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|Pilot Ensign Donald David "D. D. / Doo Doo" Atkiss, 363870 (POW, died July 30, 1945) Philadelphia, PA
Gunner AOM2c Richard "Dick" Lanigan, 3381863 (POW, died July 29, 1945) St. Louis, MO
Radio AOM2c John Bozer "Kep" Kepchia, 6528343 (POW, survived) Greensburg, PA
Crashed May 21, 1944
TBF Avenger Nose 19 piloted by Lt. McCarson with crew members Addison and Grogan saw Atkiss' plane going down. They watched for any activity around the crash site, but saw none and presumed the crew was lost, then departed.
Fates of the Crew
Initially tied to trees, they were marched approximately 3.5 miles and detained in a cave for two weeks, fed only with a half bowl of rice and occasionally some shark meat. Afterwards, handcuffed and transported aboard a truck to the 6th Field Kempei Tai at Tunnel Hill POW Camp arriving during June 1944.
The entire crew was captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners at Rabaul POW camp. None of the crew received any medical treatment. All were severely beaten, especially Lanigan who seemed to receive twice the beatings as the others.
Atkiss and Lanigan contracted malaria and never received medical treatment. Both reportedly contracted malaria and were in a coma for two weeks prior to their deaths: Lanigan on May 29, 1945 and Atkiss on May 30, 1945 each died in the arms of Kepchia, and asked him to visit their families if he survived the war. (World War II Prisoners of War Data File states July 29 and July 30 respectively).
Kepchia received no medical attention and his weight dropped from 170 pounds to 74 pounds from dysentery during 17 months of captivity. He was subjected to medical experimentation by medical officers Dr. Fushita and Dr. Hirano, including over a hundred injections in each arm with unknown fluids, to test their effects. He contracted malaria four times from the injections and suffered from elephantiasis swelling of his testicles, hands, feet and faces. All the while, he and the other prisoners were expected to work.
He and the other surviving prisoners were liberated on September 7, 1945 by Australian forces. He was the youngest Allied prisoner of war to survive from Rabaul. Transported aboard HMAS Vendetta to Jacquinot Bay. The next day, flown aboard a C-47 from Jacquinot Bay Airfield to New Guinea, then to Leyte were the prisoners recovered for three weeks at a hospital on Leyte before being transported aboard a ship to Seattle.
M.I.A. Over Rabaul South Pacific pages 56-58
I was then taken back to the truck and we traveled for a short distance and halted. I was taken out of the truck again. I was led through the forest and thick jungle grow to what looked like a giant had cut a large swath through.
We marched a little farther and and there in front of me was our downed TBF. How strange it looked laying there with outstretched wings, wheels folded up underneath and the engine laying twisted in front. There were large holes on both sides of leading edge of the wings where we had hit the coconut trees coming down. The TBF looked like a giant bird laying on the ground with outstretched wings and a broken neck.
I had on my helmet and was given a cigarette then told to stand on the wing and point to where the radio equipment was housed. While I was pointing, the Jap said something and I laughed to appease him, just then the other Jap snapped my picture. I knew I had been "had". This picture was for propaganda purposes. I never did see the picture."
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