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WWII Co-Pilot Donn C. Young remembered

November 10, 2012
Times Leader

DILLONVALE - On Jan. 18, 1943, Major Donn C. Young and his crew were missing in action while piloting a flight over New Guinea. The B-25 aircraft "Algernon IV" crashed in the jungle - lost in bad weather and due to enemy fire. They joined many other American aircraft lost on the mountainous, undeveloped island of New Guinea.

A monument honoring Major Donn C. Young and his heroic crew is erected in the Highland Cemetery located in Mount Pleasant. The monument listing the missing "Algernon IV" crew consists of the following officers: Pilot Major William G. Benn, Washington, Pa.; Co-Pilot Major Donn C. Young, Mount Pleasant; Engineer Cpl LaVerne D. Van Dyke, Zeeland, Mich.; Gunner Sgt Wilfred D. Coyer, Dunham, Ky.; Gunner Sgt Herman H. Elsner, Hemlock, Mich.; Gunner S/Sgt Michael Ewas, Detroit, Mich.; Observer Lt Col. Dan B. Searcy, Lewisville, Ark.

As written by Commander Charles Strizak in the Dillonvale American Legion McCook Post #529 Album of Honor 60th Year Memorial Dedication, Major Donn C. Young was born on Sept. 5, 1905 in Ramsey, Ohio. The Young family moved to Dillonvale where Donn was raised, living at the corner of Watson and Main Streets. Young attended grade school in the Dillonvale public school system, attended Mount Pleasant High School his freshman year and graduated from Dillonvale High School in May 1923. After high school, Young attended both the Ohio State University and Ohio University.

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This photo, credited to the USAAF in 1942, shows B-25C “Algernon IV” parked at Port Moresby in New Guinea.

In 1929, Young was employed by the Ford Motor Company in Chicago and was the chief instructor at the Ford Lancing Airport. He enlisted in the Illinois National Guard in 1938. He loved to fly and at one point, in 1932, he landed an old "American Eagle 1" on the field behind the Dillonvale school buildings. Young joined the Army Air Corp in 1941.

Young received his military training at Camp McCoy, Wis., Murfreesboro, Tenn. and Savannah, Ga., before being transferred to San Francisco, Calif. While in Savannah in December 1941, Lieutenant Young was named the engineer officer of the Third Bomber Group. On Jan. 30, 1942 as a Lieutenant, Young left San Francisco to fight in the Pacific Theater of Operation. After 41 days at sea, he arrived in Australia. He was attached to the 13th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Group (Medium), (ADVON) Advanced Echelon, 5th Air Force, Charters Towers, Australia, where he served as an Air Corps Operation Officer, until June 25, 1942.

It didn't take long before Young grew tired of office administrative work. After six months of this duty, Lieutenant Young was promoted to Captain and was able to obtain a plot's assignment on missions to New Guinea and New Britain. With six months of this duty under his belt, Donn C. Young was officially notified of his promotion to Major on Jan. 7, 1943.

As a Major, Young was transferred to New Guinea and assigned to fly a B-25C-NA, "Algernon IV" and Aircraft Tail #41-12485. Young and his crew and Captain flew on numerous missions and were involved in several air battles, but none were found to be recorded, except for the last flight.

According to Pacific, the B-25 aircraft was built by North America and assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 13th Bombardment Squadron. The B-25 was nicknamed by Captain Ronald Hubbard "Algernon IV" after the hot rod he drove as a teenager before joining the Army. Its wartime history is it was flown by Captain Ronald Hubbard during the summer and fall of 1942. He eventually became the commanding officer (C.O.) of the 3rd Bombardment Group, 90th Bombardment Squadron.

The January 1943 mission commenced as the "Algernon IV" took off from 7-mile Drome near Port Moresby at 0945 hours to conduct an aerial reconnaissance of the New Guinea coast from Buna to Gona. No reports were ever received from this aircraft after take-off.

On Jan. 20, 1943, B-25s from the 71st Bomb Squadron conducted a search mission in the area but failed to find the aircraft.

The wreckage of the "Algernon IV" was discovered by a New Guinea kiap patrol from Tapini during August 1956, when two bodies were recovered. That patrol concluded that the pilot flew blind into a valley and crashed.

During January 1957, RAAF Searcher team led by S/L Keith Rundle investigated the wreckage and was of the opinion that this crash was caused by enemy action (bullet holes and evidence that the port engine was out; prop full feathered and starboard controls to "full rich"). The team recovered six sets of remains: five identified and one unidentified.

The investigation was reported to the US Air Attache on Feb. 13, 1957, who radioed the Chief of Staff, USAF, stating that the wreckage had been found at approximately 08.01S 146.52E (upper Bubu Valley in the Mount Strong area), and that six bodies were reported recovered, together with personal identification for five persons. Remains of Major Donn C. Young, along with the other crew members were interred, as a group burial, in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Section I, Grave 260-K, on July 30, 1957.

Fifty years later, a Philadelphia businessman named Alfred Hagen embarked on an epic quest to rediscover (originally discovered August 1956) plane wreck B-25C "Algernon IV" 41-12485. In 1998, Hagen visited the crash site and removed several artifacts, including a machine gun, instrument panel and propeller blade that he took with him back to his home in Philadelphia. He also recovered the dog tag of Donn C. Young.

Hagen is the great-nephew of Major William G. Benn, Algernon pilot. Hagen's search as he relocated and visited the B-25's wreck was televised as a History Channel documentary titled "B-25 Down: Hunt For A Hero."



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