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|Pilot P/O Walter Burford Bernie, 428901 (KIA, BR) Newtown, NSW
Radio W/O Joseph Merrick Towers Brown, 418063 (POW, died November 1, 1944, BR) Chobham, England
Passenger Captain Morris Glen Evensen, NGX189 AIF, 1st Australian Air Liaison (MIA / KIA) Mosman, NSW
Destroyed October 25, 1944
On June 13, 1944 this Walrus rescued the crew of a Vultee Vengeance A27-534 that ditched the previous day at Princess Charlotte Bay, QLD.
On June 18, 1944 a float was damaged after it touched the ground while landing in strong winds. Later on June 27, 1944 further damaged at Cooktown. Afterwards, repaired including changing the main plane and test flown on July 22, 1944.
On August 10, 1944 to 9 Squadron then five days later assigned to 8 Communication Unit (8 CU) in exchange for Walrus L2322 from 9 Squadron. Afterwards, this Walrus operated from New Guinea.
Around 7:00am, this Walrus landed on the southern side of Unei Island (Buni) to talk with them. After landing, the seven natives (Kaboi, Ulienu, Kalungaluno, Sameri, Saliem and Katip) paddled to the island in their canoes and hid in the bush.
The Walrus taxied close to the shore and Captain Everson climbed onto the wing and asked them to come out to talk. Two of the natives Ulienu, Kalungaluno emerged and talked to with him. Everson asked if there were any Japanese on Karasau Island and Ulienu replied "no". He then asked them to come aboard the Walrus and to go to the island to meet village leaders and take them to Aitape. The two refused to get in the seaplane and instead said they would paddle over in their canoe, but later agreed to be towed by the Walrus across the sea to the western point on Karasau Island known as Win. The other natives paddled behind in their canoes, but instead went to the northern shore and disappeared.
This Walrus anchored approximately 60 yards off Karasau Island at the edge of the reef. Ulienu and Kalungaluno went waded ashore at low tide across the reef and reached the island. The Walrus radioed to the Beaufort: "The boongs have run away, but we are going ashore chasing them. Will you wait fifteen minutes, and call us any time for instructions".
Ashore, the Japanese had observed the seaplane approaching as their camp was only 400 yards away from a camp for the 37 Machine Cannon Company. Once ashore, Ulienu, who was loyal to the Japanese and was appointed a "Captain Grade 1" informed the Japanese about the seaplane and that there were three aboard. Meanwhile a patrol from the headquarters moved into position to capture or ambush the crew.
After the two natives went ashore, Evensen and Bernie used their dingy to go ashore and were walking slowly along the beach when they were ambushed and killed by gunfire from a light machine gun positioned only eight yards away. Next, the Japanese opened fire with a single 20mm cannon at the Walrus, wounding Brown in the arm and he was captured and became a Prisoner Of War (POW).
Another Beaufort arrived in the area around 8:50am and observed the Walrus burning. In retaliation, this Beaufort began strafing the area. By evening, four LCM barges and a picket boat took up positions off Karasau Island in hopes the party would see them and if alive would steal a canoe and paddle out to them. No trace of the party was observed by the boats or patrolling aircraft. Afterwards, Australian aircraft attacked the area for the next three days.
Fates of the Crew
At Boiken, Brown was detained at the Military Police (MP) barracks commanded by Major Nakahara with WO Nakmuru. He was checked by a NCO medical orderly. On November 1, 1944 he was found dead in the morning and was deemed to have died of his wounds, loss of blood and malaria. He was buried in a blanket approximately 100 meters from the barracks in a five foot deep grave by four men from the 17 Formosan Labor Unit including Yoshimura Yasuo, Hirota and two others.
According to a captured Japanese Army document dated November 3, 1944 a citation was awarded to the 37 Machine Cannon Company for their action to spotting the Walrus while a patrol from the unit's headquarters spotted two of the crew [Bernie and Evensen] come ashore in a canoe. The Japanese encircled them and attempted to capture them, but the Australians fired their pistol and an automatic rifle and were shot and killed. Meanwhile, six Japanese attacked the seaplane and captured the other crew member [Brown] and disabled the seaplane. Two Allied aircraft then made strafing attacks.
On October 1, 1945 James A. Birrell, NGX355 from ANGAU visited Karasau Island and observed a few parts of the plane's wing remained in the sea. The fuselage and engine were not observed.
Recovery of Remains
On December 5, 1945 the 6 Australian Division, 7 Australian War Graves Unit led by Captain D. H. Detherridge went to Boiken to recover remains of Brown after learning about his burial from Japanese POWs. Led by Formosan Yoshimura Yasuo who buried the body, his grave was located roughly 2.5 miles inland. The body had no personal effects or clothing to help with identification. The only wound observed was the right upper arm broken in two places. Afterwards, the remains recovered were buried at the Wewak War Service Cemetery at grave H2A.2.
During May 1946, a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle further investigated the incident and unsuccessfully searched for the bodies of Bernie and Everson. It was assumed their bodies washed away with the tide, but they recommended further investigation among Japanese POWs for information.
Brown was officially declared dead on November 1, 1944. After his remains were recovered, he was buried at Lae War Cemetery at at GG. C. 2.
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