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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2476  
USAAF
5th AF
7th BG
9th BS

Pilot  1st Lt. Walter W. Sparks, Jr., O-371902 (MIA / KIA) MS
Co-Pilot  Major Stanley K. Robinson, O-017388 C. O. 7th BG, HQ (MIA / KIA) CA
Navigator  2nd Lt. Richard W. Cease, O-409912 (MIA / KIA) PA
Bombardier  2nd Lt. William T. Biggers, O-431791 (MIA / KIA) MS
Observer  2nd Lt. Jack T. Laughlin, O-413459 (MIA / KIA) TX
Engineer  SSgt J. Gordon Drake, 6563404 (MIA / KIA) IA
Ball Turret  Pfc Lloyd N. Terrell, 13014663 (MIA / KIA) MD
Tail Gunner  Pfc Charles T. Pritchard, 20939124 (MIA / KIA) OR

Crashed  January 29, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army.

Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group, 9th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. This B-17 was ferried overseas by pilot 1st Lt. Walter W. Sparks, Jr. via the African route. On January 26, 1942 arrived at Surabaya on Java as a replacement aircraft.

Mission History
On January 29, 1942 one of five B-17s (three from 7th BG, two from 19th BG) that took off from Malang Airfield on Java on a bombing mission against Balikpapan. This was the Sparks crew's first combat mission. Major Robinson volunteered to fly as co-pilot / observer to lead the formation. Returning, the formation was attacked by Japanese fighters and this B-17 was hit in the tail and began loosing altitude and speed and was protected by the other bombers.

After completing another bomb run over ships off Balikpapan, the formation turned back to base but enemy fighters persisted in attacks. Loosing speed, this B-17 fell behind and looked for a place to crash land. Descending to roughly 1,000' part of the tail elevator was observed to break off and the B-17 crashed into the sea nose first off southeastern Borneo into Makassar Strait.

Because Robinson had volunteered to fly with this inexperienced crew, he was posthumously earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and promoted to Lt. Col.

Search
Later, B-17E 41-2454 piloted by Lt. Skiles circled the crash site, but no survivors were seen.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Sparks has a memorial marker at Hickory Grove Cemetery in Inverness, Mississippi.
Biggers has a memorial marker at Clear Springs Cemetery in Choctaw County, Mississippi.
Laughlin has a memorial marker at Westlawn Cemetery in Del Rio, TX.

References
Fortress Against The Sun pages 116, 118-119, 121, 123-124, 386, 409
B-17E 41-2476 Narrative Jack Waid, 47FTW Historian
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Walter W. Sparks, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Stanley K. Robinson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard W. Cease
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William T. Biggers
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack T. Laughlin
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - J. Gordon Drake
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lloyd N. Terrell
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles T. Pritchard
FindAGrave - Capt Walter W. Sparks, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Walter William Sparks, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - LtCol Stanley Keith Robinson, Sr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Richard Wellington Cease (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt William Troy Biggers (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - William Troy Biggers (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Jack Thomas Laughlin (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FIndAGrave - Lieut Jack Thomas Laughlin (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt J Gordon Drake (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Lloyd N Terrell (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Charles T Pritchard (tablets of the missing)

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-17

MIA
MIA
8 Missing

Map
3.26S 116.27E
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