1st Lt. John Byler was a passenger of Flight 41-1708.
On Jan 17 Flight C-87 No. 411708 departed from Accra, Africa 2338 GCT en route to Natal, Brazil. Accra reported the plane missing Jan 20, 1943 (other docs show the afternoon of 18th Jan when reported missing). A wide search for the plane was conducted and was abandoned Jan 29.
The flight had an Army Air Crop. Crew of six men, seven Army Personnel and 13 members of the RAF.
On Feb. 4 1943 a life raft was found at sea by the U.S. Destroyer Kearney about 60 miles due East of Recife, Brazil. The raft contained an unidentified man, who was later identified via finger prints as LT. Col. Brunner. He was buried at sea from the destroyer.
An inventory of the articles found on the life raft included five life jackets, indicating that at least four other men were on the life raft. Other articles found indicate the presence of British and Canadian members of the RAF. No other American articles where found other than LTC. Brunner's.
On Feb. 5 1943 another life raft was found on the beach of Ponte Negra, Brazil. It contained the remains of Major Arthur Mills. Articles found on the raft:
Col. Douglas C. MacKeachie's
$20.00 American Express Company Travel Cheque, bearing his signature.
1st Lt. John A. Byler
One Chronometer, one pipe, one pocket address book containing log, one wallet containing: W.E.A.G.O. ID card, one envelope of collector's stamps, $34.00 (U.S.) and 100 Francs (Algerian) and other smaller foreign banknotes, personal papers, and cards.
Cpl. Joseph P. Braniff
Social Security Tag…., Wallet containing: $1.00 (U.S.) and 5L sterling, personal papers, and cards.
Six life jackets were found in the raft indicating that there were originally six men in the raft. The insignia of the Rank of Colonel USA was found (made into the shape of a crude fish hook), and other articles which serve to identify two Royal Air Force Officers as occupants of the raft.
Assumptions made about the crash are:
The plane was forced down but did not explode or crash violently.
There was little time for the passengers and crew to escape to the rafts, as the only articles saved were those normally carried in the pockets of clothing.
No other life rafts or bodies were recovered and is assumed that the remaining 15 men stayed with the downed Aircraft until it sunk.
Captain Orval Eknes Pilot
Captain Felton B. Lancaster Co Pilot
2nd/Lt. Joseph F. Peoples Navigator
Jersey City, N.J.
M/Sgt. Alvin A. Young Radio Op.
Bossier City, La.
M/Sgt. Charles W. McKain Crew Chief
Sgt. James N. Clauss Crew Chief
These men were returning from having delivered a B-17 to Africa from Miami. Major Mills was the pilot, 1st Lt. Minor was the co-pilot, 1st Lt. Byler was the navigator.
1st/Lt. John A. Byler
1st/Lt. Hugh P. Minor
Major Arthur Mills
Corp. Joseph P. Braniff
Corp. Grover K. Trees Jr.
(Board at St. Erval, United Kingdom)
Lt/Col. Russell Reed Brunner
Col. Douglas C. MacKeachie
RAF FERRY CREW:
Fl. H.J. Martin
RO Sergeant H.V. Lamb (ferry command for 8 months)
Navigator H. Warman
Captain Paul Bleecker Makepeace
RO C. Derry
Flt/Of. Peter C. Zoephel
Flt/Of. Geoffrey A. Clegg
RO N. Durry
Pilot-Officer W.T.B. Smithson Navigator
(Source of this information from: Report dated 14 Feb 1943, Determination of Status of crew and passengers of missing airplane C-87 No. 411708 "RESTRICTED")
Entered the service from Florida.
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