|Pilot Captain Michael F. Hochella (survived) PA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. William H. Bright (survived)
Navigator 1st Lt. John J. "Jack" Howard, O-664772 (MIA / KIA) OK
Engineer S/Sgt Elmore C. Stephens (survived)
Gunner S/Sgt Sam Kellar (survived)
Radio Pvt Clyde R. Lambert (survived)
Ditched February 15, 1944
Built by North American as a B-25D-10 model. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 345th Bombardment Group, 500th Bombardment Squadron on October 22, 1943. Nicknamed "Snafu" (II) and later "Stubborn Hellion" with the nose art of a white mustang that spanned the entire nose. Assigned to pilot Michael Hochella and crew chief Bigari. This aircraft was converted to a model C-1 strafer by the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field near Townsville.
On February 3, 1944 took off piloted by Hochella on a low level strike mission against Dagua Airfield.
On February 15, 1944 took off on a low level strike mission against Kavieng. Leading a three plane flight over the main wharf and Chinatown areas, this B-25 was hit by anti-aircraft fire that damaged in one engine and left shrapnel holes down the left side of the fuselage. This B-25 lagged behind the formation and pilot Hochella unsuccessfully attempted to feather the propeller and dove down to sea level.
The damaged engine caught fire forcing this B-25 to ditch roughly 75 yards off Selapiu Island near New Hanover at roughly Lat 2.21° Long 150.37°. During the landing, the ditched B-25 spun 180 degrees before sinking. On impact, pilot Hochella was thrown through the cockpit windshield strapped to his seat and armor plate, before inflating his life jacket and releasing his seat belt and briefly passed out. Navigator Howard was never seen again and presumed to have gone down with the sinking bomber.
On February 16, 1944 a B-25 Mitchell pilot by Captain Dougherty from the 345th Bombardment Group
spotted the downed crew. On April 17, 1944 he guided a PBY Catalina to the location. It landed and successfully rescued the surviving crew members.
Howard was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Howard also has a memorial marker at Fairview Cemetery in Pryor, OK.
Hochella attained the rank of Lt. Col. and earned the Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with oak leaf cluster and the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster. Hochella died on September 13, 2005 and is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery (Bethlehem Memorial Park) in Bethlehem, PA in section B.
Wreckage is in excellent
condition, but water visibility is poor. Both engines were torn off on impact and rest prop down
in the mud about 100 feet from the fuselage.
Don Fetterly adds:
"The plane is an excellent
dive. It is laying slightly on its starboard side with its starboard
wing into the mud. and the other wing raised so
you can swim under it. The fuselage is bent at the waist
gun position although the tail plane to be at a angle of
some 20 degree to port. The top of the cockpit is missing
and the cockpit section is bent backwards towards and is
laying along side the leading edge of the port wing about
where the engine was. Water visibility is often poor, but the
wreckage is still in excellent condition. Both engines were
torn off on impact and rest prop down in the mud about 100
feet from the fuselage. The nose section is completely gone
and as of this date could not find it . The top turret is
bent sideways slightly, but all in all the plane is there
just as it went down. There are lots of flack holes in the
wing and main body. the machine guns are still there in
the tail and starboard waist gun both 30 caliber the port gun seem
to have be torn out."
Marc Montocchio reports:
"The wreck which is very difficult to shoot due to the viability which is
not more than 10'. The engines are missing from the wreck and her nose cone was
snapped off on impact and is lying against her left wing. The left front seat
is loose, "legend" has it that pilot was thrown clear of the aircraft
on impact and the seat has since been returned by divers to it's correct position.
Inside the fuselage the radio gear is very clear as well as what I presume is
an oxygen cylinder. The tail gun is on the tail plane along side an number of
ammunition belts with the turret guns pointing to the bottom no covered by an
anemone and clown fish. One of the engine is to be found fifty or so meters from
the plane with the prop covered by the silt and mud. The rest of the aircraft
we found in clearer water."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John J. Howard
FindAGrave - Lieut John Joseph "Jack" Howard (photo, grave photo)
LTC Michael F. Hochella (grave photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 42-32314
Warpath Across The Pacific pages 118-119, 122, 127-128, 368, 392
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February 4, 2018