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307th BG c1942-1943
|Pilot Captain Laurence F. Krebs, O-401181 (survived)
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. John M. Nowell, O-390143 (survived)
Navigator 1st Lt. James H. Reed, O-433678 (survived)
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Jeff D. Newman, O-663303 (survived)
Engineer SSgt Melvin E. Hatfield, 16035184 (survived) Du Page County, IL
Assist Engineer SSgt Donald R. Gustafson, 36303531 (WIA, survived) Knox County, IL
Radio TSgt Albert S. Hatfield, Jr., 19010997 (survived) Salt Lake City, UT
Asst Radio SSgt Robert L. Sheehan, 11049562 (survived) Bristol, MA
Tail Gunner SSgt Eugene F. Gartland, 15076567 (MIA / KIA) Mahoning County, OH
Ditched February 16, 1943 at 5:10am
Built by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in San Diego. Constructor Number 665. Project Number 30044. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-10-CO Liberator serial number 41-23870. Also known as #870 for the last three digits of the serial number. Before departing the Continental United States (CONUS) this B-24 was equipped with radar including yagi antennas under each wing.
On October 26, 1942 took off Hamilton Field piloted by Captain Laurence F. Krebs on a flight to to Kipapa Field on Oahu as part of the original contingent of B-24s assigned to the 307th BG. The ferry crew includes: pilot Captain Lawrence F. Krebs, co-pilot 1st Lt. John M. Nowell, bombardier 2nd Lt. Jeff D. Newman, navigator 1st Lt. James H. Reed, engineer SSgt Melvin E. Hatfield, radio TSgt Albert S. Hatfield, assistant engineer SSgt Robert W. Furtwangler, assistant radio SSgt Michael Casoria, tail gunner Sgt Eugene F. Gartland and passenger Sgt Arnold Vernon.
Assigned to the 7th Air Force (7th AF), 307th Bombardment Group (307th BG), 370th Bombardment Squadron (370th BS). Nicknamed "Queenie Take It Off" in white with the nose art of a nude woman with both hands raised wearing high heels and nearby a bow.
On December 21, 1942 at 4:30pm took off from Kipapa Field (Kipapa Gulch Field) on Oahu on a flight to Midway Airfield arriving December 22, 1942 to stage for a bombing mission against Wake Island.
On December 22, 1942 took off at 4:30pm from Midway Airfield piloted by Major Edward A. Jurkens armed with five 500 pound bombs and climbed to 10,000' for a night bombing mission against Wake Island. The crew included bombardier 2nd Lt. Jeff D. Newman and navigator 1st Lt. James H. Reed. The formation of 26 B-24 Liberators fr crossed the international dateline inbound to the target. This bomber was leading the first element of B formation. Arriving over Wake Island, the visibility was clear with anti-aircraft fire including 20mm tracer and heavy 3" shells but was inaccurate and searchlights. Approached the target in a dive and bombed target #1 from 4,000' the first bomb hit the target with the others four up to the runway of Wake Island Airfield but the results could not be observed. Afterwards, climbed to 10,000' crossed the international dateline and during the return flight used radar to navigate back to land on December 23, 1942 at 7:00am at Midway Airfield. In total, this mission spanned over 4,300 nautical miles and reported in the press as a "Christmas Eve" raid.
Afterwards, flown back to Kipapa Field (Kipapa Gulch Field) on Oahu. On February 6, 1943 departed Kipapa Field (Kipapa Gulch Field) on Oahu on a ferry flight across the Pacific to the South Pacific (SOPAC) as part of the advanced echelon of bombers from the 370th BS and 424th BS provisionally assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF). On February 11, 1943 arrived at Bomber 1 on Espirito Santo then was flown northward to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.
On February 15, 1943 at 6:50pm took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal piloted by Captain Laurence F. Krebs armed with twelve 500 pound bombs on a night bombing mission (21V98) against Ballale Airfield on Ballale Island. The weather was overcast with a ceiling at 5,000' with scattered clouds enroute and over the target.
The mission planned for nine B-24D Liberators from the 307th Bombardment Group (307th BG) take off individually between 5:55pm to 9:55pm including five from 370th Bombardment Squadron (370th BS) plus four from 424nd Bombardment Squadron (424th BS) to fly either a northern route or southern route to arrive over the target area at different times and make individual harassing bombing runs against either Kahili Airfield or Ballale Airfield. Before take off, B-24D "The Rattler" 41-23925 (#925) pilot Lt. Jones failed to take off due to mechanical issues with the accumulator. Shortly after take off, B-24D B-24D "Jeremiah" 41-23877 (#877) pilot Captain Sanny aborted the mission due to engine trouble and returned at 7:00pm.
Inbound, this bomber flew south over New Georgia then climbed to 14,000' before arriving over Ballale Island at 9:00pm and loitered over the target area for an hour making five glide bombing runs between 9,000' to 4,500' dropping all bombs. Hits were observed on the side of Ballale Airfield runway but no fires were seen. There was light anti-aircraft fire when the bombing runs commenced but was trailing and not accurate for their altitude. Several search lights were observed and caught them once or twice but could not hold the bomber in their beams then departed around 10:00pm.
During the return flight, bad weather had closed in and required flying only on instruments the entire route back. Even climbing to 20,000' this bomber was unable to fly above the weather nor down to 1,000' then climbed back to 10,000' for safety.
On February 16, 1943 in the early morning hours, this B-24 was able to pickup up the radar beacon from Henderson Field and called for assistance and was told to circle to get a bearing but was unable to do so or see any searchlights on the ground. In fact, this B-24 was east of Guadalcanal and was told to fly to the southeast and lost the radar beacon. At roughly 4:00am with only an hour of fuel remaining, climbed to 6,000' and jettisoned the machine guns and equipment and made a final radio call to Henderson Field advising their situation.
At approximately 5:10am in the predawn darkness, ditched into the sea with both the no. 1 engine and no. 3 engine cut out due to lack of fuel. The B-24 broke into two halves to the rear of the bomb bay. The nose and leading edge of the wing were pointed into the sea while the rear floated with the turret underwater. Some portions of the wreckage stayed afloat for 5-7 minutes. After the crash, Gartland was not seen after the ditching and is presumed to have died in the crash and went down with with the bomber when it sank.
When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was B-24D "Bundles For Japan" 41-23969 (2 KIA, 7 Rescued). This bomber was officially written off on June 15, 1944 as condemned inventory (CON INV) at Nouméa (Epic).
On February 16, 1943 at daybreak, U. S. Navy (USN) planes took off from Henderson Field and searched for the downed bombers and their crews without result.
Fates of the Crew
The rest of the crew survived the ditching. In the cockpit area, the pilot, co-pilot, radio operator in the front half of the plane survived the landing unhurt aside from minor bruises and shock. The rest of the crew were suffered bruises, cuts and were badly shaken. Gustafson suffered back injuries, a cut tendon and leg wound.
Afterwards, the eight survivors used lengths of rope from their bail out kits to tie themselves together so as not to become separated at sea. At 6:00am one life raft was found rolled up but floating and was inflated. Although a five man life raft, all eight were able to fit and attempted to reach land visible roughly 20 miles to the east.
During the first day at sea, the survivors carefully rationed one canteen of water and chocolate bars from the life raft. Sheehan was given a morphine shot.
On February 17, 1942 during their second day at sea spotted a pair of B-24s and ten or more P-38s and the crew attempted to signal them with flares, mirrors and sea markers without result. The survivors attempted to row to the nearest land and got within a mile but were swept back out to sea by the currents.
During the late afternoon while close to shore a pair of canoes with natives came out to meet them. Yelling they were American and were given fish and bananas and aided ashore on the southwest side of San Cristobal Island (Makira). The crew was taken to their village at Marabui Point and given hot soup and other food and rested in their church on woven straw mats. Gustafson's condition worsened. The crew gave them four knives in thanks and spent the night.
On February 18, 1942 Krebs and Nowell were transported by canoe to the district chief who then dispatched another canoe that took two days to reach the nearest British representative Mr. M. L. Foster who radioed Guadalcanal. Later that day, a OS2U Kingfisher from Guadalcanal [incorrectly reported as a PBY Catalina in reports] with Captain Groth flight surgeon was dispatched. Meanwhile, Foster dispatched his schooner to pickup the crew.
Afterwards, the surviving crew members were rescued. On February 23, 1942 a PBY Catalina with Captain Groth, 307th flight surgeon was dispatched and rescued Gustafson, Reed and Hatfield and flown back to Guadalcanal. On February 24, 1942 the same PBY Catalina returned and rescued the remainder of the crew having been away for eight days for the first three and nine days for the remainder.
Later, the crew was flown to Espirito Santo (Buttons) APO 708 for rest and recuperation. On March 7, 1943 three of the crew: Krebs, Nowell and Newman were interrogated about their experiences by Captain Michael K. Copass, Interrogation Officer.
Gartland was officially declared February 16 1943 and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Krebs remained in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and served in the Korean War. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and passed away on November 21, 2008 at age 92. He is buried at Houston National Cemetery at section R1 site 145.
Albert S. Hatfield earned the Received Soldier's Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), two Air Medals for his World War II Pacific service in Hawaii, Wake Island and Solomon Islands. Postwar, he remained in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and served in the Korean War until discharged for medical reasons with the rank of Warrant Officer. He passed away on January 3, 1990 at age 71. He is buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery in Salt Lake City, UT. He also has a grave at Utah Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park at section A site 477.
Some sources state incorrectly this B-24 was nicknamed "Thar She Blows" in fact that was a different bomber.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Melvin E. Hatfield
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Donald R. Gustafson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Albert S. Hatfield
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert L. Sheehan
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Eugene F. Gartland
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) B-24D 41-23870
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-10-CO Liberator 41-23870
B24BestWeb - "Queenie Take It Off" B-24D 41-23XXX (photo)
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) Air Base Headquarters Special Orders Number 68, October 19, 1942 page 2 (Annex "A" Combat Crew #1) page 2
CINCPAC "Action Report - Night Bombardment Raid, Wake Island 22-23 December 1942" December 26, 1942
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) "1st Combat Reports Mission - Wake Dec. 22-23 1942 Mission Report Aircraft No. 870 [41-23870] pages 1-2
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) 370th Bombardment Squadron (H) AAF Office of the Squadron Commander enlisted men of this organization 1 February 1943 pages 1-3
"S/Sgt / Gartland, Eugene F. / 15076567 / Tail Gunner"
"S/Sgt / Gustafson, Donald R. / 36303531 / Aerial Engineer-Gunner"
"S/Sgt / Hatfield, Melvin E. / 16035184 / Aerial Engineer-Gunner"
"S/Sgt / Sheehan, Robert L. / 11049562 / Radio Operator-Gunner"
"T/Sgt / Hatfield, Albert S. / 19010997 / Radio Operator-Gunner"
February 1943 USAAF Overseas Accident Reports does not mention this loss
History of the 307th Bomb Group does not mention this loss
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) Historical Data 370th Bombardment Squadron 1 July 1942 to 30 September 1942 page 14
(Page 14) "...the air echelon reached Espiritu Santo without incident. Several crews [including this B-24] were sent to Henderson Field Guadalcanal and went on their first combat mission from this base on Feb. 16th [sic February 15, 1943 take off night mission returning February 16, 1943]. Targets were Kahili and Ballale Airdromes. Due to adverse weather which prevented landing during darkness, two planes, piloted by Captain Krebs and Newman [B-24D "Bundles For Japan" 41-23969] ran out of gasoline and were forced to abandon their planes. Captain Krebs made a water landing and Captain Newman had his crew parachute to safety. During the next few days, Navy PBY's rescued all survivors. Casualties were 2 officer [Shirley] and 2 enlisted men killed [Knisley and Chudzik]; 1 enlisted man missing [Gartland]; 7 officers and 5 enlisted men injured."
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) Intelligence Section, Advance Echelon 307th Bombardment Group (H) Guadalcanal 16 February 1943 page 1 (microfilm 1169) page 2 (microfilm 1170), page 3 (microfilm 1171)
(Page 1) "Capt Krebs / 870 / Take Off: 1850L / Land: / Target: B / Mission 21V98"
(Page 2) "Capt. Krebs' plane was heard in the vicinity of Henderson Field between the hours of four and five o'clock. In spite of the use of search lights and the field the pilot was unable to break through the overcast. At approximately 0530L he radioed in that he was going to bail out shortly if field was not located. Sometime later radar HQ reported plane landing water about 7p miles out on a bearing from Henderson Field of 285°. The last report received from him was that he was W of the field on a course of 60°."
(Page 3) "Naval planes were dispatched at day break to locate the flyers. There search at the time of compilation of this report was fruitless."
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) 307th Bombardment Group (H) AAF "Interrogation of 3 members of Combat Crew #1 of 307th Bombardment Squadron (H) at Buttons, APO #708, on March 7, 1943" pages 1-4
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene F. Gartland
FindAGrave - SSgt Eugene F Gartland (tablets of the mission photo)
FindAGrave - Laurence Francis Krebs (obituary, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Albert Slemons Hatfield Jr. (obituary, photo)
FindAGrave - Albert Slemons Hatfield Jr. (grave photo)
Thanks to Robert Livingstone, Pete Johnson and James McCabe / 307th Bomb Group Association for additional information
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