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  B-26 "Yeah!" Serial Number 40-1421  
USAAF
5th AF
22nd BG
33rd BS

Pilot  1st Lt. Leonard T. Nicholson (survived) Prescott, AZ
Co-Pilot  1st Lt Jack L. Childers (survived) Clarinda, IA
Navigator  1st Lt Norman E. Oefreese (KIA, BR)
Bombardier  Sgt Jack C. Moseley, 20400992 (MIA / KIA, BRN drowned in aircraft) GA
Engineer  S/Sgt William M. Brown, 17004410 (MIA / KIA, accidentally killed by natives January 9, 1943, BNR) NB
Radio Operator  S/Sgt Joseph P. Papp, 6991311 (MIA / KIA, BRN drowned in aircraft) OH
Gunner  Cpl Thomas A. Moffitt (survived)

Ditched  January 7, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Martin. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 22nd Bombardment Group, 33rd Bombardment Squadron during March 1942. Ferried overseas piloted by 1st Lt. Hoyt A. Jolly, Jr. via Hawaii to Australia arriving at Ambeley Field near Brisbane on March 26, 1942 Assigned to pilots Jolly and Nicholson with crew chief Hetherington. Nicknamed "Yeah!".

Wartime History
On April 23 1942 was this bomber's first combat mission. In total, this B-26 flew at least 25 combat missions, including two missions with the 19th Bombardment Squadron before it was lost.

Mission History
On January 7, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy off Lae. Over the target, intercepted by nine A6M2 Zeros from the 582nd Kokutai over the Huon Gulf. Over the convoy, this B-26 was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the left wing and left engine and the hydraulic system was shot out. A shell exploded in the navigator's compartment, partially severing one Oefreese's legs. Mortally wounded, he died soon afterwards.

Damaged, this B-26 managed to depart the target area before ditching close to the shore into Hercules Bay, about 40 miles south of Salamaua. Another source states it ditched eleven miles off shore, two miles north of the Eia River.

Fates of the Crew
After the ditching, Moseley and Papp went down with the bomber and are listed as Missing In Action (MIA). The rest of the crew survived and attempted to swim to shore. Oefreese died before he reached the shore. Ashore, Brown was killed by natives who thought he was Japanese.

Nicholson, Childers and Moffitt swam ashore carrying between them Oefreese's body. Ashore, they buried his body on the beach. Believing they were in enemy territory, the walked southeast along the beach.

On January 8, 1943 they spotted a Beaufighter piloted by WO Allan Kirley and navigator FSgt Bob Cummins. Spotting the friendly aircraft, the three Americans waved their life vests to attract attention. The Beaufighter dropped them food and a map directing them to friendly lines.

On January 9, 1943 natives spotted the three and mistook them for Japanese and fired on them. Brown shot and killed while Nicholson, Childers and Moffitt fled in different directions. Alone, each three man proceeded separately. All three were found by friendly natives and brought to an Australian Army camp and flown back to base.

Childers continued to walk on the beach. On January 10, 1943 Beaufighter A19-15 spotted him and dropped supplies. Afterwards, he made his way to a deserted village on a river and remained there for two days alone. Spotting a native on the far side of the river and waved then took him to aboard his canoe to his village a day upstream, then to an Australian Army camp where he rested then flown from Ioma Airfield to Port Moresby.

Nicholson was found by two friendly natives and walked him to the same Australian camp (arriving several days prior to Childers) then flown from Ioma Airfield to Port Moresby.

Moffitt was also found by friendly natives and taken to the Australian camp then flown from Ioma Airfield to Port Moresby. Afterwards, three surviving crew were sent to Australia for rest and recuperation.

Memorials
The two missing crew members Moseley and Papp were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Nicholson remained in the military and served in the Korean War. He retired from the U. S. Air Force (USAF) as a Colonel. He passed away Feb. 25, 1987 and is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery at T2, 331.

References
Camperdown Chronicle (Victoria) "Exciting 'Escape Drama' in New Guinea: U.S. Bomber Crew's Ordeal After Being Shot Down. January 26, 1943 page 2
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph P. Papp
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack C. Moseley
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William M. Brown
FindAGrave - Leonard T. Nicholson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Jack C Moseley (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt William M Brown (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Joseph P Papp (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-26 40-1421
Revenge of the Red Raiders page 133,166-169, 477, 500, 517 (photo)

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

Tech Info
B-26

MIA
MIA
3 Missing

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  Pacific Wrecks Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing home those Missing In Action (MIA) and leveraging new technologies in the study of World War II Pacific and the Korean War.  
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