NOEL F. LEARNED, 2LT, USAF

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Birthdate & Date of Loss

Date of birth: 1920
Date of death: November 22, 1943
Age: ~23

Lucky Bag

Noel Fairfax Learned is listed on a page titled "Gone… But Ne'er Forgotten":

There were close to a thousand of us when we entered in June of 1940 and formed the new fourth class, the class of 1944. Now, as we graduate one year ahead of time, there are less than 800. But we who go to join the active service s are sure in our minds that our friends of fourth class summer who have left us at various stages of the course will find their place in the American Victory Machine, rolling relentlessly on to a triumph over the forces of evil that threaten the life and liberty we all hold so dear.

The Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy 1941-1942 lists him as "Deficient in studies, first term's work. Continued with class pending reexamination. Reexamined and again deficient. Recommended to be dropped. Permitted to resign." on March 7, 1941.

The Class of 1944 was graduated in June 1943 due to World War II. The entirety of 2nd class (junior) year was removed from the curriculum.

Loss

Noel was co-pilot of a B-25G Mitchell bomber that was shot down November 22, 1943 over Gasmata airfield in the South Pacific.

From Pacific Wrecks:

  • Pilot 1st Lt. Clifford A. Jaebker, O-795399 (KIA, BR)
  • Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Noel F. Learned, O-795778 (KIA, BR)
  • Navigator 2nd Lt Marek G. Pzegeo, O-672973 (KIA, BR)
  • Radio SSgt Henry B. Lang, 37373993 (KIA, BR)
  • Gunner SSgt Charles L. Hinsch, 32246203 (KIA, BR)

Crashed November 22, 1943

Aircraft History: Built by North American. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History: Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 822nd Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engines R-2600-13 serial numbers 43-24227 and 43-24228.

Mission History: On November 22, 1943 took off from Durand Field (17-Mile Drome) (Mission 325-H) near Port Moresby on a bombing mission against Gasmata Airfield and Linderhafen Plantation. Over Gasmata, this B-25 was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the right engine, that cause it to spiral into the ground and crash in flames onto Arwin Island.

1st Lt. C. S. Fuller reports in MACR 1171: "Lt. Jaebker was flying on my right wing constituting a two plane formation. We were at about 600 feet altitude getting our spacing for our first run on the target and in order to fall in behind the lead formation I had to make a 90° turn to the right. As I banked I looked over at Lt. Jaebker to see his position and I saw him shake his head and then slide under my plane and up in position on my left wing. Shortly after a slight turn to the left was necessary so once again I looked over at him. His plane was in a steep bank to the right and going down. The top hatch over the pilot’s compartment was gone and the cockpit looked as if it had been burned out. In the split second that I saw the plane before it passed under me the cockpit looked empty and the right engine was on fire. The plane then passed under me preventing further observation. I later saw a column of smoke about 500 ft. high coming from Arwin Island in the vicinity of where the ship went in a bank. Previous to my run on the target I noticed several bursts of ack ack coming from Gasmata air drome, but did not notice any bursts near our formation."

Search: During late March 1944, when the Australian Army occupied the Gasmata area, and a report by natives stated: two bombers came over Gasmata low and dropped their bombs. One was hit by enemy shore guns and caught fire, lost height and crashed into the mangroves of Arwin Island No airmen were seen to jump from the plane. The other plane flew over the ship and was set on fire and crashed into Gasmata Harbor. [Note: this reference to a second crash did not occur on the same day].

Wreckage: On September 22, 1944 Australian Army Patrol Officer (Kiap) Lt. W. A. J. Saville visited the crash site on Arwin Island. Lt. Saville located '264846' (USAAF Serial Number) on the cockpit dash board and reported the wreckage as mostly burned, but two main wheels were intact.

At the crash site, burnt bones were recovered and later turned over to the US Army HQ at Arawe, who assigned them unknown identities: X-22, X-23, X-24, X-25, X-26. It was deemed 'the condition of the remains does not warrant identification.' These remains were transported to Finschafen cemetery in American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) custody.

Possibly, this aircraft was again visited again in 1946 by RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle.

Today, the two engines remain at the site, and some other smaller pieces of wreckage on the northern side of Awrin Island (Awrin Island)

Noel is buried in Kentucky with the other members of his crew.

He enlisted in the Army as a Private on March 3, 1942 in Jackson, Michigan, from "civilian life." When he enlisted he was not married.

Memorial Hall Error

The US Air Force did not exist in 1943; his service should be US Army Air Forces—“USAAF”.


Class Navigation

Class of 1944
Noel is one of 66 members of the Class of 1944 in Memorial Hall.
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