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USAAF Nov 1942
USAAF Feb 28, 1943
USAAF March 3, 1943
|Pilot 1st Lt. Woodrow W. Moore, O-789340 (MIA / KIA) Dillon, SC
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Louis I. Miller, O-661858 (MIA / KIA) Centralia, WA
Bombardier 2nd Lt John W. James, Jr., O-727101 (MIA / KIA) Curtis, OK
Navigator 1st Lt. William R. McCamy, O-790267 (MIA / KIA) Scottsboro, AL
Engineer T/Sgt William C. Gassmann, 14064524 (MIA / KIA) Baltimore, MD
Radio S/Sgt Alfred F. Westphal, 12032059 (MIA / KIA) Bronx, New York
Asst Radio S/Sgt Fletcher B. Gilbert, 19062635 (MIA / KIA) Livingston, CA
Left Waist Gunner S/Sgt Thomas Brown, 13064517 (MIA / KIA) Keith, KY
Right Waist Gunner S/Sgt Chester L. Bugher, 18108111 (MIA / KIA) Jinita, OK
Tail Gunner S/Sgt Alfred E. Dow, 11016764 (MIA / KIA) Dover-Foxcroft, ME
Crashed March 3, 1943
On January 1, 1943 one of six B-17s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Woodrow W. Moore on a early morning attack against Lakunai Airfield near Rabual at 4:20am. Inbound to the target, one B-17 aborted the mission. Over the target, this bomber had an unsuccessful bombing run and the bombs were salvoed over Simpson Harbor instead.
Over the target target at approximately 10:30am this B-17 and two others were attacked by enemy Zero fighters. During a firing pass, one of the Zeros hit the cockpit section causing a fire to ignite inside the fuselage that extended out the waist windows and tail.
Damaged, this bomber released its bombs (reportedly at a target) and seven were observed to bail out. From B-17 "Lulu Belle" flying alongside at roughly 7,000' a photograph of the stricken bomber.
Of the seven that bailed out, one fell out of his parachute harness and fell to his death. The other six parachutes deployed successfully but were strafed unmercifully by "clipped wing" [A6M3] Zeros. At 1,000' the tail wrenched off and floated downward. The rest of the bomber crashed into the sea. A few moments later it sank beneath the waves.
Gordon Manuel recalls in 70,000 to One:
Captain Willis E. Brady witness to the crash of the B-17:
After the loss, the entire crew was recommended for the Silver Star. In the end, the officers aboard were awarded the Silver Star and the enlisted men the Air Medal, posthumously. Alfred F. Westphal was also awarded the DFC, unsure if it was for this mission or a previous one.
Wilson has a memorial marker at Riverside Cemetery in Dillon, SC. Note, his date of death is incorrectly listed as March 4, 1944.
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