|Pilot 1st Lt Ralph E. Freek, O-731963 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew 2nd Lt Kenneth B. Lawton, O-738191 (MIA / KIA) IA
Crew 1st Lt James E. Miller, O-662354 (MIA / KIA) NY
Crew SSgt Harold D. Sample, 18069891 (MIA / KIA) CO
Crew Sgt Roy E. Johnson, 37188079 (MIA / KIA) MS
Crew SSgt Anthony DeLeo, 12089012 (MIA / KIA) NY
Crashed January 16, 1944 at 10:30am
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 822nd Bombardment Squadron on September 17, 1943. Assigned to pilot Swonger. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines: R-2600-13 serial numbers 42-271445 and 43-36322.
On October 16, 1943 this B-25 flew its first combat mission, a low level strike against Alexishafen Airfield.
On January 16, 1944 one of twenty-one B-25s that took off from 17 Mile Drome (Durand) near Port Moresby at 7:45am armed with 300 lb. bombs on mission 16-B over Cape Croisilles to Cape Gourd. Over Nadzab, the formation was met by an escort of P-38 Lightnings. At 9:45am the formation arrived over Cape Croisilles and began a barge sweep along the north coast of New Guinea. Over the target, the weather was light cloud. The B-25s strafed native huts and plantations.
Over Cape Gourdon, seven B-25s from the 822nd Bombardment Squadron headed south and were intercepted by six Ki-43-II Oscars from the 59th Sentai. At this time, this B-25 was the No. 5 plane in the second flight and was targeted by the fighters. Pilot Freek attempted a diving evasive maneuver. Other B-25s observed pieces of this aircraft falling away. At 10:30am, last seen by the other B-25s in the formation between Bunabun Harbor and Uligan Harbor trailing smoke. When this bomber failed to return, the entire crew was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, villagers recovered the remains of the crew and buried them in Aber village cemetery. In 1946, a RAAF Searher Team visited the wreckage of this aircraft and located the remains of three of the crew in the wreckage.
This B-25 crashed near Aber village near Uligan Harbor at roughly Lat 5.01° Long 145.40° into coconut plantation.
Colin Jermy recalls from 1979:
"Remains of crashed American B-25 on the recently
burnt forest floor at Ulingen. It was quite near the coast in a plantation,
but I cannot recall if it was north or south of the village. My brother
definitely knew what flight it was, because he commented that the navigational
instrument seen in the photo of assorted bits, was still set to their
course. We collected together all the bits together for the second photo.
I also found a Japanese water bottle with a bullet hole through it."
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the 1946 recovery of remains, the crew was transported to the United States for perment burial. The entire crew was buried in a group burial at Fort McPherson National Cemetery at plot R graves 1-2.
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25 42-64827
Sun Setters of the Southwest Pacific Area pages 267-269, AII-7
FindAGrave - Ralph E Freek (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Kenneth Burddette Lawton (grave photo)
FindAGrave - James E Miller (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harold D Sample (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Roy E Johnson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Anthony DeLeo (grave photo)
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
February 4, 2018