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  B-24D-1-CO "Big Emma" Serial Number 41-23751  
USAAF
5th AF
90th BG
321st BS

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USAAF c1943

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Bruce Hoy 1973
Pilot  2nd Lt. John T. Moller, O-791231 (KIA, BR) Mt. Vernon, NY
Crew  1st Lt. Stanley D. Whitney Jr., O-662324 (KIA, BR) Alameda, CA
Crew  1st Lt. Hobert H. Thompson, O-727585 (KIA, BR) Harris, MO
Crew  2nd Lt. Olyn H. Hill, O-134561 (KIA, BR) Louisville, MS
Crew  2nd Lt. Leonard H. Weiler, O-673653 (KIA, BR) New Orleans, LA
Crew  TSgt Harold E. Hampsmire, 17031059 (KIA, BR) Hull, IL
Crew  TSgt Morris E. Acuff, 14044136 (KIA, BR) Eustis, FL
Crew  SSgt Harris H. "Skippy" Horder, 10641078 (KIA, BR) Ervington, NJ
Crew  SSgt Kosta Giannaras, 15087742 (KIA, BR) Whitesville, WV
Crew  SSgt Edward D. Rogers, 16023261 (KIA, BR) Ashland, WI
Crew  SSgt William Saltzman, 36045293 (KIA, BR) Chicago, IL
Crew  SSgt Joseph G. Barry, 17035379 (KIA, BR) Jefferson County, IL
Crashed  August 8, 1943
MACR  15575

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 546. During July 1942 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-1-CO Liberator serial number 41-23751.

On September 12, 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG), 321th Bombardment Squadron (321st BS) to pilot Leroy C. "Ivy" Iverson who ferried this bomber from Hamilton Field via Hickam Field and Kipapa Gulch Field on Oahu then overseas across the Pacific Ocean via Christmas Island Airfield, Samoa, Nadi Airfield and Plaine Des Gaiacs Airfield before reaching Amberley Field at Brisbane in Australia.

Wartime History
This aircraft was one of the first B-24D Liberators to arrive in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). While waiting for ten days at Amberley Field, tail gunner Jack R. Cantrell painted the nose art of a fanged black cat riding a bomb on the left side of the nose. Afterwards, operated from Mareeba Airfield and Iron Range Airfield. Later, the nickname "Big Emma" on the right side of the nose in white block letters. On the frame of the pilot's window was "Ivy", the nickname of pilot Leroy C. Iverson. Later, below the cockpit was a scoreboard of bombs indicating combat missions and enemy aircraft claimed.

On November 16, 1942 at Iron Range Airfield shortly after midnight, while taking off, B-24D "Bombs To Nip On" 41-23942 collided with this B-24, damaging it. Also damaged were B-24D 41-23765 and B-24D 41-23812, both later repaired. Destroyed was B-17F 41-24522.

Afterwards, this bomber was repaired and continued flying combat missions from Australia over New Guinea. At some point, the left tail fin from B-24D 41-23764 was used as a replacement right tail fin for this bomber. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 15575 (MACR 15575).

Mission History
On August 8, 1943 took off from 5 Mile Drome (Wards Drome) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. John T. Moller on a patrol mission off the north coast of New Guinea. After completed the mission, this bomber was returning to Port Moresby when it experienced terrible weather conditions. The last radio message was to Port Moresby to requesting them to "turn on searchlights". Unable to see them, pilot Moller radioed his crew would bail out. That was the last radio message received from the bomber.

In fact, this B-24 crashed into a mangrove swamp roughly a quarter mile from the south coast of New Guinea, possibly attempting to ditch into shallow water near Galley Reach (Fairfax Station) to the west of Port Moresby. The entire crew was killed in the crash.

Recovery of Remains
When U. S. Army personnel reached the crash site they discovered the entire crew had perished. They used a water pump to drain the sea water from the mangrove swamp to search for and recover the remains of the crew. Postwar, the remains of the crew were transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Wreckage
Until the early 1970s, the wreckage of this bomber remained in situ in a mangrove swamp. The crash site included the tail section with serial number "123764" on the right side of the tail fin from B-24D 41-23764.

Bruce Hoy adds:
"This aircraft is lying in the same position as described in the various reports and is the only aircraft in that vicinity. Attached is a black and white image showing its serial number [stenciled on the inside part of the right tail fin]. I also have a side view photograph somewhere, taken of the aircraft at Wards Drome. I must have taken two cameras with me as I also have a series of slides taken with Kodachrome Colour Slide film. Getting out to this crash site was one I would never wish to repeat. Each step and my legs disappeared almost up to my knees. The mosquitoes were prolific, and we were both very concerned should we encounter a crocodile. The serial number was also painted on the inboard of the starboard tail fin. The aircraft is in the location where the bodies were recovered. You can see the inboard serial number with my fellow traveler being Monty Armstrong. I have another taken of the outboard of the same fin, but the serial does not show very clearly due to excessive corrosion."

During the 1990s, locals cut up and removed most of the bomber's aluminum for scrap metal. All that remains today are the larger metal pieces including both main undercarriage legs, a piece of armor plate and other smaller wreckage.

Justin Taylan adds:
"I visited this crash site in 2014 and all that remains are the larger pieces submerged in the mangrove swamp including the landing gear, engines and a piece of armor plate and other smaller pieces of wreckage. Most of the aluminum was scrapped by local people."

Memorials
The entire crew was declared dead the day of the mission. Each crew member earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Four of the crew were permanently buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Moller at plot A row 0 grave 95. Acuff at plot B row 0 grave 11297. Horder at plot P row 0 grave 555. Barry at plot C row 1 grave 612.

The rest of the crew are buried in their hometowns in the United States:
Whitney is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, CA at the main mausoleum garden terrace C-248 T-2.
Hill is buried at Corinth National Cemetery in Corinth MS at section D site 5829.
Weiler is buried in May 1949 at Cypress Grove Cemetery in New Orleans, LA.
Giannaras is buried at Lawson Cemetery in Boone County, WV.
Rogers is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Ashland, WI.
Saltzman is buried at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery in Forest Park, IL.
Hampsmire is buried in Akers Chapel Cemetery in Hull, IL.
Thompson is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Coldwater, KS.

Relatives
Cynthia Trenkamp (niece of Hampsmire)

References
Note, the serial number of this bomber is often confused with B-24D Liberator 41-23764 in published sources
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John T. Moller
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Stanley D. Whitney Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Hobert H. Thompson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Olyn H. Hill
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Leonard H. Weiler
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harold D. Hampsmire middle inital listed incorrectly as "D" [sic E]
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Morris E. Acuff
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harris H. Horder
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Kosta Giannaras
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Edward D. Rogers
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William Saltzman
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph G. Barry
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-5-CO Liberator 41-23751
Missing Air Crew Report 15575 (MACR 15575) created circa 1946 does not list B-24 serial number nor any of the engines or weapon serial numbers
The Western Star "Lt. Hobert Thompson is Missing In Action" August 27, 1943
"Lieut. Thompson was one of the American fliers who sank all 22 of the Jap invasion fleet in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, the most stinging defeat the Japanese had yet suffered. Not an enemy ship, including thousands of Japanese soldiers, escaped. Hobert wrote home, "Don't forget to remind me to tell you about March 3d and 4th when I get home."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24 Liberator "Big Emma" 41-23764 [sic 41-23751]
Bruce Hoy adds: "Claringbould's books, Forty of the Fifth and The Forgotten Fifth gives two identities for "Big Emma". The first book lists 41-23751 and the second 41-23764.  Peter Dunn's website makes reference to a combat diary which quotes Iverson as the pilot for 41-23751 with the nickname “Big Emma”, although the two pages of a diary that was pictured on the web page do not give a corresponding nickname in the same manner that several other B-24s have had their nicknames mentioned, B-24D "Pudgy" 41-23830 and B-24D "Patches" 41-23673 although when these names were added and who actually added these names is unknown.  Other pages in that diary may mention 41-23751 as being "Big Emma". Neither of the published histories, John Alcorn’s The Jolly Rogers or Wiley Woods Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group quote the serial number of Big Emma, although Wiley in a letter to me mentions both the serial number and nickname."
Forty of the Fifth (1999) page 58 - 62 sample chapter lists B-24 "Big Emma" serial number as 41-23751
The Forgotten Fifth (2007) lists B-24D "Big Emma" serial number as 41-23764 [sic 41-23751]
The Jolly Rogers (1981) mentions this aircraft, does not list the serial number
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group (1997) mentions this aircraft, does not list the serial number
Oz@War - 16 November 1942 crash of a B-24 Liberator at iron Range 4 aircraft destroyed 11 men killed
FindAGrave - John T Moller (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Stanley Daniel Whitney, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT Hobert Harvey Thompson (obituary, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Olyn H Hill (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Leonard Hugo Weiler (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harold E. Hampsmire (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Morris E Acuff (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harris H Horder (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Kosta Giannaras (photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Edward D. Rogers (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William Saltzman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joseph G Barry (grave photo)
AviationHeritage - Harris H. Horder (photo)
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Pete Johnson and John Douglas for additional information

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Last Updated
March 12, 2020

 

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