02 January 2012

Downed B29 crewmen

I was forever haunted by the identity of the four pilots who was captured alive, paraded naked and beheaded in public by the Japanese in Singapore during WW2. So I made my research online on the probable identities of those 4 crewmen. Its not easy because there's no direct articles about the incident, so its like putting a puzzle. Initially, I searched about the downed aircraft in Singapore during the years 1944-1945. I found that there were two B-29 aircraft which were downed during the Singapore raid. From there, I was able to know the names and the incident.

B29 Bomber- 42-65226

Below is the missing link I was looking for several years.

677th Squadron - 444th Group - 58th Wing -20th Air Bomber Command

11 Jan 1945. 42-65226

The B29 Bomber designated as serial number 42-65226 flying out of Dudhkundi, India was scheduled for a combat mission over Singapore, Malaya. The regular engineer for the mission was temporary at rest camp, and 1st LT Charles Vail was assigned to take his place. Two minutes prior to acquisition of the target during the bombing run, the plane was hit with Flak, and it exploded. Some of the crew were expelled from the plane, some bailed, and some were unable to bail out in time. All had the misfortune of landing almost on their intended target.

Three men died in the crash. SGT Wolk and SGT Vail died in the crash, and were identified at the scene. Another unidentified, was probably TSGT Holt, because of a Minnesota sports article found with the remains.

SSGT Ellis and SSGT Gumbert were the left and right gunners. They survived the initial explosion and subsequent crash. However, SSGT Gumbert's injuries were severe and his remains were found near the wreckage.

MAJ Wilson, LT Fitzgerald, 1st LT Heiss, and 1st LT Yowell survived the explosion of the plane, and were gathered together by Chinese guerrillas the night of 11 Jan 1945.

1st LT Yowell and 1st LT Heiss were separated from MAJ Wilson and LT Fitzgerald because the latter were injured and had to be carried by stretcher. The Chinese guerrillas would later report that Yowell and Heiss were unsuccessful crossing the road near a Japanese guard post.

LT Fitzgerald and MAJ Wilson were later reunited with SSGT Roberts who also had survived and been found by the Chinese guerrillas and they were all extricated by a British submarine.

SSGT Ellis, 1st LT Osterdahl, 1st LT Yowell and 1st LT Heiss were all captured on or about 12 Jan 1945, taken to Seletar Singapore, where they were interrogated by Lieutenant Commander Okamoto Tonshio, Engineer Staff Officer of the 10th Special Base Unit. The prisoners were confined in a wooden hut near the Naval Club at Seletar and were guarded by the men of the Land Deputy Command under OC Lt Yamaguchi Wataru which was a part of the 10th Special Base unit. For a period of about a week, the four prisoners were tortured.

SSGT Ellis had been captured as his parachute brought him to earth. He was beaten severely in public, and paraded through the streets once taken to Singapore. He shouted "Good for me and bad for you!" while he was beaten.

On the evening of 10, Feb. 1945, a party headed by Sub-Lieutenant Koayashi and Warrant Officer Toyama took the four prisoners to Nee Soon rifle range where they were beheaded. The bodies were initially buried, but were later dug up and cremated to hide the evidence of the war crimes. Lieutenant Commander Okamoto issued additional instructions for all his subordinates to keep quiet about the incident.

The unfortunate crewmen were;
Ellis, Samuel B., Jr (S/Sgt) - Left Gunner
Osterdahl, Carrol N. (1st Lt) - Navigator
Heiss, Edward (1st Lt) - Bombardier
Yowell, Robert W. (1st Lt) - Radar Operator

1st Lt Edward Heiss


No comments: