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  B-25D Mitchell Serial Number ?  
USAAF
5th AF
71st TRG
17th TRS

PacificWrecks.com
USAAF 1943
Pilot  Major William G. Tennille, Jr., O-396485 C.O. 17th TRS (MIA / KIA) NC
Co-Pilot  1st Lt Robert J. Alves, O-733773 (MIA / KIA) Sonoma County, CA
Observer  2nd Lt. Robert J. Nevens , O-746904 (MIA / KIA) Plymount County, MA
Radio  Sgt Crawford W. Bell, 35476697 (MIA / KIA) KY
Armour/Gunner  Sgt Reed S. Wilburn, 33181412 (MIA / KIA) Howard County, MD
Photo/Gunner  Sgt John R. Wagstaff, 14188380 (MIA / KIA) Gaston County, NC
MIA  June 8, 1944
MACR  16160

Aircraft History
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25D Mitchell serial number unknown, possibly 42-87295. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group (71st TRG), 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (17th TRS). No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 16160 (MACR 16160).

Mission History
On June 8, 1944 at 9:55am took off from Wakde Airfield piloted by Major William G. Tennille, Jr. (Mission #160 B-310) as one of ten B-25s led by Major Tennille (Mission #160 B-310) to attack a Japanese force of two cruisers and six destroyers bound for Biak.

At 12:15pm the B-25s rendezvous with an escort of 24 P-38 Lightnings at Lat 1° 30' S Long 134° 8' E and the fighters spotted the enemy convoy at approximately Lat 0° 50' S Long 132° 50' E. The B-25s were flying in a "V of V's" formation and maneuvered until 1:15pm when they spotted the convoy performing a 90° turn to the north and formed a battle formation. At this point, the B-25s broke formation into two ship elements for their attacks that became known as the Battle of Cape Waios.

The two plane element led by B-25D pilot Major Tennille with B-25D pilot 2nd Lt. Wood targeted the rearmost destroyer (likely Harusame) in a feint and a dropped one bomb that missed then headed for the cruiser nearby but was hit by anti-aircraft fire and landed in the sea nearby at approximately Lat 0° 45' S Long 132° 45' E. Also shot down by anti-aircraft fire in the same attack was B-25D pilot 2nd Lt. Wood (MIA) and B-25D pilot Lind (MIA). When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). During their attack, the B-25s claimed four Japanese destroyers sunk but only Harusame was hit and sunk.

After the mission, General MacArthur commented on the B-25s: "The job was magnificently done," General Ennis Whitehead who said, "This squadron has this date performed one of the finest military feats of the war." Of the seven B-25s that returned, five were damaged.

Memorials
The entire crew was presumed dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Tennille earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), posthumously, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Salem Cemetery in Winston-Salem, NC.

Alves earned Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has memorialized at Santa Rosa Memorial Park in Santa Rosa, CA at Veterans Lawn I Urn Garden - Grave 405-4A.

Nevens earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Bell earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Wilburn earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Wagstaff earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Relatives
Andy Tennille (Grandson of William Grant Tennille)
"My grandfather was Major William Grant Tennille, squadron commander of the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert J. Alves
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert E. Nevens
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Crawford W. Bell
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Reed S. Wilburn
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John R. Wagstaff
"Narrative Report on Mission 160 B-310 performed by the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron (Bomb) 8 June 1944" pages 1-3
Letter "Congratulations 17th TRS" Major General Ennis C. Whitehead June 8, 1944
Letter "Commendation from General Macarthur" via Major General Ennis C. Whitehead June 10, 1944
Call Bulletin "How Jap Flotillas Sank" by Spencer Davis, AP Staff Writer June 13, 1944 pages 1-2
Missing Air Crew Report 16160 (MACR 16160) was created retroactively circa 1945-1946 and does not list the B-25 serial number, engine or weapon serial numbers when lost.
(Page 2-3) "Near target, plane of Major Tennille was hit (AA) before actually reaching the target (a cruiser) flew over it and landed in the water. Mission #160 B-310, against an enemy convoy last reported, 50 miles north of Cape Waias [sic Cape Waios] (Flase Cape) off Dutch New Guinea coast (0045S - 13245 E)."
News "Major Tennille Killed In Performing One of Greatest Feats of War, General Says"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William G. Tennille Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert J. Alves
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert E. Nevens
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Crawford W. Bell
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Reed S. Wilburn
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John R. Wagstaff
FindAGrave - MAJ William G Tennille, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Maj William Grant Tennille, Jr (photo, memorial marker)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert J Alves (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Robert John Alves (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert E Nevens (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Crawford W Bell (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Reed S Wilburn (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SGT John R Wagstaff (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
17th Special Operations Squadron History - 17th SOS History
"During the Battle of Cape Waios, ten Mitchells from the 17th RS(B) intercepted a Japanese task force intended on retaking the island of Biak. The squadron commander, Maj. William G. Tennille, lead two sections of B-25s in a low level attack scoring direct hits on four destroyers loaded with Japanese troops. The squadron paid a heavy price during the battle. The 17th lost three crews to include the squadron commander to Japanese anti-aircraft fire. Their actions were noted by Gen. Douglas MacArthur when he said, “The job was magnificently done,” and by Gen. Ennis Clement Whitehead who said, “This squadron has this date performed one of the finest military feats of the war.” Maj. William Tennille and Lt. Howard Wood were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for their actions."
High Point Enterprise "A Special Mission: Reporter Discovers Grandfather's War Record" by Andy Tennille June 16, 2002

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Last Updated
June 8, 2019

 

Tech Info
B-25

MIA
MIA
6 Missing
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