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|Pilot Captain Frank Peter Bender, O-392735 (survived)
Co-Pilot F/Sgt Edgar Horace Hawter, RAAF 406129 (KIA, BR) Mullalyup, WA
Bombardier Sgt. Robert T. Middleton, 7002713 (KIA. BR) MS
Top Turret TSgt Arnold M. Thompson, 691204 (survived)
Engineer Sgt. Vernon McBroom, 14006568 (KIA, BR) Vicksburg, MS
Gunner Sgt Ian Chetwood Hamilton, RAAF 405378 (KIA , BR)
Crashed July 26, 1942
Built by North American in Inglewood, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 90th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Aurora" in yellow on the side of the nose.
On July 25, 1942 during the afternoon, took off from Charters Towers Airfield on a flight to 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby to stage for a bombing mission the next morning.
Meanwhile, nine A6M Zeros from Tainan Kōkūtai of the Sasai Chutai took off from Lae Airfield on a patrol mission over Buna. The first Chutai was led by Lt(jg) Jun'ichi Sasai with wingmen FPO1c Toshio Ota and FPO3c Masuaki Endo. The second chutai WO Tora'ichi Takatsuka with wingmen FPO3c Noboru Sato and F1c Yoshio Motoyoshi. The third chutai was led by FPO1c Saburo Sakai with wingmen FPO2c Masayoshi Yonekawa and FPO3c Yoshio Mogi.
At 8:15am, the Zeros spotted and intercept the B-25 formation en route to their target over the Buna area. The bombers believed they were under attack by approximately 10-15 enemy fighters and immediately jettisoned their bombs, aborted the mission and turn back for Port Moresby.
This B-25 was hit by gunfire and set on fire, then went into a spin and eventually exploded before crashing into the ground. Only two of the crew were able to bail out including pilot Bender and the turret gunner Thompson. Also shot down was B-25C 41-12470 (MIA).
The other three B-25s were damaged and chased by Sasai, Ota and Sakai back to Port Moresby. Over 7 Mile Drome, Sakai strafed a P-40 Kittyhawk from 76 Squadron before the trio withdrew at 8:50am. Afterards, all nine Zeros landed safely at Lae Airfield and claimed three enemy bombers shot down.
Fates of the Crew
Friendly natives assisted Bender in reaching the crash site where he identified the remains of Flt. Sgt. Hawter and Sgt McBroom and Sgt Middleton. The natives buried the bodies next to the crash site. Afterwards, Bender was led to Isivita Mission and met Reverend Henry Holland.
Meanwhile, Sgt. Thompson was able to bail out successfully and landed unhurt. Later, he was assisted by natives and led to nearby Isivita Mission and met Reverend Henry Holland.
Aided by members of ANGAU and native people, Bender and Thompson spent the next three weeks walking and being carried in strechers made from bush materials over the Owen Stanley Range to the southern coast of New Guinea. They finally reached a mission station and were taken to Abau Island and then transported by boat back to Port Moresby.
Recovery of Remains
What was thought to be two sets of remains were recovered and turned over to American Graves Registration (AGRS) who identified the remains of Americans Sgt McBroom and Sgt Middleton. Their remains were transported to the United States for permanent burial. In fact, the remains included a third individual, RAAF F/Sgt Hawter whose remains were unintentionally sent with them and all three were buried together in the United States.
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