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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2635  
USAAF
5th AF
19th BG
30th BS

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19th BG c1942

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Brian Bennet, 2001

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CILHI April 2001

Pilot  1st Lt John S. Hancock, O-417619 (MIA / KIA) Haileyville, OK
Co-Pilot  Sgt Robert H. Burns, 6999729 (MIA / KIA) Belleville, IL
Navigator  1st Lt. James W. Carver, O-725946 (MIA / KIA) Eagle Pass, TX
Engineer  Cpl Hiram D. Wilkinson, 16014049 (MIA / KIA) Grand Rapids, MI
Radio  Sgt Edward R. Cipriani, 13012501 (MIA / KIA) Monessen, PA
Gunner  Sgt Mac S. Groesbeck, 19011114 (MIA / KIA) American Fork, UT
Gunner  Sgt Raymond A. Maxwell, 18037760 (MIA / KIA) Stephenville, TX
Gunner  Cpl Curtis F. Longenberger, 6890994 (MIA / KIA) Berwick, PA

Crashed  November 1, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2446. Delivered to the U. S. Army. During February 1942 outfitted at Lowry Field. Ferried to Hickam Field on Oahu.

Wartime History
B-17 was flown from Hickam Field with an extra bomb bay fuel tank to Midway Airfield on Eastern Island to search for Japanese Naval forces and participated in the Battle of Midway then returned to Hickam Field.

Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 30th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. During May 1942 ferried overseas via Fiji to Australia arriving on June 21, 1942 and sent to Wagga Wagga Airfield. In June 1942, flown to Garbutt Field at Townsville.

On October 23, 1942, one of six B-17s from the 30th Bombardment Squadron that took off piloted by Major Allen Lindberg on a night time bombing mission against Japanese shipping off Rabaul.

Mission History
On November 1, 1942 in the early morning hours, one of six B-17s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby armed with 1,000 pound bombs on a night mission to bomb Japanese shipping in Tonolei Harbor. Inbound to the target, the formation experienced bad weather. This B-17 failed to return and the crew was declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Wreckage
This B-17 impacted the northern side of a ridge line in the vicinity of Milne Bay. Likely, the B-17 was attempting to descend below bad weather and was unable to see the ridge at night. During the impact, the fire from the fuel tanks destroyed most of the fuselage. Two 1,000 lbs unexploded bombs failed to explode. The Fortress could carry four, but was only loaded with two for this long-range mission at maximum range.

On February 24, 1999 a hunter located a the crash site roughly eight hours walk from Nigila and Gopai, inland from Alotau. Later, he reported the site to a Red Cross worker and took them to the site. Together, they discovered a watch, comb and the dog tag of James W. Carver.

JAMES W. CARVER
0-725946 T42 A
MRS.P.S. CARVER
543 FORD STREET
EAGLE PASS, TEX

They also discovered larger wreckage which had the numbers '12635' stenciled in yellow, and painted on a background of what appeared to be a red vertical stripe and human remains. Afterwards, the Red Cross worker reported the site and provided photographs including the tail serial number to the U. S. Embassy in Port Moresby who relayed the information to U. S. Army CILHI.

Recovery
During March 2-3, 1999 a team from U. S. Army CILHI including Brian Bennett visited the crash site and designated it "PNG #102" and human bones were found amongst the wreckage. Villagers provided additional remains and personal effects found at the site since the initial discovery.

During April 2001, another team from U. S. Army CILHI undertook a full recovery at the crash site to locate additional remains. At the site, team recovered additional remains and personal effects including a sidearm with initials carved into the grip, two women's rings, a clear glass bottle filled with a red liquid that could be men's hair tonic or cologne, still fragrant. And a gold bracelet with "John Hancock" embossed upon it. Carver's navigation kit and a cigarette lighter with his initials on it were also recovered.

Identification
In April 2001, U. S. Army mortuary and casualty department notified Hancock's brother, Walter R. Hancock that bone fragments, personal effects and a gold I.D. bracelet associated with his brother were found. He volunteered a DNA sample to help in the identification of the remains but passed away on October 18, 2001 before the identification was made.

On December 21, 2004 Hancock's relatives were informed his remains were identified and his gold I.D. bracelet returned to them.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead on December 7, 1945. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Groesbeck has a memorial marker at Richfield City Cemetery in Richfield, UT at plot D, section 12, grave 06.

After the identification of the remains, the crew were permanently buried in the United States.

On January 29, 2005 Caver was buried at Maverick County Cemetery in Eagle Pass, TX.

The remains of the crew that could not be individually identified were buried on April 28, 2005 in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60, Site 8245. The grave is incorrectly inscribed "downed aircraft Solomom [sic] Islands December 7, 1945". This burial includes remains believed to be Cipriani, Burins, Longenberger, Wilkinson, Groesbeck, Maxwell, Hancock and Carver.

Crew History
Hancock was 22. He was his hometown's first war loss, and the American Legion in Haileyville, OK was named in his honor.

Burns barely knew his wife, Mildred. They had met at a Moose Lodge dance in Belleville, IL, and married before he went to war. A fan of big-band music who played the trombone, he had brought his instrument mouthpiece with him overseas to keep his lips in shape for when he returned home, says his sister, LaVerne Artnak, 78, of South Park, PA. That he vanished without a trace stunned his family. "My mother grieved. I think she grieved until she went to her death, and she was 95 when she passed away," Artnak says.

Carver was nicknamed "Scootie" and turned 22 just a few weeks before the mission when he was lost. Assigned to the 30th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 19th Bombardment Group, Lt. Carver was a navigator but substituted as co-pilot on his final mission. Previously, he flew 19 combat missions. In a letter to his father, James told of missions where they fended off Japanese fighter planes. "Don't breathe a word of this to mama." At war's end, his mother still held out hope that he was alive in a Japanese POW camp. He played football, he was co-captain of the team at Eagle Pass High School, and enjoyed hunting, fishing and roping. To pay the tuition at A&I College in Kingsville (today Texas A&M University-Kingsville) his father sold his horse "Ernesto". He was a sophomore majoring in petroleum engineering at Texas before he joined the Army Air Corps in January 1942. Sent to navigation school at Mather Field in California, Carver graduated third in his class. He was sent to Australia and was promoted to a 1st Lieutenant before his loss. He earned the Purple Heart postumously.

Sgt. Edward Cipriani was 21. His local paper eulogized him as an honor student, Class of 1939, and a champion debater. He urged his parents not to worry. "Whatever happens will happen," he wrote.

Sgt. Mac Groesbeck was 26, a Mormon raised on a small farm, volunteered to fly on that last mission because the crew was short handed. Born June 19, 1916, in Holden, Utah, then moved with his family to Roosevelt, Utah, where they lived for five years. The family then moved to Highland, Utah, where he went to high school and attended Utah State Agriculture College for one year and studied diesel mechanics. He was very active in the LDS church and had callings in church including MIA dance director because he loved to dance.

Sgt. Raymond Maxwell was 21. Two years after he vanished, his parents lost a second son to combat in Italy. A third brother, Calvin, served on a Navy troop carrier, and during shore leave in Australia in 1942 missed seeing Raymond in a cafe by 15 minutes. He never saw him again.

Cpl. Hiram "Dave" Wilkinson was 33. He passed up a furlough and a "date" with his sister to join a combat flight crew. "I expect to enjoy my date somewhere in the Pacific," he wrote home.

Cpl. Curtis Longenberger was 25. His mother, Agnes, kept a spare bedroom waiting for her lost son. He prepared a letter in case he died: "We have to lose men to win a war. You all can rest assured that I have died fighting." A few months after the crash, the parents of crewman Curtis Longenberger received a letter from the pilot's tent mate. The writer praised the crew's courage and said they flew that night despite engine problems. "Nothing seemed to stop those boys," wrote Lt. J. M. Moore. "Off they flew into the dark skies to bomb those who started all these heartaches and sorrows."

Relatives
Kathryn "Kay" Hansen Cunningham (niece of James W. Carver)
"He was the brother of my mother, June Carver Hansen. I was told that the painting on the airplane is a Red Devil. Everyone in our family is so very grateful for all the work that was done to bring my uncle and his crew mates home. I do have copies of a few of the letters he sent home. Thank you for your website and all the information in it."

References
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2635
FindAGrave - John S. Hancock (grave photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert H Burns (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut James "Scootie" Walter Carver (obituary)
FindAGrave - Corp Curtis T Longenberger (photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - Mac S. Groesbeck (memorial marker, photo, obituary)
McAlester News Capital "Obituary for John Strother Hancock" April 22, 2005
Deseret News "Obituary of Mac S. Groesbeck" March 17 2005
Thanks to Janice Olson and Brian Bennett for additional information.

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

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