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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number ?  
10th AF
7th BG
9th BS

Pilot  Captain Elmer Parsel (KIA / BR) Plymouth, OH
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Duke M. Paul (KIA / BR) Buncombe County, NC
Passenger  Major Norman J. Lewellyn (KIA, BR) Jefferson County, KY
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Robert P. Spreng (KIA / BR) Richland County, OH
Navigator  2nd Lt. George C. Harkess (KIA / BR) Washington County, PA
Crew  Sgt Raymond J. Gregor (KIA / BR) Allegheny County, PA
Crew  Pfc Owen B. Knox (KIA / BR) Lawrence County, OH
Crew  Pfc James C. Paounoff (KIA / BR) Hampden County, MA
Crew  Pfc Willie T. Stokes (KIA / BR) Harris County, TX
Crashed  April 2, 1942
MACR  none

Crew History
Parsel was assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group, 7th Squadron in the Philippines. On the morning of December 22, 1941 he bombed enemy ships off Davao and transports in Lingayen Gulf on a mission that lasted over 32 hours. For this mission, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for "Courage, determination, and extraordinary flying skill on completing a bombardment mission of extreme importance." As of April 1942, he was one of the most seasoned B-17 pilots in the Philippines.

Major Norman J. Lewellynwas a non-flying senior aide to Major General Lewis H. Brereton. He departed the Philippines with Brereton as a passenger aboard a U. S. Navy PBY Catalina during the night of December 24-25,1941 arriving at Surabaya on Java. On February 23, 1942 when Brereton departed for India to take command of the command of the 10th Air Force, Lewellyn joined him.

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number unknown.

Wartime History
This B-17 was ferried overseas via the African route to Java and participated in the Java campaign then was evacuated to Darwin.

Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group, 9th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Afterwards, this B-17 was assigned to the 10th Air Force and operated from Asansol Airfield in India.

Mission History
On April 2, 1942 took off from Asansol Airfield in India the early evening piloted by Captain Elmer Parsel on a bombing mission against warehouses and docks at Rangoon. Aboard as a passenger was Major Norman J. Lewellyn who participated in the mission to gain combat experience.

During the take off, this B-17 slipped off the runway, possibly because the crew forgot to unlock the controls. Trying to avoid a stump on the right side of the runway, Parsel attempted to pull up sharply, but the tail impacted the stump, tearing off one of the tail elevators. The bomber climbed to roughly 100', then rolled over into a gully and crashed. Although the bomb load did not detonate, the crash killed the entire crew.

There was a stump at the right side of the runway. Parsel saw it and pulled the nose and wheels clear, but the tail dropped down and snapped the stump, tearing off one of the plane's elevators. It rose into the air a hundred feet or so, then arched over into the far side of a gully at right angles to the runway. Though the bombs did not detonate, the crash killed everyone on board. Parsel received the Purple Heart.

Meanwhile, another B-17 in the flight suffered mechanical trouble, and the entire mission was aborted.

After the crash, the remains of the crew were recovered and buried. Postwar, the remains were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial. On September 20, 1951, the remains of the crew were interred at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in a group burial at plot F, graves 271-272.

Paul also has a memorial marker in Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC at section N lot 60.

Are you a relative of Lewellyn or another member of this crew? Do you have any additional details on this mission?
Contact us.

USAAF Accident Reports - April 4, 1942
incorrectly lists Lewellyn as the pilot
Thanks to William Bartsch for additional information
Diary of Major General Brereton, references to Lewellyn
FindAGrave - Captain Elmer L. Parsel (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Willie T. Stokes (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Raymond J. Gregor (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - George Cresswell "Bud" Harkess (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Owen B Knox (grave photo)
FindAGrave - James Constantine Paounoff (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Duke Marion Paul (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Duke Marion Paul (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Robert Paul Robert Paul Spreng (grave photo)
Fortress Against The Sun page 34, 62-63, 65, 68-69, 81, 96, 103, 135, 396, 404, 406-7, 409, 412, (references to Parsel)

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Last Updated
December 11, 2018


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