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  B-25C "Chattanooga Choo Choo" Serial Number 41-129??  
USAAF
5th AF
3rd BG
90th BS

Pilot  2nd Lt. Johnson (survived)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Leonidas Baker (survived)
Crew   S/Sgt L. Cooley (survived)
Gunner  SS/ F. Aubrey (survived)
Gunner  Cpl. D. Welch (survived)
Gunner  Cpl. Holley Perkins, Jr., 17014368 (survived) AR
Ditched  April 24, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by North American in Inglewood. Constructors Number 82-??? last four digits unknown. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-129?? the last two digits are unknown. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th BG), 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 90th Bombardment Squadron (90th BS). Nicknamed "Chattanooga Choo Choo".

Mission History
On April 24, 1942 took off from Charters Towers Airfield pilot 2nd Lt. Johnson armed with bombs as one of three B-25s on a flight via Cairns Airfield bound for 7 Mile Drome (Jackson) near Port Moresby to stage for a combat mission planned the next day against Lae. When the trio of B-25 reached the southern coast of New Guinea then turned westward but were unable to locate Port Moresby and turned around to fly eastward.

At dusk, the trio was short on fuel the group jettisoned their bombs into the sea in anticipation of ditching. Aboard this bomber, several bombs failed to release and it is unknown if the crew was aware they were hung up before ditching.

All three B-25s ditched into Mullins Harbor near Mariawate on the southern coast of New Guinea. When this B-25 ditched, several bombs hung up in the bomb bay detonated. Five of the crew went Missing In Action (MIA) either killed by the blast or when the bomber crashed. Also ditched was B-25C "Tojo's Nitemare" and B-25C "Salvo Sadie" ditched further to the west.

Fates of the Crew
The entire crew swam ashore unhurt. Later, they were located and assisted by Reverend M. Nixon of the London Missionary Society (LMS) as well as Sgt Hill, the soul survivor of B-25C "Tojo's Nitemare". Nixon reported the ditching to ANGAU officer Captain 'Mac' Rich, who sailed from Samarai aboard the Marek, who arrived and met them, then looked for B-25C "Salvo Sadie" returning with that crew on May 1, 1942 to the Fife Bay area.

On May 2, 1942, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" crew wanted to salvage personal effects from the plane, and three launches were commandeered, and they unsuccessfully attempted to drag the aircraft to shallower water, they gave up at sunset.

The survivors of the triple ditching left the area on May 3 aboard the Marek to Milne Bay, where they held a memorial service for the crew of "Tojo's Nitemare". On May 4, 1942 departed aboard MV Matoma traveling westward via Abau Island before arriving at Port Moresby ten days later and were sent back to Australia.

Issac Luile adds
"The bomber is actually in Mullins Harbor, part of Fife Bay District. As a school boy in about 1968 we used to go out there at low tide and play on the wreckage. Now, it is dropping deeper and deeper in the mud.  The whole body is still there, but bits and pieces have been taken only."

Memorials
Perkins passed away on June 9, 1999 at age 79. He is buried at East Memorial Gardens in Texarkana, AR.

Baker passed away on April 23, 2014 at age 97. He is buried at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, NC at section R Lot 27 N 1/2.

Relatives
Bill Perkins (son of Holley Perkins, Jr.)
"have a picture of Dad and the other surviving crew members on board a ship either going to Port Moresby or back to Australia."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Holley Perkins, Jr.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25C Mitchell
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell piloted by Johnson
Flightpath Magazine "Underwater Trio" by Michael Claringbould
FindAGrave - Holley Perkins, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Leonidas Baker (grave)

Contribute Information
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Last Updated
July 6, 2020

 

Tech Info
B-25

SCUBA
18'
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