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Justin Taylan May 25, 2011
|Pilot Lt. Col. Charles Andrews "Bud" Sprague C.O. 17th PS (KIA, BR) Bridgeport, CT
Crashed February 20, 1942
Sprague was born in Connecticut. He graduated West Point class of 1937. During early 1942 became the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the 17th Pursuit Squadron (17th PS) flying P-40E Warhawks from Ngoro Airfield on eastern Java. On February 19, 1942 promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40E Warhawk serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the Far East Air Force (FEAF), 24th Pursuit Group (24th PG), 17th Pursuit Squadron (17th PS). No known nickname, nose art or tail number.
On February 20, 1942 at 6:15 took off from Ngoro Airfield on eastern Java piloted by Lt. Col. Charles Andrews "Bud" Sprague leading a formation of sixteen P-40E Warhawks on an escort mission. After take off, the P-40s flew to Singosari Airfield (Malang) and rendezvous at 12,000' with seven A-24 Dive Bombers from the 27th Bombardment Group (27th BG) plus three LB-30 Liberators on a bombing mission against Japanese ships off Bali.
At 8:00am while approaching Denpasar Airfield from the sea, the aircraft formed a large box formation at 15,000'. At 8:12am over southern Bali intercepted by A6M2 Zeros from the 3rd Kōkūtai and a dogfight began over the target area. This P-40 was hit by gunfire from Zeros and crashed near Sampalan on the north coast of Penida Island. Sprague was killed during the dog fight or on impact.
This P-40 crashed onto the beach near Sampalan village on Penida Island across the Badoeng Strait southeast of Bali.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, Sprague's body was found near Sampalan on Penida Island. Later, a Dutch seaman from Hr Ms Piet Hein was approached by locals carrying the body and reported he was shot down by Japanese fighter planes. His parachute was covered in blood and all his equipment was Australian issue, but inside his pocket was a bone knife inscribed "C. A. Sprague". Later, his dog tag was found with his name and hometown readable.
Sprague was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Sprague's body was initially buried near Sampalan with a marker indicating he was an RAAF pilot. Postwar, he was permanently buried at West Point Cemetery at section VII, site C-136. In 2007, his wife Lillian Sprague was buried with him.
Sunday Herald "Maj. Sprague Death Proved by Dog-Tag" April 10, 1949 pages 1, 15
"The half-corroded letters on a "dog-tag" found on a small isle near Bali in the South Pacific have been deciphered as "Major Charles A. Sprague, Bridgeport, Conn. The news came by way of the U.S. Army this week to the pilot's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Charles H. Sprague, of 29 Hanover St. Thus the story is complete of one of the first Connecticut men to die in the early days of outnumbered Americans in the last war."
FindAGrave - LTC Charles Andrews Sprague (news, grave photo)
Every Day A Nightmare (2010) pages 247-250, 256, 257, 351 (Table 5: Philippines pilots to Australia, Sprague), 352 (Table 6: 17 Pursuit Squadron Provisional, Sprague), 497 (index Sprague)
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March 3, 2021
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