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  B-17F-10-BO "Georgia Peach" Serial Number 41-24454  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
65th BS

Former Assignments
19th BG
28th BS

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Fletcher Feb 28, 1943

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Winfrey March 26, 1943

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Sutton c1943

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Brian Bennett 1985

Pilot  1st Lt. John M. Woodard, O-725563 (KIA, BR) Ontario, TX
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Russell S. Emerick, O-793089 (KIA, BR)
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Jack K. Wisener, O-662327 (POW, survived) Ponta, TX
Navigator  1st Lt. Philip L. Bek, O-724280 (POW, executed, BR)
Engineer  T/Sgt. Leonard J. Skarr, 17017955 (KIA, BR)
Gunner  S/Sgt. Stewart D. Nisbet, 31053245 (KIA, BR)
Gunner  S/Sgt. Maurice F. Sayer, 17038428 (KIA, BR)
Gunner  Sgt. Chris B. Cousino, 15012471 (KIA, BR)
Gunner  Sgt. Boyd H. Parker, 19004786 (KIA, BR)
Gunner  Cpl. Julius Hamershlag, 32160683 (KIA, BR)

Crashed  June 13, 1943 at 3:20am
MACR  16189

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army on July 10, 1942. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 28th Bombardment Squadron. Later, it was transferred to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Georgia Peach", the early nose art was simply the name painted in yellow block letters. Later, a seated red headed woman wearing high heels and lingerie and holding a paper with "V" and the letter "V" spelled in Morse code (dot, dot, dot, dash). On the left side of the nose below the cockpit was a scoreboard with bomb markings indicating missions flown and silhouettes for aircraft and ships claimed.

On February 23, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a night mission over Rabaul. Over the target, this B-17 was caught in searchlights and dived steeply to escape the beam. Incorrectly believing the bomber was hit and going down, tail gunner Pfc Arthur Mirarchi, 12029834 of New York bailed out. He landed in the sea south of Tavurvur and was captured by Makinami and transported to Rabaul where he was handed over to the 81 Navy Garrison Unit and was imprisoned as a Prisoner Of War (POW). He did not survive captivity and was officially declared dead on December 17, 1945. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Mission History
On June 13, 1943 one of seven B-17s that took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on an night bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield. Over the target, this B-17 was hit by anti-aircraft fire at 2:45am while flying at 6,000' but continued under control for about five minutes after bomber were released, and then went down.

When this B-17 failed to return, it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). That same night, two other bombers were damaged: one B-17 from the 65th Bombardment Squadron and B-17F "The Old Man" 41-24403 was badly damaged by anti-aircraft and night fighter attacks. Although a Japanese night fighter had been seen in the area, the loss was officialy attributed to heavy anti-aircraft fire.

In fact, this B-17 was intercepted from below by a night fighter J1N1 Irving piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo after it had been caught in search light beams at 3:14am. The bomber was hit by 20mm cannon shells and fatally damaged. In the nose, bombardier Wisener had removed his parachute and was attending to paperwork when the B-17 was unexpectedly and violently hit. Wisener entered the cockpit and saw that both pilots and the top turret gunner were dead. The only other person still alive in the nose was navigator Bek. Wisener hurriedly put on his parachute and jumped with only the shoulder straps and one leg strap attached from the nose escape hatch. Bek also managed to bail out through the same hatch. The fatally damaged and on fire, this B-17 crashed northeast of of Ubili Airfield (Sule) near Ulamona.

Jose Holguin noted in his diary on June 13, 1943:
"As we made our getaway we saw Major Luntly (sp?) being hit by night fighters, but he managed to shake them off. We circled wide around the target area and then headed for home at 03:26. As we got on course, we saw something burning in mid air and then crash to the ground about 20 miles south of the target. A great explosion followed. We knew it was one of our bombers and radioed in to Port Moresby. On the way home we could easily see the stars and arrived home without loosing any time. 07:00 we were briefed and when Lt. Woodard did not arrive we concluded it was he who crashed." [Holguin's bomber, B-17E "Naughty But Nice" 41-2430 was later shot down by the same J1N1 Irving piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo on June 26, 1943]

Fates of the Crew
Two of the crew: Bek and Wisener successfully bailed out and were later captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POWs). Both were transported to Rabaul and detained by the Keibitai 81st Naval Guard Unit at the Japanese Navy POW Camp at Rabaul.

On November 25, 1943 Bek was executed with several other 43rd Bomb Group POWs. Japanese records falsely claimed that Bek was transported to Japan aboard the Kokai Maru departing February 20, 1944 and was killed in the sinking when it was bombed by American aircraft (this was false).

Wisener bailed out and landed in the jungle and wandered for nine days until he found a plantation with a "Dutchman" owner, who gave him food, but sent a runner to nearby Japanese forces who arrived soon after and took him prisoner and transported him to Rabaul detained by the Japanese Navy Keibitai (Naval Special Police), 81st Naval Guard Unit at the Japanese Navy POW Camp at Rabaul. As a prisoner, Wisener was beaten and interrogated repeatedly. Later, he was transported to Japan and held at Omori POW Camp near Tokyo. He survived the war and was liberated and returned to the United States.

Wreckage
The crash site was investigated during the war by the Japanese. Likely, they buried remains at the crash site.

In 1947 (or possibly 1949) two American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel walked to this crash site from the coast and spent a few hours at the crash site, and recovered a human remains.

On July 8, 1985 a team from US Army CILHI with Brian Bennett visited the crash site and confirmed the serial number.

Brian Bennett adds:
"After walking in to the crash site in 1985 with Bill Holswich and being on site for two days we were both struck by the fact that the site was not disturbed, there was a lot of wreckage impacted into the ground. It was a fairly complex site and I had difficulty confirming the serial number. I located a servicing platform on the site that had a different serial number. It took me the two days to confirm identification. The site was again visited by CIL-HI about 20 years ago (circa 1989) but they were not there very long. The site was big enough to warrant a full 30 day mission, but this never happened. There is a very good chance that there are still significant remains on site as there are at least several on B-17F 41-24543 which is just over the way."

Later, circa 1989(?) another team from US Army CILHI visited the crash site, but did not stay for an extended period.

On March 12, 2016 visited by David Flinn, Robert Rawlinson and Lance from USNS Safeguard T-ARS-50.

Memorials
After the recovery of remains, Woodard, Emerick, Nisbet, Sayer, Cousino, Parker, Hamershlag were buried on February 15, 1950 in a group burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at Section 78 Site 991-992.

The burial of Skarr is unknown, presumed to be a private cemetery in his hometown.

Bek is buried at Riverside Catholic Cemetery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Edward Rogers adds:
"Lt. Bek's name is not listed on the tablets of the missing at the ABMC website. While this suggests that his remains were recovered all of the other men who were executed with him are still listed as missing."

Wisener died on March 20, 1980. His buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Wells, TX.

References
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur Mirarchi
FindAGrave - PFC Arthur Mirarchi
Missing Air Crew Report 16189 (MACR 16189) was created retroactively, circa 1945-1946
File 6950646 [Unidentified] Missing U.S. Aircraft [Part 1] p.22 National Archives, Australia
Jack K. Wisener Bombardier B-17F "Georgia Peach" 41-24454
NARA "World War II Prisoners of War Data File" Jack K. Wisener
Mirarchi interrogation references appear in ATIS Enemy Publication No. 280, pages 16-17, ATIS No. 76, pages 6-7, ATIS 1283, item 4 pages 3-5 via Henry Sakaida
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17 Flying Fortress 41-24454
Moonlight Interceptor page 38
Pride of Seattle page 9
FindAGrave - John M Woodard (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Russell S Emerick (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Jack King Wisener (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lt. Philip L. Bek
FindAGrave - Stewart D Nisbet (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Maurice F Sayer (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Chris B Cousino (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Boyd H Parker (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Julius Hamershlag (grave photo)
Michigan State University - The Lieutenant Philip Louis Bek Squadron (via WayBackMachine)
Thanks to Edward Rogers, Brian Bennett and Steve Birdsall for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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