[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) applauded unanimous Senate approval of a bipartisan resolution he authored to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the tragic loss of the San Antonio Rose on January 5, 1943. The resolution honors the memory of the lost crew by pledging to continue the search to finally bring them home.
“I am honored to play a part in the commemoration of the heroes of the San Antonio Rose, who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation. With the passage of this bipartisan resolution, the Senate has reaffirmed our nation’s duty to fulfill the promise made to these brave Americans and their families by continuing the search to bring them home. Now, DoD must recommit to a devoted search and recovery mission to locate and return the remains of the crew of the San Antonio Rose,” Blumenthal said.
In addition to the resolution honoring the crew of the San Antonio Rose, Blumenthal led a bipartisan letter, joined by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Steve Daines (R-MT), calling on Kelly McKeague, the Director of the Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency to establish a devoted search and recovery mission to locate and return the remains of the crew. Blumenthal’s full letter to McKeague is available for download here.
The San Antonio Rose, a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber, was last sighted under heavy attack from Japanese fighters near what is now Papua New Guinea during World War II. All eleven crew members were declared missing in action, and subsequently declared killed in action. Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker, a Medal of Honor recipient and highest ranking officer missing in action during World War II was among those lost on the San Antonio Rose. His son Doug Walker now lives in New Canaan, Connecticut and has been leading efforts to encourage the search for remains of the plane and its crew.
“On behalf of the families of the crew of the San Antonio Rose and my father, I am very grateful for the tremendous help Sen. Blumenthal and his staff have provided to keep this plane and its history a subject that continues in importance through the today. Though the events of 5 Jan 43 occurred almost 75 years ago, their support has meant that this plane’s role in American history has been kept alive,” said Walker.
The resolution approved by the Senate today was co-sponsored by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Full text of the resolution follows.
Whereas, in 1943, the ongoing fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II was treacherous, a decisive outcome hung in the balance, and every victory against the Japanese contributed to the ultimate success in the region;
Whereas, on January 5, 1943, six B–17s of the 43rd Bombardment Group and six B–24s of the 90th Bombardment Group left from Port Moresby, New Guinea, to bomb shipping at Rabaul, New Britain, to break up a major Japanese reinforcement convoy;
Whereas, with the San Antonio Rose, B–17F (No. 41–24458), in the lead, the twelve bombers of the anti-shipping strike proceeded to Rabaul splitting the formation to target shipping in Blanche Bay, Simpson Harbor, Keravia Bay, and Vunapope;
Whereas the American attack surprised the Japanese, and they did not fire anti-aircraft artillery until after the American bombs had been successfully dropped on their targets;
Whereas, when bombers rejoined formation, the San Antonio Rose was no longer in the lead and did not rejoin the formation;
Whereas the San Antonio Rose was last reported to have smoke trailing from the aircraft while being pursued by Japanese fighters into the clouds heading south just east of Vunakanau, New Britain Island, in what is now Papua New Guinea;
Whereas the San Antonio Rose was never sighted again;
Whereas the crew onboard the San Antonio Rose were declared missing in action on January 5, 1943 and subsequently declared killed in action on December 12, 1945;
Whereas the members of the crew of the San Antonio Rose included—
Pilot, Major Allen Lindberg, New York, New York
Co-Pilot, Captain Benton H. Daniel, Hollis, Oklahoma
Bombardier, 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Hand, Fields Store, Texas
Navigator, 1st Lieutenant John W. Hanson, Missoula, Montana
Engineer, Technical Sergeant Dennis T. Craig, New York, New York
Radio, Staff Sergeant Quentin W. Blakely, Washington, District of Columbia
Gunner, Sergeant Leslie A. Stewart, East Chicago, Illinois
Gunner, Private First Class Leland W. Stone, Oakland, California
Gunner, Private First Class William G. Fraser, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
Observer, Lieutenant Colonel Jack W. Bleasdale, San Fernando, California
Observer, Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker, Cerillos, New Mexico; and
Whereas the crew of the San Antonio Rose, including Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker,
Medal of Honor recipient and highest ranking officer missing in action from World War II, have never been recovered and brought home to rest: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) recognizes that the heroic actions and selflessness of the crew of the San Antonio Rose, B–17F (No. 41–24458), led to lessons learned that directly impacted the success of subsequent missions, including the Battle of the Bismarck Sea;
(2) commemorates the 75th anniversary of the loss of the San Antonio Rose and its crew;
(3) expresses gratitude to the Airmen who served aboard the San Antonio Rose for their faithful service; and
(4) honors the memory of the crew of the San Antonio Rose with a pledge to never forget their sacrifice by encouraging the continued search and recovery of their remains, and to fulfill the promise to finally bring them home.