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|Pilot 2nd Lt Harris N. Lien, O-726270 (survived)
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Albert L. Fair, O-661822 (survived)
Navigator 2nd Lt Ruby E. Johnston, O-790247 (survived)
Bombardier 2nd Lt Alfred Retzhy, O-728513 (survived)
Engineer Sgt J. Shapuras (survived)
Radio Pvt Minor C. Smith, 6960170 (survived) TX
Gunner S/Sgt Russel E. Owens, 36199496 (survived)
Assist Engineer Pvt Wendell D. Revers, 36336232 (survived)
Assist Radio Claude W. Robinson, 35376879 (survived)
Ditched January 17, 1943 at 3:35am
On August 12, 1942 took off piloted by 1st Lt Richard T. Hernlund on a bombing mission against Rabaul. Forty minutes short of the target, jettisoned bombs and aborted the mission.
On August 19, 1942 took off piloted by Captain Richard F. Ezzard on a bombing mission against Rabaul.
On August 25, 1942 took off piloted by 1st Lt Coleman on a mission to bomb Japanese shipping off Milne Bay but failed to find any targets.
On August 26, 1942 one of eight B-17s that took off from Mareeba Airfield at 4:00am on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy off Milne Bay. Inbound to the target was bad weather with a ceiling of only 2,000' or less. Between 6:30am to 7:45am, the formation bombed from roughly 1,500' and experienced accurate anti-aircraft fire from the ships.
On August 29, 1942 took off from Mareeba Airfield piloted by 1st Lt Walter F. Nyblade on a bombing mission, nil results or aborted the mission.
On September 9, 1942 took off from Mareeba Airfield piloted by Captain Jack P. Thompson mission details unknown.
On September 11, 1942 one of five B-17s from the 28th Bomb Squadron that took off from Mareeba Airfield piloted by Jack P. Thompson with co-pilot Crawford on a bombing mission against two Japanese destroyers twenty miles east of Normanby Island. One of the B-17s scored a direct hit on the stern of Yayoi, which later sank.
On October 21, 1942 took off from Mareeba Airfield on a mission, details unknown.
During November 1942 transferred to 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th Bombardment Squadron.
When lost, engines R-1820-65-97 serial numbers No. 1: 41-22371, No 2: 41-24372, No. 3: 41-22645, Mo 4: 42-79590. Weapon serial numbers unknown. Officially condemned on January 18, 1943.
In flight, the fuse for the instrument panel kept tripping, requiring the navigator and radio operator to perform their duties using flashlights. Inbound to the target, the weather was bad but not rough.
Arriving over the target at roughly 11:50pm, the bombers dropped their bombs individually. This B-17 made a good bomb run and experienced anti-aircraft and machine gun fire the holed the tail section.
Returning, the No. 3 engine began running rough and the weather became worse and the pilots attempted to fly above and around the storm.
This B-17 ran low on fuel over the north coast of New Guinea. Believing they were near Milne Bay and radioed, but got no response. All the machine guns and ammunition were jettisoned to lighten the bomber. The pilots elected to ditch along the coast and circled a calm area while the crew took crash positions in the radio compartment.
A final S.O.S. message was transmitted before the B-17 ditched January 17, 1943 at 3:35am close to shore to the north of Buna into shallow water with a sandy bottom, roughly 200 miles north of Milne Bay. Immediately the bomber began to fill with water. None of the crew were hurt and the life rafts were successfully deployed and used to reach the shore.
Fates of the Crew
The next morning, the crew were transported aboard native canoes to another village. There, Lt. Lein and the native police officer departed to get help while the rest of the crew waited in the village. At noon the next day, Lt. Lein arrived aboard an Australian launch with canned bully-beef and marmalade, and the crew departed for Aqua village where they spent the night.
Next, the crew boarded a Liberty Ship returning from Buna and were transported two days and a night before arriving at Milne Bay where the ship was bombed by Japanese aircraft. Waiting ashore, the crew waited for two days, but no aircraft arrived. Instead, the crew boarded another transport and after eight days arrived at Port Moresby and returned to their unit. For this mission, the entire crew were recommended for a Silver Star, but the award was never approved.
Smith retired as a Staff Sergeant and passed away on June 19, 1959. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX.
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