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345th BG c1945
|Pilot 1st Lt. Robert G. Neal, O-833189 (POW, executed August 15, 1945, MIA) Buffalo, NY
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Louis J. Winiecki, Jr., O-831874 (POW, executed August 15, 1945, MIA) Lancaster, NY
Navigator 1st Lt. Richard S. Lane, O-558308 (POW, executed August 15, 1945, MIA) Ridgewood, NJ
Engineer SSgt Robert W. Goulet, 32839871 (POW, executed August 15, 1945, MIA) NY
Radio SSgt William Cohen, 32975702 (POW, executed August 15, 1945, MIA) New York, NY
Ditched August 7, 1945
Built by North American Aviation (NAA) at Air Force Plant NC at Fairfax Field near Kansas City, KS. Constructors Number 108-37375. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25J-30/32-NC Mitchell serial number 44-31300. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
During July 1945 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 345th Bombardment Group (345th BG), 498th Bombardment Squadron (498th BS). No nickname or nose art. This aircraft was also referred to as "300" for the last three digits of the serial number. When lost, engines R-2600-29 serial numbers 43-201013 and 43-200943. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns makers and serial numbers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 14851 (MACR 14851).
On August 7, 1945 took off from Ie Shima Airfield pilot 1st Lt. Robert G. Neal on a mission over Matsubase (Uki) on the west of Kyushu Island. The weather was good with unlimited visibility. Over the target, this B-25 was last seen flying southward and B-25 pilot 1st Lt. Albert Gruer attempted to fly behind it and contact it by radio without response. Unknown if hit by anti-aircraft fire or had been damaged and was last seen over Matsubase (Uki). Later, it ditched into the sea off Kumamoto Prefecture. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
That same day at 10:55am a pair of B-25 Mitchells #577 piloted by Lt. Cornwell and #214 piloted by Lt. Kimble took off on a search mission plane to the north searching west of Amami-O-shima and the Tokaro Gunto Islands then the west side of Yaku-Jima and the southwest tip of Koshiki-Retto then north to Nomo-skai and finally Fukae-Shima with nil results.
Fates of the Crew
The entire crew of five were captured and became Prisoners Of War (POW) and were transported to Western Army headquarters at Fukuoka and imprisoned by Kempei Tai (Military Police) for nine days from August 7, 1945 until August 15, 1945.
On August 15, 1945 after the surrender of Japan was announced officers at Fukuoka met and issued an order stating that "There will be an execution of enemy fliers... because they are being held responsible for indiscriminate bombing... The executions will be kept secret."
The sixteen American prisoners held at the prison, including all members of this B-25 crew were taken by truck to a nearby field at Aburayama. The officer in charge, Major Kusumoto order the execution and one of the officers of the execution squad even brought his girlfriend to watch. The prisoners were stripped naked and taken into the woods singularly or in pairs and hacked to death with swords.
Afterwards, Adjutant's section Minoru Nakamura was ordered to place the bodies into coffins and take them to the crematorium at Aburayama, plus victims from an earlier execution that had been disinterred and all would be cremated at night. Afterwards, the ashes were sorted into envelopes and buried in a military cemetery.
Several days later, they were exhumed and taken to Kiyoko Jija (Kiyoko Temple) where they were tuned over to the head priest, as American fliers who had died in a recent air raid on Fukuoka. A week later, the remains were taken by the Army again, and buried in the nearby hills by Koshi Yukino and Minoru Nakamura, on orders from Col. Yoshinao Sato (air defense officer, HQ staff).
Postwar, the officers involved were prosecuted for this atrocity as war criminals. Postwar, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) failed to locate the remains of the crew. All five remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
The entire crew was officially declared dead on August 15, 1945. All are memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing. Neal, Lane, Goulet and Cohen on court 7. Winiecki on court 5.
Neal earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Winiecki earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Lane earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Goulet earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Cohen earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Diane Weaver (niece of Neal)
"I feel as if I can bring some honor to my uncle's memory for my grandmother. She was never the same and we were never allowed to talk of him. As a kid I would get out his pictures and eventually ask a question or two…but it was quickly shut down. Only when I grew up and convinced her to display his 8 X 10 military photo did she finally allow it."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - 44-31300
"31300 (345th BG) lost Aug 7, 1945, South Pacific."
Missing Air Crew Report 14851 (MACR 14851) created August 8, 1945
Records of World War II Prisoners of War does not list the four crew members who were briefly POWs
Buffalo Courier Express "Airmen Fail To Return To Pacific Bases" September 6, 1945
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert G. Neal
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Louis J. Winiecki, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard S. Lane
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert W. Goulet
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William Cohen
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert G Neal (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Louis J. Winiecki Jr. (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Richard S Lane (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Robert W. Goulet (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt William Cohen (courts of the missing photo)
Warpath Across The Pacific pages 343, 354-355, 379, 385
5 Prisoners Executed
August 7, 1945
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