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US Army January 1943
Grant Malensek 1989
|Pilot 1st Lt. Robert H. Schwensen, O-662180 (MIA / KIA, BR) Witchita, KS
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Henry W. Sherman, O-790598 (MIA / KIA, BR) NY
Engineer Cpl Emil W. Erickson, 37160734 (MIA / KIA, BR) MN
Radio Pvt Clifford J. "Bud" Fawn, 15076739 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lowis Center, OH
Trainee Gunner Pfc Edward G. Piekutowski, 36238257 (MIA / KIA, BR) MI
Crashed February 6, 1943
Built by Douglas. Constructor Number 6041. On November 17, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47-DL Skytrain serial number 41-38658. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
On January 9, 1943 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 347th Troop Carrier Group (347th TCG), 33rd Troop Carrier Squadron (33rd TCS). Nicknamed "Early Delivery" painted in yellow block letters on the left side of the nose. Nose Number 642. Australian call sign VH-CGN.
On February 6, 1943 at 9:20am took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Robert H. Schwensen as one of three C-47s led by Lt. George Wamsleyon a flight bound for Wau Airfield. Aboard as cargo was ammunition and equipment. The weather was reported as good.
At 10:30am as the three C-47s were in the landing pattern for Wau Airfield, a Japanese air raid by Ki-48 Lilys escorted by Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai (misidentified as "Zeros") was underway.
Attempting to evade the enemy fighters, this C-47 overflew the Bulolo River and turned before crashing into a jungle covered hillside near Wandumi to the east of Wau. Everyone aboard was killed on impact. When this C-47 failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
During August 1988, the crash site was discovered by Grant Malensek a geologist working for CRA prospecting for gold around Wau. On the tail, Malemsek observed the tail serial number "138658" painted in yellow and reported the site to U.S. authorities.
Recovery of Remains
On October 5, 1989, a team from US Army CILHI arrived at the crash site and recovered the remains of the crew. Their remains were transported to Hawaii for laboratory testing and later that year the entire crew was identified by the Department of Defense (DoD). Schwensen and Sherman were individually identified. Erickson, Fawn and Piekutowski were not individually identified.
After the 1989 recovery of remains, the crew were transported to the United States for permanent burial.
Schwensen was officially declared dead on December 17, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Sherman was officially declared dead on December 17, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Erickson was officially declared dead on February 6, 1943. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Erickson is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also is memorialized at the Middle River Veterans Memorial in Middle River, MN.
Fawn was officially declared dead on February 6, 1943. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Piekutowski was officially declared dead on December 17, 1945. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. After the recovery of remains, all five crew were transported to the United States for permenant burial.
On July 21, 1989 Sherman was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 66, site 3444.
On August 8, 1989 Erickson, Fawn and Piekutowski were buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at section 34, grave 4892.
On September 1, 1989 Schwensen was buried at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery at section 2, site 182.
Merrill Joan Gerber (cousin of Henry Sherman)
"My cousin, the most beautiful soldier I had ever seen, disappeared into thin air over a place called New Guinea." Read The Lost Airman: A Memoir by Merrill Joan Gerber."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-47-DL 41-38658
"38658 (MSN 6041) to USAAF Nov 17, 1942 - 5th AF, Australia Jan 09, 1943 - MIA Feb 07, 1943."
Missing Air Crew Report 16323 (MACR 16323) created retroactively circa 1945-1946
Ernest Ford veteran 33rd Troop Carrie Squadron recalls:
"In October, 2002, I met George Wamsley, former squadron leader of the 33rd TCS, 5th AF. Wamsley told Ford about his left wingman, 1/Lt. Robert H. Schwensen in C-47, 41-38658 "Early Delivery". As Wamsley and his formation were in a holding pattern, waiting to land at Wau, they were attacked by Zeros [sic Ki-43 Oscars]. Wamsley said: 'One moment Schwensen was there, the next he was gone.' What happened next was that Early Delivery made an emergency landing at Wau, just after Ford and two other C47's. They landed as the field was bombed and a Wirraway [A20-447] was destroyed. The C-47's had to take off again immediately and "Early Delivery" was shot down as it climbed away. Ford and the others kept low and survived, along with 87 Australian passengers."
Diary of Sgt. Eugene H. Roberts
"30 April 1943 "...Natives reported finding bones of our men in "Early Delivery" crashed 6th [Februay 6, 1943]. A searching party leaves tomorrow - 4 days thru the jungle northwest of Wau."
Note, the bones referenced are of unknown origin, this crash site was not found until 1988.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert H. Schwensen
"1LT Schwensen's remains were recovered and interred at Fort Leavenworth, KS."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry W. Sherman "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Emil W. Erickson "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Clifford J. Fawn "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward G. Piekutowski "remains recovered"
FindAGrave - Lieut Robert H Schwensen (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Robert H. Schwensen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Henry W Sherman (group burial photo) date of death incorrectly listed as Feb. 7, 1943
FindAGrave - 1Lt Henry W Sherman (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Corp Emil W. Erickson (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Cpl Emil W. Erickson (Middle River Veterans Memorial photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Clifford J. Fawn (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Edward G Piekutowski (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - PFC Edward G. Piekutowski (group burial photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-47 Dakota 41-38658
Allied Air Transport Operations South West Pacific Area in WWII, Volume 2 (2000) pages 422–425
The Battle for Wau (2008) pages 212-213, 216-222
Ki-43 'Oscar' Aces of World War 2 (2009) pages 75-76
The Lost Airman: A Memoir by Merrill Joan Gerber
AP "Geologist finds lost U.S. warplane, crew remains" October 7, 1988
Thanks to Grant Malensek and Phil Bradley for additional information
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