document was discovered in the United States National Archives at College Park,
Maryland. It’s found in RG (Records Group) 165, “Records of the War Department
General and Special Staffs, Assistant Chief of Staff (G-2) Intelligence Library
Project File, ATIS [Allied Translator Interpreter Section] Interrogation Reports”.
Coincidentally, the report can also
be seen on United States Air Force / Historical Records Center Microfilm Roll
A1315, which is available from the USAF/HRC at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
While the text of the microfilm and print versions differs slightly (the bracketed
text in the above account is from the microfilm version) the two are basically
consistent with each other.
Due to the
vagueness of the descriptions of the POWs, it may never be possible to definitively
establish their identities. However, assuming that the information within the
account is correct, this author believes that at least three conclusions can be
drawn from it. First, the Japanese POW
mentioned that the aviators were the crewmen of, “…a two-engined “North American”
bomber as he had heard others discuss it.” Based on this, the POWs would most
likely have been B-25 crewmen.
the POW saw the men during June of 1943. He reported that they’d been taken care
of by, “a native chief named Kaasan,” for roughly a month prior to their discovery.
This would suggest that their aircraft was lost in May of that year, or perhaps
Third, though this author
has been unable to locate the villages of Nambariwa or Kiari, Gali is visible
on large-scale maps of northern New Guinea. It lies on the northern coast of
that island, north-northwest of Lae, and about halfway between Saidor and Singoraki,
along the southern shore of the Vitiaz Strait. Inland lies the Saruwaged Mountain
Range, and farther south, the Markham River Valley. Might this suggest that the
B-25 was lost on a mission somewhere along the northeastern coast of New Guinea?
What Unit were
the POWs Members of?
all this in mind, what Army Air Force unit could these three men have been members
The Fifth Air Force
Groups equipped with B-25s during this time period were the 3rd Bomb Group (8th,
13th, 89th, and 90th Bomb Squadrons), 22nd Bomb Group (2nd, 33rd, and 408th Bomb
Squadrons), and 38th Bomb Group (71st, 405th, 822nd, and 823rd Bomb Squadrons).
The 42nd Bomb Group of the Thirteenth Air Force (composed of the 69th, 70th, 75th,
and 390th Bomb Squadrons)* flew B-25s at this time and throughout the war, as
did No. 18 Squadron of the Netherlands East Indies Air Force.
possible unit can be narrowed a little further. Cyril Klimesh’s excellent web-site
for the 22nd Bomb Group carries
a list of the Group’s Mitchells, and (at one time?) stated that no “Red Raiders”
B-25s were lost on actual combat missions. Similarly, Garrett Middlebrook’s powerful
book “Air Combat at Twenty Feet” includes a list of 71st Bomb Squadron personnel
lost in combat missions between Oct. 16, 1942 and Sept. 27, 1943. Garrett’s list
reveals that no 71st Bomb Squadron aircrews were lost in the area of New Guinea
specified by the Japanese POW during this time period, though two Mitchells were
lost on missions to Lae in November and December of 1942. Finally, Bas Kreuger,
curator of the RNLAF Museum, has informed this author that two B-25s of No. 18
Squadron NEIAF were shot near Dobo and Kaap van den Bosch, and Saumlaki, (on Tanimbar
Island, Indonesia), on April 28 and May 20 of 1943, respectively, with no possibility
of survivors from either plane. Finally, to the best of my knowledge, the 42nd
BG did not conduct operations in the area where these men were lost.
based on the available…albeit vague…evidence, these men most likely were members
one of the four squadrons of the 3rd Bomb Group, or, the 405th, 822nd, or 823rd
Bomb Squadrons of the 38th Bomb Group.
haunting aspect of this report is the Japanese POW’s comment that the
two officers were sent to Japan, while the wounded man died. Did the
officers actually survive? After checking rosters of surviving American POWs
of the Japanese (in the United States National Archives) I discovered that, sadly, no American
B-25 crewmen captured in this area of New Guinea during this time period survived
captivity. These three men, sadly, never returned.
only American B-25 crewman captured by the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific
known to this writer to have survived as a POW was Major Williston M.
Cox, of the 405th
Bomb Squadron of the 38th Bomb Group, who ditched his Mitchell [B-25D
"Green Dragon" 41-30118] off the southeastern shore of Wongat
Island, during a strike against the airstrip at Madang, New Guinea, on August
All but one of Major Cox’s crew were captured with him that same day; his flight
engineer drowned during the ditching. Major Cox was separated from his crew
and sent to Rabaul on August 17, 1943, and from Rabaul, by ship to Japan on
1943. His four surviving crewmen were last seen by him before he was taken
plane, to New Britain. They never returned.
B-25 POWs at Rabaul, five B-25 crewmen from the 345th Bomb Group of the Fifth
Air Force (Lieutenants Donald L. Stookey and Herschel D. Evans of the 500th Bomb
Squadron, and Sergeants Michael H. Kicera, John N. Barron, and William C. Harris
of the 501st Bomb Squadron) were also POWs of the Sixth Field Kempei Tai at Rabaul,
but all were almost certainly “executed” during what is sometimes dubbed the "Tunnel
Hill Incident" on March 3 and/or 4, 1944.
crewmen from the 75th Bomb Squadron of the 42nd Bomb Group were also imprisoned
at Rabaul. They were John A. Bailey, a co-pilot, whose Mitchell [B-25C 42-3225] was shot down on
a mission to Matchin Bay, Bouganville, on November 23, 1943, and Thomas O. Thompson
and Carl C. Clemons, pilot and co-pilot, whose Mitchell [B-25C 42-32319] was shot down during a
strike against Tobera Airfield on January 22, 1944. Held captive
by the 81st Naval Guard Unit, these three men did not survive the war. Presumably,
they too, were “executed”, but the date and place are unknown.
Major Cox, one other B-25 crewmen captured in the Southwest Pacific in 1943…a
member of the NEIAF…survived the war as a POW. He was Sergeant Vd Burg, a crewman
on No. 18 Squadron B-25 N5-136, piloted by Sgt. Visser. Sgt. Visser’s plane was
shot down during a reconnaissance mission over Sumba Island, Indonesia, on Oct.
7, 1943. Though all crewmen except Sgt. Visser survived the immediate crash,
Sgt. Vd Burg would eventually be the sole survivor of his crew.
back, some day we may learn more about aircraft losses in the South and Southwest
Pacific early in WW II, an area covered far less extensively than Europe. Yet,
the question, “Who were these three POWs?” may be much harder to answer.
Whoever they were, they stand for the innumerable Allied servicemen who are still
Missing in Action, over half a century after the end of the Second World War.
* The 69th and 70th Bomb Squadrons flew B-26s through
March of 1943.
Dana. Air Force Colors: Volume 3 - Pacific and Home Front, 1942-1947,
Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton, Tx., 1997
Middlebrook, Garrett. Air Combat
at 20 Feet: Selected Missions From a Strafer Pilot's Diary, Published By Garrett
Middlebrook, Fort Worth, Tx., 1989
Kenn C. Fifth Air Force Story, Historical Aviation Album, Temple City,
Rust, Kenn C. Thirteenth Air Force Story,
Historical Aviation Album, Temple City, Ca., 1981
Air Crew Reports
MACR 935 (Pilot Donald L. Stookey; 345th BG, 500th BS; B-25D 41-30561
1219 (Pilot Orbry H. Moore; 345th BG, 501st BS; B-25D 41-30094
1217 (Pilot Richard Schaffner; 42nd BG, 75th BS; B-25C 42-32255 lost 11/23/43)
1801 (Pilot Thomas O. Thompson; 42nd BG, 75th BS; B-25C 42-32319 lost 1/22/44)
16113 (Pilot Williston M. Cox; 38th BG, 405th BS; B-25D 41-30118
Deposition by Williston M. Cox
to Special Agent Everett B. White, CIC, concerning the capture and mistreatment
of Major Cox’s crew. (US National Archives, RG 153, Box 1373, Case File 51-90)
by Charles K. Taylor to 1 Lt. Josiah B. Gathright, War Crimes Investigation Detachment,
concerning Lieutenant John A. Bailey. (US National Archives, RG 331, Box 943,
Folder 19 (J-88), File NG-51)
(No author): Statement
that Clemons and Osborn were last seen alive at Rabaul on April 10, 1944 (US
National Archives, RG 331, Box 943, Folder 19 (J-88), File NG-51)
(No author) “Missing of WW II are not Forgotten:
Search Continues for Bodies of 78,000” (Associated Press) August 16, 1985 (Appeared
in Atlanta Journal and Constitution)
and Messages on the Pacific Wrecks Discussion Board
Earl J. - B-25 Pilot, 5th Air Force, 345th Bomb Group, 498th Bomb Squadron- (Thanks
for the suggestion about the missing B-25. )
Kreuger, Bas - Curator of RNLAF
Museum – (Thanks for your highly informative e-mails, Bas.)