|Pilot 1st Lt Joseph H. Castelli, O-791674 (MIA / KIA) MA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Hugh A. Phelps O-735651 (MIA / KIA) NC
Gunner Sgt Daniel W. Atkins, 6896381 (KIA, BR) NC
Rear Gunner Pfc Harry J. Spies, 37419641 (MIA / KIA) IA
Crashed August 7, 1943
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, 90th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Nicknamed "Margaret".
On August 7. 1943 took off from Port Moresby on a mission to practice formation flying. During the flight, this B-25 flew too low and crashed into the sea roughly two miles due east of Buna Airfield. Afterward, this B-25 was officially condemned on August 9, 1943.
Ryan Piper adds:
"My dad, Herschel Piper, was a Gunner R/O in the 3rd BG 90th BS at the time of this event. In fact he was an eye witness flying in the same formation. This is an entry from his WWII diary describing what he saw:
Herschel Piper Diary:
"August 7, 1943: We lost Spies, my best buddy today, + on a routine local practice mission. There was a 3 plane formation flight practicing flying low over the water off coast of Buna. Lt. Helbert + I were also flying that day + saw the whole thing. Lt. Castelli, Lt. Phelps, Sgt. Atkins + Spies were all killed when the plane flew into the water. The left engine hit the water + broke the propeller off. It then flipped over + the right wing dug in + broke off + the plane flipped over on it's back + sank in a matter of seconds. Castelli + Atkins were thrown clear + pulled out of the water dead. Lt. Phelps + Spies are still in the wreckage in 10 fathoms of water. They may pull the wreck up + recover the bodies. There's some talk of it."
Recovery of Remains
At the time, only the body of Sgt Atkins was recovered.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the crash. The American crew members are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. After his remains were recovered, Atkins was permanently buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Spray, NC.
90th Bombardment Squadron microfilm, frame 669
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph H. Castelli
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Hugh A. Phelps
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry J. Spies
FindAGrave - 1Lt Joseph H Castelli (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2LT Hugh A Phelps (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Daniel Webster Atkins (photo, grave photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25 Mitchell 41-12946
Herschel Piper Diary August 7, 1943 via Ryan Piper (son)
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
August 10, 2019