Fred Thomas Diggs was born on 7 April 1917 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Joseph Henry Diggs and Amanda Lou Cable.
Died 1 January 1943, Southwest Pacific
Awarded the Purple Heart

Staff Sergeant 319th Bomber Squadron, 90th Bomber Group Jolly Rogers, 5th Air Force

S/Sgt Diggs was a Gunner on aircraft B-24D with serial number 41-23752. He was a member of Philip Kuhl’s crew. His plane ‘Crosair’ was borrowed from the 310th Bomber Squadron for a single plane raid on Vunakanu airfield. Returning to the base after mission, the plane experienced engine problems and had to be ditched.

S/Sgt Diggs was initially buried at the USAF Cemetery Finschaffen No. 2, New Guinea.

The 319th, 90th Bomb Group borrowed “Crosair” from the 320th Bomb Squadron for a single plane raid on Vunakanu Airfield near Rabaul. Crosair was lost returning from the mission. The Aircraft had departed Iron Range, Australia on the 31st December and staged through Port Moresby. There is one MIA on board Sgt Carol E. Domer the tail turret gunner. Its pilot, Major was awarded the silver Star for his service at Midway.

After attacking Vunakanu Airfield, this B-24 turned south at 9,000 feet. Approximately one-hour later No. 4 engine quit and could not be restarted. Soon after No. 4 failed No. 3 engine also quit. Suddenly, from 9,000′ Crosair was down to 500′ over St George’s Channel and barely maintaining air speed. Orders to bail out were rescinded. All guns, ammo, parachutes, were jettisoned, as “Crosair” headed to Milne Bay.

Dawn found Crosair with Kawa Island when the No. 1 and 2 engines ran away and had to be shut down after the governors gave out. Major Kuhl put the plane into a steep glide, leveling out skimming the surface before impacting tail first. The two waist gunners were wounded and one died from wounds suffered in the ditching. The survivors got into two life rafts and landed on Kawa where men of the Australian Army Spotters stationed met them. From there they boarded a motor launch and headed south to rendezvous with a Sunderland flying boat at Goodenough Island, then flown to Milne Bay. On the way to Goodenough the other severely wounded crew member succumbed to his wounds. The surviving crew was later flown back to Iron Range.

Rod Pearce captain of MV Barbarian II, first heard about “Crosair” while looking for another aircraft, Beaufort A9-217 in the same area of the Trobriand Islands. He first dove the wreck in 2002. Don Fetterly did research to help locate and identify the wreck.

  • Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Date of birth:
  • 7 April 1917
  • Date of death: 1 January 1943
  • County: Washington
  • Hometown: Butler
  • Service Branch: Army/Army Air Forces
  • Division/Assignment: 319th Bomber Squadron, 90th Bomber Group
  • Theater: Pacific
  • Conflict: World War II
  • Awards: Purple Heart
  • Burial/Memorial Location: Knoxville National Cemetery, Knoxville, TN
  • Location In Memorial: Pillar XIX, Bottom Panel
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