|Pilot 1st Lt. Clifford A. Jaebker, O-795399 (KIA, BR)
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Noel F. Learned, O-795778 (KIA, BR)
Navigator 2nd Lt Marek G. Pzegeo, O-672973 (KIA, BR)
Radio SSgt Henry B. Lang, 37373993 (KIA, BR)
Gunner SSgt Charles L. Hinsch, 32246203 (KIA, BR)
Crashed November 22, 1943
Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 822nd Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engines R-2600-13 serial numbers 43-24227 and 43-24228.
On November 22, 1943 took off from Durand Field (17-Mile Drome) (Mission 325-H) near Port Moresby on a bombing mission against Gasmata Airfield and Linderhafen Plantation. Over Gasmata, this B-25 was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the right engine, that cause it to spiral into the ground and crash in flames onto Arwin Island.
1st Lt. C. S. Fuller reports in MACR 1171:
"Lt. Jaebker was flying on my right wing constituting a two plane formation. We were at about 600 feet altitude getting our spacing for our first run on the target and in order to fall in behind the lead formation I had to make a 90° turn to the right. As I banked I looked over at Lt. Jaebker to see his position and I saw him shake his head and then slide under my plane and up in position on my left wing. Shortly after a slight turn to the left was necessary so once again I looked over at him. His plane was in a steep bank to the right and going down. The top hatch over the pilot’s compartment was gone and the cockpit looked as if it had been burned out. In the split second that I saw the plane before it passed under me the cockpit looked empty and the right engine was on fire. The plane then passed under me preventing further observation. I later saw a column of smoke about 500 ft. high coming from Arwin Island in the vicinity of where the ship went in a bank. Previous to my run on the target I noticed several bursts of ack ack coming from Gasmata air drome, but did not notice any bursts near our formation."
During late March 1944, when the Australian Army occupied the Gasmata area, and a report by natives stated: two bombers came over Gasmata low and dropped their bombs. One was hit by enemy shore guns and caught fire, lost height and crashed into the mangroves of Arwin Island No airmen were seen to jump from the plane. The other plane flew over the ship and was set on fire and crashed into Gasmata Harbor. [Note: this reference to a second crash did not occur on the same day].
On September 22, 1944 Australian Army Patrol Officer (Kiap) Lt. W. A. J. Saville visited the crash site on Arwin Island. Lt. Saville located '264846' (USAAF Serial Number) on the cockpit dash board and reported the wreckage as mostly burned, but two main wheels were intact.
At the crash site, burnt bones were recovered and later turned over to the US Army HQ at Arawe, who assigned them unknown identities: X-22, X-23, X-24, X-25, X-26. It was deemed 'the condition of the remains does not warrant identification.' These remains were transported to Finschafen cemetery in American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) custody.
Possibly, this aircraft was again visited again in 1946 by RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle.
Today, the two engines remain at the site, and some other smaller pieces of wreckage on the northern side of Awrin Island (Awrin Island)
Postwar, the remains of the crew were transported to the United States. On September 27, 1951 buried in a group burial at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery at section C, graves 743-744.
Tom Behrens (namesake of Jaebker):
"I was thrilled to run across the entry for the B-25G piloted by Clifford Jaebker, as he is my namesake (middle name, that is). As it turns out, Cliff and my father went through advanced training together and were to serve on the same crew when deployed from Shaw AFB in the summer of 1943. In California, my dad was assigned as pilot for another crew to ferry a B-25 to Eagle Farms in Australia. They left California in separate aircraft and met up in Hawaii, spending a few days together. Then, on 27 July 1943, Cliff left for Australia. The next day, my father left Hickam Field, and as he tiptoed on tiny islands across the Pacific, he always seemed to be just two steps and a day behind his close friend and brother-in-arms. Finally meeting up in Australia, they served together until late November, when my father received the heart stopping news that Cliff had been shot down on 22 November 1943 near Gasmata. In his diary, my father’s report sounded more like Cliff’s plane was observed crashing into the ground. “Those that saw him crash said his engines were on fire and the cockpit blown away. He was doing about 260 when he hit.” My father also relates about photo reconnaissance that confirmed the crash: “(24 November 1943) Saw the pictures that were taken of Cliff’s crack up--not a chance in the world anyone ever got out. It exploded completely when it hit the ground.”
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25 42-64846
FindAGrave - Clifford A Jaebker (grave photo)
Noel F Learned (grave photo)
Marek G Pzegeo (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Henry B Lang (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Charles L Hinsch (grave photo)
Thanks to Mark Reichman and Tom Behrens for additional information.
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January 5, 2018