|Pilot 1st Lt. Karl R. James, O-742328 (KIA / BR) Macomb, IL
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Alexander Cheropovich (KIA) Erie, PA
Navigator 1st Lt. John A. Keeling (KIA, BR) New Rochelle, NY
Radio TSgt Frank Kapla, 35010421 (KIA / BR) Cleveland, OH
Engineer SSgt Harry L. Stockton (KIA, BR) Coeur d'Alene, ID
Gunner SSgt Benedict T. Jasper (KIA, BR) Carney, MI
Crashed June 29, 1944
Built by North American. Delivered to U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to the Pacific.
Assigned to the 7th Air Force, 41st Bombardment Group, 820th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Coral Princess" with the nose art of a female. This aircraft flew many combat missions and was credited with sinking a destroyer
in Wotje Lagoon.
On June 29, 1944 took off from Makin Airfield (Butaritari) after 8:15am on a bombing mission against Nauru. Over the target, this bomber was hit in the bomb
bay by a Japanese 127mm anti-aircraft shell
Wreckage landed all over Nauru.
Only two of the crew's remains were recovered and buried by the Japanese near the old cemetery but not in it. After the war the graves were exhumed and the remains recovered.
Most of the wreckage landed near the dual 127mm anti-aircraft gun that shot it down, on the edge of the pinnacles (rocks left over when the phosphate was mined). Some wreckage fell into the diggings and the rest on untouched land.
Post war, the war the mining resumed and they just pushed the wreckage down into the pinnacles and kept on going making the wreckage inaccessible except by climbing through the rocks. At an unknown date, the 75mm cannon is set up near the beach road.
A portion of its nose art (port side, below
cockpit) is on display at the Nauru Military Museum.
Stan Gaged adds:
"Much of the wreckage in the pinnacles had olive drab paint on it. The wing undersides were a pale color, perhaps light blue. I don't believe the Japs recovered any engines from this wreck during the war, it seems they pretty well left it. Even in 1983 there was still one machine gun there and the 75mm. Even ammo and prop blades then. Both engines were still on site the last time I was in there about 1998. There is still one live 500lb bomb at the site. Both wings are in there with the star and bars clearly visible. There are also 25mm hits on the airplane structure. The undercarts/wheels etc are all there and sections of fuselage. The tail was shot off and that came down about half a mile away and was scrapped years ago. I found one complete elevator near where the tail had been. It had a tree growing through it. I cut off the tree and recovered the elevator and now it is in the Australian War Memorial (AWM) together with one of the control wheels. The gun was found by me in the pinnacles in 1983 and some NPC engineers rigged a flying fox arrangement and winched the gun up and then pulled it to firmer ground. It was taken to the mine workshops for cleaning. The breech was got working etc and it was painted. Then it disappeared and I was blamed for pinching it, which I did not. In the late '80s a Nauruan that was married to a white woman passed away and in his garage was the gun! Tony was a relative and he inherited the gun. It was put on that rudimentary base and somebody started taking it apart and retracted the barrel and made a general mess of it. It has sat there by the road ever since. Tony did not want to loan it to the Nauru Military Museum."
The entire crew was killed in the crash and officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, the crew were permanently buried in the United States.
Two of the crew are buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). James is buried at Plot P Row 0 Grave 895. Kapla is buried at Plot Q Row 0 Grave 528.
Two are buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Keeling at section C-6 site 8329. Stockton at section C-6 site 8329. Jasper section C-6 site 8329.
The grave of Cheropovich is unknown, presumably in a private cemetery in the United States.
James has memorial marker at Glade City Cemetery in Blandinsville, IL.
National Gravesite Locator incorrectly lists the date of death of the crew members as June 30, 1944
FindAGrave - Karl R James (memorial photo)
Karl R James (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Alexander Cheropovich (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John A Keeling (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Frank J Kapla (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harry L. Stockton (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Benedict T Jasper (grave photo)
to Stan Gajda for additional information
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January 5, 2018