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  B-25D-5 Mitchell Serial Number 41-30117  
USAAF
5th AF
38th BG
405th BS

Pilot  Major Ralph Cheli, O-399830 C.O. 405th BS (POW, executed March 3-4, 1944, BR)
Co-Pilot  F/O Don M. Yancey, T-186492 (MIA / KIA) TX
Navigator  1st Lt Vincent A. Raney, O-437474 (MIA / KIA) OH
Radio  TSgt Raymond C. Warren, 15088088 (POW / MIA) WV
Gunner  SSgt Clinton H. Murphree, 6282173 (POW / MIA) OK
Observer  Captain John Holtham Hamon Massie NX42188, AIF (MIA / KIA) Bellevue Hill, NSW

Ditched  August 18, 1943 at approximately 9:15am
MACR  16528

Aircraft History
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 38th Bombardment Group, 405th Bombardment Squadron. This aircraft had no known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On August 18, 1943 took off from 17 Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 6:30am piloted by Cheli leading a flight of nine B-25 Mitchells from the 405th Bombardment Squadron on the first low level strafer mission against Dagua AIrfield west of Wewak. This B-25's call sign was KF24A. Aboard was observer Captain Massie from the Australian Army 1st Australian Air Liaison Group.

Over the target, this B-25 was intercepted by enemy fighters and set on fire. Despite this damage, Cheli continued to lead the formation to the target. Afterwards, he successfully ditched into the sea at approximately 9:15am. For this mission Cheli earned the Medal of Honor.

Statement from Capt Okada Takakazu:
"Aircraft [B-25D 41-30117] forced down on water near East But Aerodrome [Dagua Airfield] about 2 km out from the shore and opposite Dagua air strip. Plane blew up and sank."

Fates of the Crew
Two of the crew: Yancey and Massie were killed during the interception or died in the ditching and went down with the aircraft.

The other three crew: Cheli, Warren and Murphree were captured by the Japanese Army and became Prisoners Of War (POW).

Cheli was photographed by the Japanese and reported as captured in the Japanese press. He was the highest ranking American aviator captured at Wewak. Later, Cheli was later transported to Rabaul and detained at the Rabaul POW Prison and later moved to Tunnell Hill POW Camp. He was executed March 3-4, 1944 near Tunnel Hill.

The fates of Warren and Murphree are unknown, but presumed to have died of their wounds or were executed or otherwise died in captivity, possibly at Wewak POW Camp.

Recovery of Remains
Postwar, Cheli's remains were recovered and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Memorials
Yancey and Raney were officially declared dead the day of the mission and are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Raney also has a memorial marker at Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown, OH.

Warren and Murphree were officially declared dead on December 3, 1945. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Australian Massie was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at the Lae War Cemetery at the Lae Memorial, panel 1.

Cheli was officially declared dead on March 6, 1944. After his remains were recovered, he was buried on March 21, 1950 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group at section 78, site 931-934. A marker at section 78 site 930 below the group burial with a gold inlaid relief of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the inscription: "Ralph Cheli Medal of Honor Maj Army Air Forces World War II Mar 6 1944"

References
Missing Air Crew Report 16528 (MACR 16528)
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Ralph Cheli

American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Don M. Yancey
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Vincent A. Raney
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Raymond C. Warren
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Clinton H. Murphree

CWGC - John Holtham Hamon Massie
FindAGrave - MAJ Ralph Cheli (grave photo)
FindAGrave - FltOff Don M. Yancey (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Vincent A Raney (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Vincent A Raney (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - TSgt Raymond C Warren (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SSgt Clinton H Murphree (tablets of the missing)
ATIS 1146, 1259, 1451
AWM 479668 [War Crimes and Trials - Investigation of Atrocities:] Fate of Service Personnel - Report of Board of Inquiry - Subjects NX42138 Capt JH Massie; Major R Cheli; FO DM Yancey; 1st/Lt VA Ramey; F/Sgt RC Warren; S/Sgt CH Murphrce
RAAF Court of enquiry reports that aircraft was seen to make a good landing. The board considers that Massie, Yancey and Raney were killed in action; Warren and Murphree were taken prisoner and later died of wounds. Cheli was taken prisoner and evacuated to Rabaul.
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25D Mitchell 41-30117
Warpath Across the Pacific page 91
MacArthur's Eagles pages 71-72

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-25

MIA / POW
MIA / POW
3 Prisoners
5 Missing

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
Cheli

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