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  F6F-3 Hellcat Bureau Number 08884  
USS Saratoga (CV-3)

Pilot  Ensign William Thompson Welles, 156407 (POW, survived)
MIA  November 1, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman in Bethpage, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 08884. Assigned to USS Saratoga (CV-3) to squadron VF-12. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On November 1, 1943 took off from USS Saratoga (CV-3) on a strike against Buka Airfield on Buka Island and Bonis Airfield on northern Bougainville. When he failed to return, Welles was officially declared Missing in Action (MIA). In fact, Welles bailed out and nearly landed atop the burning wreckage of his crashed aircraft.

Prisoner of War
Welles was immediately captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW). and held at the airfield, but was not restrained or beaten.

Later, he met Joseph G. Nason pilot of SBD Dauntless 03359 who was also brought to Buka as a prisoner. At that point, Welles was heavily bearded. Together, they were tranfered to a Destroyer and transported to Rabaul, where they were both interned in the Rabaul POW Camp . Reportedly, Welles transferred from Kempei-Tai to Navy custody on December 19, 1943.

On December 20, 1943 Welles was transfered by air from Rabaul to Japan, along with two other prisoners, Sqn Ldr Noel T. Quinn pilot of Beaufort A9-262 and and Lt(jg) Stefan Albert Nyarady pilot of TBF Avenger 23973.

Interned at Rokuroshi POW Camp (Osaka Main Camp Chikko #24. He survived the war and was liberated on September 7, 1945. Afterwards, he was taken to Yokohama and evacuated to the United States.

Are you a relative of Welles? Contact Us

Note: some references incorrectly list this fighter shot down on November 2, 1942
Horio You Next Die!
pages 52 - 57
The Siege of Rabaul appendix
POWs at Rokuroshi POW Camp, Honshu, Japan Roster  Welles, William Thompson, Ens
Thanks to Ted Darcy, Edward Rogers and David Forrester for additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


Tech Info

1 Prisoner

References to POW Welles

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