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  B-24D-5-CO Liberator Serial Number 41-23755  
5th AF
90th BG
321st BS
Click For Enlargement
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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
MACR  16406

Aircraft History
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).

Wartime History
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.

Mission History
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:
"I went to this B-24 on at least on eight occasions on my dirt bike, taking photos three of the visits. In 1970, I saw bombs at the crash site and bombs. On April 13, 1973 I took Bill Chapman up there and he informed the Army about the bombs. On April 29, 1973, I visited the site again after the Army blew up the bombs with plastic explosives to see the damage."

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.

The entire crew were officially declared dead the day of the mission. On February 14, 1943 the remains of the crew were buried with full military honors at Bomana Cemetery with a U. S. Army chaplain officiating. Australian Turner was permanently buried at Bomana Cemetery at B3. D. 9.

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.

Smith is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 34, site 4542.

Crawford is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Taylorville, IL.

Humenchick is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, MI at section 10, lot 490-D, space 2.

Gavin Lee (Melbourne Cricket Club Military Veterans Group (MCCMVG) adds:
"Passenger, VX48384 Lt-Colonel William A. Turner. Australian Imperial Force was a member of the MCC before and during WWII. I am the Chairman of the Melbourne Cricket Club Military Veterans Group (MCCMVG) and Looking for information about him."

Note, some references incorrectly state this bomber was nicknamed "Yanks From Hell". Rather, pilot Crawford's regular bomber B-24D "Yanks From Hell" 41-23716 bore that nickname.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-5-CO Liberator 41-23755
"23755 (90th BG, 319th BS) hit terrain Wards Strip Feb 7, 1943. Another report has this plane flying into the side of a mountain 7 mi from Port Moresby. Remains of a B-24D noted 1977 at Gerehu, PNG was reported to bear tail number 123755 on one side of the starboard fin, and 123721 on the other."
Missing Air Crew Report 16406 (MACR 16406) was generated retroactively and does not list Humenchick
8th PRS History “Humenchick an aerial photographer and was lost on 7 February 1943 in the crash of a 90th BG aircraft.”
Ipswich Cemetery "Group Burial #4" recorded as the following: X-12, Crawford, James J.  O-433354 - 1st Lt. A narrative was found reading:  (only one was legible). "'This body is one of eight unidentified recovered from plane wreckage on February 13, 1943, found seven (7) miles N. W. of Port Moresby; two (2) miles inland; (Grid location 838472, Port Moresby Special Map)'."
Post Courier "Plane Found" April 20, 1973
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 41-23755 (does not include photographer Humenchick)
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group page 40
90th Bombardment Group History - Although the daily status records do not indicate the serial number of the aircraft, it is highly likely that this is the aircraft involved.
FindAGrave - Lieut James J Crawford (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - James D Murlless (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Howard F Schertzer (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Francis J Donovan (news, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Eugene T McDonald (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Yerger A Smith (grave photo)
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Explorer Yerger A Smith
FindAGrave - Sgt George E Duigan (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Jesse J Haynie (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Steve F Konik (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - James W Cooley (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Stephen Humenchick (grave photo)
WW2 Nominal Roll - William Alfred Turner, VX48384
FindAGrave - Lieutenant Colonel William Alfred Turner (grave photo)
CWGC - William Alfred Turner
Thanks to Bruce Hoy and Kell Nielsen for additional information

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Last Updated
June 19, 2020


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