Pacific Area - From Australia To Japan: An Illustrated History of the 38th Bombardment Group (M) 5th Air Force World War II 1941-1946 As Told and Photographed by Men Who Were There pages 325-327, appendix AII-9, AIII-24
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Math L. English
FindAGrave - 1Lt Math L English (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Math Lewis English (photo, news, memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leonard T. Coby
FindAGrave - 2Lt Leonard T Coby (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Elmer J. Hohman
FindAGrave - 2Lt Elmer J Hohman (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul J. Molica
FindAGrave - SSgt Paul J Molica (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry B. Kirk
FindAGrave - TSgt Harry B Kirk (tablets of the missing photo)
Thanks to Jeff English for additional information
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