Can anyone name some or all of this air crew?
1ST Lt Billy E Richards

 In late September or early October of 1944, Mrs. Billy Richards received a letter from Lt W B Rogers of the 39th Fighter Squadron, writing from APO 920, New Guinea, explaining Billy's death. A full copy of the letter is provided. the last paragraph reads:

 "I am not one to do any flag waving over this or anything else, but if there was ever a case of a man's dying for his country, bravely, overcoming fear, knowing the risk he was taking, and going ahead in spite of it, this is it. The purpose was accomplished, though he paid for it with his life. Billy was not one to do anything rashly. To some it seems a little strange and a quirk of fortune that one so quiet and reserved should meet death in such a dramatic fashion. 'Still waters run deep' and Billy was capable of anything which he felt it was his duty to. That he proved. I pray that you may look to God in your grief and find the solace that is there. Sincerely, W.B. Rogers, APO 920, Sep 21, 1944."
Colorado School of Mines
In November of 1944 this article appeared in the Colorado School of Mines Alumni Magazine on pg 586:

 "Details of the death of Lt. Billy E. Richards, '41, which occurred over New Guinea on August 23 reached his wife in Denver only recently.

 "Other officers in the fighting unit (fight element), led by Lieutenant Richards on a bomber escort mission wrote that his plance had been seriously damaged during a strafing attack on Jap machine-gun positions. Knowing that he could not escape crashing, he flipped the plane over on its back, wheeled sharply and came back over the target with all guns firing until the plane ploughed into the Jap-infested jungle.

 "He was not required by orders to attack the Jap position but he had spotted the machine gun nests and decided to destroy them in an effort to protect other flyers sent on missions over the area and he also accounted for many enemy dead and damage to the enemy position.

 "Upon his graduation from Mines in 1941 with a degree of Geological Engineer, Lt. Richards accepted a position with United Geophysical Company from which he secured a leave in March 1942 to enter the Service. He was in training at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center, Parks Air College, East St. Louis Army Air Field, Independence, Kansas, and the Advanced School at Eagle Pass, Texas where he received his commission and wings in July 1943.

 "He was then sent to the Air Base at Thomasville, Georgia with a fighter squadron and then to Tallahassee, Florida from which he was transferred to California last December and immediately sent overseas with a fighter group.

 "In June 1944 he was promoted to 1st Lt and was later decorated with the Air Medal for meritorious achievements in combat duty. He had 86 missions and 210 combat hours to his credit.

 "Lt Richards was born and reared in Woodston, Kansas. He was married September 13, 1942 to Miss Bonnie Baird or Denver who is now with her mother at 1684 Harrison Street, Denver. He is also survived by his mother, Mrs. Cora M. Richards of Lyons, Kansas, five sisters and five brothers."

Source: "The Mines Magazine," Nov 1944, pg 586, Colorado School of Mines Alumni, Denver.

The 39th Fighter Squadron (Cobras), 35th Fighter Group, at the time of Billy's death were at APO 920, Base H, Biak Island, Dutch New Guinea. In the Pacific they were the first to fly P-38 Lightnings and then the first to fly P-39 Cobras, and finally were flying P-47 Thunderbolts until the end of the War. Charles Lindbergh even visited the squadron to help them with the P-47 transition to learn fuel management techniques. Billy flew P-47 Thunderbolts.

The squadron diary records on 23 Aug 1944, Billy was an element leader with wingman Robert Rohrs in a flight of four led by Lee Grosshuesch. They each carried two 500 lb. bombs. Billy's P-47 "was heavily hit and crashed three miles North of Jefman Island," the target of their bombing mission that day. Diary source: Lewis Lockhart (also on the same mission that day - but an earlier flight.

 Bill R Pottorf was named after Billy and adds that "Billy was a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot and a flight leader in his squadron. He led them to the Japanese nest and was hit flying the plane into a loop above the nest and back into it, according to the pilots who followed him. They had been looking for that nest for some time, finally finding it. The Japanese were torturing the POWs then and Billy made a quick decision, the wrong one for us, but the right one for him and the rest of the country." Bill R. Pottorf, Colorado School of Mines Class of '65.

Letter to Mom
December 25, 1943
Port Moresby, New Guinea
The certificate above shows that Billy is one of the MIA/KIA soldiers honored there at Ft McKinley, Philippines. The American Cemetery in Ft McKinley is the largest cemetery in the Pacific for World War II deaths - It contains a Memorial for Missing in Action (tablets) - Billy's name and other MIAs are on these tablets, according to the American Battlefield Monuments Commission

Article in the Colorado School of Mines Alumni magazine in November, 1944.
Lt and Mrs Billy (Bonnie) Richards
Billy in a more pensive moment
Memorial information and photos were provided by David S. Elliott, CAPT, USN Retired (1Lt Billy E Richards was my great-uncle - the brother of my grandmother, Wilma "Pat" Richards McClain).
If you have any questions, corrections, or suggestions, please contact me via e-mail at (This is not a link - cut and paste).

MIA/KIA 3 mi. North of Jefman Island, Indonesia. (Plane and remains never found. 86 missions, 210 combat hours. Air Medal, Purple Heart.
Letter on MIA/KIA Circumstances