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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2536  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
65th BS

Former Assignments
19th BG

Pilot  2nd Lt John Frost II, O-401157 (MIA / KIA) Bexar County, TX
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt Robert A. Guenther, O-661926 (MIA / KIA) St. Louis, MO
Navigator  Pilot Officer Allan G. Fairfax, 412502 RAAF HQ, North Eastern Area (MIA / KIA) Killara, NSW
Bombardier  2nd Lt Frank M. Colburn, O-725053 (MIA / KIA) Orange, TX
Crew  Cpl Gerald P. Shaughnessy, 11042014 (MIA / KIA) Essex County, MA
Crew  Pvt Roger H. Feind, 16022601 (MIA / KIA) Lincoln County, WI
Crew  Pvt Carl A. Griffin,19076670 (MIA / KIA) Multnomah County, OR
Crew  Pvt Arnold G. Osborn, 37009844 (MIA / KIA) Buchanan County, MO
Crew  Pvt Paul H. Paulson, 17036424 (MIA / KIA) Waseca County, MN
Crew  Pvt David J. Thomas, 18029656 (MIA / KIA) Carter County, OK
MIA  November 22, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2347. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2536. On January 29, 1942 flown to MacDill Field. During March 1942 flown to a Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, possibly the 28th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

In November 1942, assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Assigned to pilot 2nd Lt John Frost II.

On July 27, 1942 took off as one of nine B-17s on a bombing mission against Buna.

Mission History
On November 22, 1942 took off from Torrens Creek Airfield as one of six or seven B-17s on a bombing mission against a convoy of four Japanese destroyers reported off the southern coast of New Britain. Four of the B-17s failed to locate the convoy.

Steve Birdsall adds:
"I think this mission happened on November 22, 1942 in the afternoon or evening, but I am surprised there's so many differing reports. November 23... Combined Headquarters at Townsville has an entry for November 23 noting that six B-17s "attack ships Lae". . . identifies 65th Squadron, and #536 [this B-17 was] "shot down" and #552 "turned back". Other numbers mentioned are 537, 657, 420, 015 and 638. So, maybe seven planes took off to attack Japanese shipping near Lae. B-17F "Listen Here, Tojo!" 41-24552 turned back, B-17E 41-2638, 41-2657, 41-9015, B-17F "Talisman" 41-24537 and B-17F 41-24420 attacked, and B-17E 41-2536 [this aircraft] was shot down. Also, it is possible this mission was on November 21 or 22."

The other two B-17s: this aircraft and B-17 piloted by Lt. Daniel H. Cromer located two destroyers in the afternoon roughly 68 miles southwest of Arawe. The pair made an unsuccessful first attack then circled for another run.

During their second attack, this B-17 was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the radio compartment setting it on fire and causing it to crash into the sea sixty miles off the coast of Lae at roughly Lat 7.20 Long 147.32.

Before the crash, six parachutes were seen to open before the B-17 impacted the sea. One of the warships was last seen turning towards the men in the water. Their were no reports of any of the crew being captured or reported as Prisoners Of War (POW). When this B-17 failed to return, the entire crew was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

In fact, the B-17s attacked Hiyodori and Otori transporting food to Lae. Both vessels survived the attack, Otori with minor damage. After this B-17 was shot down, Hiyodori rescued at least one of the crew member identified as an Australian (likely navigator Fairfax). He was not reported as a Prisoner Of War (POW) and his ultimate fate is unknown, likely he died of his injuries or was executed or died later.

The Naval Land Unit That Vanished In The Jungle by Tetsuo Watanabe adds:
"Hiyodori was on a sortie from Rabaul to Lae, whose crew were in high moral and said 'Soon we will show you a real man's war'. Their mission was not without incident, as a bombing attack by B-17's that dropped bombs and circled around to strafe. Tetsuo's jaw was wounded from a piece of shrapnel from a nearby blast, but was consoled by the sight of a B-17 falling with its wing on fire. In a unique turn of events, their ship picked up one of the Australian crew members who survived the crash, and the author remembers "He caught a look at my face bandaged except for my eyes, then he looked away" [likely, this was Australian Allan G. Fairfax].

Steve Birdsall adds:
"Frost had been a pilot in the 19th Bombardment Group, 28th Bomb Squadron. ABMC lists Frost, Guenther and Colburn as 1/Lt, and Osborn as PFC. According to wartime report, six parachutes were seen to open before the B-17 hit the water, and the destroyer they had attacked was seen turning toward the men in the water. According to a 43rd Group veteran, Japanese radio announced that Frost was a prisoner.

I think this mission happened on November 22, in the afternoon or evening, but I am surprised there's so many differing reports.

November 21.... Frank Hohmann from Jay Rousek's crew shows a five-hour mission in 41-24424 on "11-21-42" against "2 Destroyer" and notes 'lost 1 B-17 Lt Frost'.

November 22... Bill Crawford in Gore and Glory mentions an attack on Lae airfield on November 22 and having to remain at Port Moresby overnight due to battle damage, but nothing more.

November 23... Combined Headquarters at Townsville has an entry for November 23 noting that six B-17s "attack ships Lae". . . identifies 65th Squadron, and #536 [this B-17 was] "shot down" and #552 "turned back". Other numbers mentioned are 537, 657, 420, 015 and 638. So, maybe seven planes took off to attack Japanese shipping near Lae. B-17F "Listen Here, Tojo!" 41-24552 turned back, B-17E 41-2638, 41-2657, B-17E 41-9015, B-17F "Talisman" 41-24537 and B-17F 41-24420 attacked, and B-17E 41-2536 [this aircraft] was shot down. Also, it is possible this mission was on November 21 or 22."

Memorials
The Americans crew members was officially declared dead on December 15, 1945. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Australian Fairfax was officially declared dead November 22, 1942. He is memorialized at Lae War Cemetery on the Lae Memorial, panel 6.

Frost earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Guenther earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Colburn earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Evergreen Cemetery in Orange, TX.

Shaughnessy earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Feind earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Griffin earned the the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Osborn earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Paulson earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Thomas earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously.

References
Previously, 2nd Lt John Frost II was a pilot in the 19th Bombardment Group, 28th Bomb Squadron. He earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
The date of this loss is sometimes incorrectly listed as November 21, 1942 or November 23, 1942.
No Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) was created for this B-17.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2536
"2536 delivered to McDill Jan 29, 1942; assigned to 19BG 28BS in Hawaii Mar 1942; transferred to 43BG Melbourne (date unknown); damaged at Rabual Aug 7, 1942. Lost Nov 22, 1942, 60 miles off coast of Lae, PNG whilst attacking Japanese destroyers. Burst into flames and crashed into sea."
65th Bombardment Squadron History
65th Squadron History
"November 22, 1942 - During the afternoon, six Flying Fortresses from the 65th Squadron took off from Port Moresby to search for Japanese shipping off the south coast of New Britain. About 68 miles southwest of Arawe, the B-17s located a convoy comprised of four destroyers that was making a high speed troop transport run from Rabaul. Three of the B-17s made a bomb run on one of the destroyers at 1825 hours, and B-17E #41-2536 was hit by ack-ack in the area of the radio compartment and set on fire. Six parachutes were seen to open before the aircraft fell into the sea. The warship was last seen turning toward the men in the water and it was believed at the time that some of the crew might have been captured. However, none of the men aboard this plane were ever heard from again, and all were later declared dead. Frost, Guenther, Colburn and Osborn received posthumous promotions."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John Frost II
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert A. Guenther
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank M. Colburn
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gerald P. Shaughnessy
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Roger H. Feind
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Carl A. Griffin
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arnold G. Osborn
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul H. Paulson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David J. Thomas
CWGC - Allan Graham Fairfax
WW2 Nominal Roll - Allan Graham Fairfax
FindAGrave - 1Lt John Frost, II (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert A Guenther (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Pilot Officer Allan Graham Fairfax (photo, Lae memorial)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Frank M Colburn (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Frank Monroe "Hank" Colburn (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Gerald P Shaughnessy (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Roger H Feind (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Carl A Griffin (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - PFC Arnold G Osborn (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - PVT Paul H Paulson (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt David J Thomas (tablets of the missing photo)
Fortress Against The Sun page 437
The Naval Land Unit That Vanished In The Jungle was aboard Hiyodori when attack by B-17's and the author's jaw was wounded from a piece of shrapnel from a nearby bomb blast but "consoled by the sight of a B-17 falling with its wing on fire". Afterwards, Hiyodori picked up one of the Australian crew members [Fairfax] who survived the crash, and remembered "He caught a look at my face bandaged except for my eyes, then he looked away."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flyin gFortress 41-2536
Gore and Glory page 116 by Capt. William Crawford, Jr., Gore
Ken’s Men Against The Empire pages 54 (map), 79, 88-89, 311-312, 328, 392 (index Frost)
Thanks to Steve Birdsall for additional information

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Last Updated
October 23, 2018

 

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