Τετάρτη, 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

WW2 Pacific Treasures: The sad story of B-25D-5 "Elusive Lizzie/Miss America"

The B-25D-5 "Elusive Lizzie/Miss America". Photo supplied by Rod Pearce

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 405th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Elusive Lizzie". Later, it was renamed "Miss America", then both nicknames were then completely covered by 38th Bombardment Group's "Green Dragon" nose art motif insignia.

Mission History
On August 5, 1943 took off from 17-Mile (Durand) near Port Moresby piloted by Cox on a barge sweep off Madang and a strike against Madang Airfield. Damaged by anti-aircraft fire, this B-25 ditched between Wongat Island and the coast of New Guinea. During the ditching, Zimmerman drowned in the aircraft

Fates of the Crew
Afterward, the rest of the crew swam to Wongat Island and were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Together, they were transported to the Kempei Tai Headquarters at Amron where they were repeatedly beaten and interrogated over twelve days.

Around August 17, 1943 Major Cox was seporated and flown to Rabaul, and then transported aboard ship to Japan. He survived the war at Omori POW Camp in Tokyo.

On August 31, 1943, the other four crew members: Koscelnak, Louis. Ritacco and Hugh Anderson, were blindfolded and escorted down from Amron to an execution ground. Each was bayoneted then beheaded. Afterwards, Owen Salvage, the sole survivor of B-25D 41-30221 was also executed. Lastly, Robert Herry was tied between two posts and bayoneted to death.

Post war affidavit L/Cpl Yasukuni Tani. (clerk, Kempei Tai Amron) states:

“The actual execution was to be three prisoners by Kempei Tai and two by headquarters Sentry Guard Unit. However, 1st Lt. Matsumoto’s Kempei Tai members said, “We will execute the three prisoners for the revenge of the death of our comrade, Cpl Nakano. 

This Matsumoto’s Unit had a conflict several weeks ago at Kesa village, which is located at the head of the Ramu River. The three prisoners were blindfolded and escorted down the mountain to the execution ground by the Kempei Tai members and Sgt Major Kawawa, Cpl Ishikawa and S.Pvt Ozawa. 

After about 20 minutes had elapsed, Matsumoto’s Kempei Tai group came back and said, “The execution is over now, we will proceed back immediately” and walked towards Kempei Tai Headquarters."

Recovery of Remains
Postwar, New Guinea natives assisted US Army AGRS to locate and recover the remains of at least two members of the crew from the graves where they were buried at Amron. These remains were buried at Finschhafen Cemetery as unknowns.

On March 15, 1948, that dental charts for unknowns X-17 and X-14 compared favorably with those of Herry and Koscelneck, but awaited further medical evidence before making an identification. Later, these remains were positively identified.

On September 5, 1979, this B-25 was located by David Pennefather.

David Pennefather adds:
"I was a keen diver and lived in Madang at that time. I was snorkeling off Wongat looking for a reported sunken aircraft said to have crashed there. After hours in the water, I dived down for the last time and there on the seabed lay the B-25. 

I returned to Madang grabbed some scuba gear and with another diver headed back to explore and photograph the aircraft. Within a few days of the discovery, vandals removed the side guns and other artifacts."

Since then, this wreck has become a popular dive site.  It is fully intact except for the port engine which is missing (torn off during the ditching). The port wing tip is at 12-15 meters and the starboard wing is at 25 meters. 

The main body of the plane is at about 18 meters depth. The four machine guns are visible through the damaged nose section and ammunition hoppers visible. 

There is still a considerable number of 50 caliber rounds inside but they are cemented into place by sealife. Both cockpit hatches are open. Large sponges and fans cover the wreck.

Zimmerman was officially delcared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

After the identification of the recovered remains, Koscelnak was buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot C row 16 grave 59. Anderson was buried in 1950 at Aspermont Cemetery in Aspermont, TX at block N.

Command Pilot  Major Williston M. Cox, O-426370 (POW, survived) TN

Pilot  Captain Robert L. Herry, O-421090 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) TX

Co-Pilot  2nd Lt Robert J. Koscelnak, O-732556 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) Orange, CA
Navigator  1st Lt Louis J. Rittaco, O-660907 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) NJ

Engineer  S/Sgt Raymond J. Zimmerman, 39304264 (MIA / KIA) OR

Radio  T/Sgt Hugh W. Anderson, 38069521 (POW, executed August 31, 1943) Aspermont TX

Ditched  August 5, 1943

MARC  16113

Aircraft History

Built by North American as a model D-5. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.


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