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  B-25D-25 Mitchell Serial Number 42-87320  
USAAF
13th AF
42nd BG
100th BS


USAAF c1943

Pilot  Captain Edwin M. Shanks (survived) Evenston, IL
Co-Pilot  Lt. Antonito F. Alagna (survived) Overland Park, KS
Bombardier  Lt. James V. Fairley (survived) Jefferson County, AL
Navigator  2nd Lt. Creston L. Johnston (survived) Brooklyn, NY
Radio-Gunner  SSgt Norman Gidley (survived)
Photo-Gunner  SSgt Denver D. Bergman (survived)
Armorer-Gunner  SSgt Robert G. Akers, Jr. (survived)
Ditched  March 8, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25D-25 Mitchell Serial Number 42-87320. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 42nd Bombardment Group, 100th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On March 8, 1944 took off from Stirling Airfield piloted by Captain Edwin M. Shanks on a mission against Rabaul. Returning, attacked by fighters that damaged the left engine that seized with the propeller turning uncontrollably. Damaged, this B-25 ditched into Saint Georges Channel off the southern end of New Ireland near Cape Saint George.

Fates of the Crew
The seven crew survived the ditching and deployed their life raft. The tail gunner suffered a leg fracture during the landing. Afterwards, two Japanese boats approached from a nearby island.

Rescue
Less than two days later, a RNZAF Catalina NZ4015 piloted by F/O D. S. Beauchamp from 6 Squadron made a successful landing and rescued the crew from the Saint Georges Channel at 2:37pm. During the rescue, two PV-1 Venturas circled overhead. Afterwards, the crew was assigned a new B-25 and returned to flying combat missions.

Memorials
Shanks passed away on February 26, 2000. He is buried at Marco Island Cemetery in Marco, FL.

Alagna retired from the U. S. Air Force (USAF) with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and participated in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. He passed away on May 9, 2003. He is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

Johnston passed away on July 10, 1997. He is buried at Oakdale Cemetery in DeLand, FL at plot H lot 133.

Gidley passed away on November 16, 2000. He is buried at South Dartmouth Cemetery in Dartmouth, MA.

Bergman passed away on November 8, 1999. He is buried at East Lawn Palms Cemetery and Mortuary in Tucson, AZ at block 60.

Relatives
Tom Townsend (grandson of Johnston)
"The plane is not listed in either "Accident Reports" or "Missing Air Crewman Reports", because it was combat related and crew were picked up in less than 48 hours. So it may have slipped through the cracks of known airplane crashes."

Creston “Bubba” Johston (son of Johnston)
"He was born in Brooklyn NY. I know he was in the ROTC in college at the University of Idaho in Moscow Idaho. But I believe at the time he went overseas his family was living in Bergenfield NJ."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Edwin M. Shanks
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Antonito F. Alagna
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James V. Fairley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Creston L. Johnston
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Norman A. Gidley
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25D-25 Mitchell 42-87320
"A Flier Rescued at Sea - Lt. A. F. Alagna writes wife of incident near Rabaul”
“A Sneak Jap Attack”
“Despite the outbreak of Bougainville fighting, the Solomon-based planes kept hitting Rabaul. Wednesday [March 8, 1944], Liberators scored 131 hits on the wharf area and were followed in by Mitchell bombers. Crews of the Mitchells said at least twenty-seven buildings in Rabaul proper were destroyed. The plane of Capt. Edwin M. Shanks of Evanston, Ill, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and forced to land near Cape St. George, New Ireland, but a rescue plane saved him and his crew. Among those rescued was Lieut. Antonio F. Alagna of Kansas City, Kansas."
The Crusaders A History of the 42nd Bombardment Group (M) page 75
FindAGrave - Edwin M Shanks (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Antonito Frank Alagna (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Creston L Johnston (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Norman Allen Gidley (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Denver D. “Denny” Bergman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Robert G. Akers, Jr (grave photo)
Historic Dog Tags - Edwin M. Shanks (photo)
FindAGrave - Denver D. “Denny” Bergman (grave photo)
Thanks to Jim Sawruk and Tom Townsend for additional information

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Last Updated
July 20, 2018

 

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