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  PV-1 Ventura Bureau Number 34641 Number 31
USN
VB-139

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USN 1943

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CILHI 2002

Pilot  Lt. Walter S. Whitman, Jr., O-106381 USNR (MIA / KIA) Philadelphia, PA
Co-Pilot  Lt(jg) John W. "Moose" Hanlon, Jr. O-145441 USN (MIA / KIA) Worcester, MA
Navigator  AM2c Donald G. Lewallen, 5636083 USNR (MIA / KIA) Omaha, NB
Engineer  AMM2c Clarence C. Fridley, 3775592 USNR (MIA / KIA) Manhattan, MT
Radio  AR3c Samuel L. Crown, Jr., 6125394 USNR (MIA / KIA) Columbus, OH
Gunner  AO3c James S. Palko, 3292467 USN (MIA / KIA) Superior, WI
Gunner  AM2c Jack J. Parlier, 6693889 USNR (MIA / KIA) Decatur, IL

Crashed  March 25, 1944

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed at Burbank, CA. Constructors Number 237-5524. Assigned to the United States Navy (USN) to squadron VB-139. Squadron number 31, painted on the nose and tail. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
One of five Ventura bombers that took off from Attu Airfield on an "Empire Express" bombing and reconnaissance mission over Shumshu Island. Soon after take off, PV-1 Ventura 33343 Number 28 piloted by Lt. J. H. Moore crashed. In the face of extremely bad weather and hazardous flying conditions. Two Venturas were unable to reach the target area, jettisoned their bombs into the sea and returned to base, aborting the mission. About six hours into the mission, Attu radioed Whitman his bearing, this was the last contact with this bomber. Only one bomber successfully completed the mission.

This bomber failed to return and was last seen over Kamchatka. Possibly, hit by anti-aircraft fire over the northern Kurile Islands. The precise cause of the crash remains a mystery. Likely, the crew was looking for an emergency landing area in the Kamchatka area, in hopes of being aided by Soviet forces.

Search
When Whitman’s aircraft failed to return, an over water search was initiated by US Navy ships and aircraft over an area extending 200 miles from Attu, but no trace of the bomber was found.

Wreckage
In fact, this bomber crashed into the slope of the Mutnovskiy Volcano on Kamchatka Peninsula amid scrub brush. During winters, the aircraft was covered by snow.

During 1962, geologist Mikhail Khotin was the first to discover the aircraft.

The site was investigated by the Soviet KGB and military and unexploded munitions were detonated, breaking up the wreckage. The site was probably dispersed to disguise it from U.S. spy satellites.

Due to Cold War tensions, the crash site was not reported to the United States until 1992 by
historian Ms. Alla Paperno.

During August 7-9, 2000 a US Army CILHI team led by retired US Army Maj. Gen. Roland Lajoie, chairman of the US - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs (USRJC), and Col. Konstantin Golumbovskiy, the USRJC's deputy chairman visited the crash site. The engines shows damage, possibly caused by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. At least one live bomb was still present at the crash site.

During 2002, US Army CILHI, recovered small bone fragments, artifacts and air crew related items assumed to be those of the crew, including a 1943 nickel. The recovered remains were transported to the CILHI Laboratory for mDNA testing against relatives of the crew.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead on January 16, 1946. All are memorialized at the courts of the missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).

After the recovery of remains, on November 20, 2003 the crew was buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60 site 8249.

Lewallen has a memorial marker at Valley View Cemetery in Torrington, WY.
Parlier has a memorial marker at Mount Sterling City Cemetery in Mount Sterling, IL

Relatives
Frances Williams McClain (aunt of Whitman)
Charlotte Davis (sister of Jack Parlier)

References
PBS/NOVA Last Flight of Bomber 31 covers the history of this aircraft and its MIA recovery
The Last Flight of Bomber 31 page 296
DoD "Remains of WWII US Bomber Crew Found in Russia" August 11, 2000
AP "Navy plane wreckage found 56 years later" August 12, 2000
FindAGrave - Walter Whitman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John W. Hanlon (grave photo
FindAGrave - Donald G. Lewallen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Donald Lewallen (memorial photo)
FindAGrave - Clarence C. Fridley (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Samuel L. Crown (grave photo)
FindAGrave - James S. Palko (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Jack J. Parlier (grave photo, photo)
FindAGrave - Jack J. Parlier (memorial photo, photo)
Arlington Cemetery - United States Navy Aircrew 25 March 1944

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Last Updated
January 1, 2014

 

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