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.