Crew of the Photo Queen
Near here lie 9 American Airmen, crew of a photo recon B24. Families of the missing we're never told the wreck of the plane that vanished in 1944 was found in 1947 by an Australian team led by the gallant Sq Ldr Keith Rundell. Found the wreck,found two sets of remains, evidence 2 crew decapitated after capture, 2 remains now reside in American Cem. Manila. Pilot Harms has a mem site in fold 3, I have yet to see it. His former widow Mrs. Geer passed in2010 . She had 2 sons with Royce Harms, and 2 more children when remarried. Harm's sons live in Miss. and Va. I earnestly ask for guidance, should those men and their sons be informed now? Will the Austrlian govt. help me find Rundell's official report. These were Extraordinary men. In the last 4 days of their lives flew 3 missions of 12-15 hrs each, 1200 NM each. From the 4th they did not return. Join me in closing with words to a plaintive Bugle Call. It has always given me a moment of Peace: Day is done! Gone the sun.....All is well, sa
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From James Bertel, MD
Austr. Aeronautical , Maj Davis shows left pencil line as PQ expected return course to Biak, this about 145 degrees, upper line estimated course ,actual course and approx position when last heard from, which Davis must take as 1855 hrs, last Mayday, this course line is almost dead on124degrees , the same course they departed target on at1215 hrs., target was Leyte Gulf, distant 1200 n m.frm posit. shown. On Equator. and 137 E. Ibeieve Davis off. My calculations , really speculation is PQ missed Palau Is. Waypoint, actually to the Northeast of that Is. Group on. Course of about 120 or so and 1st mayday at 1829 hrs. Places them at 1deg. 15 min. N, 138deg. 55 min E which is for your reference nearly 2 inches E by NE from 0 deg, 137E, the final posit. On Davis' pencil line. Irian NG coast in view for you in lower right hand corner. Thus if PQ 1829 then swings to a course of 170 they landfall at Sarmi vicinity. Mayday 1829 running out of gas, only chance is go south to hit a coast, then bailor ditch in surf on beach. PQ is now distant about 120nm. From. You NG coast , 30 min. at 250 knots so mayday 2 at 1855 hrs. Fits. Then they bail out or ditch. They bailed out. It is pitch dark at these latitudes by 1815 hrs or so, and Rundle found the wreck in a mangrove swamp. Fate after that, for all but Julian and Rafael, a mystery.
From James Bertel, MD
In researching my uncle and my father, 1st Lt. Norman V. Bertel (ATC pilot), I asked myself in awe, What kind of men were these? Extraordinary men was my reply. The story their surviving papers tell I never really knew, like many sons, taking things for granted. My father and Grandpa never said much at all. It was as if I were reading a story : What My Father Did in Real Life. I saw him as Thoreau's ordinary man living a life of quiet desperation. Now I unpack boxes sealed for years. What I see and read, the lives they all led before my birth, these I treasure, and I long to see them all just once more. I think I would say what a privilege it has been to be your son. JRB
MACR 12423, Updated Version
1945 | National Archives
In my gallery is the 3rd updated version of the MACR for F7b 44-40422, the Photo Queen. The original version is dated 2 Oct.,1944. The image shown, date to me is not readily apparent.. Note the acronyms just to the left of each name. They are either MIA or DED. Meaning of DED unknown to me. Also I must correct my words above story, Rundle visited the site in 1947, it is unclear who found the wreck. Will attempt tp upload images if the Australian Aeronautical Chart referred to in above story. Doubts off Maj. Davis plots are my calculations and are possibly also in error. One final comment: fateful flight of PQ, was a flight of 3 F7's, Harms, 2d plane not yet known, 3rd was the flight leader, pilot Lt. Col. Alexander Guerra, the 6th Photo Group Commander. This is unusual. Col. Guerra had a passenger, a civilian. His name was Lee van Atta reporter for Associated Press. His published story of the flight appeared apporx. 2months later in a Connecticut newspaper. I will try to put a copy of the story into my Gallery. JRBMD.
New Leads and a Walk in the Sun. ,
20 March, 2013 | Sewell, N.J.
Refer to status notations next to names on macr then at bottom page I HAVE LOOKED C A MEDICAL MAGNIFIER ANFD BELIEVE THE TIME RECEIVED STAMP IS 0559, DATE DIFFICULTY BUT MAY BE OCT. 22 OR 23 OF 1946 OR 1947. THIS IS IMPORTANT IF TRUE. THE DED NEXT TO THE NAMES PROBABLY DECEASED,MIA OF COURSE MISSING. NOW, HOW DID WARDEPTY. KNOW THESE PARTICULAR CREWMEN WERE CONFIRMED KIA. DID RAAF SIGNAL THEM OR DID THEY SEND US PERSONNEL. MACR IS INCOMPLETE, ALSO IT WAS ORIGINALLY FILED AS AN ACCIDENT REPORT. IF WAR DEPT KNEW OF STATUS WHY NOT INFORM THE NEXT OF KIN. AND LET MR. WELD AND MR. JAMES REYNOLDS KNOW, ANDF ALL OTHER NOK OF THE STILL MIAS. I INTEND TO GET AAR, ALL SERVICE JACKETS OF THE CREW, AM SENDING DOCS TO DIRECT. OF COORDINATION RAAF, AND REQUEST THE RUNDLE FINDINGS IF EXTANT. PLASN TO GO OUT TO NEW GUINEA IN SEPT. WILL STYOP OFF IN AUSTRALIA,THEN TO SARMI. TRIP PUT OFF BY ME FOR 40 YRS TO MY ETERNAL DISCREDIT. WALK IN THE SUN IS REF. TO CARRYING OUT A PATROL, FAMILIAR TO ANY GRUNT OR DOGFACE WHO HAPPENED TO BE IN INDOCHINA 45 YEARS AGO. SUSPECT THERE MAY HAVE BEEN A SOLUTION TO MYSTERY OF PHOTO QUEEN, BY WHOM,WHEN, AND WHO KNOWS WHAT ITIS, I DO NOTY KNOW. NOTE LAST STORY, IT IS GUERRY NOT GUERRA. VAN ATTA WAS WITH INS,LATER UPI AND NOW AP, ABSORBED INS. LOOKS LIKE A TYRIP OR 2 TO NAT. ARCHIVES TO GET HELP. STOPOVER IN PEARL IN SEPT. WITH DNA SQAMPLE SISTER, FOR THE 2 UNIDENTY. REMAINS INTERRED IN MANILA, PRESUMABLY THE 2 ARE SGT JULIAN AND LT. RAPHAEL. JRB MD
Summary So Far, mystery fate of Photo Queen Crew
290313 2358Z GMT -4 is 1958 EDT | Sewell,N.J.
Crux of matter is 1st conclusions in Fate of Crew part of Pacific Wrecks web site, and 2nd what are the primary sources of the conclusions. Will shortly wire JPAC at Pearl and RAAF in Melbourne formal request for information and appt. to see them in Sept. Will make attempt to find NOK rest of crew and ask for permission to pursue answers. Chances of getting anything in Sarmi, Irian New Guinea remote. Airport there is the old Jap field of Sawar. We held that field on 30 Sept,1944. So Lt. Harms and his men were roughly 10 miles or less from US Army forces . Guess I will pass some time on beach near old Sarmi village , look up and imagine an F7b Liberator crossing the coast, he would have been low , blackness below, only perhaps they saw the phosphorescent curving surf breaking over the reef. So, climb to 800 ft. and bail out, or did he turn into a gliding landing pattern to ditch islide the such line. Did gas run out, and force him down into one of the mangrove swamps behind the Village. They say wreck in swamp, crew survived crash landing, but did not survive the War. Well, no matter, Lt. Royce Harms was a superb pilot to pull it off. If you look closely at his bearing in the crew photo you will see a man who will not be denied. JRB, MD.
ALAMO: HARMS, TRAVIS,BOWIE AND CROCKETT.
March,1836 and Sept. 1944. | DUTCH NEWGUINEA .
STORY ERASED,BEATS ME HOW IT HAPPENED. I W ILL ADD IT AS AN IMAGE TO THIS SITE.ALAMO.....AA
UPDATE ON RESEARCH: SEARCH FOR PHOTO QUEEN.
25 JULY, 2013 | SARMI, Dutch New Guinea
A BRIEF SUMMARY DUE. ALAMO, ABOVE IS THE FINAL CHAPTER IN THE NOW PLANNED BOOK, SEARCH FOR PHOTO QUEEN. REALLY WHAT IS WRITTEN ABOVE IS THE OUTLINE THE ROUGH DRAFT OF THE FINAL CHAPTER.
I HAVE DECIDED AFTER MUCH THOUGHT TO MAKE THIS A BOOK. THE REASON FOR THIS IS THE PROBABLE DISCOVERY OF AN ASTOUNDING ENDING TO THE FATE OF THE CREW OF PHOTO QUEEN. IT SHALL REQUIRE ANOTHER 12 TO 18 MONTHS OF RESEARCH AND WRITING TO COMPLETE THIS STORY BUT IT IS NEVERTHELESS A STORY THAT MUST BE TOLD. THIS IS SO BECAUSE ALTHOUGH IT DID NOT START OUT TO BECOME A STORY THAT MUST BE TOLD, IT IS NOW. RECENT EVIDENCE THAT I HAVE OBTAINED SUGGESTS AN ENDING WHICH I BELIEVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE SHOULD BE AWARE OF.
I WILL NOT TELL YOU WHAT THAT ENDING IS FOR THE SIMPLE REASON THAT I AM SO FAR UNCERTAIN OF REASONABLE PROOF THAT IT OCCURRED. SO I ASK YOU FOR PATIENTS EVEN THOUGH NO ONE MAY BE READING THIS ARE ONLY ONE OR TWO PERSONS THEY ARE PERHAPS THE FORTUNATE ONES AS THEY WILL KNOW THE ENDING IN DUE TIME.
THE THUS FAR DISORGANIZED AND CHAOTIC STORIES I HAVE WRITTEN ARE DUE TO THE FACT THAT THEY ARE FROM MEMORY NOT WRITTEN WITH THOUGHTS OF A COHERENT STORY. THE ABOVE STORIES THAT I HAVE PRODUCED THUS FAR ARE SIMPLY IF YOU WILL A WAY OF THINKING OR TALKING TO MYSELF TO THINK THINGS THROUGH. THUS THERE ARE MANY ERRORS AND THE SYNTAX OF THE SENTENCES IS IMPERFECT.
AND NOW WHOEVER MAY BE READING THIS I THANK YOU AND NOW YOU MUST WAIT I SHALL RETURN WITH SOME RESEARCH FACTS AND THEN AS I SAY IN ABOUT A YEAR OR SO THE ENDING WILL BE WRITTEN OR RATHER I ENVISION IT AS AN ENDING THAT WILL BE DECIDED UPON BY THE READERS OF THAT BOOK, BUT ONLY AFTER ALL THE EVIDENCE HAS BEEN PRESENTED.
I WILL SAY THIS MUCH: THE ENDING IS ONE OF TWO POSSIBILITIES THERE ARE NO OTHER OR NO OTHER ENDINGS THAT CAN BE ENVISIONED. YOU THE READERS WILL DECIDE WHICH IS NOT SO MUCH THE TRUTH OR THE REAL ENDING AS EITHER IS EQUALLY POSSIBLE BUT WHICH IS THE ENDING THAT SATISFIES YOU AND DOES JUSTICE TO THE 11 MEN THE CREW OF THE PHOTO QUEEN.
Postscript to the Summary
25 July,2013 | Sarmi, DNG.
I DO HAVE ONE MORE THOUGHT THE END IN WHICH MEANT THE MOST TO BE SOMETHING THAT NO ONE EVER DREAMED OF , CERTAINLY I DID NOT.
I WILL CERTAINLY GO TO SARMENT NOT THIS YEAR BUT NEXT 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LOSS OF PHOTO QUEEN.
I MUST TELL YOU THAT THE NAME PHOTO QUEEN IS NOT THE NAME OF THE AIRCRAFT. BUT IN EFFECT it IS THE NAME OF THE AIRCRAFT. IT REPRESENTS THE ENTIRE ARMY AIR FORCE AND ALL OF THEIR AIRCRAFT AND ALL OF THE MEN WHO PERISHED IN THEM OR SURVIVED IN THEM AND CAME HOME.
I DO ASK OF YOU if you are a READER OF THESE WORDS ONE THING PLEASE IF YOU KNOW OF ANY OF THE NEXT OF KIN OR IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE NEXT OF KIN PLEASE CALL ME I GIVE YOU MY PHONE NUMBER FREELY IT IS AREA CODE 609-529-7266 I MUST HAVE THE OKAY FROM THESE PERSONS TO TELL THE STORY. I MYSELF WILL EMBARK UPON THE TASK OF FINDING AND ASKING FOR THEIR BLESSING.
JAMES REYNOLDS BERTEL.
......HOME FROM THE SEA.
2-3 OCTOBER, 1944. | Near Cape Verkam, Dutch New Guinea.
THE CREW OF THE PHOTO QUEEN, ALL 11 OF THEM, NOW MADE THEIR WAY
IN A PAINFUL YET STEADY RHYTHM, DOWN STREAM TO THE COAST. THERE, HARMS KNEW, A NATIVE VILLAGE LAY, HARD ON THE MOUTH OF THE "SNAKE RIVER". THEY HAD NAMED IT THUS DURING THE LINE OF MARCH, BECAUSE OF ITS TORTUOUS COURSE , LACED WITH RAPIDS AND SHALLOW-BOILING CATARACTS , AS IT RUSHED TO THE PHILIPPINE SEA.
HARMS, AFTER A "COUNCIL OF WAR" WITH HIS CREW, MADE A QUICK DECISION: THE COASTAL VILLAGE MEANT FISHING, AND FISHING EQUALS BOATS. HE SAW THEIR BEST AND SUREST MEANS OF ESCAPE, AND HE SEIZED IT. ANY OTHER COURSE MEANT SLOW DEATH: THEY WOULD BE HUNTED DOWN AND PICKED OFF A FEW AT A TIME.
AND THE CLOTH ESCAPE MAPS THE OFFICERS CARRIED WERE TAILOR-MAD FOR SMALL BOATS ON THE OPEN OCEAN. THESE MAPS HAD BEEN ISSUED TO SHIP'S OFFICERS AND FLIGHT DECK CREW ALL ACROSS EACH THEATRE OF OPERATIONS.
THEY MADE EXCRUCIATINGLY SLOW HEADWAY. THE LOOPS OF THE SNAKE WERE ALL 90 DEGREE HAIRPIN TURNS. AND THE DEVILISH MANGROVE SWAMPS, DOTTING THEIR ROUTE, HAD GIVEN THIS AREA FROM SAWAR DROME TO CAPE VERKAM IT'S GI NICKNAME: THE HELLISH MUDHOLE. THE MONIKER BESTOWED BY THE DOGFACES OF 6th ARMY AFTER STOPPING SHORT OF SARMI CREEK. THEY HAD BEEN GIVEN A BLOODY NOSE BY THE JAPANESE AT "LONE TREE HILL". LONE TREE LAY UPLAND FROM SAWAR.
THE GI'S ON THE SARMI CREEK WERE ONLY 25 KILOMETERS FROM THE LONELY COLUMN OF AIRMEN TRUDGING THROUGH THE SWAMPS OF THE STREAM PROERLY LABELED THE VERKAM. IT MIGHT AS HAVE BEEN A HUNDRED.
FATE WAS ABOUT TO BECOME THE HUNTER.
(EXCERPTED FROM "SEARCH FOR PHOTO QUEEN".
James Reynolds Bettel. August 15, 2013.
HARMS RUNS FOR DAYLIGHT
30 SEPT. 1944 | Upper VERKAM River
THIS IS AN UPDATE IN OUTLINE FOR, A SUMMARY OF WHAT IS TO COME.
TRUDGING THROUGH THE SWAMPS APPARENTLY NOT THE CASE. INSTEAD THE CREW BOARDS LIFE RAFTS AND STRIKE OUT WITH THE CURRENT, SHOOTING NUMEROUS AND TREACHEROUS RAPIDS AND THE ROLLERCOASTERS OF CATARACTS ALL THE WAY DOWNSTREAM.
THE DESCENT OF THE VERKAM STREAM FROM ITS UPPER REACHES STARTS ON MORNING 1 OCT. AT BMNT OR JUST BEFORE. REMEMBER STILL FULL MOON , EARLY START AT 0400. BMNT IS AT 0515.
meanwhile Search by 20th CMS Commences., flying search vectors to last assumed posit. PQ at 00(equator) 137 E., with aCatalina, 1 B-25 and 2 B-24's.
and Japanese troops , taken by surprise the night before as PHOTO QUEEN roared over their defensive positions 5 km to the east of the VERKAM Estuary, begin moving parallel to the Stream headed South , spread out to get to the Wreck.
REMEMBER NOW, THE BEETLE IS OUT, WRECK NOW IS WELL TO THE WEST AND SOUTH ALONG THE SNAKE LIKE VERKAM. SOURCE OF THIS STREAM IS THE GLACIER ATOP PUNCZAK JAYA WELL TO THE SOUTH AND WEST OF THE WRECK SITE. THE SITE IS APPROX 4 Km SOUTH OF THE POINT WHERE THE VERKAM EPTIES INTO THE SEA.
I HOPE TO HAVE AN ACCURATE MAP POSTED IN IMAGES SOON. POSTING NEXT TWO DAYS IS A SERIES OF SATELLITE SHOTS FROM THE SOURCE NEAR PUNCZAK JAYA TO THE SEA ALL ALONG THE VERKAM RIVER.
JAMES REYNOLDS BERTEL M.D.
Sept.18,2013 | Chicago,Il.
TRIP TO NARA, COLLEGE PARK,MD. IN THE WORKS. THIS RESULT OF SOURCES FEEDING VITAL INFORMATION HITTING OUT OF NOWHERE, FROM A SOURCE THOUGHT TO BE LONG DEFUNCT. INTELLIGENCE THUS IMPARTED NOW CUTS A BIG CHUNK OUT THE FORMIDABLE RESEARCH THOUGHT TO BE DEAD AHEAD.
NOW NEEDED ARE MAPS AND CHARTS TO NAIL DOWN THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE SARMI REGION. THESE AND AERIAL PHOTOS ARE TO BE FOUND IN COLLEGE PARK.
BUT THE GREAT HAUL WILL NOW BE THE COMPLETE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF ONE CAPT. SETSUO ONO,HANGED FOR THE MURDERS OF RAFAEL AND JULIAN. AND THE COMPLETE REPORTS OF TWO AUSTRALIANS.
BUT THE WATERS HAVE BEEN MUDDIED BY THE ABRUPT APPEARANCE OF YET FOUR MORE VANISHED ALLIED AVIATORS.
NEXT REPORT AND SOME PROSE COMING UP IN about two or three weeks. Irregular misc. images will be along within the coming week.
JAMES REYNOLDS BERTEL
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE
26 October, 2013 | Sewell, N.j.
NOW WE ARE THREE, TOGETHER. JAMES REYNOLDS BERTEL, PAUL JULIAN, AND ROYCE E. HARMS, Jr. PAUL AND I BROUGHT TOGETHER BY THE PROFESSOR, CHARLES VARNEY. BOTH PAUL AND I HAVE SPOKEN WITH ROYCE. PAUL'S RESEARCH IS FAR ADVANCED BEYOND MINE.
COMING UP IN A MONTH OR SO:
AUSSIES: The original AUSTRALIAN investigations into the fate of the crew.
MURDER INCORPORATED: The secret execution ground far from the coast, and
the Japanese CEO of the murder machine.
MUDDIED WATERS: More lost aircraft and more missing Airmen in the SARMI Area. An enigmatic
message scrawled in pencil inside a wrecked aircraft.
SO, THE NEPHEWS OF TWO OF THE CREW AND THE SON OF THE PILOT NOW CARRY ON.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER, THE REMAINS OF THE ELEVEN CREW, AND AS MANY AS 4 other flyers
will require a journey to THE HEART OF DARKNESS, SARMI , NEW GUINEA AND THE HINTERLAND BEYOND.
ALAMO: HARM'S LAST STAND
3 OCT., 1944 | VERKAM ESTUARY
EVIDENCE NOW ESTABLISHES THAT THE CREW'S DASH TO THE SEA ENDED IN A RUNNING GUNFIGHT WITH JAPANESE TROOPS, THEN A DRAMATIC LAST STAND, THE SURVIVERS BACKS TO THE RIVER AND THE SEA, REFUSING TO GIVE UP, FOUGHT TO THE LAST AGAINST OVERWHELMING NUMBERS OF JAPANESE INFANTRY.
THREE OF THE CREW ESCAPED THIS, PROBABLY OFF IN THE VILLAGE OF SABORWAI AT THE MOUTH OF THE VERKAM, LOOKING FOR DUGOUT OUTRIGGER FISHING CANOES TO GET OUT TO SEA. THESE THREE WERE CAPTURED, TORTURED AND EXECUTED. THEY TOO REFUSED TO SURRENDER, AND WE TAKEN BY FORCE AND SURPRISE. TWO OF THEM MAY HAVE ESCAPED THEIR CAPTORS ONLY TO BE RECAPTURED.
THE EXECUTIONS TOOK PLACE AT THE JAPANESE FIELD HOSPITAL. THIS WAS LOCATED IN EITHER SIJARA , 10 km down the COAST WEST OF SARMI, OR IN AMSIRA, A TRIBAL VILLAGE WAY UPCOUNTRY, IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE GAUTIER MOUNTAINS.
THE ENTIRE STORY WILL BE WRITTEN IN BOOK FORM, THEN IS PROPOSED TO BE SERIALIZED ON YOUTUBE.
WE WILL ATTEMPT TO GET IT PUBLISHED. EXCERPTS WILL BE PRESENTED HERE.
I WIL GO TO THE SARMI AREA, VISIT SIJARA , THEN TO SABORWAI, ASCEND THE VERKAM RIVER VIA THE RIGHT BANK , CUT OFF THIS TRAIL TO THE TRACK LEADING TO AMSIRA. THE RETURNMARCH WILL BE ON THE RIVER OR THE RIGHT BANK TO SEARCH FOR THE WRECK. EVIDENCE GATHERED BY PAUL JULIAN, NEPHEW OF SGT. HERBERT JULIAN WILL BE VITAL. I WILL ALSO SEARCH THE AREA AROUND THEMOUTH OF THEVERKAM. THE OBJECTIVE IS TO FIND THE GRAVES OF REMAINS, AND SECOND, THE WRECK OF PHOTO QUEEN.
ROYCE (BUTCH) HARMS IS KEPT INFORMED AND IS ADDING COGENT IDEAS FOR THE SEARCH.
WE HAVE NO ILLUSIONS AS TO OUR CHANCES. THE ODDS ARE LONG, YET WE ARE DTERMINED TO FIND , AT LAST, THE CREW OF PHOTO QUEEN.