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|Pilot Lt. Edgar Brown Graff, USNR (KIA, BR) OH
Co-Pilot Captain Elbert Lee Raffety, USN (KIA, BR) Chicago, IL
Crew AMM2c Roger L. Bomstad, USNR (KIA, BR) MN
Crew AMM2c Philip E. Plotts, USN (KIA, BR)
Crew RM2c Rudy N. Acosta, USN (KIA, BR) CA
Crew RM2c Charles R. Holden, USN (KIA, BR) Douglas, AZ
Crashed October 26, 1943 at 4:45pm
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PBY-5 Catalina Bureau Number 2447. Assigned to Patrol Squadron 23 (VP-23) with side number 23-P-4. This Catalina was based at NAS Pearl Harbor (Ford Island Seaplane Base) on Ford Island inside Pearl Harbor.
On December 7, 1941 this Catalina survived the first wave of the Japanese surprise attack against Pearl Harbor and Oahu undamaged. After the first wave, this Catalina took off on a search mission to locate the Japanese fleet piloted by 1st Pilot LCDR Massie Hughes, 2nd Pilot Lt. James Ogden and 3rd pilot AAMM1c Theuson. In his rush to take off, Hughes was still wearing his pajamas beneath his uniform.
Afterwards, flown across the Pacific to Australia. By the middle of 1943, assigned to Patrol Squadron 101 (VP-101). No known nickname or nose art. During the middle of August 1943, Catalinas from VP-101 were tasked to provide air cover for ship movements between Australia and New Guinea operating from Port Moresby Seaplane Base in Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby.
On October 26, 1943 took off from Port Moresby Seaplane Base piloted by Lt. Edgar Brown Graff on a mission. Returning from the mission, after crossing the Owen Stanley Range, this flying boat entered bad weather including tropical storms, high wind and heavy rains with practically zero visibility. Flying only on instruments back to Port Moresby Seaplane Base crashed killing everyone aboard on impact. On the ground at an Australian Army post roughly fifty miles northeast of Port Moresby reported hearing a plane overhead in distress, then a few seconds later the sound of the crash at 4:45pm.
Recovery of Remains
Afterwards, the crash site was located by Australian forces and the remains of the crew were recovered and buried at the site. Postwar, the remains of the crew were recovered and transported to Hawaii and the United States for permanent burial.
This Catalina crashed into large trees and vegetation near the road east of Sogeri at roughly Lat 9° 25' 60S Long 147° 28' 0E. On impact, the flying boat was totally destroyed and scattered over an area measuring roughly 550 yards with both engines found roughly 200 yards apart. Evidence at the crash site pointed to a fire in the right engine or possibly an electrical fire caused by a short circuit in ignition harness that caused the crash.
Among the wreckage, the starboard engine's CO2 bottle had been discharged during the flight, indicating the right engine might have been on fire or damaged. The electric lead to the left magneto was burned and completely and fused as a result of a high temperature from a fire. The starboard firewall, oil tanks, fuel tank and after portion of engine were burned. The fabric on the starboard wing and elevator was burned. Afterwards, the remains of the crew were recovered.
Afterwards, the crash site area was named Catalina. Until the 1960s or early 1970s, the wreckage of this aircraft remained under a clump of trees along the road.
Bob Piper recalls:
"[In the 1960s] I briefly looked at it one day and from memory it was beside the road to Sirinumu Dam on the right heading out to that dam, and quite close to the road - perhaps in a garden at a plantation."
By 1991, the remaining wreckage of this Catalina was scrapped or otherwise disappeared.
Bruce Hoy adds:
"In my old museum [PNG War Museum, Gordons] there is a propeller blade that came from the Catalina. It was inscribed with a message to the crew who lost their lives and at the top was the 5th Air Force insignia, excellently executed with a background of blue. The item was recovered from Catalina Plantation, most likely by Bill Chapman or someone who knew Bill."
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission.
Graff is buried at Evergreen Burial Park in New Philadelphia, OH at section E.
Raffety is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in West Chicago, IL at lot 255.
Bomstad is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot A, grave 166.
Acosta is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.
Holden was buried on February 28, 1948 at Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park in Fort Worth, TX in the highland section.
Plotts has an unknown burial, presumably in his hometown in the United States.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - PBY-5 Catalina 2447
"2447 (VP-101) crashed after returning from Port Moresby 10/26/1943. 6 killed."
FindAGrave - Edgar Brown Graff (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Elbert Lee Raffety (grave photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - AMM2 Roger Leland Bomstad (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Rudy Acosta (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Charles Robert Holden, Jr (grave photo)
Snake Road pages 225-226
"The plantation [Catalina Estate] got its name from a Catalina flying boat that crashed near the road during the war. Until it disappeared half way through 1991, the wreck could be seen under a clump of trees near the plantation entrance. It is likely it has become another victim in the illegal removal of wartime relics.
... There are various theories about the Catalina that was here, but the most likely one is that it was a United States Air Force [sic] plane that crashed while returning from a long-range reconnaissance flight along the north coast of the island sometime in 1943.
Ted Johnson, formerly of Sogeri plantation, recalls that this Catalina came down during a heavy storm over the plateau: The pilot was off course and made a perfect approach and landing to what he thought was Port Moresby harbour. This is verified by the pilot's circle and gradual descent through the clouds on the exact compass bearing of the Port Moresby harbour landing zone. The aircraft cut quite a swath through the tree-tops."
Sogeri During The War page 41
"Nearly six kilometres along this road and very close to the entrance to Catalina Estate lies the wreckage of a Catalina flying plane."
U. S. Navy Patrol Squadrons VP-101 Mishaps - 26 OCT 43 A/C: PBY-5 Contributed by Terence Geary 30JUL2001
Thanks to Terence Geary, Bob Piper, Edward Rogers, Jim Sawruk and Mike Wenger for additional information
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January 22, 2021
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