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  B-26 "Yeah!" Serial Number 40-1421  
USAAF
5th AF
22nd BG
33rd BS

Pilot  1st Lt. Leonard T. Nicholson (survived) Prescott, AZ
Co-Pilot  1st Lt Jack L. Childers (survived) Clarinda, IA
Navigator  1st Lt Norman E. De Freese, 17027844 (KIA, BR) Haskell County, KS
Bombardier  Sgt Jack C. Moseley, 20400992 (MIA / KIA, BRN drowned in aircraft) Bibb County, GA
Engineer  SSgt William M. Brown, 17004410 (MIA / KIA January 9, 1943, BNR) Kearney County, NB
Radio Operator  SSgt Joseph P. Papp, 6991311 (MIA / KIA, BRN drowned in aircraft) Cuyahoga County, OH
Gunner  Cpl Thomas A. Moffitt, 12010784 (survived) Burlington, NJ
Ditched  January 7, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Martin in Baltimore, Maryland. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26 Marauder serial number 40-1421.

Wartime History
During March 1942, assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 22nd Bombardment Group (22nd BG), 33rd Bombardment Squadron (33rd BS). Ferried overseas by pilot 1st Lt. Hoyt A. Jolly, Jr. via Hickam Field across the Pacific before arriving at Ambeley Field near Brisbane on March 26, 1942. Assigned to pilots Jolly and Nicholson with crew chief Hetherington. Nicknamed "Yeah!".

On April 23 1942 this B-26 flew its first combat mission. In total, this B-26 flew at least 25 combat missions, including two missions with the 19th Bombardment Squadron before it was lost.

On August 22, 1942 took off from Reid River Airfield on a flight to 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. Shortly after landing, took off again piloted by Lt. Nicholson to investigate a reported Japanese submarine but returned an hour later with nil sightings.

Mission History
On January 7, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby pilot 1st Lt. Leonard T. Nicholson on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy off Lae. Over the target, intercepted by nine A6M2 Zeros from 582 Kōkūtai (582 Air Group) over the Huon Gulf. Over the convoy, this B-26 was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the left wing and left engine and the hydraulic system was shot out. A shell exploded in the navigator's compartment, partially severing one DeFreese legs.

Damaged, this B-26 managed to depart the target area before ditching close to the shore into Hercules Bay, about 40 miles south of Salamaua. Another source states it ditched eleven miles off shore, two miles north of the Eia River.

Fates of the Crew
After the ditching, Moseley and Papp went down with the bomber and are listed as Missing In Action (MIA). The rest of the crew survived and attempted to swim to shore. DeFreese died of his wounds before he reached the shore. Ashore, Brown was killed by natives who thought he was Japanese.

Nicholson, Childers and Moffitt swam ashore carrying DeFreese's body. Ashore, they buried his body on the beach. Believing they were in enemy territory, the walked southeast along the beach.

On January 8, 1943 they spotted a Beaufighter piloted by WO Allan Kirley and navigator FSgt Bob Cummins. Spotting the friendly aircraft, the three Americans waved their life vests to attract attention. The Beaufighter dropped them food and a map directing them to friendly lines.

On January 9, 1943 natives spotted the surviving crew and mistook them for Japanese and opened fire. Brown was shot and killed. Meanwhile, Nicholson, Childers and Moffitt fled in different directions. Later, all three were found by friendly natives and brought to an Australian Army camp and later flown back to base.

Childers continued to walk on the beach. On January 10, 1943 Beaufighter A19-15 spotted him and dropped supplies. Afterwards, he made his way to a deserted village on a river and remained there for two days alone. Spotting a native on the far side of the river and waved then took him to aboard his canoe to his village a day upstream, then to an Australian Army camp where he rested then was flown from Ioma Airfield to Port Moresby.

Nicholson was found by two friendly natives that walked him to the same Australian camp (arriving several days before Childers) then was flown from Ioma Airfield to Port Moresby.

Moffitt was also found by friendly natives and taken to the Australian camp then flown from Ioma Airfield to Port Moresby. Afterwards, three surviving crew were sent to Australia for rest and recuperation.

Memorials
Four of the crew: Moseley, Papp, Brown and DeFreese remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Moseley was officially declared dead on January 7, 1943 and is presumed to have drowned in aircraft when it sank. He earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Pap was officially declared dead on January 7, 1943 and is presumed to have drowned in aircraft when it sank. He earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Brown was officially declared dead on January 7, 1943. He earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

DeFreese was officially declared dead January 7, 1943. He earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He has a memorial marker at Haskell County Cemetery in Sublette, KS.

Nicholson joined the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and served in the Korean War. He retired with the rank of Colonel. He passed away February 25, 1987 and is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery at section T2 site 331.

References
Note, De Freese surname is spelled DeFreese, De Freese and De-Freese in some sources.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Norman E. De Freese spelled "De Freese" in this record
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Jack C. Moseley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William M. Brown
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph P. Papp
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Thomas A. Moffitt
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26 40-1421
"1421 (22nd BG, 33rd BS, 5th AF) ditched at sea close to shore at Hercules Bay about 40 mi S of Salamaua, Papua New Guinea after hit by AAA over Lae, New Guinea Jan 7, 1943. 4 crew killed (one by natives who thought he was Japanese), 3 survived and were rescued."
Camperdown Chronicle (Victoria) "Exciting 'Escape Drama' in New Guinea: U.S. Bomber Crew's Ordeal After Being Shot Down. January 26, 1943 page 2
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Norman E. De Freese
FindAGrave - 1LT Norman Elbert De Freese (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Norman E. DeFreese (memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph P. Papp
FindAGrave - SSgt Joseph P Papp (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack C. Moseley
FindAGrave - Sgt Jack C Moseley (tablets of the missing photo)
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - William M. Brown
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William M. Brown
FindAGrave - SSgt William M Brown (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Leonard T. Nicholson (grave photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-26 40-1421
Revenge of the Red Raiders (2006) pages 133 (August 22, 1942 mission), 166-169 (January 7, 1943 mission), 167 (photo), 477 (crew list), 500 (40-1421), 517 (photo), 610 (index Hercules Bay)

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Last Updated
January 7, 2021

 

Tech Info
B-26

MIA
MIA
4 Missing
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