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Loranger April 11, 1942
Justin Taylan 2003
|Pilot 2nd Lt Louis "Tad" W. Ford (survived) San Francisco, CA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt John H. Disbro (survived) PA
Navigator 2nd Lt Edward S. Ashley (survived) Bexar County, TX
Bombardier Pfc Jack A. Roberts (survived)
Engineer Pfc Robert L. Long (survived)
Radio Pfc William F. Loranger, 16011993 (survived) ID
Radio / Tail Gunner Cpl. John E. Oclis (survived)
Force Landed April 11, 1942
Built by Martin in Baltimore, Maryland. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26 Marauder serial number 40-1418. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 22nd Bombardment Group (22nd BG), 19th Bombardment Squadron (19th BS). No known nickname or nose art. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia piloted by Major Guy H. Rockey (22nd BG signals officer) arriving March 31, 1942 at Amberley Field near Brisbane.
On April 11, 1942 at 9:00am took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby 2nd Lt Louis "Tad" W. Ford armed with 100 pound bombs on a bombing mission against Rabaul. Over the target, this B-26 successfully dropped its bombs over Lakunai Airfield while the tail gunner strafed Japanese flying boats moored in Simpson Harbor off the western end of Lakunai Airfield and Sulphur Creek.
Behind this bomber was B-26 piloted by Ashley that observed Ford's bombing. He reported direct hits on many houses on or near the right end of the runway. One bomb hit directly between two parked bombers, probably seriously damaging or destroying both with shrapnel. Just as the last bombs were released, three bursts of anti-aircraft fire hit this aircraft, damaging the right engine, the left gas tank and the hydraulic lines. The crew believed the right propeller was also hit.
Returning, the right engine’s oil temperature went up fast and considerable gas was lost from the damaged left fuel tank. The oil temperature hit the top of the gauge and the pressure was low. Ford did not feather the prop because he felt that it was damaged by the anti-aircraft fire. The right engine had to be throttled down to cool off. The bomb bay doors remained open, unable to close due to the hydraulic leak. Lt. Ashley mapped out the shortest route back to New Guinea. Gas was transferred from the auxiliary tanks to the right tank. The crew spotted the north coast of New Guinea at 3:35pm.
Following Ford's damaged bomber was B-26 piloted by Richard Robinson who slowed down to remain with him. When he saw Ford gaining altitude Robinson continued on. Ford tried to tell Robinson of his plane’s latest condition, but the radio command set was not working. Ford then dropped down to 1,000' and began searching for a place to land. Most of the ground was swampy, but he spotted a field that looked clear, aside for a few trees.
This B-26 made a sucessful landing with the right wing tip hitting a tree and turning the bomber sideways as it skidded for 100 yards. None of the crew were injured in the landing.
Fate of the Crew
After the landing, the crew got out and checked on the plane; it was a complete wash-out. Loranger sent out a call to Port Moresby on the liaison set, but no reply was received. Emergency rations were checked and the ration limits set. The crew then tried to get some sleep after a very strenuous day, but the mosquitoes were very bad and sleep was impossible.
On April 12 , 1942 Ford, Disbro and Long started to cut a path to the coast After seven and a half hours they found a river and two outrigger canoes. They took one and arrived at a friendly village down the river at 6:00pm. In the meantime, Lt. Ashley and the rest of the crew shot down some coconuts and found some swamp water into which they put in iodine tablets and found it drinkable. About 1700 hours, a RAAF Hudson found the crew and, dropped some food, but it was not found. Some natives came, and one could understand a little English. Three stayed all night with the crew.
On April 13, 1942 the crew took all the equipment that they intended to take to the village with them and put it all in one pile. The natives and crew went into the jungle, except Ford and Ashley. They waited to set fire by placing gas in the toilet and stayed to see it burnt.
The crew walked for about one and a half hours on logs, across patches of quicksand and marsh to the Musa River. The equipment was loaded in an outrigger canoe and the journey was made down the river to the native village of Sabaga. The unnecessary equipment was given to the natives for their food and help. One of the villagers went to Tufi to notify the resident magistrate about the Americans. The crew was fed on a diet of papaya, bananas, fish, squash, coconut and iodized water. The crew rigged up parachutes as mosquito netting. They were hot, but kept the mosquitoes away.
On April 15, 1942 Lt. Anderson, the Resident Magistrate of the district and Reverend Taylor arrived. They brought the crew some food and "good old non-iodized water" as one of the crew put it. By this time, the crew was getting tired of a daily diet of quinine and iodized water. On April 16, 1942 Disbro, Long and Ochs left with the Rev Taylor and his boat for Tufi. Anderson, Ford, Ashley, Roberts and Loranger stayed to await the arrival of Anderson’s boat "The Edie".
On April 17, 1942 Anderson dispatched natives to find the food dropped by the Lockheed Hudson. The natives returned with the food, and reported that the plane was completely destroyed. Notice was received that ‘The Edie’ was out of commission and that Rev Taylor’s boat was broken down and the journey was being continued by canoe.
On April 18, 1942 the remainder of the crew and Lt. Anderson travel aboard three outrigger canoes that reach Tufi the next day by 1:30pm.
On April 20, 1942 Ford sent a message to the 22nd BG Commander and Port Moresby from the radio at Tufi. No reply was received until April 29, 1942. Meanwhile, several of the crew were sick with a fever and were being cared for by the resident magistrate and a missionary priest.
On May 5, 1942 the crew embarked aboard MV Olvira. After two days travel, they reached Wygani where they disembarked to wait for more transportation. The crew returned to Ahioma, a place they had passed, a short distance up the coast where they would be more comfortable.
On May 21, 1942 the crew was picked up by MV Matoma, crowded with other passengers. The first day aboard the Matoma, five of the crew were stricken with malaria, at some time or other. On May 26, 1942 the ship arrived at Fairfax Harbor. Two days later, on May 28, 1942 the crew hitch a ride aboard B-26 at 7-Mile Drome and are flown back to their squadron at Antill Plains Airfield. The crew returns 48 days later.
On April 13, 1942 the force landed B-26 was destroyed by placing fuel in the toilet and setting the entire fuselage and wings on fire.
In the middle of December 1970, the crash site was photographed by Australian Army soldiers Sergeant P. J. Davis and Sergeant J. W. West from the PNG Command Survey section while flying aboard a Platus Porter. The wreckage was reported and misidentified as a A-20 Havoc or Boston.
Justin Taylan visited the site in November 2003:
"According to landowners: 'Our fathers saw the plane crash, while working in their gardens. The people took their things out, and then poured gasoline on the plane to burn it. One of them approached the site, and found the pilot, and assisted him through the jungle and via canoe to Tufi, where they were evacuated back to base. Eric, one of the men who assisted the crew died in 1972.' Those were some of the memories of the crash during my visit."
Disbro earned the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters plus the Purple Heart. Postwar, he continued in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and retired as a Colonel in the reserves. He passed away on March 1, 1965. He is buried at Hershey Cemetery in Hershey, PA at section C, lot 96, grave 3.
Ashley earned the DFC, BSM, Air Medal and Purple Heart. Postwar, he continued in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and served in the Korean War then retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He passed away January 6, 1995 at age 74. He is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX at section 10, site 451.
Loranger continued in the U.S. Air Force (USAAF) and served in the Korean War and Vietnam and retired with the rank of Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt). He earned Bronze Star, US Accommodation Medal with four oak clusters, the National Defense Service Medal with a Bronze Star, a United Nations Service Medal plus several Korean and Vietnam service medals. Loranger passed away June 21, 2007 at age 76 in Chelan County in Washington State. He is buried at Evergreen Memorial Park in East Wenatchee, WA.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Louis W. Ford
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John H. Disbro
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Edward S. Ashley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William F. Loranger
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26 40-1418
"1418 (22nd BG, 408th BS [sic]) belly-landed in jungle near Tufi after being hit by AAA during attack in Rabaul Apr 11, 1942. Crew survived and made their way back to base, taking 47 days."
FindAGrave - John H Disbro (obituary, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Edward S Ashley (grave photo)
FindAGrave - William Francis Loranger (obituary, grave photo)
Mission to Adventure by William F. Loranger
Post Courier "Crashed Bomber Found" December 18, 1970
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-26 40-1418
Revenge of the Red Raiders (2006) pages 69, 70-74, 199, 122, 199, 135, 150, 489. 499-500, 514, 565
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information
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