Anthony Kuhn was born on May 21, 1917 in Dickerson, North Dakota, son of Ralph and Barbara Kuhn. Prior to the war, after graduating high school, he joined the Alaska National Guard in Juneau, Alaska, working on the Alcan Highway, later moving on to Fort Peck, Montana to work on President F. D. Roosevelt's Fort Peck Dam Project and ended up in Los Angeles, California working as a clerk typist.
Kuhn enlisted in the U. S. Army on November 18, 1941 with serial number 39169814 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF). Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 5th Bombardment Group, 72nd Bombardment Squadron (72nd BS) and 394th Bombardment Squadron (394th BS) as a bombardier aboard B-24 Liberators.
On November 3, 1943
took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia as bombardier aboard B-24D "Big George" 42-41155 on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy and was hit by anti-aircraft fire and ditched into the sea. Kuhn was one of four survivors who was rescued and returned to duty.
On December 2, 1943 Kuhn was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant and was nominated by Captain Oscar Fitzhenry, Operations Officer 394th Bombardment Squadron, to be lead bombardier for Colonel Marion D. Unruh, C.O. 5th Bombardment Group aboard his aircraft, B-24D "Pretty Prairie Special" 41-24186 and was transfered to Headquarters Squadron.
On December 30, 1943 took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia as bombardier aboard B-24D "Pretty Prairie Special" 41-24186 piloted by Colonel Marion D. Unruh armed with 1,000 pound bombs leading a maximum effort bombing mission against Rabaul. Inbound to the target, the weather was very poor as the formation flew following the western coast of Bougainville before flying westward towards the target. Over the target, the bombers were intercepted by enemy fighters but managed to successfully bomb Rabaul. Returning with damage, this B-24 was last seen at 12:37pm.
After descending through the clouds, this B-24 was seen by local people with the engine smoking coming from Cape Saint George before the crew bailed out and the bomber crashed into hillside on the southeastern coast of New Ireland.
Fates of the Crew
Nine of the crew: Unruh, Fessenger, Koebig, Kuhn,
Constantin and Mull parachuted out of the B-24 over southeastern New Ireland. Several of the crew landed in the sea and were aided ashore by locals in outrigger canoes that paddled out to assist them. Two of the crew: Bixler and Schaffran were unaccounted for and were listed as Missing in Action (MIA).
By December 31, 1943 nine survivors were together a native village on the coast. At 10:30am they survivors were spotted by two B-24s piloted by 2nd Lt. James D. Robertson and Captain Oscar G. Fitzhenry that dropped a medical kit and rations before departing. They were never seen again by other search aircraft.
Sometime after December 31, 1943 the nine survivors were ambushed at night by Japanese forces that opened fire on the hut they were sleeping inside. During the ambush, the crew attempted to flee.
Prisoner Of War (POW)
After the ambush, seven were captured: Koebig, Kuhn,
Constantin and Mull and taken to Cape Saint George then transported to Rabaul and became Prisoners Of War (POW) of the Japanese Army Kempei-Tai at Tunnel Hill POW Camp.
After the Japanese ambush, no one was reported hurt but seven crew members were captured: Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Gillis, Constantin and Mull and transported to Cape Saint George then to Rabaul and became Prisoners of War (POW) of the Japanese Army Kempei-Tai. Within the next two weeks, Unruh and Fessenger were also captured and transported to Rabaul. Unruh was immediately isolated and on February 17, 1944 transported to Japan and survived captivity. The rest of the crew were detained at Tunnel Hill POW Camp.
On March 5, 1944 five of the crew: Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Constantin and Mull were executed during the Talili Bay Massacre. On March 6, 1944 Koebig was also executed during the Talili Bay Massacre.
Afterwards, Fessenger and Gillis continued to be detained at Tunnel Hill POW Camp but both died in captivity. On July 15, 1944 Fessenger died of malnutrition and his remains were never recovered and is listed as Missing In Action (MIA). On August 2, 1944 Gillis died of malnutrition and his remains were recovered postwar as Unknown 139 (X-139) and later identified.
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, the remains of the Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin executed at Talili
Bay were recovered were recovered and transported to the United Sates for permanent burial.
On March 21, 1950 Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin were buried in a group burial with others executed at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 78 sites 930-934. The grave lists the date of death as March 5, 1944 for Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin and March 6, 1944 for Koebig.
Dale Anderson (nephew of Anthony Kuhn)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records -
NARA World War II Prisoner of War Data File - Kuhn Anthony last report Mar 5, 1944
NARA World War II Prisoners of the Japanese Data Files - Kuhn Anthony
FindAGrave - Anthony Kuhn (photo, group burial photo)
5th Bombardment Group Association "Expedition to New Ireland: Solving a B-24 Mystery" by Donna Esposito September 21, 2018
Thanks to Dale Anderson and Donna Esposito for additional information
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