|Pilot 1st Lt. Richard T. Otis, O-426420 (MIA / KIA) VT
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Thomas O'Connor, O-426418 (MIA / KIA)
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Merlin C. Douglass (KIA, BR) WI
Navigator 2nd Lt. Charles S. Drewyour (KIA, BR) Detroit, MI
Engineer SSgt Coleman D. Ramsey, 13014731 (MIA / KIA) VA
Gunner Pfc Howard G. Spencer (MIA / KIA) KS
Gunner Pvt Jack J. Howard (MIA / KIA)
Crashed October 13, 1942 at 3:25pm
Built by Martin in Baltimore, Maryland. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26B Marauder serial number 41-17590.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 70th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. Aircraft Number 90 (last two digits of the serial number). This bomber was ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific Ocean before arriving at Nadi Airfield on Viti Levu Island in Fiji.
On October 13, 1942 took off from Nadi Airfield on Viti Levu Island piloted by 1st Lt. Richard T. Otis on a local flight for altitude training mission. As the gunners test fired their guns, a pair of P-39 Airacobras from the 70th Fighter Squadron (70th FS) made a mock interception pass against this bomber. During the mock attack, P-39D Airacobra 41-7043 collided with this B-26 causing both aircraft to immediately crash into the sea roughly 300 yards south of Itai Island off Nadi Airfield. After the crash, a column of black smoke was observed and later all that was observed at the crash site was an oil slick, some wreckage on the surface of the sea and the presence of sharks. When this aircraft failed to return the crew of seven were reported as missing.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of two crew: Douglass and
recovered and buried. On October 14, 1942 a funeral service was held for the entire crew at Lantoka and the two recovered were buried on Fiji. Postwar, both were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial. Five of the crew are officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
The wreckage of this B-26 is on a flat sandy bottom at a depth of 75' / 23m. The wreckage is scattered over a wide area and visibility is not great. The engines, main landing gear tires, fuselage and wing wreckage remain. Local dive operators have strung line to allow divers to tour the various pieces of wreckage in low visibility.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the courts of the missing at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl). Otis, O'Connor, Ramsey and Howard on court 7.
Spencer is also memorialized at Admire Cemetery in Admire, KS.
Howard is also memorialized at Greenwood Cemetery in Michigan City, IN.
After the recovery of remains, two of the crew were buried in the United States:
Douglass was buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Coloma, WI.
Drewyour was buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot C, grave 221.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26B Marauder 41-17590
"17590 (38th BG, 70th BS) crashed after midair collision with P-39 41-7043 Oct 13, 1942 south of Itai Island, Fiji."
Missing Air Crew Report 16411 (MACR 16411) created retroactively
Diary of 1st Lt. Conrad A. Ray, pilot 38th Bombardment Group, 70th Bombardment Squadron
via Larry Hickey / International Historical Research Associates (IHRA)
"13 October 1942 – There is no escaping the fact that as time goes by we are going to leave some of our friends behind forever. The number of them slowly increases. As air plane was being refueled just after landing, I looked out the sea and saw that column of black smoke that always means a plane has crashed. A pursuiter came in from that direction and continuously zoomed the crash boat to start them towards the smoke. Several of our planes took off to investigate and I listened on the radio hoping to hear the reports sent back. When they reached the spot the fire had stopped, leaving two large oil slicks on the water. Dick Otis with Tom O’Conner as co-pilot, ______, Douglas and three gunners were test firing guns low over the water where two 70 Pursuit planes made a pass at them. One [P-39D Airacobra 41-7043] cut the tail from Dick’s plane and both crashed instantly. All that remained to mark the spot was the oil, a little wreckage, sharks and the floating bodies of ______ [Drewyour] and Douglas. The others will probably remain there in the blue water, near a sunken coral reef, 300 yards south of our low, small palm covered target island in Nadi Bay. The loss of Tom and Dick is great to me. We had fun together since joining the Air Corps, and two finer fellows never lived.
14 October 1942 – This morning we flew a squadron formation, practicing formation bombing in preparation for our part in the maneuvers to be held soon. The absense of Dicks plane made a vacant spot in the formation that was very conspicuous. In the afternoon all of us went to the boys funeral in Lantoka. The funeral and burial was in the same places as for Cpl. Piersans. As there it was hard to see them placed in the ground so far from home. I wish so much I could write their folks and answer the questions that will always be in their minds, but the censors wouldn’t let it through."
American Battle Monuments Commission - Richard T. Otis
American Battle Monuments Commission - Thomas O'Connor
American Battle Monuments Commission - Coleman D. Ramsey
American Battle Monuments Commission - Howard G. Spencer
American Battle Monuments Commission - Jack J. Howard
FindAGrave - 1Lt Richard Tabor Otis (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Thomas O'Connor (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Merlin Clarence Douglass (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Charles S. Drewyour (grave photo, unit noted as 42nd Bomb Group)
FindAGrave - SSgt Coleman Douglas Ramsey (courts of the missing photo)
PFC Howard G Spencer (courts of the missing photo)
PFC Howard Spencer (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Jack J Howard (courts of the missing photo)
Jack J Howard (memorial marker)
The Hacking Family - Underwater Pages - Diving Fiji - B-26 Bomber (photo March 2005)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis
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April 5, 2020