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  B-17E "The Jersey Skeeter" Serial Number 41-2664  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
64th BS

Former Assignments
19th BG
30th BS

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5thCCU January 5, 1943

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Jose Holguin c1943

Pilot  1st Lt James A. Pickard, O-428846 (KIA, BR) Walla Walla, WA
Co-Pilot  Captain Jack A. Ryan, O-428929 (KIA, BR) IL
Navigator  Captain Richard E. Zahm, O-433997 (KIA, BR)
Bombardier  2nd Lt Francis L. Damron, O-670028 (KIA, BR) TX
Engineer  Sgt John J. Meehan, 6949374 (KIA, BR)
Assistant Radio  Pfc Claude R. Sparks, 7083389 (KIA, BR) NC
Gunner  S/Sgt Merrill E. Green, 17038337 (KIA, BR) Lincoln, NB
Gunner  Cpl Dale S. Mitchell, 17038367 (KIA, BR) NB
Radio  TSgt Carl P. Averill, 06149242 (survived) Kingman, ME
Observer  MSgt Donald E. Tice, 15th Weather Squadron (KIA, BR) WA

Crashed  June 14, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2664. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
On May 11, 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 30th Bombardment Squadron.

On October 26, 1942 assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 64rd Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot 1st Lt James A. Pickard. Nicknamed "The Jersey Skeeter" with the nose art of a Japanese solider being bitten on the rear by a large mosquito. A scoreboard of bomb markings indicating missions flown was painted on the left side of the cockpit with silhouettes indicating ships and fighters claimed as shot down.

On December 26, 1942 took off from took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Curren on a bombing mission against Rabaul.

On January 5, 1943 one of six B-17s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain Salisbury armed with 500 pound bombs bombing mission against Rabaul. The formation also included six B-24 Liberators from the 90th Bombardment Group. Over the target around noon at roughly 8,500' the bombers approached from the southeast between Kokopo and Rapopo and bombed enemy shipping. B-24s claimed hits on two ships and B-17s claimed hits on nine including a destroyer. In fact, only the Keifuku Maru sustained two near misses that caused her to sink and an MLC was sunk. Bomb fragments did cause fires aboard other ships and inflicted 20 casualties. Lost was B-17F "San Antonio Rose" 41-24458 (MIA, two POW).

On January 6, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Olson with B-17E 41-9209 piloted by Compton on a search mission to locate the two B-17s Missing In Action (MIA) from the previous day's bombing mission. This B-17 searched along the coast of New Britain flying over Gasmata and the Dampier Straits. The searching B-17s failed to find any trace of either missing bomber or their crews.

On January 7, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Curren on a bombing mission against Lae.

On January 8, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Compton on a bombing mission against Rabaul.

On January 24, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Schauweker on a bombing mission against Rabaul.

On February 1, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Schauweker on a bombing mission against Rabaul.

On March 2, 1943 during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by an unknown pilot on a bombing mission against Japanese transports in the Bismarck Sea.

On March 14, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by an unknown pilot on a bombing mission against Wewak.

On March 25, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by an Salisbury pilot on a bombing mission against New Britain.

On April 3, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by an Humrichouse on a bombing mission against Japanese shipping off Kavieng.

On April 10, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by an Humrichouse on a bombing mission against Wewak.

On April 12, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by an Holsey on a bombing mission against Rabaul.

On June 9, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by an Kettleson on a bombing mission against Lae.

Mission History
On June 14, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby during the predawn hours piloted by 1st Lt James A. Pickard on a routine reconnaissance mission. Captain Jack A. Ryan, although ranking opted to fly as co-pilot. Also aboard was observer MSgt Donald E. Tice from the 15th Weather Squadron.

Shortly after take off, this B-17 crashed roughly 1,000 yards beyond the end of the runway impacted into a hill causing fuel to catch fire and bombs aboard to explode. Eight of the crew were killed in the crash instantly. Mitchell was severely wounded and Averill suffered injuries. Afterwards, the cause of the crash was never determined.

Fates of the Crew
Mitchell was severely wounded in the crash and died on the way to hospital. Sole survivor Averill had no recollection of the crash and suffered a broken leg and arm plus several broken ribs, five teeth knocked out and burns on his left arm and left leg.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of the eight deceased crew members were recovered and buried.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the crash. Postwar, they were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Two of the crew are buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Ryan at plot C, grave 275. Meehan at plot A, grave 944.

Pickard is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla, WA at plot WALLA-MA-2-12-14.
Zahm is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Huntington, IN at section C, lot 87E-07.
Damron is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery at section M, site 177.
Green is buried at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, NB at section 32, lot 74 space 6.
Mitchell is buried at Riverview Cemetery in McCook, NB at plot 6, 10, 2.
Tice is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery at section D, site 520.

Averill joined the U. S. Army in 1939 and served until Vietnam and earned three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star for his service and retired as a senior Master Sergeant in 1963.. He passed away on March 1, 2006 at age 88. He was buried at Rome Cemetery, Rome, NY.

References
History 43rd Bomb Group
James B Goetz diary: "B-17 2664 crashed on takeoff 14 June 1943."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2664
FindAGrave - James A. Pickard (obituary, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Jack A Ryan (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Richard Eugene "Dick" Zahm (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Francis L Damron (grave photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt John J Meehan (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Claude R Sparks (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt. Merrill E. Green (obituary, photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Dale S Mitchell (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Donald E Tice (grave photo)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Carl P. Averill
KensMen.com - DB - B-17E The Jersey Skeeter 41-2664
Fortress Against The Sun pages 388, 424 (footnote 23), 428 (footnote 62)
Flightpath August-October 2012 "Rabaul October" by Steve Birdsall page 55
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume 1 pages 84 (photo), 101-105, 108 (photo), 205 (photo), 216 (profile 6), 221 (profile 6 detail), 318, 326, 340 (photo), 343, 355, 404 (index)
Thanks to Craig Kirwin and Larry Hickey for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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