|Pilot 1st Lt. William J. Sarsfield, Jr., O-791243 (MIA / KIA, BR) PA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Charles E. Trimingham, O-727282 (MIA / KIA, BR) Salinas, CA
Bombardier 1st Lt. Francis G. Peattie, O-727655 (MIA / KIA, BR) Beacon, NY
Navigator 1st Lt. Jose L. Holguin, O-728388 (POW, survived) Los Angeles, CA
Asst Bomb 2nd Lt. Herman H. Knott, O-669320 (MIA / KIA, BR) NY
Eng T/Sgt Robert L. Christopherson, 17017152 (MIA / KIA, BNR) Blue Earth, MN
Asst Eng S/Sgt Henry Garcia, 19080310 (MIA / KIA, BR) Los Angeles, CA
Radio T/Sgt Leonard A. Gionet, 11009541 (MIA / KIA / BR) Shirley, MA
Asst Radio S/Sgt Robert E. Griebel, 37139583 (MIA / KIA, BR) Riverton, WY
Gunner S/Sgt Pace P. Payne, 18081362 (MIA / KIA, BR) Corsicana, TX
Crashed June 26, 1943
On February 18, taxing DC-3 VH-ACB collided with this bomber, damaging its starboard wing, tail and part of the fuselage and also damaging Lodestar LT922 parked alongside. Repaired by February 27, the damage prevented this B-17 from participating in the first American bombing mission staged from Australia against Rabaul on February 22/23, 1942. Repaired by February 27, 1942.
In Australia, this bomber was assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot Hal C. Winfrey of Harian, KY.
On June 23, 1942 piloted by Hal C. Winfrey this B-17 flew on a bombing mission against Koepang and claimed a Zero shot down.
Took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby landing at Dobodura on the north coast of New Guinea to refuel and load bombs. Took off again at 1:45am on a night bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul.
Over the target, the B-17 came under intense anti-aircraft fire after releasing their bombs, but was not hit. The bomber loitered in the target area for another 30 minutes, and were about to return to base.
Approaching from lower altitude, a J1N1 Irving piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo, made three firing passes against the bomber using its upward firing cannons. The second pass killed pilot Sarsfield. His third attack set fire to the left wing and only navigator Holguin was able to bail out before the bomber crashed into the Baining Mountains south-east of Rabaul. Also shot down that same night was B-17F "Taxpayer's Pride" 41-24448.
Fate of Jose Holguin
On July 17, 1943 Holguin was turned over to the Japanese who transported him to Rabaul. Detained by the Japanese Army Kempei-Tai (military police) he was interned at Rabaul Prisoner Compound. As a prisoner, Holguin received no medical treatment, interrogations and harsh treatment. During early 1944, he and other surviving prisoners were moved to the Tunnel Hill POW Camp and imprisoned there. He was experimented on by Doctor Hirano who deliberatly injected him with malaria. One of nine Allied prisoners who survived captivity at Rabaul and was liberated in early September 1945. His epic ordeal in a captivity is expressed in a letter he wrote as after the war to testifying about his captivity.
Brian Bennett adds:
During early 1949, the crash site was reported by natives to the US Army 30th Engineer Battalion doing survey work in the area. In April 1949, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company sent Sgt Sotan and Cpl Cramer to Rabaul to recover any remains. At the crash site, they recovered three sets of partial remains in a shallow grave and a ring with the initials 'H.G.' (Henry Garcia) engraved on it. The remains were assigned the code "IB-28 unknown (Group)" and later interned in a group burial at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl).
Holguin Returns to Rabaul
On this first trip in 1981, Holguin was accompanied by Hal Winfrey. Together, they met Brian Bennett who took them to the Baining Mountains and located Mrs. Inui, who tended to Holguin's wounds when he was taken to Arumbum village.
Returning in 1982, Holguin joined Brian Bennett and Bruce Hoy (PNG Museum Curator) and returned to the Baining Mountains. With the help of an elderly villager from the area he was led to the crash site. Brian Bennett located the first piece of wreckage, a supercharger, then the group found the rest of the wreckage and cockpit section nearby. On the side of the nose, the nose art and nickname "Naughty But Nice" were still clearly visible.
During early 1984, Holguin returned to the crash site intent on salvaging the cockpit section. Placing lifting straps around the wreckage, it was lifted and flown back to Rabaul and later brought to the Kokopo Museum for display. Brian Bennett and his son Lenny Bennett spent a week cleaning the relic with cotton balls and applying a lacquer to remove growth and protect the original paint. Later, the nose art section was removed, and displayed separately from the cockpit area.
Holguin reconciled with W. O. Matsumoto, his former prison guard hoping he might reveal more details about the execution and burial of American prisoners at Rabaul.
Identification of Additional Remains
During 2010, the remains of Gionet were identified and scheduled for burial during September 2011.
After their identification in 1984, five of the crew were permanently buried during 1985.
Peattie is buried at the Old Beacon Cemetery, next to the graves of his parents. In his home town of Beacon, there is a memorial plaque at the Lewis Tomkins Hose Company #1 where he volunteered as a fireman prewar. At the firehouse, his medals, a crew photo and a piece of wreckage from the B-17 donated by Holguin are on display.
Crew member Christopherson remains missing in action.
Holguin died on March 22, 1994. He is buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana CA at lawn grave AH.
Former pilot, Hal Winfrey died during November 1998 in Atlanta, GA. Burial details unknown.