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|Pilot 2nd Lt Joseph L. Durkin, O-795451 (MIA / KIA) PA
Engineer SSgt Edward R. Roginski, 35305490 (MIA / KIA) Cuyahoga County, OH
Radio SSgt Ernest H. Newman, 17030210 (KIA, BR) Akron, OH
Top Turret SSgt Lester A. Steinberg, 11033824 (survived) Hartford, CT
Engineer Sgt Charles E. Cowan, 06363943 (WIA, survived) Oconee County, GA
Observer Col. Edwin S. Green, O-022330 13th Bomber Command, HQ (MIA / KIA) Imperial County, CA
Crashed February 18, 1944
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25H Mitchell serial number 43-4??? (last three digits unknown). Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the South Pacific.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 42nd Bombardment Group, 69th Bombardment Squadron. Squadron Number 321. No known nickname or nose art. During early 1944, this B-25 was experimentally converted as the first Mitchell in the squadron equipped with a 75mm cannon in the nose.
On February 18, 1944 took off from Banika Field (North Field, Sunlight) in the Russell Islands on a experimental strafing mission to test the 75mm cannon in combat against targets on Buka Island. Aboard was observer Col. Edwin S. Green, 13th Bomber Command Headquarters Squadron.
Over the northern end of Buka Island, this B-25 attacked a suspected enemy bivouac and made three strafing runs. On the third run, hit by anti-aircraft fire in the radio compartment and set one engine on fire. Soon afterwards, crashed into the sea. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
Two of the crew survived the crash: Steinberg and Cowan who was severely injured. During the impact, both were knocked unconcious. Steinberg regained his senses and pushed Cowan out of the escape hatch and exited himself as the bomber sank.
On the surface with burning fuel and oil and large waves. He inflated Cowan's life raft then his own, dragging them both clear of the flames then called out to see if their were any other survivors and believed he heard Newman calling out and located him with a broken leg dispite heavy swells and placed him on a float to administer first aid using a paddle as a splint but he died of his injuries.
Soon afterwards, the survivors were spotted by a friendly plane that dropped another life raft that landed 100 yards away and Steinberg swam to retieve it and placed Cowan and Newman's dead body inside the raft.
An hour after the crash, the survivors were rescued by PBY Catalina NZ4020 piloted by Fg Off Hitchcock roughly 1 1/2 miles north of Buka Island and rescued them returned to Blanche Harbor.
No. 6 Flying Boat Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force: Brief History, page 8
"18th February. A Catalina commanded by Fg Off Hitchcock sighted a dinghy with survivors from a ditched B-25 being circled by another B-25. The Catalina landed and picked up 2 survivors and a body. They were Americans from a Russell Island based B-25 squadron. Their aircraft had been hit by AA while on a strafing mission and had crashed into the sea."
Recovery of Remains
Newman was initially buried at the Allied War Cemetery (Mono). Postwar, his remains were transported to the United States.
The three missing crew members: Durkin, Roginski and Green were officially declared dead the day of the mission. All three all memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Durkin earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, PA. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Roginski earned the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart, posthumously. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Newman was permanently buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Topeka, KS at Hillcrest, Lot 220, sp. 1A.
Steinberg earned the Bronze Star for this mission. He passed away in 1984 and is buried at Beth Hillel Synagogue Memorial Park in East Granby, CT.
Cowan passed away in 1973. He is buried at Greenville Memorial Gardens in Piedmont, SC at Section I, Garden of the Last Supper.
Green earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Riverside National Cemetery at section MA site 67. He has another memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery in section F site 41-4. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Larry Seth Steinberg (son of Lester A Steinberg)
"He was, normally, a Bendix upper turret gunner, but flew as rear gunner on the volunteer crew. Jenny Scott (Dumbo Diary- History of 6th Sdn, RNZAF) and I corresponded when she was composing her PBY5 squadron history. Dating back to the 1944 handwritten log, the name of Ernest H. Newman was incorrectly spelled. This experimentally converted aircraft was the first 75mm equipped B-25 received in the 69th BS. Lt Col Green is sometimes credited as pilot, but was present as an observer of the 75mm's effect in combat. My Father received a Bronze Star for the action; I have the copy of the original war zone citation that completely documents the mission."
Note, RAAF 6 Squadron logbook incorrectly spells the name "Nerman" [sic, Newman] other sources state the rescue seaplane was RNZAF Catalina NZ4013
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph L. Durkin
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Edward R. Roginski
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ernest H. Newman
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Lester A. Steinberg
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Charles E. Cowan
News "Hartford gunner rescues mates after crash" April 20, 1944 via Larry Seth Steinberg
News "Sergeant Newman Killed In Action"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph L. Durkin
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward R. Roginski
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edwin S. Green
FindAGrave - 2Lt Joseph L Durkin (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lt Joseph L Durkin (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Edward R Roginski (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Ernest Luther Newman (obituary)
FindAGrave - Lester Alfred Steinberg (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Charles E Cowan, Sr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Col Edwin Smith Green (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Edwin S Green (photo, memorial marker Riverside National Cemetery photo)
FindAGrave - Edwin S Green (memorial marker Arlington National Cemetery photo)
No. 6 Flying Boat Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force: Brief History by Jenny Scott page 8
Thanks to Larry Seth Steinberg, Ewan Stevenson and Charles Darby for additional information
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