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  B-25C-5 Mitchell Serial Number 42-53354  
USAAF
12th AF
28th BG
77th BS

Pilot  1st Lt. Quinton D. Standiford, O-662504 (MIA / KIA) WA
Co-Pilot  1st Lt. Thomas B. Merrill, O-725072 (MIA / KIA) OK
Navigator-Bombardier  2nd Lt. Vernon P. Shellabarger, O-738267 (MIA / KIA) IA
Radio  TSgt Anthony H. Newsom Jr., 18033098 (KIA) TX
Gunner  SSgt Francis L. Mc Eowen, 15085927 (POW, survived) IN
Gunner  Sgt George G. Wales, 39165481 (MIA / KIA) ID

Crashed  September 11, 1943 at 2:06pm
MACR  2283

Aircraft History
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried to Alaska.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 28th Bombardment Group, 77th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. This B-25 operated from Adak Airfield and later Attu Airfield. When lost, engines Wright R-2600-13 left 42-149567 right 42-28685. Aboard were ten .50 caliber machine guns.

Mission History
On September 11, 1943 one of twelve took off from Attu Airfield on Attu Island on a low level bombing mission against Japanese shipping in Paramushir Strait between Paramishu Island and Shumshu Island. Flying to the target, the formation crossed the International Date Line, thus the mission is recorded as September 12, 1943 in the Kurile Islands (Kuril, Chishima-Rettō).

Over the target, the formation attacked from north to south. This B-25s was part of the first echelon in a line abreast formation nearest to the coastline of Shumshu Island, with the second echelon a quarter mile behind nearer to the Paramishu Island side. During the attack run, this B-25 was flying at low level between roughly 10' to 60' above sea level at 265 mph.

While passing to the west of Kataoka Naval Base on Shumshu Island, this bomber exploded and disintegrated. The crash was observed by another B-25 piloted by Captain Robert W. Dennis, plus two others aboard his bomber: 1st Lt. Claude W. Wilson and 1st Lt. Morgan I. Temple. It was believed this bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire, as no enemy fighters were airborne until after the attack run when Ki-43 Oscars from the 54th Sentai intercepted the bombers.

When this B-25 failed to return, the entire crew was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). None of the returning B-25s believed anyone could have survived the crash of this bomber.

Fates of the Crew
Five of the crew: Standiford, Merrill, Shellabarger, Newsom and Wales were officially declared dead the day of the mission and likely died inside the bomber or never exited the plane.

In fact, gunner Mc Eowen survived the crash and found himself in the freezing cold sea, and immediately grabbed an oxygen bottle from the wreckage floating nearby and yelled out for help, realizing the coastline was too far away to reach swimming. A passing boat, Seishin Maru rescued him and immediately took him to the hospital where he was wrapped in blankets and given first aid treatment. His capture was reported in the Hokkai Times newspaper in Hokkaido.

Minoru Kamada adds:
"I went to the war archives yesterday [March 22, 2016], and I found some clips on battle of Kurile Islands on the Hokkai Times in Hokkaido. I am sorry this newspaper company closed business long time ago. I have to get clearer clips for these articles somewhere in Tokyo because no photocopying of these clips at the Archives. In one of these clips, I found an interesting article, that a Sergeant Francis Leonard McCohen [sic] was rescued by a fisherman boat named Seishin Maru on September 12 1943. The article does not say anything about what happened to him after being captured."

Afterwards, he was transported to Omori POW Camp and detained for the rest of the Pacific War. Mc Eowan made a radio broadcast on Radio Tokyo. On or about November 14, 1943 a Japanese Radio Tokyo broadcast included an interview with Sgt Mc Eowen and was intercepted by the U. S. Navy on Amohitka Island. His voice was not recognized by anyone who knew him. During the interview, Mc Eowean relayed how he was rescued and treated kindly by the Japanese. He also spoke about his perceptions of the war and talked about his parents and three siblings (two brothers and a sister). Hearing the broadcast, his squadron mates did not believe he could have survived the crash and believed the broadcast was fake. Regardless, this broadcast resulted in his status being Missing In Action (MIA) versus declared dead. But, the U. S. Army deemed that since no official report of his capture was made by the Japanese or the Red Cross, it was recommended his status be changed to Killed In Action (KIA) on the day of the mission.

Mc Eowen survived the war and was liberated at the end of hostilities and transported to the United States.

Memorials
The deceased crew members were officially declared dead the day of the mission: Standiford, Merrill, Shellabarger and Wales. All four memorialized on the courts of the missing at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Standiford and Wales on court 5. Shellabarger, Newsom and Merrill on court 7.

Posthumously, Shellabarger earned the Purple Heart and Air Medal on December 28, 1944, the citation reads: "In grateful memory of Second Lieutenant Vernon Shellabarger, AS No. O-738267 who died in the service of country in the North American Area. He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings. Freedom lives through it, he lives - in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men." The Purple Heart award was made to Lt. Shellabarger "for military merit and wounds received in action resulting in his death." Signed by Henry Simpson, secretary of war.

Mc Eowen passed away during September 1981. He is buried at Washington Park East Cemetery in Indianapolis, IN at plot bid island, section AA, level 4 space 92.

References
Missing Air Crew Report 2283 (MACR 2283) spells gunner's name as "McEowen" on page 2, includes Radio Tokyo transcript page 11
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Quinton D. Standiford
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas B. Merrill Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Vernon P. Shellabarger
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Anthony H. Newsom Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George G. Wales
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Francis L. Mc Eowen
FindAGrave - 1Lt Quinton D Standiford (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Thomas B Merrill, Jr (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Vernon P Shellabarger (photos, Air Medal and Purple heart citations, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt George G Wales (courts of the missing photo)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Francis L. Mc Eowan
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Francis L. Mc Eowen
FindAGrave - Francis L. McEowen (grave)
Hokkai Times in Hokkaido mentions the capture of "Sergeant Francis Leonard McCohen [sic]" by "fishing boat named Seishin Maru on September 12 1943".
Thanks to Minoru Kamada for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-25

POW / MIA
MIA / POW
5 Missing
1 Prisoner

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