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MACR 14988 Oct 7, 1945
|Pilot Col Gerald R. Johnson, O-428829 (MIA / KIA) Eugene, Oregon
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. James B. Noland, O-767620 (MIA / KIA) TX
Passenger Lt. Col. Robert Underwood, O-421947 (survived) Los Angeles, CA
Passenger 1st Lt. Herbert A. Schaeffler (survived) Albuquerque, NM
Passenger Sgt Patrick V. Chilsen, 16084970 (survived) Merrill, WI
Passenger Cpl Ezess F. Fountain, 18179363 (survived) Dallas, TX
MIA October 7, 1945 at 9:07pm
Built by North American Aviation (NAA). Constructors Number 98-21150. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25H-1 Mitchell serial number 43-4149. Ferried overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), Far East Air Force (FEAF), Headquarters. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines R-2600-13 serial numbers 43-30300 and 43-28628. This aircraft did not have any armament aboard.
On October 7, 1945 took off from Ie Shima Airfield on Ie Shima piloted by Col Gerald R. Johnson with co-pilot 2nd Lt. James B. Noland on an administrative flight with four passengers bound for Atsugi Airfield on Honshū in Japan. This aircraft departed without the upper bomb bay fuel tanks being filled because it did not have a fuel transfer pump. For unknown reasons this B-25 had only four parachutes aboard yet there was a total of six individuals aboard (two crew and four passengers).
After take off, the weather was broken clouds at 2,000' and visibility of 10 miles with an overcast at 6,000'. Due to poor weather including turbulence and rain, this aircraft flew on instruments until approximately 5:30pm when the coast of Honshū was spotted. Johnson had difficulty orienting himself for the landing approach and used the radio to contact Image tower at Atsugi Airfield at 6:15pm but lost contact and began circling what he thought was Tokyo Bay at roughly 2,000' but was actually further west over Suruga Bay.
At 7:00pm resumed contact with the tower with messages relayed by a C-46 Commando "Willie Number 7756" flying in the same area that was able to relay radio messages to this aircraft but no answers were received. Thirty minutes later this C-46 landed and stopped relaying messages. Meanwhile, the radio operator continued to attempt contact with AACS despite poor radio reception and received three bearings.
At 8:30pm the pilot ordered the passengers and enlisted men aboard to bail out but their were only four parachutes aboard. The crew protested suggesting they draw straws for the four parachutes but Johnson stated "no" and idled back the engines to allow the crew to bail out but had to throttle up again to avoid mountains.
The four passengers all bailed out with parachutes during a five minute period and all landed safely. At 9:03pm Cpl Fountain bailed out near Hiranuma. At 9:05pm Lt. Col Underwood bailed out roughly two miles northwest of Hara (Haremachi). At 9:06pm Sgt Chilsen bailed out a half mile from Higo. At 9:07pm 1st Lt. Schaeffler bailed out one mile west from Numazu railroad station. As the last two passengers bailed out it appeared the B-25 was headed eastward and was turning southward from Numazu.
Before bailing out, Lt. Col Underwood was told by Col Johnson that he planned to make a force landing at the edge of Suruga Bay because neither the pilot or co-pilot had parachutes. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially listed as missing.
Fates of the Crew
The four passengers who bailed out all landed safely and were rescued. Japanese police and civilians found the three were found the same day. The four was found and returned to military control the next day.
On October 8, 1945 at 3:15am Fifth Air Force Headquarters learned about the men that bailed out and Lt. Cowee dispatched men and two jeeps to Numazu and rescued 1st Lt. Schaeffler and Sgt Chilsen who had already been found and were with Japanese police. Independently, Lt Col Underwater was returned to military control.
Afterwards, two PBY Catalinas, a group of A-26 Intruders and a group of P-38 Lightnings searched the area of the loss without results. Over eight days between October 8, 1945 until October 15, 1945, daytime searches were flown totaling 266 hours and 15 minutes without results. On October 8, 1945 a single L-5 search. On October 9, 1945 a C-47 and AT-6 searched. On October 10, 1945 an OA-10 Catalina, B-17 Flying Fortress searched. On October 11, 1935 two OA-10 Catalinas, four A-26s and another OA-10 searched during the day. On October 12, 1945 a C-47 and OA-10 searched. On October 13, 1945 two B-17s an OA-10 plus sixteen A-26s and eighteen P-38s searched. On October 14, 1945 sixteen P-38s searched. On October 15, 1945 two B-17s searched.
On the ground, U. S. forces worked with local police and civilians including rail road employees, fisherman and town officials to learn if there were any reports about the missing plane. In the town of Haremachi (Hara) people on the ground heard an aircraft at 8:00pm flying in a circle three times and was headed west by south when last heard.
Meanwhile, U. S. forces encouraged or hired seventy civilian hunters were sent to try to locate the crashed bomber. Also, fisherman were encouraged to search for aircraft parts or anything that might be afloat. No results were found by either hunters or fisherman.
Johnson and Noland were officially declared the day of the mission. Since this flight was after hostilities ended and was deemed to be non-combat neither crew member earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Both Johnson and Noland are memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing, court 7. After this loss, Irumagawa Airfield was renamed Johnson Airfield in his honor and postwar became known as Johnson Air Force Base (Johnson AFB).
Schaeffler passed away on November 19, 1977 at age 60. He is buried at Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira, NY at section H site 251.
Chilsen passed away on September 9, 1992 at age 71. He is buried at Saint Francis Catholic Cemetery in Merrill, WI.
Fountain passed away on February 27, 2018 at age 97. He is buried at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas, TX in the Highland Garden, NE area.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James B. Noland
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Herbert A. Schaeffler
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ezess F. Fountain
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25H-1 Mitchell 43-4149
Missing Air Crew Report 14988 (MACR 14988) created September [sic October] 13, 1945 mentions aircraft type as B-25J [sic B-25H] 43-4149
The Eugene Register-Guard "Gerald Johnson Listed Missing Since October 7" October 14, 1945
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gerald R. Johnson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James B. Noland
FindAGrave - Col Gerald Richard Johnson (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT James Bertrand Noland (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Patrick V Chilsen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Herbert Arthur Schaeffler (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Ezess Franklin Fountain (photo, grave photo)
October 7, 1945
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