|Pilot 2nd Lt. Carl
H. Hansen, O-803612 (MIA / KIA) Los Angeles, CA
Gunner Sgt. Ernest
Bustamante, 39280277 (MIA / KIA) Los Angeles, CA
Crashed March 13, 1944 at 12:45pm
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 8th Bombardment Squadron. Later, transferred to the 312th Bombardment Group, 389th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Francie II" with tail letter W. When lost, engines R-2600-23 serial numbers (left) 43-107206 (right) 42-83309. Weapon serial numbers not noted in Missing Air Crew Report (MACR).
On March 13, 1944 one of nine A-20s that took off from Gusap Airfield No. 5 led by Major Wells on a strike mission against Alexishafen Airfield No. 1 Strip. At 8:30am, the formation performed a low level strike over the target. This was gunner Bustamante's first combat mission.
Over the target, A-20G 42-54083 piloted by Wells was hit by anti-aircraft fire and ditched off Sek Island. A-20G piloted by Strauss circled over the downed crew until P-47s relieved him.
The seven remaining A-20s turned back for Gusap led by 1st Lt. Kenneth Hedges. Low on fuel, the formation encountered bad
weather with limited visibility and clouds closing in. They started to climb over the Finisterre
Range southwest of Saidor, but found it impossible to cross the mountains due to the bad weather. Flying along a ridge line at 10,000' three A-20s failed to join the formation and were never seen again. In fact, this aircraft along with A-20G
42-54082 and A-20G
42-54085 crashed into a
mountainside in the Finisterre
Range while flying in formation in bad weather.
The next day, eight A-20s from the 389th Bomb Squadron led by 1st Lt. McKinney conducted a search
for this aircraft, taking off at 12:15. Three A-20s searched from Faita to Bogadjim, three searched along the coastline from Bogadjim to Karkar Island and two searched from Bogadjim to Finschafen and Lae. All landed by 2:20pm without results.
That afternoon, a second search by seven A-20s led by 1st Lt. Happ took off at 3:30pm searching Gusap, Dumpu, Madang, Saidor and down the coast to Finschafen and Lae. Nothing was spotted during this flight.
The 310th Bomb Wing was notified of the missing plane and checked at all airfields where this A-20 could have landed, but received no information about it. For the next week, the 312th Bomb Group continued to searched for the three missing A-20s when aircraft were available and all groups were altered to be on the lookout for the missing planes. No trace of these aircraft were ever spotted.
In 1985, Col. Strauss (312th BG C. O.)
referred to the loss of these three planes and six boys as "a damned
and felt responsible for their loss.
This A-20 crashed into a mountain side in the Finisterre Range at roughly 7,800' approximately fifteen miles
south of Saidor. The crash was observed by local people in the vicinity and known to them since the war. The site was avoided and considered haunted by spirits. At some point after the crash, locals visited the site and placed the remains of the crew under the right wing.
During late December 1982, Jerry Fields of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) was assigned to build a house for Craig Spaulding and his family who would live in the area to undertake bible translation work into the local language. Villagers informed him about three aircraft wrecks in the vicinity. At the time, an elderly man was alive who remember the planes crashing.
Fields was taken by the villagers to the wreckage of two wrecks: A-20G 42-54085 and this aircraft. Locals were aware of a third wreck A-20G 42-54082, but it was further away and too far to visit at the time. Fields reported them to Richard Knieriemen, an aircraft engineer with SIL who encouraged him to go back and look for their serial numbers and take photographs. He found the serial number on the tail of this aircraft "254085". Knieriemen reported the finds to PNG War Museum curator Bruce Hoy who verified it as a missing aircraft and on December 2, 1982 reported the discovery to US
Army CILHI Major Johnie E. Webb.
Recovery of Remains
Between 1989-1990, this crash site was visited by US
Army CILHI on at least two occasions.
On July 12, 1989, CILHI visited the crash site with PNG National Museum curator Bruce Hoy. During this visit, the tail serial number was confirmed and remains placed under the right wing were recovered.
Bruce Hoy adds:
"The second helipad used for 42-54117 was at an elevation of 7,650'. From there we walked to the base of the ridge on which 42-54082 and 42-54085 are located and lying in the foothills of the same ridge we found 42-54117. This aircraft was lying not very far up the side of the same ridge and it appeared as if the pilot may have seen the rising terrain in front of him and immediately pulled back on the stick but the proximity of the rising terrain was too close and he more or less mushed into the trees and the forward part of the aircraft impacted with a small cliff, destroying the forward part but leaving the rear from the wing back intact. The elevation would have been roughly 7,800 feet.
Finally, on August 18, 1990 another CILHI team visited the crash site with Richard Leahy and recovered remains.
Richard Leahy adds:
"I did accompany CILHI on the recovery of 42-54117 and was flown by Lt. Carl Hansen and his gunner was Ernest Bustamante. We made a full recovery. This was in 1990. As far as I know CILHI / JPAC have not been back."
Both crew were officially declared dead on January 27, 1946. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Hansen has a memorial marker at Burwood Cemetery plot E-6 in Escalon, CA.
Bustamante has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery.
Michael Bustamante (nephew of Ernest Bustamante)
Missing Air Crew Report 5675 (MACR 5675)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Carl H. Hansen "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ernest Bustamante "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - Carl H. Hansen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Ernest Bustamante (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ernest V Bustamante (Arlington grave)
ABMC list both crew members as "remains recovered"
Bruce Hoy Diary 2 December, 1982
"Thursday, I received a visit from a chap working for the Summer Institute of Linguistics at Ukarumpa near Kainantu, advising me of his discovery of an A‑20G with the serial number of 42‑54085, with sketchy details of another lying in the same vicinity not far from the Saidor Gap. After my visitor left, I immediately wrote to Major Johnie E Webb Jr at CIL‑HI in Hawaii advising of this, together with details that I had located a person who can lead me to the site of B‑24D 42-40984 and again requesting the assistance of CIL-HI in the museum procuring copies of Missing Aircraft Reports, even at our expense."
Bruce Hoy Diary 20 April, 1983
"Wednesday, received a visit from Richard Knieriemen, an aircraft engineer with the Summer Institute of Linguistics. He had offered help in locating missing aircraft, so I provided him with a letter of introduction."
Bruce Hoy Diary 19 May, 1983
"Thursday, prepared a fax to be sent to CIL-HI concerning the planned mission to PNG later in the year, and when finished, I delivered it to the American Embassy for transmission to Hawaii. The fax detailed the aircraft serial numbers for the mission in August: B-17 41-2430, B-25 42-64570, A20G 42-54082, 42-54085, 42-54117, B-24J 42-72899, A-20G, 42-54089, and B-24 42-40984."
Bruce Hoy Diary 12 July 1989
"Wednesday, up at 6.15am, packed up spare food and clothes, pulled down my tent and packed it into my rucksack and assisted in dismantling the camp. The helicopter arrived at 7.15am and lifted out the non-required villagers and flew them down to their village. On its return, Pete Seals, me and our local guide, Manase Yeyeng loaded our gear then ourselves and we lifted off at 7.40am and descended quite rapidly coming into land at the second helipad arriving 8 minutes later at an altitude of 7,650 feet. We disembarked, unloaded our equipment and then after talking to Manese, we became aware that this helipad was nowhere near to the third crash‑site but some distance away in the foothills. From this location, we could see the gap in the trees on the top of the ridge to our south on which the first helipad was located. Benny and Frank arrived not long afterwards with the rest of the equipment and the camp was established. We departed for the crash‑site at 9.35am with the villager leading the way, finally reaching it at 11.20am after almost two hours of enduring a strenuous and difficult slow climb into the foothills of the same ridge from which we had just left. The aircraft was immediately identified as an A‑20G, an early model which was verified after the moss had been scraped off the tail revealing its serial number 42‑54117 with a large squadron letter “W” denoting the aircraft was assigned to the 389th Bomb Squadron, 312th Bomb Group. This was the third aircraft in the flight of three that disappeared on 13 March 1944 while returning to Gusap, the other two being those we had visited yesterday. The aircraft was largely intact, with the only major damage being the forward section of the nose and fuselage including the cockpit which had telescoped, and mostly destroyed by fire. The crew remains were found under the left inboard wing, and these were closely examined by Benny, Pete and Frank. Manese told us that the remains had been grouped together under the wing by a hunting party of local villagers who had found them forward of the inboard position of the right wing. The right wing, engine bay and fairings were also destroyed by fire, with the fuselage twisted and bent, the left tail plane sheared off. The aircraft appeared to have made a dead-stick landing through the trees with the forward part impacting into the ridge which made a sudden, steep incline at that point. I spent quite some time climbing around and under the aircraft with my camera, photographing as much as I could. The remains were collected and we departed for camp at about 1.30pm arriving back at about 2.30pm the walk back being far easier with it being mostly down-hill. Light rain fell throughout most of the walk back to camp, and continued for the remainder of the afternoon. During a break in the rain, the CIL-HI members laid out the remains they had gathered as well as the boot on top of my patrol box to enable them to be officially photographed. I took the opportunity to photograph them as well."
Rampage of the Roarin' 20's pages 77-79, 193 (photos), 347, 364
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Richard Knieriemen and Richard Leahy for additional information
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January 5, 2018