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Jack K. Wisener
Bombardier B-17F "Georgia Peach" 41-24454

Background
Born in Ponta, Cherokee County, Texas in 1921. He met his future wife Beatrice while they were in the fourth grade. They were married in 1940. He joined the US Army on 10 November 1941 and trained as a bombardier in Oklahoma and Florida.

He received orders to depart for California in December 1942 and was shipped out to Australia where he was assigned to the 43rd Bomb Group in January 1943. He flew combat missions over the next several months with the 65th Squadron.

Shot Down by Night fighter over Rabaul
On June 13, 1943 Wisener was bombardier aboard B-17F "Georgia Peach" 41-24454, one of seven B-17's flying on an night time mission to bomb Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. After completing the bomb run, this bomber began departing the target area.

Wisener told his wife after the war that he had removed his parachute and was attending to paperwork when their B-17 was unexpectedly and violently hit. They had been attacked from beneath by a J1N1 Irving night fighter piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo who had targeted this B-17 after it had been caught in the beams of search lights at 3:14am and was damaged.

Wisener immediately came up to cockpit and saw that both pilots and the turret gunner were dead. The only other person still alive in the forward section was the navigator, Lt. Philip Bek. Wisener hurriedly put on his parachute. There was no time to grab anything else, not even his pistol. He managed to put on both shoulder straps but only one leg strap before he jumped out of the nose hatch and pulled the ripcord.

Wisener landed safely in a jungle covered area of New Britain where he would spend the next nine days wandering through the forest. He sustained himself on freshwater from streams and any animals he could catch. He motivated himself to continue moving by repeatedly saying “Sarah”, the name of his newborn daughter. He finally reached a plantation operated by a “Dutchman” who welcomed him and gave him food. Unknown to Wisener the owner had sent a runner with a message to the nearby Japanese troops who soon turned up and captured him.

Prisoner Of War (POW)
Despite all of Wisener’s travails to this point things now would be much worse for him. He was taken to the prison run by the Japanese Navy at Rabaul where he was repeatedly beaten and interrogated. Wisener insisted that he didn’t know anything but they did not let up. He received no medical care and very little food. He was later transported aboard a ship to Japan where he was interned at the Omori POW Camp near Tokyo until the end of the war. He was the only member of his B-17 crew to survive the war.

Click For EnlargementPostwar
Returning home, he was reunited with his daughter Sandra, who he had never met and his wife and parents. His next child, he named James Russell, to honor two deceased buddies, Russell Emerick, (co-pilot of "Georgia Peach" killed on June 13, 1943) and 1st Lt. James Easter (KIA piloting B-17E "Naughty But Nice" during a fighter attack March 3, 1943 during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea).

Steve Birdsall adds:
"Easter was killed in a fighter attack on March 3, 1943. His co-pilot that day was Russell Emerick, who landed the damaged plane at Dobodura. If Jack Wiserner named his children after Easter and Emerick, it's pretty short odds that Wisener was with them that day in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, but I don't have a full crew list."

After a lengthy recovery, he found work as a Postmaster. He ran for political office in 1952 and was elected a state representative. Later, he worked for Allstate Insurance in Dallas, and retired early due to his weakened health from being a prisoner. Wisener died on March 20, 1980 and is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Wells, Texas

References
FindAGrave - Jack King Wisener (photo, grave photo)
Target Rabaul (81st Naval Garrison Unit) pages 363 (Appendix A - The Prisoners of Rabaul).
Thanks to Beatrice Wisener (widow) for information on her husband and and Steve Birdsall for additional information.

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