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  B-24D-5-CO Liberator Serial Number 41-23773  
5th AF
90th BG
321st BS

Pilot  1st Lt. George M. Rose, O-431163 (MIA / KIA) UT
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Lloyd N. Hakeman, O-728073 (MIA / KIA) Iowa
Navigator  2nd Lt. John D. Conway, O-726878 (MIA / KIA) IL
Engineer  2nd Lt. James M. Cunningham, Jr., O-733410 (MIA / KIA) OK
Radio  S/Sgt Thomas J. DeHaven, 33087615 (MIA / KIA)
Nose Gunner  T/Sgt Harold L. Speith, Jr., 13023199 (MIA / KIA) DC
Engineer  Sgt Edward B. Everett, 13036413 (MIA / KIA) VA
Gunner  Sgt Charles V. Purpura, 14025954 (MIA / KIA) FL
Gunner  Pvt Norval J. Ball, 35258793 (MIA / KIA) IN
Tail Gunner  Pfc Joseph D. McGrath, 11047465 (MIA / KIA) MA
MIA  January 6, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-5-CO Liberator serial number 41-23773. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG), 321st Bombardment Squadron (321st BS). No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On January 6, 1943 at 8:15am took off from 5-Mile (Ward's Drome) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. George M. Rose on a mission to search for B-17F "San Antonio Rose" 41-24458 with Brigadier General Walker aboard that failed to return from a bombing mission against Rabaul the previous day. When this B-24 failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA) believed lost over the Solomon Sea. Officially condemned on January 8, 1943.

In fact, this bomber was shot down by A6M Zeros from the 582 Kōkūtai (582 Air Group) 2nd Chutai that claimed a single B-24 over Wide Bay at 10:15am.

Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched the action reports for the 582 Kōkūtai at the Tokyo Defense Archives. There is the record of an interception and shoot down of a single B-24 over Wide Bay at 10:15am (09:15am Tokyo time) by A6M Zeros from the 2nd Chutai."

Richard Dunn adds:
"B-24 piloted Rose, This is a conundrum. Problem with putting this loss at 1/6 is that a diary entry states its take off time was 1815 hours on 1/6 (seems a strange time to start a search mission; Guyton Christopher was doing night tracking of the convoy in a B-17). Thus if it was over New Britain in daylight hours it would have been on 1/7 but even any daylight encounter is unlikely with that take off time. So the diary could be wrong or time is Zulu (pushes a/c to daylight 1/7). More problems the abstract of 582 Kodo you provided me clearly has a B-24 claim over Wide Bay at 0915 hours on 1/6. However, Japanese Mono. No. 122 has an incident of 2 B-24 being intercepted over 'Waido' Bay and damaged on 1/7; this seems like it was in conjunction of aircraft returning from Port Moresby strike (aborted). Those are also circumstances of a 582nd Kokutai encounter on 1/6. On January 7, 1943 A6M Zeros from 582nd Kokutai were flying convoy cover and apparently encountered two B-17s near Cape Cretin but not B-24s. So to repeat this is a conundrum with respect to information on both sides of the equation."

The entire crew was officially declared dead on December 14, 1945. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-5-CO Liberator 41-23773
"23773 (90th BG, 319th BS)"
No Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) was generated for this loss
Kodochosho, 582 Kōkūtai, January 6, 1943
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator piloted by Rose
National Archives of Australia 614/1/25 folio 760B
Letter from Bill Morgan June 26, 1984
Fight For Survival page 20
FindAGrave - 1Lt George M Rose
FindAGrave - 1Lt Lloyd N Hakeman
FindAGrave - 1Lt John D Conway
FindAGrave - 2Lt James M Cunningham, Jr (photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt Harold L Speith, Jr
FindAGrave - Sgt Edward B Everett
FindAGrave - Sgt Charles V Purpura
FindAGrave - Pvt Norval J Ball
FindAGrave - Pfc Joseph D Mcgrath
Note, some sources incorrectly claim this aircraft was B-24D Liberator 41-23997 pilot 1st Lt. Elmer O. Herron, but that bomber failed to return from an Atlantic Ocean anti-submarine patrol on January 6, 1943 and is not the serial number of this aircraft.
Thanks Richard Dunn, Minoru Kamada and Pete Johnson for additional information

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Last Updated
January 1, 2022


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