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  B-24D-5-CO Liberator Serial Number 41-23766  
5th AF
90th BG
400th BS
Lucas Tuckwell 1995
Lucas Tuckwell c1990
Pilot  2nd Lt. John M. Rafferty, O-659757 (MIA / KIA) Pittsburgh, PA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Eric J. Day, O-727625 (MIA / KIA) OH
Crew  2nd Lt. Clarence B. O'Beirne Jr., O-725520 (MIA / KIA) TX
Crew  2nd Lt. Willard F. Wright, O-660956 (MIA / KIA) KY
Crew  SSgt Robert M. Dorey, 19062585 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew  SSgt Eddie C. Roseberry, Jr., 18066064 (MIA / KIA) TX
Crew  SSgt Conrad W. Wahl, 17033013 (MIA / KIA) IA
Crew  SSgt Alexander Zilbert, 12036367 (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Crew  Sgt Walter P. Szeliga, 36146599 (MIA / KIA) Hamtramck, MI
Crew  Sgt Henry M. Vigneault, 11062320 (MIA / KIA) MA
Crashed  December 20, 1942
MACR  unknown

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 561. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-5-CO Liberator serial number 41-23766. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG), 400th Bombardment Squadron (400th BS). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On December 20, 1942 took off from 5 Mile Drome (Wards Drome) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. John M. Rafferty on a single bomber armed reconnaissance mission over Wewak. Towards evening, the aircraft radioed their ETA and requested the field lights to be turned on as they were approaching the Port Moresby area. When this B-24 never returned, the crew was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, this B-24 crashed into the side of a hill between Mumeng and Tsili Tsili killing the entire crew on impact.

During May 1984, this crash site was located by Richard Leahy and Alan Cameron and was reported to the U. S. Government. A team from US Army CILHI visited the crash site between August 30, 1984 to September 3, 1984.

Richard Leahy adds:
"Alan Cameron was carrying out charter work for CRA at the time in the Wafi Creek area. Locals informed Alan of the site and after they had cut a pad on a nearby ridge, Alan and I flew in to do a recon on the site which is around 3,000' ASL. Forget now who did the ID but I think that it was Bob Piper. May have been Bruce Hoy. I supplied the details. CILHI were advised and subsequently carried out a full recovery on the site. I accompanied them for the duration of the recovery. The CILHI man in charge of that particular operation was Sgt. Kelly. I think that the officer in charge was Lt Col. David Rosenberg."

Lucas Tuckwell adds:
"I am a geologist with a similar keen interest in aircraft history in the Pacific. I worked in PNG at the Wafi prospect about 12 years ago, and came across the wreck of a Liberator that I hope you could provide some extra information about. When the remains of the aircrew were recovered some 14+ (?) years ago, a couple of the 50 cals were left at the camp site. After asking the locals about the location of the wreck, I spent one of my breaks hiking through the jungle with a local guide and we found the site. It was located on the side of one of the ridge lines and was a twisted mass of metal and small pieces. I believe it to be a B24 Liberator, and I think it was a "D" variant, and that the serial number was 41-23769. the serial number on part of one of the tail planes was reasonably visible, however I have not been able to find any references to this particular number on any website that I could find. The aircraft crashed into jungle in Papua New Guinea near the Watut and Markham valleys (near Lae and south east of the old Tsile Tsile Airfield). I lent all of my photos of the wreck to the Liberator restoration fund at Point Cook, and only recently received them back, and this rekindled my interest in this particular aircraft. As such, I would really like to know more about this aircraft if possible."

The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

After the discovery of the crash site, the miners of the Wafi prospect named the area where this B-24 crashed as the "Rafferty Zone" in honor of the pilot 2nd Lt. John M. Rafferty.

After the recovery and identification of the crew, their remains were transported to the United States and the remains placed into one casket. On April 27, 1990 the recovered remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a group burial at section 34, site 4438.

Dorey also has a memorial marker at Duncan-McDonald Cemetery in Springville, CA.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John M. Rafferty

Missing Air Crew Report [number unknown]
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-5-CO Liberator 41-23766
"23766 (90th BG, 400th BS) lost Dec 20, 1942, New Guinea"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 41-23766
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John M. Rafferty "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eric J. Day "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Clarence B. O'Beirne Jr. "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Willard F. Wright "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert M. Dorey "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eddie C. Roseberry Jr. "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Conrad W. Wahl "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Alexander Zilbert "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Walter P. Szeliga "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry M. Vigneault "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - 2LT John M. Rafferty (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt John M Rafferty (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Eric J. Day (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Eric J Day (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Clarence Barron O'Beirne, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Clarence B. O'Beirne, Jr (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert M. Dorey (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Robert M Dorey (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Robert Morris Dorey (photo, memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Eddie C Roseberry, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Eddie C. Roseberry, Jr (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Conrad W. Wahl (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Conrad W Wahl (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Alexander Zilbert (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Alexander Zilbert (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Walter P. Szeliga (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Walter P Szeliga (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Henry M. Vigneault, Jr (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Henry Mederick Vigneault (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
The Detroit News "47 years later, WWII fliers come home" by Pete Waldmeir March 25, 1990
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group page 29
Thanks to Richard Leahy, Robert Rawlinson, Bruce Hoy and Lucas Tuckwell for additional information

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Last Updated
November 15, 2020


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