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5th AF

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Lindsay Nov 10, 1944
Pilot  Francis A. Thompson, O-765354 (rescued)
Crew  Kenneth I. Smith (rescued)
Crew  Jospeh Bechtel (rescued)
Crew  Ted A. Razook (rescued)
Radio  Cpl William B. Pearl, 16160851 (MIA / KIA) MI
Passenger  1st Lt. Harold E. Wahvel (rescued)
Passenger  1st Lt. Leon A. Glasser (rescued)

Ditched  November 10, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) model and serial number unknown. 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) part of the Far East Air Force - Combat Replacement and Training Center (FEAF-CRTC) at Nadzab Airfield. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On November 10, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by Lt. Francis A. Thompson as one of three aircraft two B-25s and a single A-20 Havoc on a bombing mission against Wewak. Over the target, this bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire and ditched into the sea between Wewak and Muschu Island.

Fates of the Crew
Before ditching, radio operator Cpl Pearl managed to transmit an "S. O. S." but was unable to exit the B-25 before it sank and likely drown inside. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). The rest of the crew survived with two wounded but managed to deploy their life raft.

Hearing the "S. O. S.", Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Catalina A24-92 piloted by Flt. Lt. I. J. L. Wood of 8 Communication Unit (8 CU) proceeded to the area. At 4:15pm rendezvoused at 4,500' with eight DAP Beauforts from 7 Squadron that took off from Tadji Airfield to support the rescue. Arriving over Wewak, the eight Beauforts (A9-507, A9-356, A9-595, A9-599, A9-471, A9-364, A9-412, A9-461) dropped bombs on anti-aircraft positions on Cape Wom, Wewak Point and Cape Moem as part of diversionary attack while the rescue was attempted.

Around 4:30pm Catalina A24-92 spotted the life raft approximately a half mile southeast of Muschu Island and made several circuits before landing roughly 200m from them near Cape Wom. Against orders, the crew shut down both engines in order to take all six aboard. The rescue was photographed using Philip Lindsay's camera, a gift from his wife. Before departing, one of the Americans used his pistol to sink the life raft. Safely aboard, the Catalina restarted both engines and departed the area. As darkness set in around 8:30pm they landed at Madang Airfield. Afterwards, the rescued crew were taken to a hospital at Madang and remained overnight. The next morning they were flown back to Nadzab. Afterwards, pilot Wood was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DFC) for this rescue.

Pearl was officially declared dead the day of the mission and earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Leon Glasser died postwar.

Wahvel passed away August 11, 1974.

NAA RAAF No. 7 Squadron Detail of Operation 1/11/44 - 30/11/44 page 372
Rescue at Wewak by Hilarie Lindsay, Ansay Pty Ltd 2000 incorrectly lists the Catalina's unit as assigned to the 111th Squadron Air Sea Rescue Unit, rather it was not assigned until January 1945
AWM P00120.001 and AWM P00120.005 show the rescue documented in photographs via Philip S. Lindsay while the caption eludes to four or five being rescued, six were rescued.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William B. Pearl
FindAGrave - Corp William B Pearl (tablets of the missing)
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
August 18, 2020


Tech Info

1 Missing
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