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Don Fetterly Jan 2002
Rod Pearce Dec 2011
Robert Halstead Dec 2011
U.S. Senator Moran
May 31, 2021
|Pilot Major Philip J. Kuhl 319th BS (survived) Chicago, IL
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Charles F. Boster, 19065490 319th BS (survived) San Francisco, CA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. John Perakos, 11010845 319th BS (survived) New Britain, CT
Navigator 1st Lt. Alonzo D. Alexander, 35106880 319th BS (survived) Marrowbone, KY
Engineer SSgt Harold H. Helzer, 17040385 319th BS (survived) Lincoln, NB
Radio SSgt Earnest Ray Rhodes, 18054033 319th BS (survived) Wewoka, OK
Waist Gunner Sgt Theodore N. Elias, 39019186 319th BS (survived) Los Angeles, CA
Waist Gunner SSgt Fred T. Diggs, 39378195 319th BS (WIA, died of wounds, BR) Jonson City, TN
Tail Gunner Sgt Carol E. Domer, 36300581 319th BS (MIA / KIA, BNR) Centralia, KS
Ditched January 1, 1943
Built by Consolidated in San Diego using funds F-1 under order number W535-AC-4 DA at a cost of $289,276.00. On July 31, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-5-CO Liberator serial number 41-23752.
On August 11, 1942 flown to St. Paul, MN for modifications including the addition of extra windows on the left side of the nose. On September 4, 1942 assigned to the 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG). On September 14, 1942 flown to Hamilton Field. On September 19, 1942 flown to Sacramento Air Depot (SAD) and assigned to the 320th Bombardment Squadron (320th BS). Nicknamed "Crosair".
On September 22, 1942 flown back to Hamilton Field in preparation to be flown to "Maestro" (Hawaii). Instead, on October 3, 1942 flown to Wright Field then Fairfield Air Depot (FAD) then back to Hamilton Field on October 8, 1942.
On October 10, 1942 took off from Hamilton Field as part of a formation of 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG) bound for Hickham Field. On November 11, 1942 departed Hickham Field on a ferry flight across the Pacific to Australia.
On December 31, 1942, this bomber was borrowed by Major Philip J. Kuhl and his crew from the 319th Bombardment Squadron (319th BS) and took off from Iron Range Airfield then landed at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby to stage for a bombing mission scheduled for early the next morning.
On January 1, 1943 took off for 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Major Philip J. Kuhl on a bombing mission against Vunakanu Airfield near Rabaul. After releasing their bombs, tthe formation turned south for the return flight.
Approximately an hour later, the no. 4 engine quit and could not be restarted. Soon afterwards, the no. 3 engine also quit. Suddenly, "Crosair" descended from an altitude of 9,000' down to 500' over St. George's Channel and barely maintained enough air speed to remain airborne. Attempting to reach Milne Bay, many of the bomber's machine guns, boxes of belted ammunition and parachutes were jettisoned in an attempt to lighten the bomber.
At dawn, "Crosair" was near Kawa Island when the no. 1 and no. 2 engines ran away when the governors gave out and had to be shut down. Major Kuhl put the B-24 into a steep glide, leveling out and skimming the surface of the sea before ditching, tail first. During the landing, waist gunner SSgt Fred T. Diggs was severely injured and tail gunner Sgt Carol E. Domer went Missing In Action (MIA) and was presumed to have gone down with plane.
The eight surviving crew deployed both life rafts and attempted to paddle to nearby Kawa Island. Assisted by friendly natives in two canoes the crew were towed to shore where they were met by Australian Army spotters (members of the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company) who provided motor launch Markek to transport them to Kiriwina Island. While in transit, Diggs succumbed to his injuries and died. Around 5pm while Markek was off Kaileuna Island, the vessel was spotted by S.23 "Camilla" VH-ADU which landed and took the survivors aboard then flew them to Milne Bay. Later, they were flown back to their home base at Iron Range Airfield and returned to duty.
During 2000, Rodney Pearce captain of MV Barbarian II learned about the existence of this aircraft from local villagers while searching for Beaufort A9-217 in the same area of the Trobriand Islands.
On January 10, 2002 at 8:05am Rodney Pearce was the first to locate and SCUBA dive this bomber. This B-24 is rests on a flat sandy bottom at 100' depth with little marine growth. The entire bottom of the plane was torn apart during the ditching. The impact folded the tail section over the fuselage, leaving it attached by only the roof. The wings and engines are present. Several machine guns were still in the nose, indicating that every weapon was not jettisoned before the ditching.
Domer was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. To this day, he remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. Domer also has a memorial marker in Centralia Cemetery in Centralia, Kansas. On May 24, 2009 another memorial marker, memorial bench and memorial plaque were dedicated at the Seneca's Veterans Wall (Nemaha County Veterans Memorial Wall) at Nemaha County Veterans’ Memorial in Seneca, Kansas. On May 31, 2021 a memoral service will be held at Nemaha County Veterans’ Memorial attended by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran to present the ring found inside the bomber to the Domer family. Also in attandance was Justin Taylan of Pacific Wrecks.
Diggs was officially declared dead the day of the mission. His remains were recovered and postwar he was buried at Knoxville National Cemetery in Knoxville, TN at section B site 6604.
Previously, Major Philip J. Kuhl earned the Silver Star for his service at Midway. Kuhl retired from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and participated in Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a Colonel. He passed away on February 8, 2010. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 59, grave 4191.
Perakos passed away on October 15, 2010. He is buried at Fairview Cemetery in New Britain, CT.
Rhodes passed away on November 26, 2010. He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Wewoka, OK.
Rose Domer (sister in law of Carol E. Domer)
Robin "Bob" Rice Domer, III (nephew of Carol E. Domer) Nephew Burleson, Texas
Dr. Dennis Domer (nephew of Carol E. Domer) retired Kansas University Professor. Lawrence, Kansas
"I was stationed at Clark Field in the 13th Air Force as an aide to a three star general. I once went to Manila Cemetery and saw his name on the tablets of the missing."
Ken Domer (nephew of Carol E. Domer) retired from The First National Bank of Spearville, KS
"Carol E. Domer was my father's brother, his name was Robin R. Domer. My father died in 1995, before he died he gave a DNA sample. My mother is the last remaining relative to have known him."
Gary Domer (nephew of Carol E. Domer) Insurance Executive, Topeka, Kansas
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-175-CO Liberator 41-23752
"23752 (90th BG, 319th BG) ditched off Kawa Island Jan 1, 1943 during raid on Rabaul. Tail gunner MIA, 2 waist gunners killed in ditching. Survivors were flown back to base. Found Jan 12, 2002 in 90 feet of water."
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-24D Liberator 41-23752
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 41-23752
Centralia Journal "Carol Eugene Domer Missing In Action" January 29, 1943
Centralia Journal "Flag flies for Carol Domer" Spring 1942
Under the Southern Cross page 158
The War Diaries of Eddie Allan Stanton pages 109-110
"Friday - 1 January 1943 Louisa - Trobriand Islands 4 P.M. a large flying boat (4-engined) [S.23 "Camilla" VH-ADU] went very low all around us. This sudden renewal of allied air activity around us made us wonder what was up. At 5:15 pm sighted the 4-engined Flying Boat proceeding towards Milne Bay.
The 'Markek' came in at 6:15 pm with flag at half-mast. Had someone died? The answer was not long in forthcoming. Corporal B. Jones reported that a Liberator bomber (B-24) [B-24D 41-23752] had crashed into the sea near Kawa on its return from Rabaul. Short of petrol.
Ordinarily, we would have taken Jones out to Kawa, but today, well we just didn't go. And just to annoy us, something like this had to happen. The plane had gone under and 10 airmen got on a rubber raft. One remained in the plane, dead! 'Marek' went out and rescued them.
'Marek' was bringing the 10 on to us when just off Kaileuna, about 5 p.m., the 4-engined Flying Boat landed and took them aboard. It had been sent out to rescue them. However, one airman died on our launch. They took him, with the 9 others, aboard the Flying Boat, which then proceeded to Milne Bay. This is one occasion when '. . . all out planes returned safely' can not be borne out by fact.
. . . The Flying Boat had been anchored off Bau for an hour."
ANGAU War Diary for January 1943
"Jan 1 Trobiands Losuia Lt Whitehouse reports Corporal Jones returning from Kawa tied up at Lousia Wharf at 1800 hours. Intimated a USA Bomber [B-24D "Crosair" 41-23752] crashed of Matagina Island early this morning. Eleven nonconstituted personnel under the command of Maj Kuhl. One man presumably trapped in aircraft sank when it took final plunge into aprox 24 feet of shark infested waters. These men were picked up by MV Laurabada. Bobedi, Bulumvari and Vasela, Lelata and Boderi both canoes towed the rubber dinghy back to [land?] when the "Marek" with Cpl Jones and Sig. M.V. Elliott intercepted them. Lieutenant Whtehouse recommends six natives be rewarded. He also recorded the devotion to duty of members of the launch "Marek" Lotis, Canawi , Soluvoi and Saimoni, of whom Cpl Jones said that they did everything possible."
Challenging Horizons: Qantas 1939-1945 (1987) page 91
"There were many individual flights that characterized the Qantas front-line involvement. On 1 January 1943, Captain Crowther [William H. "Bill" Crowther] in Camilla [S.23 "Camilla" VH-ADU] flew north from Milne Bay to the Trobriand Group to pick up the crew of a US Fortress [sic] which had been forced down.
On 5 January [sic, 1] Crowther, again in Camilla, operated another trip to the Trobriands to pick up the crew of a Liberator bomber that had crashed. A party of nine, including one dead [S/Sgt Fred T. Diggs] and three seriously injured, was flown back to Milne Bay."
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Charles F. Boster
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - John Perakos
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Alonzo D. Alexander
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harold H. Helzer
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Earnest Ray Rhodes
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Theodore N. Elias
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Fred T. Diggs
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Carol E. Domer
JollyRogersWeb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - Kuhl, Philip J.
JollyRogersWebb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - 2nd Lt Charles F. Boster
JollyRogersWebb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - John Perakos
JollyRogersWebb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - Alonzo D. Alexander
JollyRogersWebb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - Harold H. Helzer
JollyRogersWebb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - Earnest Ray Rhodes
JollyRogersWebb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - Theodore N. Elias
JollyRogersWebb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - Fred T. Diggs
JollyRogersWeb.com - Jolly Rogers Who's Who - Carol E. Domer
Legacy.com - Obituary Philip J. Kuhl via Houston Chronicle Feb. 21-22, 2010
FindAGrave - Philip J. Kuhl (photo)
FindAGrave - John Perakos
FindAGrave - Fred T. Diggs (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Earnest Ray Rhodes
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Carol E. Domer
FindAGrave - Sgt Carol E Domer (tablets of the missing)
The Spearville News "Crosair's Last Flight" [Part 1] by Jim Suber December 26, 2002
The Spearville News "Crosair's Last Flight" [Part 2] by Jim Suber January 2, 2003
The Spearville News "Crosair's Last Flight" [Part 3] by Jim Suber January 9, 2003
Expedition to Document B-24D "Crosair" 41-23752 by Don Fetterly
Crosair's Last Flight by Earnest Ray Rhodes, 2002
Nemaha County Journal-Leader "Sgt. Domer remembered by family and friends" May 29, 2003
Jolly Rogers Newsletter, February 2013
"Charlie requested that I try and get an update on the recovery of Crosair which went down on the first of January 1943. I contacted the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and they advised that plans to visit the site of the airplane crash to investigate have been postponed. They reported that in the future JPAC must conduct a marine survey and map a safe passage so that a large salvage vessel may safely enter these largely uncharted waters. They advise that at this time they do not have a timeframe for conducting the required marine survey to access the site."
Niugini Blue "Kawa Island Resting Place For Wartime Liberator" by Rod Pearce photos by Bob Halstead January 2015 Volume 26 pages 44-48
The National "US navy in search of those killed in World War II" January 21, 2016
"A UNITED States navy ship is conducting an underwater mission in Milne Bay following reports of a plane wreck believed to be owned by the US army in the area.
The crew on the vessel Safeguard, part of the Pacific fleet based in Saipan, had been carrying out the mission near Kawa Island in the Trobriands since January 15.
Joses Veleke, the liaison officer of the Defence Prisoner of War/Accounting Agency with the US Embassy, said the underwater mission was conducted at the primary crash site.
The wreck is believed to be that of a B24 bomber shot down during World War Two as it was returning to the Kiriwina base after operations in Rabaul.
Veleke said investigations were made possible by a local dive company which captured images of the war relic and posted them online.
“According to historians, the pictures of the crash site posted online matched the verbal descriptions by one of the survivors of that particular plane crash who was listed as missing in action,” Veleke said.
“Divers will investigate and identify the remains of nine soldiers who were believed to be on that fateful flight.
“Once confirmed they will commence with the second phase, the excavation exercise to reclaim the remains (which) will be taken to Hawaii for DNA testing. The US Navy has nothing to do with the wreck.
They are only interested in the remains of the soldiers,” Veleke said.
Veleke said PNG had more than 2000 US soldiers whose remains were scattered on land and sea which needed to be excavated and taken back home."
Lawrence Journal-World "Lawhorn’s Lawrence: An empty veteran’s grave and the Memorial Day efforts to fill it" by Chad Lawhorn May 30, 2016
DPAA Laboratory "Material Evidence Report CIL 2016-261-A-01 Through 03" April 18, 2017
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran "Sen. Moran to Honor Kansas WWII Veteran Killed in Action After Sixteen-Year Effort to Recover Remains" May 28, 2021
WIBW "Kansas family finds closure with return of WWII vet’s remains" May 31, 2021
KSNT "Ring belonging to World War II veteran returned to Kansas home" May 31, 2021
Thanks to Ken Domer, Dennis Domer, Rod Pearce, Don Fetterly, Pete Johnston, Bob Livingstone, Edward Rogers and John Douglas for additional information
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