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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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10th Air Force
20.12.1943 491st Bombardment Squadron (M) B-25D 41-30367, 2nd Lt. Burdette H. Baker DFC

Operation: Bombing, Monywa, Burma (Myanmar)

Date: 20th December 1943 (Monday)

Unit No: 491st Bombardment Squadron (M), 341st Bombardment Group (M), 10th Air Force

Type: B-25D

Serial No: 41-30367

Code: Unknown

Location: 3 miles west of Kalewa, Burma (Myanmar)

Base: Chakulia, India

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Burdette Horning Baker DFC O-1698884 AAF Age 23. PoW */DED (1)

Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Paul John Simonic O-735674 AAF Age 27. KiA

Navigator: 2nd Lt. Charles Henry Redd DFC O-669109 AAF Age 25. PoW *

Bombardier: 1st Lt. Joseph Franklin Zizlavsky DFC O-664863 AAF Age 24. PoW */DED (2)

Engineer Gunner: S/Sgt. Joseph Bernard Tarasewicz DFC 12050655 AAF Age 23. KiA

Radio Gunner: S/Sgt. Marvin Arthur Buchfuhrer DFC 12089170 AAF Age 21. KiA

Armament Gunner: S/Sgt. John Murphy 13029727 AAF Age 22. KiA

* Burma #5 (Moulmein & Rangoon Jail)

REASON FOR LOSS:

The loss of 2nd Lt. Baker and his aircraft was described by the following witnesses in after mission reports:

Pilot, Flight Officer (FO) Howard S. Sanders, T-186458:

‘I certify that on the date of December 20, 1943, while on a combat mission over Monywa, Burma, B-25-D, Number 41-30367, piloted by Lieutenant Burdette H. Baker, was hit by AA fire over the target. One large hole and many small holes were visible in the left wing. The left engine having lost its oil quit running within ten (10) minutes. The plane took a heading of 330o, apparently heading for Imphal airfield. The right engine apparently was unable to give full power, for the plane consistently lost altitude from 9,800 feet to approximately 3,000 feet. At a point approximately three (3) miles west of Kalewa the plane started spinning to the left and crashed and exploded among the trees north of a small stream. I saw three chutes open fairly close to the ground ….. about 800 to 200 feet’.

Bombardier, 2nd Lt. Donald J. Spreiteer, O-731182:

‘I certify that on the date of December 20, 1943, while on a combat mission over Monywa, Burma, B-25-D, Number 41-30367, piloted by Lieutenant Burdette H. Baker, was hit by AA fire over the target. One large hole was visible in the left wing. The left engine was losing oil and quit running within ten (10) minutes. Lieutenant Baker feathered the prop and the seemed to have the ship under control. About ten (10) minutes later, they started to lose altitude. The right engine probably would not put out full power. At this time, they were on approximately a 330o heading. They lost altitude from 8,000 down to 3,000 feet. At about 3 miles west of Kalewa the plane started spinning to the left and crashed and exploded in trees north of a small stream. I saw three chutes open about 800 to 500 feet above the ground. As the pilot of my ship, Flight Officer Sauders, made runs over Baker’s ship in order to drop medical supplied. I observed on chute in a tree, the occupant of which freed himself; one chute on the ground, its occupant having freed himself. Lt. Baker crashed at 12:10 hours. Our ship circled for about twenty (20) minutes. We headed home at 12:40 hours’.

Co-Pilot, 2nd Lt. Elroy W. O’Nan, O-739678:

‘I certify that I saw Lt. Baker and crew in B-25D, Number 41-30367 spin and crash near Kalewa, Burma. The plane was on a heading approximately north losing 300-500 feet per minute, with the left prop feathered and with an airspeed of 120-130 miles per hour.

When the plane had reached an approximate altitude of 1000 feet above terrain it went into a 20o bank to the left and into the dead engine apparently heading for a beach or clearing. After turn was accomplished the plane went into a steep dive and appeared to be striving to recover airspeed. Immediately thereafter it went into a flat spin which soon evolved into a violent perpendicular spin. At approximately 400-200 feet from the ground I observed three men leave plane. All three chutes appeared to open. I was unable to tell whether men came from the front hatch or rear hatch.

We dropped our emergency medical supplies on the south side of crash in the vicinity of two chutes observed on the ground’.

Note: Co-Pilot, 2nd Lt. Elroy W. O’Nan was KiA along with the other six crew members of B-24D #43-3816 which was shot down by AA fire on the 27th March 1944.

It appears from these reports that 2nd Lt. Simonic, S/Sgt. Tarasewicz, S/Sgt. Buchfuhrer and S/Sgt. Murphy perished when the aircraft was hit by AA fire or had no time to abandon the aircraft.

(1) 2nd Lt. Baker died whilst being held as a PoW at the Burma #5 camp known as the New Law Courts Jail, Rangoon, Burma. No-one was directly charged with causing his death. However, one Japanese officer was sentenced to death for the ill treatment leading to the deaths of two American officers at the camp. Also another two Japanese officers were jailed for the ill-treatment of several other PoWs at the camp.

(2) The circumstances leading to the death of 1st Lt. Zizlavsky were determined by a British Military Court convened in Rangoon, Burma between the 3rd and 21st May 1946.

The following four members of the Imperial Japanese Army were before the court:

Capt. (Rikugun-tai-i) NAGAHARA Kenso who was the former Commanding Officer (CO) of Futo Buntai, Rangoon, Burma and also the CO of the Futo Buntai prison;

Capt. (Rikugun-tai-i) YAMAZAKI Kaname was the Medical Officer (MO) of the prison;

2nd Lt. (Rikugun-Shōi) YOKOTA Masao;

Cpl. (Rikugun-Jōtō-Hei) NODA Masami.

Note: the Japanese word Rikugun preceding a rank indicates that it relates to the army.

All were also members of or attached to the Kempeitai who were the military police of the Imperial Japanese Army and functioned much like the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

On the first count all four accused were charged with committing a war crime in that between the 1st August 1943 and 1st April 1945, when members of staff of the New Law Courts Jail, Rangoon, Burma, were responsible for the well-being of the persons interned there, and in violation of the laws and usages of war, were together concerned as parties to the ill-treatment causing a physical suffering to PoWs interned there.

On the second count Capt. NAGAHARA, Capt. YAMAZAK and 2nd Lt. YOKOTA were also charged that between the 1st April 1943 and the 1st April 1944, they were concerned with the ill-treatment leading to the deaths of 1st Lt. Angell, 2nd Lt. Royal D. Butterfield, 1st Lt. Zizlavsky, Fg Off. Herbert and Fg Off. Kenneth M. White.

Capt. NAGAHARA was in post at the Futo Buntai prison, also known as the New Law Courts Jail Annex, from 1st January 1945 and the 1st April 1945.

During the period they were in charge a number of American and British airmen were incarcerated in the Annex where they were kept in confinement under harsh and oppressive regulations without proper or adequate food, covering, sanitation facilities and medical attention.

On the first count Capt. NAGAHARA and 2nd Lt. YOKOTA were found guilty and sentenced to four and two years imprisonment respectively. Capt. YAMAZAKI was found not guilty.

On the second count all three of the accused were found not guilty.

Burial Details

The remains of 2nd Lt. Baker and 1st Lt. Zizlavsky were recovered on the 5th May 1946 from the Rangoon Cantonment Cemetery. Their remains were amongst 37 other recovered personnel, 29 passengers and 3 crew that were lost when the C-47B #43-48308 transferring their remains went missing in a heavy storm on the 17th May 1946 during the return flight to Barrackpore in India. An extensive airborne search of a flight path 300 miles wide from Calcutta to Rangoon and a special search as far south as the Andarman Islands, failed to locate any evidence that the aircraft crashed on land and no floating wreckage was found to indicate that the aircraft had crashed into the Bay of Bengal.

The wreckage of C-47B #43-48308 was discovered by Clayton Kuhles of MIA Recoveries, Inc. on the 10th November 2009.

Above: 2nd Lt. Burdette H. Baker, Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing (Courtesy of the ABMC)

2nd Lt. Burdette Horning Baker. DFC, Purple Heart. Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing. Born on the 15th March 1921 in Woodhull, New York. Son of John David and Mildred Elsie (née Horning) Baker of Osceola, Pennsylvania, USA.

2nd Lt. Baker was Declared Dead (DED) on the19th November 1944.

2nd Lt. Paul John Simonic. Air Medal. Repatriated and laid to rest in Joint Section 79, Grave 509, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, Missouri. Born on the 4th May 1916 in Porterville, Tulare County, California. Son of John M and Katherine (née Nemanich) Simonic of Porterville, California, USA.

Above: 1st Lt. Joseph F. Zizlavsky, Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing (Courtesy of the ABMC)

1st Lt. Joseph Franklin Zizlavsky. DFC, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing. Born on the 10th July 1920 in Chicago, Illinois. Son of Joseph and Marie (née Smolka) Zizlavsky of New Buffalo, Michigan, USA.

1st Lt. Zizlavsky was Declared Dead (DED) on the 15th July 1944.

Joseph Franklin Zizlavsky is also remembered on the family Cenotaph at the Pine Grove Cemetery, New Buffalo, Michigan.

S/Sgt. Joseph Bernard Tarasewicz. DFC, Air Medal. Repatriated and laid to rest in Joint Section 79, Grave 509, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, Missouri. Born on the 20th February 1920 in Wanamie, Pennsylvania. Son of Michal and Helena (née Pawloska) Tarasewicz of Luzerne, Pennsylvania, USA.

S/Sgt. Marvin Arthur Buchfuhrer. DFC, Air Medal (OLC). Repatriated and laid to rest in Joint Section 79, Grave 509, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, Missouri. Born on the 31st December 1922 in New York City, New York. Son of Tillie Buchfuhrer of New York City, New York, USA.

S/Sgt. John Murphy. Air Medal. Repatriated and laid to rest in Joint Section 79, Grave 509, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, Missouri. Born on the 27th January 1921 in Detroit, Michigan. Son of Joseph and Ethel Louise Murphy of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, USA.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 05.10.2023 - Initial Upload

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Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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