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Kell Nielsen 1973
|Pilot 1st Lt James J. Crawford, O-433354 (KIA, BR) Christian County, IL
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt James D. Murlless, O-662590 (KIA, BR) Phoenix, AZ
Crew 2nd Lt. Howard P. Schertzer, O-790997 (KIA, BR)
Crew TSgt Francis J. Donovan, 17040576 (KIA, BR) Lincoln, NE
Crew TSgt Eugene T. McDonald, 17032868 (KIA, BR)
Crew SSgt Yerger A. Smith, 34196864 (KIA, BR) MS
Crew Sgt George E. Duigan, 11033290 (KIA, BR) CT
Crew Cpl Jesse J. Haynie, 13023373 (KIA, BR)
Crew Pfc Steve F. Konik, 35301047 (KIA, BR)
Crew Pvt James W. Cooley, 10100052 (KIA, BR)
Photographer SSgt Stephen Humenchick, 6910982 6th PRG, 8th PRS (KIA, BR) MI
Passenger Lt. Col William A. Turner, VX48384 Aust Army Intel (KIA, BR) Malvern, VIC
Crashed February 7, 1943 at 5:38am
Built by Consolidated in San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-5-CO Liberator serial number 41-23755. One tail from B-24D Liberator 41-23721 was attached as the right tail either at the Consolidated factory while being built or as a replacement part in the United States or possibly overseas. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia to operate in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 90th Bombardment Group, 321st Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 16406.
On February 7, 1943 during the early morning took off from 5 Mile Drome (Wards Drome) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt James J. Crawford on an armed reconnaissance mission bound for the north coast of New Guinea, New Britain and Admiralty Islands then to return to 5 Mile Drome. Aboard as passengers was an Australian Army Intelligence officer, Lt. Col William A. Turner and photographer SSgt Stephen Humenchick from the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS). At roughly 5:38am, soon after take off crashed for unknown reasons into a hillside roughly seven miles northwest of Port Moresby killing everyone aboard on impact.
Recovery of Remains
On February 13, 1943 the remains of the crew were recovered from the crash site.
This B-24 crashed onto a hillside roughly one mile northwest of Gerehu.
During the early 1970s, the crash site consisted of the wing section with the U. S. star markings, one of the tail stabilizers, with one side damaged by fire. at least two propellers with propeller domes attached. At least two of the engines and wreckage from the interior of the aircraft including at least one of cockpit seat, armor plate and radio transmitter. Many aluminum pieces showed evidence of fire deformation and damage from the initial crash. At least one 500 pound bomb remained at the crash site unexploded. The right tail fin had "123721", this fin was a replacement part from B-24D Liberator 41-23721. The left tail fin had "123755" the original tail fin for this bomber.
Kell Nielsen adds:
On April 20, 1973 an Australian Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team visited the crash site and used plastic explosives to detonate a 500 pound bombs to render the area safe. Shrapnel from these bombs shredded trees and vegetation and trees in the area.
Bruce Hoy visited the crash site on October 28, 1973, observing the damage caused by the EOD explosives, shredded trees and leaf litter on the ground and in the process took a number of photographs. He visited again on November 4, 1973 taking more photographs and recovered a rudder pedal and the aircraft data plate. He also found another bomb lying in a dry water course down the hill in the direction of Gerehu.
During the late 1980s and again during the 1990s the crash site was scrapped for aluminum and metal. Today, only one of the main landing gear undercarriage legs and other pieces of wreckage remain at the crash site.
Later, the remains of the Americans were exhumed and transported to Ipswich Cemetery in Australia and buried as "Group Burial #4". Postwar, their remains were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.
Six of the crew are buried in a group burial at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery at section 82, site 41-42 including: Murlless, Schertzer, Donovan, McDonald, Haynie, Konik.
Two of the crew are buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Duigan at section B site 386. Cooley at section D grave 99.
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