|Pilot 1st Lt Eugene E Benson, O-735510
Lt. William Joseph Smith, O-742619
Navigator Ist Lt Hollie Rushing, O-803152
Radio T/Sgt James C. Healan, 34350583 (MIA / KIA) GA
Gunner Sgt Harold J. Gross, 39244301 (MIA / KIA) OH
Ditched February 15, 1944
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 38th Bombardment Group, 71st Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Pissonit" with the nose art of Walt Disney's "Big Bad Wolf" cartoon
B-25 "Pissonit" was out
on its first and only mission, the first B-25 raid on Kavieng.
It was hit by anti-aircraft fire over the target, set on fire,
and ditched about a mile offshore 2-3 miles off
North Cape near Kavieng. The radio operator
bailed out, but was never found. Gunner Gross
was observed to parachute out of the plane after it was hit
and caught fire, but the plane was too low and he was killed.
Healan was killed when the plane hit the water. The three other
crew waited in the water for about two hours, clinging to pilot
William Smith's parachute. Their life
burned when their plane ditched. The remaining three crew
were rescued by PBY "Arkansas Traveler" 08139 piloted
by Lt(jg) Nathan G.
Gordon which landed despite rough seas and Japanese fire. Gordon
earned the Medal of Honor for this action.
"Our radio went off again, and we got the call from
the spotting B-25 to rescue another crew. This plane had ditched about
a mile from shore. Again, we power stalled to land, and had to cut the
left engine so as not to hit the crew in the water. This time it was
another B-25 crew. Only three were there. Our remaining two P-47 escorts
left while we were making the landing because they too were low on fuel.
We now had ten aboard, and we started for home.
I would say we got about 20 miles away from Kavieng when again, our
radio went off. It was the same B-25 called in and told us about
another crew, this time very close to the shore. Since our escort
had left, I asked him "Are you going to stay with me?" and he replied
back "Yes". We had been told that the Japanese had float
planes there too, and I was afraid about meeting one of them now
that we were alone."
The wreck of this B-25 has never been found.
Gross was officially declared dead on February 14, 1944. Healan was officially declared dead on February 15, 1946. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Stephen Smith (son of William J. Smith)
Warpath Across The Pacific pages 128-129
The Forgotten Fifth pages 69-70 [ Read Excerpt ]
PBY: The Catalina Flying Boat pages 170-173
Artwork by Nicholas Trudgian "Black Cat Rescue" & "Flight Out of Hell"
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January 5, 2018