Monday, January 12, 2009

Plane wreck could belong to US army


I KNOW very little about Amelia Earhart and so cannot comment on recent reports in The National..

However, I do know a great deal about United States Army Fifth Air Force operations in the southwest Pacific area, that is, PNG.

One of the greatest mysteries of the Fifth during World War Two was the loss of Fifth bomber command’s commanding officer, Brig Gen Kenneth N. Walker.

The 43rd bomb group B-17 Flying Fortress that he was in, was shot down by Japanese fighters whilst exiting the target area (Rabaul) on Jan 5, 1943.

He had been involved in a mass daylight raid on Japanese shipping in Simpson Harbour.

Walker had been ordered by Fifth Air Force commanding officer, Gen George C. Kenny, not to personally participate in bombing raids.

However, it was early in the war and Japan held air superiority over all of New Britain and Northern New Guinea.

The Fifth Air Force was suffering heavy losses and Walker felt that his attendance on the mission would send a clear message to his airmen of his determination and commitment to defeating Japan.

When Gen Kenny heard of the loss, he nominated Walker for the congressional medal of honour, the US military’s highest award.

To date, the wreckage of Walker’s B-17 nicknamed “San Antonio Rose” has not been found; however, from the reports of other US airmen on the mission and post war interviews of Japanese fighter pilots, it is known that the aircraft crashed in the Wide Bay/Open Bay area.

So it is a very real possibility that the recent aircraft wreck discovered in Wide Bay may be that of Brig Gen Walker.

The US army will no doubt be following the discovery closely, as will Walker’s son Douglas, now in his late 60s.

I would like to thank The National for reporting the find, and look forward to future updates as more information comes to light.



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