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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
Built by Supermarine as Walrus II serial number X9559. On July 14, 1942 delivered to the Royal Navy (RN) Fleet Air Arm (FAA) at RNAS Evanton and remained at that location until August 1942. On October 13, 1942 assigned to 700 Naval Air Squadron aboard HMS Howe (32) and remained until December 1942. During January 1943, transfered to Twatt Airfield (RNAS Twatt) until February 1943. Afterwards, disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia.
On January 19, 1944 assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and received by 1 TMO and sent to Qantas at Rose Bay to be reassembled. On May 26, 1944 assigned to 2 FBRD. Next on June 11, 1944 assigned to 5 Communication Unit (5 CU).
On June 13, 1944 this Walrus rescued the crew of a Vultee Vengeance A27-534 that ditched the previous day into 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.
On October 25, 1944 took off piloted by P/O Walter Burford Bernie on a reconnaissance mission over the north coast of New Guinea around Wewak escorted by Beaufort A9-559. Over Unei Island (Buni), the Walrus spotted three native canoes fishing on the reef to the south. The Walrus crew incorrectly believed the Unei Island and Karasau Island were not occupied by the Japanese.
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).
Twenty minutes after the Walrus' last radio message, from above the escorting Beaufort observed a red and green flare were fired from the Walrus, but their meaning was unknown and the seaplane could not be reached by radio. Ground fire was observed in the area where the two that went ashore entered the tree line. Something white was observed on the pilot's canopy of the Walrus at roughly 8:00am. Low on fuel, the escorting Beaufort returned to base.
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
After being captured, Brown was detained in a cave (or an air raid shelter made of stone) and guarded on the northern side of Karasau Island and spent the night. He was interrogated by the Japanese then around October 29, 1944 he was transported aboard native canoe rowed by natives and guarded by one Japanese soldier to Boiken on the north coast of New Guinea.
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.
After the crew was captured on October 25, 1944, the Japanese inspected the Walrus and recovered equipment then attempted to destroy it with hand grenades but were unsuccessful. Later, native Kaboi carried a container of fuel out to the plane and set it on fire. By 8:50am, the wreckage was observed to be burning by the patrolling Beaufort. By evening, the Walrus caught fire and sank underwater.
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 October 1, 1945 Lt. James A. Birrell, NGX355 from ANGAU visited Karasau Island to interrogate the natives involved and search for the remains of the crew. Six of the seven natives involved had died during March 1945 in an Allied bombing raid and only Kalungaluno was still alive. He found no trace of the two crew killed, and presumed their bodies had washed out to sea, and the cave where Brown was detained. He observed part of the wing in the sea.
On December 5, 1945 the Australian Army 6th 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.
Bernie and Evensen were officially declared dead on October 25, 1944 but both remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Both are memorialized at the Lae Memorial at Lae War Cemetery. Bernie on panel 6. Evensen on panel 1. Evensen is also memorialized at the roll of honor at Mosman, NSW.
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.
WW2 Nominal Roll - Walter Burford Bernie
WW2 Nominal Roll - Joseph Merrick Towers Brown
WW2 Nominal Roll - Morris Glen Evensen
AWM 8 Communication Unit ORB
"The aircraft was on reconnaissance off the coast of New Guinea near Wewak escorted by Beaufort A9559. It landed near Karasau Island to allow Capt Evenson to check on enemy activity there. The Beaufort watched the Walrus land and saw 2 occupants paddle ashore in a dinghy. Ground fire was then seen and the Walrus caught fire, eventually being destroyed. All occupants were reported missing, believed prisoners of war"
NAA "Evensen Morris Glen Service Number - NGX189" (NAA: B883, NGX189)
NAA "BERNIE Walter Burford - (Pilot Officer); Service Number - 428901; Aircraft - Walrus X9559; Place - Karasau Island, New Guinea; Date - 25 October 1944" (NAA: A705, 166/5/752)
NAA "BROWN, Joseph Merrick Towers - (Warrant Officer); Service Number - 418063; File type - Casualty - Repatriation; Aircraft - Walrus X9559; Place - Boiken, Papua New Guinea; Date - 25 October 1944" (NAA: A705, 166/6/755)
ANGAU HQ "Report of Death of Capt. Evenson and Party" October 1, 1945 (NAA: A705, 166/6/755 p35-36)
Japanese War Crimes Trials, File
"The crew asked a native in a canoe if there were any Japanese on the island. They were told there were none, but on landing they were shot from ambush (Plt Off W.B. Bernie and Capt Evetson, 1st Australian Air Liaison). The Japanese then paddled out to the aircraft and shot and wounded the pilot, W/O J.M.T. Brown. Brown died a few days later from sickness and wounds. Aircraft destroyed by enemy action (fire)"
"Interrogation of Yoshimura Yashu, 27 Special Navy Base Unit" December 3, 1945 (NAA: A705, 166/6/755 p17)
ADF Serials - A2 Supermarine Seagull & Walrus - Walrus II X9559
CWGC - Joseph Merrick Towers Brown
CWGC - Walter Burford Bernie
CWGC - Morris Glen Evensen
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis
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