|Pilot Major Marion N. "Buzz" Pharr, O-22626 C. O. 431st BS (MIA / KIA) Newborn, GA
Crew 1st Lt. Robert O. Pate, O-416886 (MIA / KIA) Dallas, TX
Crew 1st Lt. Thomas N. Warren, Jr., O-391317 (MIA / KIA) Macon, GA
Crew 1st Lt. Richard R. Lehr, O-432385 (MIA / KIA) Lakewood, OH
Engineer Sgt Cecil A. Rogers 7000776 (MIA / KIA) Ravenwood, MS
Crew T/Sgt Millard G. Hendrix, 6574573 (MIA / KIA) Marshfield, OR
Crew S/Sgt James B. Winey, 6667864 (MIA / KIA) Toledo, OH
Crew T/Sgt Raymond L. Nelbach, 6706490 (MIA / KIA) Utica, NY
Crew T/Sgt Samuel E. McKee, 6296808 (MIA / KIA) AZ
Gunner Pfc Edwin B. Decker, Jr., 7002217 (MIA / KIA) Columbia, LA
MIA August 7, 1942
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2692. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-9220. Delivered to Cheyenne on May 26, 1942. This bomber was ferried from the United States to Hickham Field.
On June 5 1942 assigned to the 7th Air Force. On July 22, 1942 transfered to the 13th Air Force, 11th Bombardment Group, 431st Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On August 7, 1942 took off on a reconnaissance mission over the Solomon Islands. When this B-17 failed to return the entire crew was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
The location of this loss is listed as "vicinity of Tulagi". Another source states the loss was "east of Henderson Field". Yet another source lists the loss as over the "North Solomons" which could refer to anywhere in present day Western Province including New Georgia, Choiseul or Santa Isabel, Shortlands or Bougainville.
Administratively, this aircraft was officially written off on June 15, 1944. Steve Birdsall adds: "15 June 1944” entries on the Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC), that’s a catch-all date when they brought the paperwork up to date and didn’t have a record of what had happened to the plane, but it wasn’t around anymore."
The entire crew was officially declared dead on December 7, 1945. The entire crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Pharr and Warren earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Nelbach earned the Air Medal. Pate, Lehr, Rogers and Winey earned the Silver Star.
Three of the crew: Pharr, Rogers and Hendrix are memorialized on the courts of the missing at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl) on court 7. The other seven: Pate, Warren, Lehr, Winey, Nelbach, McKee and Decker are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Pharr also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at memorial section H.
Nelbach also has a memorial marker at Saint Josephs Cemetery in Yorkville, NY.
McKee also has a memorial marker at Oak Lawn Cemetery Ravenwood, MS.
Chuck Young (nephew of Rogers)
"An excerpt from story submitted to Grey Goose Flyers magazine by M/Sgt Hubert B. Hinton - The Georgia Rebel 461 Sybil Lane, Marietta Ga 30067.) Cecil went down during the Initial 7 August 1942 invasion of Guadalcanal. Cecil was Engineer / Top Gunner during the Marine landing at Guadalcanal. The crew was shot down over Tulagi island. Tulagi is east of Guadalcanal (Henderson Field) that forms the south end of the slot in the Solomon Islands."
Note, many publish references associated the loss of Pharr and his crew with B-17E 41-2426, this is incorrect.
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-17E 41-9220
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E 41-9220
"9220 delivered to Cheyenne May 26, 1942; assigned to 7th AF at Hickham, Hawaii Jun 5, 1942; transferred to 13th AF (Poppy), July 22, 1942; WO June 15, 1944."
Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 15885 was created retroactively and does not list the serial number. The location of this loss is listed as "vicinity of Tulagi". Another source states the loss was "east of Henderson Field". Yet another source lists the loss as over the "North Solomons" which could refer to either Bougainville or the Shortland Islands.
Fortress Against The Sun page 224, 226, 390, 428
(Page 224) "Maj. Marion Pharr, the CO of the 431st BS, and Captain Sullivan took two planes out from Espirito Santo in the early morning hours. 'Someone cooked up the bright idea of three A.M. take-offs for search missions,' complained Lt. Wilkinson 'Pharr and Sully drew the first one on 7 Aug 42. Sully came back, but nothing was ever heard from Pharr.' Patrolling far to the north, it was assumed that Maj. Pharr, in B-17E (41-2426 [sic]), had run into enemy fighters and was shot down. Later, captured Japanese documents indicated that a B-17 had been downed by Zero fighters on the morning of August 7. (footnote 52)"
384) "B-17E 41-41-2426 [sic] 431/11 Missing on reconnaissance mission of Northern Solomons. 7 Aug 42. Pilot: Maj. Marion Pharr."
(Page 390) "B-17E 41-9220 26/431 11 Written off, 15 June 44."
(Page 428, footnote 52) “Wilkinson account ‘Losses 431st’ in Cleveland ed., Grey Geese Calling, 255, 310; Caiden, Flying Forts, 236; 'Performance, Results and Attrition of B-17, Heavy Bombers in Solomon Islands Operations - August and September 1942,’ 11th Bombardment Group (H) History, 1.”
Thanks to Charles H. Young and Steve Birdsall for additional information.
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February 4, 2018