Merry Christmas to all and too all a good night. Best wishes for a safe and happy 2021.
Something that I love about this website is that it enables connections. For me, this is increasingly important in a world that is dealing with the impacts of Covid-19, social distancing and a divisive election. I believe that reaching out and making connections with others help us keep perspective.
This month the website connected me with the son of Peter Fitzgerald, a member of the 417th. After a quick exchange of a few emails, I had a bit more about Peter’s time in the 417th and some great, new pictures to share.
Here is what Peter’s son had to share about his father’s time in the 417th:
Peter Fitzgerald enlisted on January 15th, 1943 and arrived in Scotland on January 13th, 1944. His main job during the war was a truck driver hauling bombs and other things and was attached to the chemical warfare group. The mission of which was to be at the ready in case the Germans decided to use chemical weapons. Peter landed in Europe on D Day +3 with his truck and trailer on the beach.
Later in the war, Peter was assigned to the 417th and worked as the crew chief on Markey/Hade’s Lady. Here is a photo of Peter in the cockpit of the plane:
At the end of the war, Peter was assigned to demolition duty destroying planes. Here are several photos of that demolition, including one that has roughly 43 planes in the pile:
Here are two more photos of Peter, but it is not known if the individuals with Peter are from his time with the 417th or earlier in the war. In the first photo, Peter Fitzgerald is in then center:
Peter is on the left in the photo below:
Peter Fitzgerald was discharged on January 31st, 1946.
I will add these photos to the permanent galleries (Faces of 417th). If anyone can identify the individuals with Peter or wishes to get in contact with Peter’s son, drop me a note and I will help make the connection!
Sorry for being away for so long. Like just about everyone I have been distracted by other things going on in the world right now. Anyhow, I am back at it with a couple of updates.
The first update relates to my post in March of this year about the crash and rescue of a 418th crew in Dutch New Guinea in 1944.
The update is that the book is now available as is a website (details later in this post). The book is titled “KAIS: A true story of a daring rescue in the swamps of New Guinea, summer 1944″
Here a summary of the story:
On Thursday 27 July 1944 a B-25 bomber of the 418th Night Fighter Squadron is on a routine mission over the waters surrounding New Guinea near the Birds Head Peninsula. The crew sights a Japanese schooner and start their attack run, flying low and fast over the water. The attack succeeds but the bomber is hit and it’s pilot, 2Lt Ira M. Barnett, cannot fly it back to base. He decides on a crash landing in a remote swamp area, some 300 miles behind enemy lines. Barnett puts the plane down safely, air gunner Harold “Chief” Tantaquidgeon takes over command in the swamp.
Navigator Tom Wright wrote: “At the second attempt he slid over the water and grass and we heard tsching, tsching, bushes hitting the wings. Suddenly the plane swung to the left, breaking in two just behind the bomb bay. Chief and Pete were thrown out. The wing had hit a tree, too thick to break”
A rescue team, led by Dutch 2nd Lieutenant Louis Rapmund and Australian Army Captain ‘Mac’ Gillespie sets out from the island of Biak to save the crew. Flown in by Catalina flying boat, river Kais is their only way in and out of this green hell of jungle and swamp. For three weeks their small group of Allied soldiers use the Kais to fight both their human enemy and nature to find the crew and bring them back to safety.
This is an extraordinary story of survival and heroism of Allied soldiers and air men; American, Australian, Dutch and Indonesian, supported by the local Papua’s.
In 2019 the author followed in the footsteps of the rescue team, trying to find the wreck of the bomber. With a group of five he travelled up the Kais river and into the swamp. It resulted in an unexpected meeting.
The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle version at this link:
You can also find more details on the website that is dedicated to this expedition Airwarnewguinea
A second expedition is planned in 2021. How cool is that!!!!
A big thanks to Bas Kreuger, the author of the book, for getting in touch with me thru this website and allowing me to publish details of this story.
As for my second update, here is a teaser: “A 12 year old finds the “army issued” personal diary of his father, a member of the original 417th NFS….”
Stay tuned as I get the details of this diary uploaded & posted on this site.
Cheers and Stay Safe!
UPDATE: Added a few photos from this event at the bottom of this post.
I’ve had a quite a number of international visitors to the site in the past month. Normally, most visitors are looking for photos or details of family members. In this case, a visitor from the Netherlands is looking for information on the 418th Squadron B-25H plane that crash landed in Dutch New Guinea on 27 July 1944. The plane number was 43-4422.
Here are more details:
“I am writing the story of a crash landing of a B-25H of 418NFS on the Vogelkop of DNG on 27 July 1944. Ira M. Barnett and his crew (Thomas Wright, Pete Whipland and Harold Tantaquidgeon) landed in a huge sago swamp some 60 miles from the coast. An extensive rescue operation by the 5th AF including elements of the 2 ERS (Emergency Rescue Squadron), 41st Infantry Division, 5th AF HQ rescue section, Australian Army Jungle Training School, 25 PRS (Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron) and Dutch NICA (Netherlands Indies Civil Administration) together formed a rescue team that went into the jungle and swamp to bring the crew of B-25H 43-4422 back to safety.
The report of the rescue reads like the script of a Hollywood movie.”
If any of our readers has information related to this rescue or the individuals involved: 2ERS: Harold Manser, Donald C Brickner, Leslie A Lange; 418NFS Norbert J deBoer, Albert R Sorbo, Caroll “Snuffy” Smith, Kerstetter and Barnett and his crew; 25PRS Charlie D Crow; Australian Army William Gillespie, Thomas William Scott, Donald Stanley Riordan, Alexander Sidney Goddard; 41st ID Victor J Krause; NICA Louis B.J. Rapmund, Silas Papare), then please get in touch via the comments section to this post or drop me an email via the Contact page.
Caption: B-25 Crew plus rescue team
Caption: Saturday 19 August 1944 around 1330pm the rescued crew flew back to the base:
Related to my previous post, here is another one of those great connections that this website helps make possible. In 2019, I was contacted by reader, with the following story:
“My uncle, 2LT Thomas E. Cartmell, was a pilot with the 417th NFS in March and April of 1945. I have had the opportunity to read, photograph, transcribe and compile the 343 letters he wrote to his sister, his parents, and his girlfriend (later wife) during his wartime experience. The letters chronicle his training, from preflight through transitioning to the P-61 Black Widow.
He was assigned as a replacement pilot to the the 417th, joining them at LaVallon in March, 1945. He moved with them to St. Dizier, and then to Giebelstadt, Gerrmany.
On April 26th, 1945, Tom and his RO 2LT Hal Anderson were shot down and killed by friendly fire over the Dillingen Bridgehead. It was their first and only combat mission. ”
Dr. Hughey has compiled the collected letters and created a beautiful website to honor the memories and tell the story of a young man who went off to war, but did not return. I have placed a permanent link to “2LT Thomas E. Cartmell USAAF-A Young Man Off to War” on the Letters, Diaries and Tributes page of the 417th-nightfighters website.
Alternative, you can click here, and go directly to Dr. Hughey’s website .
Happy New Year everyone.
One of the things that I get the most satisfaction from when working on this website is connecting people with other people. This can be a grandkid looking for their grandfather, a son or daughter looking for a photo or memory of a father who passed away too soon. Sometimes, the web site allows me to connect two strangers.
My story starts in May of 2019. A visitor to this web site generated an inquiry on the Contact Us page. “Buddy” was looking for relatives of Clarence K. Fuller. Clarence was one of the original members of the 417th who died in action in 1944. He was a pilot.
In response to the inquiry, I posted a plea for any relatives of Clarence to get in touch thru the site. Nearly six months went by with no response. Then, on December 20th, I receive an email from Tracey, who is Clarence’s grandchild. I put her in touch with Buddy.
Buddy’s goal was to return Clarence’s burial flag to his family. How fantastic is that!
A snippet from the email Buddy wrote regarding the “reunion” with Clarence’s family was:
“A book could be written about the journey this flag has made and the surprises discovered by both sides along the way. Thank you for your help, it has meant so much to all of us.”
It meant a lot to me too. It makes the work worthwhile.
Speaking of getting in touch, I’ve seen a few comments about people getting in touch thru the Contact Us page, but receiving no response. There was an upgrade to this website as well as the Contact us page awhile ago and it’s possible that some inquiries may have been tossed during the transition. I check the email and contacts page at least once per week unless I am away on vacation, so if you haven’t heard from me please try again AND please check your SPAM/JUNK folder as the reply address that will be generated when I do write back is a little odd and some email filters might think it’s invalid.
Amongst the items in my father’s collection from his time in the 417th NFS were several Christmas related items. I thought that it would be fitting to post these items for the Christmas holiday.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
A friend of mine sent a link to this article about the P-61 Black Widow. Lots of good stuff in the article including a bit about how the P-61B, Lady in the Dark, was unofficially credited on the night of Aug. 14, 1945 with the final Allied air victory before the war ended. The victory was achieved without a single shot being fired as the opponent, a Nakajima Ki-44 Tojo fighter, went out of control trying to escape Lady in the Dark. Lady in the Dark was flown by the 548th NFS.
There are also some good photos that accompany the article.
You can read the article, written by Bill Walton by clicking on the following link.
I’ve added a new page with details on the Inactivation and Redesignation of the 417th NFS ceremony that was held in December of 1993. You can see the post here.
I am also looking for any members of Dick McCray’s family or extended family. I have a box of photos which look to be originals that I found in my father’s collection and would like to return to them. If you have any information that would help please get in touch via the contacts page.
Received a request the other day thru this site for information on William Work – a member of the 417th. This request came from his grandson, but unfortunately, the email contact that he left looks to be incorrect as it bounced. So, I am posting here in the hopes that Joshua will see this and get in contact again.
I found a few references and a photo on William Work from the 417 NFS Illustrated History Chapter 4 pages 40-87. It seems William Work joined the 417th in October/November of 1944 as part of a replacement crew arriving from the 419th(?). Here is a group photo of crew that arrived. The caption on the photo indicates that William is 3rd from the left in the front row.
I believe William Work was a radar operator.
Another photo I found was titled “Condon and Willie Work @ LeVallon” and I assume the reference is to Bob Condon and William Work (in back).
That’s it so far, but I will keep searching the archives for any additional info on William. If anyone else has anything to add in this story, give me a shout!
Joshua, if you’re reading this, you can contact me directly at email@example.com.