Shot Down over Yulin Bay: Part 2

About an hour and a half after 1/Lt. James McGuire crashed in Yulin Bay on March 30, 1945, a Japanese patrol boat inspected the crash site. Men hauled McGuire and the other survivor, 2/Lt. Eugene L. Harviell, aboard, then offered them some tea. The men gratefully drank it and let the sun warm them as they rode back to shore. The Japanese tied their hands behind their backs and led them off the boat, through a bad-tempered crowd (someone threw a rock at McGuire) and onto a truck. From there, they were taken to Samah, where they would spend the rest of the war as POWs. That night, McGuire and Harviell were given bottles containing tea, but no food. They spent a long, uncomfortable night wondering if they would be shot the next day.

1/Lt. James McGuire

The next morning, they were untied and each given a tennis ball-sized portion of rice, followed by some tea. Afterwards, they were interrogated separately about MacArthur’s plans and the base’s dispersal area. A few weeks before their capture, the 345th had been told by a Navy intelligence officer to tell the Japanese whatever they wanted to know in order to avoid being tortured. At this point of the war, it wouldn’t matter if they had this information. The interrogations stopped after a couple of days.

A couple of weeks into their imprisonment, Harviell, who had suffered burns on his entire right side before the crash, was given treatment. Though the POWs were not beaten or tortured, as happened at other Japanese POW camps, they didn’t receive nearly enough food and water. Their diet consisted of white rice, tea, “fish soup” (warm water that tasted fishy) and on rare occasion some seaweed. McGuire befriended one of the guards who brought the men a little extra food or vitamin powder a few times and did other small favors for them. But without proper nutrition or real medical care, the men continued to deteriorate. By the end of July 1945, they suffered from malaria and beriberi, a vitamin deficiency that swelled the lower limbs and caused pain when walking. Harviell was left unable to stand, and the Japanese guards punished him by shrinking his already small rations. On death’s door, Harviell simply stopped trying to live.

Six days later, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 16th. The three remaining prisoners on Samah were taken to a nearby hospital and treated for their illnesses. From then on, they were also given nourishing meals as well as alcohol. McGuire and the other prisoners finally left the island at the end of the month, and eventually returned to the U.S. after further recuperation in Allied hospitals.

The Ordeal of the Herry Crew

When Maj. Williston Cox, C.O. of the 38th Bomb Group’s 71st Squadron, took off aboard MISS AMERICA on August 5, 1943, he had no idea it would be the last mission he would fly.

That day, his squadron was assigned to attack shipping targets near Alexishafen, New Guinea. Cox was riding along as the mission commander. After meeting up with their P-38 fighter cover at Mt. Yule, the crews flew on towards the target area, where they were greeted with heavy antiaircraft fire from Madang Township. Capt. Robert Herry, the pilot of MISS AMERICA, was nearing Madang when his B-25’s right engine was hit and severely damaged. While Herry managed to keep the plane under control, there was no way it would make it back to Allied territory. He set the plane down near Wongat Island, about three-quarters of a mile away from Madang.

Sinking 38th Bomb Group B-25

MISS AMERICA sinks after pilot Capt. Herry was forced to ditch the B-25 near Madang.

Herry’s tail gunner, S/Sgt. Raymond J. Zimmerman, died in the crash. The rest of the crew fared better with only superficial wounds and headed towards the island. Unfortunately, the crew was discovered on Wongat Island by natives who turned all but one crewmember over to the Japanese. The navigator, Lt. Louis J. Ritacco, was hiding in a tree at the time and wasn’t discovered for four more days, but would join the rest of his crew in prison. Herry, Cox, co-pilot 1/Lt. Robert J. “Moose” Koscelnak, and radio operator T/Sgt. Hugh W. Anderson were taken to Madang, where they were held for about 12 days.

Before Cox was locked in prison, he was separated from the rest of his crew and interrogated. He was beaten for not answering any questions, and only then allowed to join the rest of his crew in prison. On their third day as captives, a Japanese interpreter was brought in to interrogate the men. Cox asked if the Japanese would take him to speak to the commander at Madang, but was told the commander wasn’t there at the time. Once the commander returned, Cox’s request was granted.

The Japanese commander tried to question Cox regarding base locations, the number of U.S. planes in New Guinea and which unit Cox was from. He did not provide the commander with answers and cited international law that protected soldiers from disclosing such information. Prior to the war, Maj. Cox had completed three years of pre-law and was well-versed in these matters. He asked the commander to give his crew food and water, as they had only been given sustenance once in the last four days. They were fed, and later questioned as well.

Over the next five days, the crew was questioned by a Japanese intelligence unit and endured beatings when they refused to answer. Afterwards, they were left alone for two days. The next day, Cox and Herry  were separated and told they would be taken to Rabaul for more questioning. On the way, they were stopped by a group of Japanese soldiers who took Herry back to prison. Completely separated from the rest of his crew, Cox was taken to an Alexishafen airstrip, tied to a coconut tree for three days and beaten. In that time, he was never given food and water only twice. Following this ordeal, Cox was taken to Rabaul, where he would stay until November 11, 1943.

Maj. Williston Cox

Major Cox before he was taken captive in August 1943.

From there, he was sent to Omori Prison on Tokyo Bay, where he managed to survive for the rest of the war. Maj. Cox weighed only 115 pounds when the POW camp was liberated on August 29, 1945. The rest of the crew was executed on August 17, 1943.