Leland A. "Sonny" Walker
Co-Pilot Lt. Donald E. Anderson (survived)
Bombardier Sgt. Joseph A. Gerchow (survived)
Lowell A. Anderson (KIA) SD
Lowell K. Hammond, 11009288 (WIA, died) MA
Force Landed May 8, 1942
Built by North American in Inglewood, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 13th Bombardment Squadron on April 22, 1942. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, this was the first 3rd Bombardment Group B-25 lost due to combat. This aircraft was officially condemned on November 26, 1943.
On May 8, 1942 took off from 7-Mile
Drome near Port Moresby on a solo reconnaissance mission over Lae. Over the target, this B-25 was intercepted by two A6M2 Zero from the Tainan Kokutai piloted by FPO3c Sadao Uehara and F1c Takeshi Kobayashi that took off from Lae Airfield at noon on a two hour Combat Air Patrol (CAP). During a roughly one hour battle, the pair's gunfire disabled the left engine
and damaged the hydraulic system which minimized
the effectiveness of the lower bendix turret.
Damaged and flying on one engine, pilot Walker fled back to Port Moresby, chased by the pair of Zeros. Meanwhile, on the ground at Lae Airfield, six additional Zeros took off to intercept, but it is unclear if they joined the combat or which pilots were at their controls, likely pilots from the prior CAP mission.
The pair of Zeros chased the B-25 all the way back to Port Moresby. Returning from the mission, neither pilot claimed it for unknown reasons, possibly because they did not witness the crash landing. Each Zero returned with only a single bullet hole in each aircraft.
Damaged, Walker elected to force land on Fishermans
Island believing it was a smooth sandy surface. On impact, the B-25 hit coral boulders causing a bumpy and rough landing that shredded the bomber and destroyed the nose.
Fates of the Crew
Gunner Anderson died in the crash landing, Pilot Walker suffering bad burns in the crash and was unable to assist the crew. Afterwards, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for this mission and his efforts to save the crew. Gunner Hammond was badly injured and was transported to the hospital where he died later the same day.
This B-25 crash landed in roughly the center of Fishermans
Island. On August 17, 1942 mechanics from the 3rd Bombardment Group traveled to Fishermans
Island and stripped the B-25 wreckage for usable parts. They removed the machine guns and other salvageable components.
During September 1942, Curtiss-Wright Technical Representative Paul Carpenter visited the crash site:
"On another occasion we had an opportunity of going to an island some few miles off Port Moresby [Fishermans Island] to look at a B-25 which had been damaged in a fight and belly landed on this coral island, when it was seen impossible to make its home airdrome. The coral rocks had pretty well torn the under part all to bits and a fire started which pretty well cleared out the center section. The wings and engine had lots of salvageable parts and were evidentially stripped. No one seemed to know for sure what happened to the crew, but if they got out of it it was a miracle. There were burned parts of their parachutes and Mae Wests, but there were no traces of that terrible smell which always lingers around the spot where humans beings have burned or cooked."
During the late 1980s or early 1990s, local people removed the aluminum for sale as scrap metal leaving only the two engines, two landing gear legs and other smaller bits of the aircraft.
Justin Taylan visited the crash site during July 2003:
"I visited this wreckage, although little wreckage remained, it is a very historic aircraft wreck."
Justin Taylan visited the crash site on March 4, 2014:
"I returned to this aircraft to confirm if it was still there. The same four pieces remained. Since 2003, the cylinder heads on both engines had been chipped off and scrapped leaving only the cylinders. We also found bullets impacted into the coral, possibly from the strafing Zeros"
The two crew that died in the crash were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Postwar, both were transported to the United States for permanent burial. Hammond is buried at Plot B Row 0 Grave 954 at Hawaii National Cemetery (Punchbowl). Anderson is buried at Bluff View Cemetery, Vermillion, South Dakota
Paul Carpenter Curtiss-Wright Technical Representative Report No. 16, September 23, 1942
Eagles of the Southern Sky pages 107-108, 331
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-12486
FindAGrave - Lowell A. Anderson (photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Walt Houghton for additional information
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January 5, 2018