One of the saddest days of my overseas carreer was 4/14/44. My crew was assigned to search for a crew which had been seen getting out of an A-20 and into a life raft after a forced landing in the water off the coast of New Guinea south of Hollandia the previous afternoon.
Our B-25 flew cover for a Catalina PBY flying boat, and because of our greater speed we were able to make S S curves covering more area while keeping the "Cat" in sight. After about an hour of searching, we spotted the two crewmen in a life raft. Circling the raft, we signaled the "Cat", which landed and picked the survivors.
The weather was overcast and a rather stiff wind was blowing and the "Cat" had a difficult time getting airborne because of the heavy seas. It finally got off but when about 50 feet up, it suddenly stalled and and crashed into the sea, exploding into a huge fireball. I broke radio silence to call our base and after a second explanation of what happened we were told a second "Cat" was being sent out and we should continue to circle the site until it arrived.
We flew as low as possible to check thecrash and could see some debris in the water, but no survivors. The second Cat arrived, landed and searched the area but unfortunately with no better luck.
This tragic event demonstrated one of the big reasons for the high morale of air crews in the SWPA-in this case ten Cat members gave their lives in an attempt to rescue two downed airmen. Most of our missions were planned leaving the target area over water since if a plane went down, the chance of crew survival and rescue were very good, a fact to which I can attest since I was one of the fortunate ones who survivedd because of the tactic and was recued by a Cat earlier just off Kavieng, New Ireland.