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|Pilot 2nd Lt Harold L. Massie, O-421276 (MIA / KIA) IL
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Eugene D. "Gene" Wallace, (survived) Los Angeles, CA
Navigator 2nd Lt Marvin C. Hughes (survived) Baird, TX
Bombardier 2nd Lt Arthur C. King, O-432982 (MIA / KIA) OH
Engineer Cpl Stanley A. Wolenski, 6909325 (MIA / KIA) PA
Radio Cpl Dale E. Bordner (survived) OH
Photographer S/Sgt Jack D. Swan, 6976748 (WIA, KIA) NY
Gunner Pvt Joseph C. Dukes, 33129192 (MIA / KIA) PA
Ditched May 24, 1942 at 10:54am
The formation encountered an overcast inbound to the target, but found a hole in the weather and dove down to 1,500' over Rabaul before bombing Vunakanau Airfield at low level, dropping 100lbs bombs over the target. Their bombs did heavily damage one G4M1 and fragments hit three others, plus burned down the headquarters of the Genzan Kokutai.
During the attack, anti-aircraft fire damaged this B-26's right engine, requiring it to be feathered and the crew jettisoned equipment. Massie made a final radio message reporting their position over Wide Bay, then nothing was heard afterwards and the bomber was presumed lost and the crew Missing In Action (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
Fortunately for the survivors, it was Sunday and a church service was being held in the village. As the survivors neared the beach villagers came out in a canoe and helped them ashore. They were fed stewed bananas and chicken and blankets and cloth supplied for bandages. The two watches they possessed had stopped at 10:54am the moment the plane ditched. Bordner, Hughes and Swan were not able to stand up.
On the fourth day Massie departed to find help and was gone fourteen days and returned on June 10, having found New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR) Pvt John Leslie Stokie, 239 who provided him a mosquito net, twist for trade, three razor blades and scissors so that they could keep clean and shaved to keep the respect of the villagers.
In mid June Massie, Wallace and King were able to bathe and shave and on the 21st Swan was able to walk about. Food was running short in the village so Massie, Wallace and King left the village. Because of their wretched physical condition Hughes, Bordner and Swan were allowed to stay.
Next, the crew was escorted to Pvt James A. Stokie, VX27259 of the Australian Army 2/21 Infantry Battalion with a hideout who had evaded captured.
During the trek, Massie collapsed on the trail, unable to eat and his leg wounds were ulcerous and he had to carried on a blanket litter. Moving inland by the end of July, the crew found the natives less friendly and at the next village they were ordered to leave. On July 27 Massie and King left a village and that was the last time they were ever seen again. In fact, both had been betrayed to the Japanese by natives.
During September Hughes, Wallace and Bordner left the village with Swan now being carried by natives in a blanket stretcher. During October, Wallace found a doctor boy at Ubili who agreed to let him build a hut and gave him space to plant a garden. In about a month a native boy brought Wallace a verbal message that Swan had died in his sleep on October 23. The three remaining airmen survived for the remained of 1942 eating caterpillars, grubs, toads, snakes and lizards.
A message arrived from Pvt Stokie inviting them to his hideout, and were taken by canoe on February 10, 1943 to a nearby village and then walked to his location. Twice, Japanese patrols passed nearby and sometimes American aircraft were seen overhead, and the crew attempted to signal them unsuccessfully.
On March 6, 1943 a B-24 Liberator flew low over their hideout and their signals were seen. Next day another B-24 dropped food, atabrine tablets, cigarettes, matches, a gallon of black paint, a brush and four white sheets with instructions to paint on the sheets the serial number of the ranking airman and the name of their squadron commander. On March 17, a B-17 buzzed them at low level and photographed the group on the beach. Three days later another B-24 dropped flashlights, batteries and instructions to use a secret code that a Catalina flying boat would come to pick them up from Open Bay.
Several days later, the crew was flown to Australia and reunited with their unit at Reid River Airfield. The entire crew earned the Purple Heart and Silver Star. In addition Massie and Wallace were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Massie, Wallace, Hughes, King and Bordner were also awarded The Soldiers Medal. Afterwards, Wallace went on a War Bond Tour in the United States, telling his survival story. Their story was featured in an issue of LIFE magazine on June 28, 1943.
Wallace retired from the USAF with the rank of Colonel. In 1997, he revisited New Britain and also met RAAF pilot Burrage in New Zealand.
Hughes died on May 18, 1994 and is buried at Mount Evergreen Cemetery in Pecos, TX.
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