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  B-25D-15 Mitchell Serial Number 41-30531  
USAAF
5th AF
345th BG
500th BS

Pilot  Captain William J. Cavoli (rescued) Philadelphia, PA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. George H. Braun (rescued)
Navigator  1st Lt. Robert E. Lewis (rescued) KS
Engineer  Sgt Weldon Isler (rescued) Hartford, AL
Radio  TSgt Thomas B. Freeman (rescued) Spartanburg, SC
Gunner  S/Sgt John A. "Zero" Murphy (rescued)

Ditched  February 15, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by North American as a model D-15. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
On January 11, 1944 assigned to the 5th Air Force, 345th Bombardment Group, 500th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Modified as a D-1 strafer by the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field at Townsville.

Mission History
On February 15, 1944 took off as part of the second wave of bombers on a strike against Kavieng. Over the target, the formation experienced heavy anti-aircraft fire. After dropping their bombs and flying through heavy smoke, this B-25 was hit, setting the right wing on fire. Pilot Cavoli successfully ditch the bomber into Kavieng Harbor, without any hydraulic pressure or airspeed indicator, and came to rest about three quarters of a mile from the shoreline. All the crew survived and took to their life raft.  Radio operator Freeman's arm was broken and gunner Murphy had been sucked under the plane but managed to swim to the surface. While in their raft, Japanese gunners fired from the shore at the wreckage of their aircraft and raft.

Rescue
Spotted by PBY "Arkansas Traveller" 08139 piloted by Nate Gordon, rescuing his crew would be the final and most difficult as it would require to circle just offshore in order to land for them. After successfully landing, he cut the engines to allow the crew to be rescued after 85 minutes in the water. Japanese fire hit around them and rough seas caused a long takeoff run. Gordon earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for this action. In total, 85 minutes had elapsed since the ditching to their rescue.

Nathan G. Gordon recalled:
"We would have to land closer to shore this time. I did not consult with the crew, there was no time for making decisions, I just did it, and nobody complained. That is what had to be done, there was no time to discuss things. We made our final landing, only 600 yards from shore. We had to make our approach over the town, where later I was told some of the heavies AA fire was coming from. There was a lot of fire coming at us from the shore. Small arms and machine guns as well as larger stuff. Again, none hit us. The swells helped us here, as the plane would disappear to anyone trying to shoot at us from the shore when we were behind a crest. We did the same thing, and took the five of them in through the waist hatch."

Relatives
Glenn Hoskins (nephew of Sgt Thomas Freeman)
"My uncle was radioman on William Cavoli's B-25. He returned home after the war and married. His first wife and son died during child birth in the late forties and remarried. My sister and I went to Charlotte NC to live with them during an illness of my mother in 1958. I started the first grade there. They were both school teachers. Thomas taught high school English and Alma was a sixth grade teacher. We lived with them for six to eight months. Alma died in the early eighties. After a period of time, Thomas married a high school sweetheart, Virginia. They were happily married until his death in 94. Virginia is still living in Fallston, NC. She is the one who recently sent me his war memorabilia. Thomas never had any children of his own."

Memorials
Isler passed away December 23, 2005. He is buried at Hartford City Cemetery in Hartford, AL. Cavoli passed away on April 19, 2007. He is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery at section 21, site 1717.

References
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-30531
Warpath Across The Pacific pages 122-124, 128-129, 393
The Forgotten Fifth pages 69-70 [ Read Excerpt ]
PBY: The Catalina Flying Boat pages 170-173
"Black Cat Rescue" & "Flight Out of Hell" by Nicholas Trudgian
FindAGrave - William J. Cavoli (photo)
FindAGrave - Weldon Isler
Thanks to William Cavoli for additional information.

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-25
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