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  A-24 Dive Bomber Serial Number 41-15766  
5th AF
3rd BG
8th BS

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John Douglas 1999

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John Douglas 2005
Pilot  2nd Lt Claude L. Dean, O-429921 (MIA / KIA July 30, 1942, BR) TX
Gunner  Sgt Allan W. La Rocque, 6976689 (
MIA / KIA July 30, 1942, BR)
Crashed  July 29, 1942
MARC  none

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Constructors Number 822. On December 21, 1941 a Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-24-DE Dauntless at Savannah, GA. Next to McCellan Airfield between January 7, 1942 to January 29, 1942. On February 25 1942 assigned to "X" then disassembled and shipped to "Sumac" (Australia) and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 8th Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot Holcombe. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On July 29, 1942 one of eight A-24 dive bombers that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Dean on a mission to dive bomb Japanese transports off Gona. They were escorted by P-39 Airacobras from the 41st Fighter Squadron flying top cover, and P-39 Airacobras from the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron flying close escort.

Inbound to the target, one A-24 aborted the mission, and the remaining seven A-24s proceeded to the north coast of New Guinea to bomb Japanese transports roughly twenty miles north of Gona, 1 1/4 miles offshore.

As they started their dive bombing runs, A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai escorting the convoy intercepted the formation. The A-24s dive-bombed in two waves. The first wave: A-24 41-15797 (shot down), A-24 piloted by Hill (heavily damaged and force landed at Fall River) and A-24 piloted by Raymond Wilkins (the only aircraft to return to 7-Mile). The second wave of four aircraft: A-24 41-15819, A-24 41-15766, A-24 piloted by Cassels and A-24 piloted by Parker were all shot down.

A bomb from the second wave hit the Kotoku Maru in the no. 5 hatch, forcing its troops to unload and leave cargo undelivered. Afterwards, all the Japanese vessels departed for Lae.

This aircraft was damaged and both crew members bailed out and landed safely.

Fates of the Crew
Friendly natives led both crew to the Australian Army spotters in the vicinity of Ambasi. On July 30, 1942, a radio report was received from Ambasi stating that four aircrew were safe and that Japanese patrols were in the vicinity. The radio went off the air suddenly. and never came back on.

3rd Bombardment Group, Headquarters reported a radio message from the survivors on July 30, 1942:
Radio report received advised that four [Dean, La Rocque, Parker and Hoppe] were safe and that Japanese patrols were in the vicinity. The radio went off the air suddenly, and never came on the air again."

3rd Bombardment Group Headquarters reported a radio message from the survivors:
"...crash landed on the north coast of New Guinea near Ambasi due to interception. Radio report received advised that four were safe and that Japanese patrols were in the vicinity. The radio went off the air suddenly, and never came on the air again."

The group of Australians and Americans attempted to bypass the Japanese and reach safety. On August 2, 1942 they were joined by Reverend James Benson and two sisters from the Gona Mission Station. The group was on the run until August 8, 1942 when the group was ambushed by the Japanese and all killed or executed. Only Reverend James Benson was taken prisoner and survived the war.

During 1999, this aircraft was discovered in a sago swamp by wreck tecs on behalf of John Douglas who visited the site during 1999 and 2005 with authors Larry Hickey and Edward Rogers.

The crew were officially declared dead on July 30, 1942. Postwar, their remains were located and recovered. Buried on April 26, 1950 in a group burial at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery at section I, graves 109-110 along with Cpl Franklyn R. Hoppe gunner A-24 piloted by Parker.

Dean also has a memorial marker at Kaufman Cemetery in Kaufman, TX.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-24-DE Dauntless 41-15766
"15766 SOC Nov 7, 1942"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - A-24 Dauntless piloted by Dean
Prisoners Base and Home Again mentions this crew
FindAGrave - Claude L Dean (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Claude Lee Dean (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Allan W La Rocque (grave photo)
Thanks to John Douglas, Edward Rogers and Larry Hickey for additional information.

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020


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