|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, 1942 while taxing DC-3 VH-ACB collided with this bomber, damaging the starboard wing, tail and part of the fuselage and also damaged Lodestar LT922 parked alongside. The damage prevented it from participating in the first American bombing mission staged from Australia against Rabaul on February 22-23, 1942.
On June 23, 1942 took off piloted by Hal C. Winfrey on a bombing mission against Koepang and claimed a Zero shot down.
On June 26, 1943 took off from Dobodura Airfield at 1:45am on a night bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. After releasing their bombs over the target, this B-17 came under intense anti-aircraft fire but was not hit. The B-17 loitered over the target area for another 30 minutes, then turned back towards base.
Approaching from lower altitude, a J1N1 Irving piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo, made three firing passes against the bomber using his upward firing 20mm cannons. The second pass killed pilot Sarsfield. The third attack set fire to the left wing. Only navigator Holguin was able to bail out before the bomber crashed into the Baining Mountains southeast 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. He was detained by the Japanese Army Kempei-Tai (military police) at the 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. Holguin was experimented on by Doctor Hirano who deliberately injected him with malaria. When Japan officially surrendered in September 1945, he was one of nine Allied prisoners who survived captivity at Rabaul and was liberated by the Australian Navy to Jacquinot Bay then was flown aboard a C-47 to New Guinea before being returned to the United States.
Brian Bennett adds:
Recovery of Remains
During April 1949, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company sent Sgt Sotan and Cpl Cramer to Rabaul to recover any additional remains from the crash site. During their visit, 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 transported to the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) at Schofield Barracks. These remains were incorrectly disproved to be associated with this aircraft and were instead deemed to be unknowns. Even the ring they did not associate with crew member Henry Garcia. The recovered remains were interned in a group burial at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl) in graves 607, 610 and 612.
Due to surviving crew member Jose Holguin's efforts, the unknown remains recovered from the crash site in 1949 were disinterred on August 7, 1984 from Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl) for reexamination. They were accessioned by US Army CILHI on the same day with case number CILH 0024-84 through CILHI 0028-84. On February 21, 1985, five of crew remains were positively identified: Peattie, Knott, Garcia, Griebel and Payne. During 1985, Each was buried in their hometown cemeteries. Both Holguin and Winfrey attended each memorial services.
After Holguin's rediscovery of the crash site in 1984, US Army CILHI visited the crash site during September 7-9, 1983 and again on August 18-22, 1984. During 2000, Brian Bennett accompanied US Army CILHI to the crash site again for an additional search.
During July 23 - August 20, 2001 a team from US Army CILHI excavated the crash site and recovered human remains and additional material, U.S. Army equipment and items used by crew members were accessioned on August 27, 2001 as CILHI 2001-152. On September 26, 2001 six tooth samples were submitted to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) for mDNA testing. On January 31, 2002 four bone samples were also submitted and on December 16, 2005 five more bone samples were submitted.
No additional remains were found during any of these additional visits and the site was declared cleared.
During 2010, the remains of Gionet were identified and scheduled for burial during September 2011.
Holguin Returns to Rabaul
On his first trip in 1981, Holguin was accompanied by former pilot Hal Winfrey. Together, they met Brian Bennett who took them to the Baining Mountains to Arumbum village. There, they located Mrs. Inui, who tended to Holguin's wounds and helped nurse him.
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.
Also, Holguin located and reconciled with W. O. Matsumoto, his former Kempei-Tai (military police) prison guard in hopes he might reveal more details about the execution and burial of American prisoners of war at Rabaul.
After the crew identifications in 1984, five were permanently buried in the hometowns during 1985.
Holguin died on March 22, 1994. He is buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana CA at lawn grave AH.
Crew member Christopherson remains Missing In Action (MIA).