|Pilot Lt. Edgar Brown Graff, USNR (KIA, BR) OH
Co-Pilot Captain Elbert Lee Raffety, USN (KIA, BR) Chicago, IL
Crew AMM2c Roger L. Bomstad USNR (KIA, BR) MN
Crew AMM2c Philip E. Plotts USN (KIA, BR)
Crew RM2c Rudy N. Acosta USN (KIA, BR) CA
Crew RM2c Charles R. Holden USN (KIA, BR) Douglas, AZ
Crashed October 26, 1943
Built by Consolidated. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN). Assigned to VP-23 with side number 23-P-4. Prewar, this Catalina was based at NAS Pearl Harbor (Ford Island Seaplane Base).
On December 7, 1941 this Catalina survived the first wave of the Japanese surprise attack against Pearl Harbor and Oahu undamaged. After the first wave, this Catalina took off on a search mission to locate the Japanese fleet piloted by 1st Pilot LCDR Massie Hughes, 2nd Pilot Lt. James Ogden and 3rd pilot AAMM1c Theuson. In his rush to take off, Hughes was wearing his pajamas beneath his uniform to take off right away.
Afterwards, flown overseas across the Pacific to Australia. Assigned to VP-101. No known nickname or nose art. During the middle of August 1943, Catalinas from VP-101 were tasked to provide air cover for ship movements between Australia and Port Moresby and operated from the Port Moresby Seaplane Base near Port Moresby.
On October 26, 1943 took off on a rescue mission. Returning this Catalina was to land at Port Moresby. After crossing the Owen Stanley Mountain Range, the Catalina entered bad weather including tropical storms, high wind, heavy rains with practically zero visibility and was flying only on instruments. On the ground at 4:45pm, an Australian Army post fifty miles northeast of Port Moresby reported hearing a plane overhead in distress, then a few seconds later the sound of the crash. The entire crew was killed on impact.
This Catalina crashed into large trees and vegetation near the road at roughly Lat 9° 25' 60S Long 147° 28' 0E east of Sogeri and as totally destroyed in the impact with wreckage scattered over an area measuring 550 yards. Both engines were found 200 yards apart. Evidence at the crash site pointed to a fire in the right engine or possibly an electrical fire caused by a short circuit in ignition harness that caused the crash. Among the wreckage, the starboard engine's CO2 bottle had been discharged during the flight, indicating the right engine might have been on fire or damaged. The electric lead to the left magneto was burned and completely and fused as a result of a high temperature from a fire. The starboard firewall, oil tanks, fuel tank and after portion of engine were burned. The fabric on the starboard wing and elevator was burned. Afterwards, the remains of the crew were recovered.
Afterwards, the crash site area was named Catalina and used as a rubber plantation also known as Catalina Estate. Postwar, the wreckage remained near the entrance to Catalina under a clump of trees.
Bob Piper recalls:
"[In the 1960s] I briefly looked at it one day and from memory it was beside the road to Sirinumu Dam on the right heading out to that dam, and quite close to the road - perhaps in a garden at a plantation."
By 1991, the remaining wreckage of this Catalina was scrapped or otherwise disappeared.
Bruce Hoy adds:
"In my old museum [PNG War Museum, Gordons] there is a propeller blade that came from the Catalina. It was inscribed with a message to the crew who lost their lives and at the top was the 5th Air Force insignia, excellently executed with a background of blue. The item was recovered from Catalina Plantation, most likely by Bill Chapman or someone who knew Bill."
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Postwar, the remains of the crew were transported to Hawaii and the United States for permanent burial.
Graff is buried at Evergreen Burial Park in New Philadelphia, OH at section E.
Raffety is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in West Chicago, IL at lot 255.
Bomstad is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot A, grave 166.
Acosta is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.
Holden was buried on February 28, 1948 at Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park in Fort Worth, TX in the highland section.
Plotts burial is unknown, presumed to be in his hometown in the United States.
FindAGrave - Edgar Brown Graff (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Elbert Lee Raffety (grave photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - AMM2 Roger Leland Bomstad (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Rudy Acosta
FindAGrave - Charles Robert Holden, Jr (grave photo)
Snake Road pages 225-226
"The plantation [Catalina Estate] got its name from a Catalina flying boat that crashed near the road during the war. Until it disappeared half way through 1991, the wreck could be seen under a clump of trees near the plantation entrance. It is likely it has become another victim in the illegal removal of wartime relics.
... There are various theories about the Catalina that was here, but the most likely one is that it was a United States Air Force [sic] plane that crashed while returning from a long-range reconnaissance flight along the north coast of the island sometime in 1943.
Ted Johnson, formerly of Sogeri plantation, recalls that this Catalina came down during a heavy storm over the plateau: The pilot was off course and made a perfect approach and landing to what he thought was Port Moresby harbour. This is verified by the pilot's circle and gradual descent through the clouds on the exact compass bearing of the Port Moresby harbour landing zone. The aircraft cut quite a swath through the tree-tops."
Sogeri During The War page 41
"Nearly six kilometres along this road and very close to the entrance to Catalina Estate lies the wreckage of a Catalina flying plane."
Navy Patrol Squadrons VP-101 Mishaps - 26 OCT 43 A/C: PBY-5 Contributed by Terence Geary 30JUL2001
Thanks to Terence Geary, Bob Piper, Edward Rogers, Jim Sawruk and Mike Wenger for additional information
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January 5, 2018