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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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5th Air Force
21.03.1945 501st Bombardment Squadron (M) B-25J 44-29580, 1st Lt. Claude H. Lamar DFC

Operation: Shipping strike, French Indo-China coast (Vietnam)

Date: 21st March 1945 (Wednesday)

Unit No: 501st Bombardment Squadron (M), 345th Bombardment Group (M), 5th Bomber Command, 5th Air Force

Type: B-25J

Serial No: 44-29580

Code: Unknown

Location: SE of Nha Trang, French Indo-China coast (Vietnam)

Base: San Marcelino Airfield, Luzon, Philippines

Pilot: 1st Lt. Claude Henderson Lamar DFC O-759468 AAF Age 24. Murdered (1)

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Everett Wardwell Thies O-822848 AAF Age 21. KiA

Navigator/Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Frank Krieg Born O-708787 AAF Age 22. MiA

Radio Op/Gunner: T/Sgt. Arthur Clayton Adrian 33603340 AAF Age 20. MiA

Turret Gunner: S/Sgt. John Ellsworth Burall 13102988 AAF Age 29. MiA

Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Harold Minard Balonier 35218744 AAF Age 29. Murdered (1)

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 21st March 1945 at 07:10 hrs six B-25’s from the 501st took off from San Marcelino Airfield and joined aircraft from the 500th on a mission to intercept a Japanese convoy of 7 or 8 ships that had been sighted earlier moving north along the French Indo-China (Vietnam) coast.

Crews from the 501st and 500th Squadrons described the loss of 1st Lt. Lamar and his aircraft which ditched at Lat/Long 12 03N, 109 19E. This location is some 1100 yards NW off the small island of hön Nôi and about 7 miles east of the mainland.

2nd Lt. Chester J. Kuta O-730931:

“I was flying in aircraft #002 on the right wing of aircraft #580 which was being piloted by Lt. Lamar on the shipping strike of 21st March 1945. He was the leader of the flight. At approximately 11:30 hrs he led our flight in on a bombing and strafing run on a minelayer. As we were nearing the minesweeper he apparently received a burst of AA in the right engine, and it started smoking. It was apparent that he was having difficulty keeping control of the plane and I thought he was going to crash into the ship. However, he turned into his dead engine and slipped over the end of it. His plane kept losing altitude and finally ditched approximately ¾ of a mile past the minelayer.

I did not see any survivors leave the plane”.

2nd Lt. Mark A. Thomas O-696175:

“I saw aircraft #580 hit the water after making a pass on a minelayer, the plane hit the water approximately 200 yards past the vessel.

I was flying with the 500th squadron, we made a pass on the same vessel later, and as we came off our run I could see a life raft with four men standing up and waving their arms. I could not see any more men in the raft to tell whether anyone was injured. The life raft was in the target area and about two miles off shore”.

Capt. George H. Musket, Operations Officer:

“Due to the fact aircraft #580 ditched in the immediate target area among enemy vessels any further search for survivors was deemed useless”.

If as reported there were four survivors spotted in the dinghy then either 2nd Lt. Born or S/Sgt. Burall was the fourth airman. All that is known about their fate is that both are still posted as Missing in Action (MiA).

1st Lt. Lamar was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his extraordinary devotion to duty displayed when he stayed in the fight after having an engine shot out, laying effective protective strafing fire to cover his wing aircraft and the two aircraft in the following flight, helping make possible the sinking of an armed minesweeper. His crew were each recommended to be awarded the Air Medal.

(1) The circumstances leading to the deaths 1st Lt. Lamar and S/Sgt. Balonier were determined by a British Military Court convened in Singapore on the 30th, 31st May and 5th June 1946.

2nd Lt. (Rikugun-shōi) KUWAHATA Tsugio and Sgt Maj. (Rikugun Sōchō) MURAKAMI Isao of the Imperial Japanese Army and members of the Kempaitai, were charged jointly in committing a war crime in that they at or near Thu Dau Mot, French Indo-China, in or about the month of April 1945, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the unlawful killing of 1st Lt. Claude Lamar and S/Sgt. Harold M. Belonier, both of the United States Army Air Force, American prisoners of war.

Thu Dau Mot is some 12 miles north of Siagon.

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

Note: The Kempeitai were the military police of the Imperial Japanese Army and functioned much like the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

The court heard that on 21 March 1945, a USAAF B-25 plane was shot down in the South China Sea off the coast of French Indo-China in the vicinity of Nha Trang. At the time the plane was shot down it was engaged in strafing Japanese naval vessels.

The location of the engagement was some 16½ miles SE of Nha Trang.

The survivors of this crash were 1st Lt. Lamar, 2nd Lt. Thies and S/Sgt. Belonier. 1st Lt. Lamara and 2nd Lt. Thies managed to swim to a small island nearby where they were reported to the Japanese. When the Japanese attempted to take the two into custody a gun fight ensued during which 2nd Lt. Thies received wounds which caused his death during the journey to Nha Trang on the mainland.

S/Sgt. Belonier was captured by the Japanese Navy and was also taken to Nha Trang. Shortly thereafter 1st Lt. Lamar and S/Sgt. Belonier were taken to Saigon and delivered into the custody of the Kempeitai. The two men were incarcerated in the Kempei Tai prison which was located in the Chamber of Commerce Building in Saigon. They were held here for approximately one month during which time both men were interrogated several times and appear to have been mistreated to a some degree.

Around the end of April 1945 a party consisting of KUWAHATA, Sgt. (Rikugun Gunsō) lKUTA Kasuhara, Sgt. (Rikugun Gunsō) SATO Torai and MURAKAMI took 1st Lt. Lamar and S/Sgt. Belonier to the grounds of a rubber plantation near Thu Dau Mot. Here KUMAHATA selected a place to perform the execution of the two airmen and a hole was dug. The two prisoners were brought forward one at a time, with their hands tied behind their back and blindfolded. They were made to kneel in turn before the hole, at which time, pursuant to an order by KUWAHATA, MURAKAMI decapitated both men. Both bodies fell into the hole, which was then filled in and the four Japanese soldiers returned to Saigon.

From the time the two men were shot down until the time they were executed there is no indication that they were ever given any official court martial or military trial or hearing of any kind.

The court found KUWAHATA and MURAKAMI guilty and each was sentenced to a 1 year term of imprisonment.

Note: No reason have been found for the inexplicably lenient sentence for what appeared to be a clear case of the unlawful killing of 1st Lt. Lamar and S/Sgt. Belonier.

Both lKUTA and SATO were in custody and gave evidence but were not charged with this crime.

Burial Details

Above: 1st Lt. Claude Henderson Lamar DFC, Walls of the Missing (Courtesy of the ABMC)

1st Lt. Claude Henderson Lamar. DFC, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart.Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing. Born on the 23rd February 1921 in Montgomery, Alabama.Son of Robert Jones and Mary Amelia (née Yougene) Lamar of Montgomery, Alabama, USA.

1st Lt. Lamar was Declared Dead (DED) on the 21st March 1945.

2nd Lt. Everett Wardwell Thies. Air Medal. Repatriated from Barrakpore, India and laid to rest on the 9th February 1950 at the Arlington National Cemetery, Plot 34, Grave 3997, Virginia. Born on the 5th August 1923 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Son of Theodore W. and Margaret W. Thies of Arlington, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA.

Above: 2nd Lt. Frank Krieg Born, Walls of the Missing (Courtesy of the ABMC)

2nd Lt. Frank Krieg Born. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing. (Date of death given as 21st July 1945). Born on the 28th April 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. Son of Frank W. and Frances H. (née Nettels) Born of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

2nd Lt. Born was Declared Dead (DED) on the 21st July 1945.

Above: T/Sgt. Arthur Clayton Adrian, Walls of the Missing (Courtesy of the ABMC)

T/Sgt. Arthur Clayton Adrian. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing. Born on the 27th June 1924 in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Son of Arthur H. Adrian of West Pittston, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, USA.

T/Sgt. Adrian was Declared Dead (DED) on the 21st March 1945.

Above: S/Sgt. John Ellsworth Burall, Walls of the Missing (Courtesy of the ABMC)

S/Sgt. John Ellsworth Burall. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing. (Date of death given as 21st July 1945). Born on the 27th September 1916 in Mount Savage, Maryland. Son of John Perry and Mary Ann (née Meanyhan) Burall of Mount Savage, Maryland. Husband to Nellie Frances (née Cook) Burall of Cumberland, Maryland, USA.

S/Sgt. Burall was Declared Dead (DED) on the 21st July 1945.

Above: S/Sgt. Harold Minard Balonier, Walls of the Missing (Courtesy of the ABMC)

S/Sgt. Harold Minard Balonier. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Manila American Cemetery, Walls of the Missing. (Date of death given as 21st July 1945). Born on the 29th March 1916 in Dayton, Ohio. Son of William H. and Ethal M. Balonier of Jefferson, Ohio Husband to Grace R. Balonier of Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, USA.

S/Sgt. Balonier was Declared Dead (DED) on the 21st July 1945.

Researched by Traugott Vitz and Ralph Snape 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 10.09.2023 - 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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