|Pilot 1st Lt. Dale V. Hannigan, O-1296206 (MIA / KIA, BR) PA
Co-Pilot F/O Clifford Steen, T-10342 (MIA / KIA, BR) CA
Crew 2nd Lt. Donald A. Bliss, O-2081386 (MIA / KIA, BR)
Crew SSgt Albert E. Grajeda, 3955465 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew Sgt Russell K. Gerbracht, 36614275 (MIA / KIA, BR) IL
Crew Henry B. Eldridge, 35704350 (MIA / KIA, BR) MA
Crew Sgt Anthony E. Paratoe, 19090075 (MIA / KIA, BR)
Crew Sgt Aershel Dennison, 36949621 (MIA / KIA, BR)
Crew Sgt Robert C. Kupferschmid, 37601422 (MIA / KIA, BR) MS
Crashed September 1, 1945 at 8:00pm
Built by by Douglas at Long Beach under contract for Boeing. Constructors Number 32222. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17G-85-DL Flying Fortress serial number 44-83581.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 13th Rescue Group, 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron (2nd ERS) "Snafu Snatchers". No known nickname or nose art.
On September 1, 1945 took off from Morotai at 8:00pm piloted by 1st Lt. Dale V. Hannigan on an operational flight bound for Merauke. At 8:00pm, this B-17 crashed into the sea in the vicinity of Okaba off Merauke. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
After the crash, darkness, strong winds and rough seas prevented any immediate search from being mounted.
Recovery of Remains
Over the next three days three bodies washed ashore in the vicinity and were buried at Okaba Cemetery. The dead bodies were identified by their dog tags and included crew members: Patatore, Dennison and Eldridge. Later, other bodies washed ashore. In total, native people in the area recovered the bodies of 8 of the 9 crew members.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Grajeda remains Missing In Action (MIA) is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Kupferschmid is buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot D row 12 grave 48.
Hannigan is buried at Red Lion Cemetery in Red Lion, PA.
Bliss has a marker at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, IL at section C site 404
Gerbracht St. Paul's Am. Lutheran Cemetery in Stewart, MN
Steen is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section O, site 1094
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17G-85-DL Fortress 44-83581
"83581 crashed into sea Sep 1, 1945 in the vicinity of Okaba, Merauke. All 9 on board killed."
NAA "Fortress - Missing U.S. Aircraft, Fortress B17G 44-83581"
FindAGrave - Dale V Hannigan (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Donald A Bliss (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Clifford Steen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Albert E Grajeda
FindAGrave - Russell Karl Gerbracht (memorial photo, photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert C Kupferschmid
2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron - Squadron History - September 1945
"But for our departure tragedy struck our Squadron. On September 1st a B-17 crew consisting of Lieutenant Hannigan, Lieutenant Bliss, Flight Officer Steen, Staff Sergeant Grajeda, Sergeant Kupferschmid, Sergeant Gerbracht, Sergeant Eldridge, Sergeant Paratore and Sergeant Dennison took off from Morotai on an operational flight to Merauke, New Guinea. The plane never reached its destination. It crashed near Okaba, Dutch New Guinea and not one of the crew of nine members escaped death. Just what caused the crash will always remain a mystery. The natives of the area recovered 8 of the 9 bodies and burial services conducted by the natives were held for the men."
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December 19, 2018