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  B-24D-13-CO "Bundles For Japan" Serial Number 41-23969  
USAAF
13th AF
307th BG
370th BS

Former Assignments
7th AF

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7th AF Dec 22, 1942

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Shane Elliott October 1981

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Gary Larkins May 3, 1992

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Sodemann November 1999

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Dave Franchina August 2001

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Justin Taylan August 2003
Pilot  Captain Ulmer J. Newman, O-413484 (survived) Robert Lee, TX
Co-Pilot  Eugene J. Marx (survived) Gregory, SD
Navigator  2nd Lt. Jack A. Newton, O-728417 (survived) King County, WA
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Wayne T. Shirley, O-663320 (KIA, BR) Roosevelt County, MN
Engineer  SSgt John L. Knisley, 13040397 (KIA, BR) Grover, PA
Radio-Gunner  SSgt Henry R. Wolf, 38069870 (survived) Annona, TX
Gunner  SSgt Silas M. Bell, Jr., 18063945 (survived) Cherokee County, TX
Asst Engineer  SSgt George W. Gathers, 12044516 (survived) Cattaraugus County, NY
Tail Gunner  Sgt Anthony T Chudzik, 31106840 (KIA February 16, 1943, BR) New Britain, CT
Crashed  February 16, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in San Diego at a cost of $289,276.00 using funds F-1 under aircraft order number W535-AC-4 DA. Constructor Number 764. Project Number 30044. The main spar of this bomber was constructors number 766, likely due to the wing assembly being switched with the next bomber in the assembly line during construction. Constructors Number 766 was assigned to another bomber in the production line B-24D 41-23971.

On September 24, 1942 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-13-CO Liberator serial number 41-23969. Also known as #969 for the last three digits of the serial number. On September 27, 1942 flown to Fort Worth to the modification center (Mercury) and assigned line number 87. On October 15, 1942 inspected by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation. On October 17, 1942 delivered to the USAAF at San Antonio Air Depot (SAAD). On October 20, 1942 at Sioux City, Iowa. This bomber was originally destined for Panama but instead diverted to Hawaii. On October 22, 1942 at Hamilton Field. 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 pilot 1st Lt Ulmer J. Newman to Kipapa Field on Oahu as part of the original contingent of B-24s assigned to the 307th BG. The ferry crew includes: pilot 1st Lt Ulmer J. Newman, co-pilot 2nd Lt Girard W. Bourgeios, bombardier 2nd Lt Wayne T. Shirley, navigator 2nd Lt Jack A. Newton, Engineer SSgt John L. Knisley, radio SSgt Henry R Wolf, Assistant engineer SSgt George W. Gathers, Assistant radio SSgt Frederick J. Difle, tail gunner Sgt Alexander A. Klester and passenger 2nd Lt. Claude W. Hale.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 7th Air Force (7th AF), 307th Bombardment Group (307th BG), 370th Bombardment Squadron (370th BS). Nicknamed "Bundles For Japan" in yellow with a black shadow. The nose art was a blonde woman wearing a red dress wearing a pointed witch hat and a cape holding a pair of bombs under one arm and seated atop broomstick or .50 caliber machine gun.

On December 21, 1942 at 4:30pm took off Kipapa Field (Kipapa Gulch Field) on Oahu on a flight to Midway Airfield landing arriving on 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 1st Lt. Ulmer J. Newman 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. Wayne T. Shirley and navigator 2nd Lt. Jack A. Newton. The formation of 26 B-24 Liberators fr crossed the international dateline inbound to the target. This bomber was flying in position B-5 and was not able to join his flight leader, B-24D #814 pilot 1st Lt. Woodward B. Carpenter and instead with B-24D "The Bad Penny" 41-23899 pilot 2nd Lt. Buford E. Flahaven joined behind the flight led by B-24D 41-23870 pilot Major Edward A. Jurkens. Arriving over Wake Island, the visibility was clear. Over the initial point, peeled off with Lt. Flahaven and released all bombs from 4,000' aimed at target #5 and a red flash was observed followed by dense smoke. This B-24's tail gunner fired 170 rounds and right waist gunner fired 60 rounds at a searchlight near target #5 that was believed to be destroyed. Over the target, a barrage of anti-aircraft fire from Peacock Point and search lights were observed plus heavy anti-aircraft fire from Peale Island. Leaving the target area, this B-24 was caught in searchlight but used roll and corkscrews to evade the beams. Afterwards, climbed to 10,000' crossed the international dateline and landed on December 23, 1942 at 6:45am 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 Espiritu Santo then was flown northward to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.

Mission History
On February 15, 1943 at 7:30pm took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal piloted by Captain Ulmer J. Newman armed with twelve 500 pound bombs on a night bombing mission (26V98) against Kahili Airfield on southern Bougainville. The weather was reported as clear over the target.

The mission planned for nine B-24D Liberators from the 307th Bombardment Group (307th BG) to 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 make individual bomb runs against either Ballale Airfield or Kahili Airfield. Before take off, B-24D #925 pilot Lt. Jones suffered mechanical issues with the accumulator and was unable to participate. Shortly after take off, B-24D #877 pilot Captain Max J. Sanny aborted due to engine trouble and returned land at 7:00pm.

Only seven B-24s proceed via the northern route bound for Kahili Airfield and the southern route bound for Ballale Airfield. Only four of the bombers reached the target area: B-24D #915 pilot 2nd Lt. Girard W. Bourgeois, B-24D #987 pilot 2nd Lt. Daniel E. McDonald, B-24D #881 pilot 2nd Lt. Samuel T. Gregory and B-24D #953 pilot Captain Henry L. Milledge. Over the target area, the bombers made repeated bombing runs between 8,000' to 4,000' with dive approaches for an hour over Ballale Airfield and 45 minutes over Kahili Airfield.

Due to bad weather, this bomber never found the target area. Returning in a bad weather and an overcast, the radar spotted islands and the pilots decided to circle what they believed were the Russell Islands until dawn. On February 16, 1943 after sunrise, they realized they were over New Georgia and critically low on fuel. The pilots set the B-24 on autopilot and the entire crew bailed out as the engines began to cut out due to lack of fuel. Empty and out of fuel, the bomber continued to circle gradually loosing altitude until it crashed at the edge of Marovo Lagoon at the northeast of Gatukai Island (Nggatokae).

When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was B-24D "Queenie Take It Off" 41-23870 (1 MIA, 8 Rescued). This bomber was officially written off on June 15, 1944 as condemned inventory (CON INV) at Nouméa (Epic).

Fates of the Crew
Three of the crew died in the crash or bailing out: Sgt John L. Knisley (officially declared dead February 15, 1943), Sgt Anthony T Chudzik (officially declared dead February 16, 1943) and 2nd Lt. Wayne T. Shirley. The rest of the crew survived bailing out or the landing.

The rest of the crew were aided ashore by natives and given food and shelter in their village. Afterwards, the local people were able to notify coastwatcher Donald G. Kennedy at Segi (Seghe) on New Georgia who informed U. S. forces by radio.

"'Bundles For Japan' Began New Move In Long Range Pacific Air Combat" November 25, 1943 page 5
"Asked what became of “Bundles For Japan,” Major Newman replied: 'We were forced down in the water during a storm and landed near an island. Some of the crew members swam ashore. Three were lost. Natives came out and picked me up. They hid us from the Japanese, later took us back to our home base. The chief’s wife spent half a day preparing something like a meat loaf… only it was all vegetables and no meat. It didn't taste like American food, but it was good and the chief’s wife was proud as she watched us put it away."

Search
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.

Rescue
Later, the crew were flown aboard a PBY Catalina back to Guadalcanal. By June 4, 1943 pilot Newman had resumed flying bombing missions.

Wreckage
This B-24 crashed on the northeastern tip of Gatukai Island (Nggatokae) at the edge of Marovo Lagoon. The nose section was crushed on impact but did not burn as it was out of fuel.

The U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) serial number of this bomber has been debated and disputed. Several different serial numbers and numbers area associated with this bomber. Previously, other websites including Pacific Wrecks incorrectly listed the serial number as B-24D 41-23965, but this is incorrect and was a different bomber. Visitors to the crash site have photographed the wing spar with stenciled "766 B-24D" this indicates the wing spar was constructor number 766, a number assigned by Consolidated, not the USAAF serial number.

Constructor number 766 is associated with another bomber, B-24D 41-23971. Why this constructor number is present on this wreck is likely due to the wing assembly being switched with the next bomber in the assembly line during construction at Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in San Diego. Swapping sub-assemblies including wings or other components during the construction process was not uncommon and has been documented in other B-24D crash sites in the South Pacific and South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

What is the true identity of this bomber? The true serial number of this bomber was photographed by Shane Elliott in October 1981. His photograph of the USAAF serial stencil 41   69 on the left side of the nose below the cockpit reveals this bomber was 41-23969. His photo clearly shows the serial number to be "41   69". Why the middle digits [239] are missing is unknown. Possibly, the middle digits were deliberately omitted from the stencil or erased by weathering during 1981, 38 years after the crash.

Further confirmation this bomber is indeed 41-23969 are historical records from the 307th BG, 370th BG that record the last three digits of the serial number of this bomber as #969" [41-23969] and confirm this bomber's participation in both the December 22-23, 1942 Wake mission and February 15-16, 1943 mission. On both missions, piloted by Ulmer J. Newman. The Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) for B-24D 41-23969 last report this bomber on June 15, 1944 condemned inventory (CON INV) at Nouméa (Epic). This dependency is not uncommon for early bombers to be administratively written off off long after their actual loss and for IARC to be inaccurate about the actual details of loss.

A final point of confirmation is a newspaper article that interviewed former pilot Ulmer J. Newman about his service as a B-24 pilot in the South Pacific. In that interview, he confirms that the B-24 nicknamed "Bundles For Japan" was "forced down in the water during a storm and landed near an island." and that the crew were aided by local people.

Paul Sodemann visited the crash site during November 1999:
"The wreck is located literally three feet from waters edge near Tibara Lodge, on the northern tip of the island in the southeastern part of Marovo Lagoon. According to the locals, not everybody survived the bail out. Most parts are easily recognizable, except for the tail which is crumpled up. What amazed me is that the tires in the wheel wells are nearly intact. The guns and instruments have been removed."

Display
A portion of the crumpled nose wreckage with part of the nickname with "Bundles" and a portion of the nose art were recovered from the crash site, likely by a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA Church) and donated to the Betikama School on Guadalcanal. Since the 1990s, the piece is displayed on a blue board at Betikama School. Above is the text: "Blondie" [sic Bundles From Japan] from a B-24D that crashed in the Morovo Lagoon after a bombing raid on Rabaul [sic]."

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of Knisley were recovered. Postwar, his remains were transported back to the United States for permanent burial.

Memorials
Knisley was officially declared dead on February 15, 1943. He is buried at Redstone Cemetery in Brownsville, PA.

Chudzik was officially declared dead on February 16, 1943. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Postwar he was buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot D row 11 grave 154.

Shirley was declared dead on February 15, 1943 or February 16, 1943. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Postwar his remains were transported to the United States and were buried in an unknown burial presumably in his hometown.

Marx died on March 26, 1953 at age 31 as a student pilot in the crash of B-47B-15-BW Stratojet 50-035 short of Wichita AFB at Wichita, Kansas at age 31. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Ellensburg, WA.

Newman passed away on February 19, 2001 at age 84. He is buried at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery at section 10 site 330.

Bell passed away on May 2, 2001 at age 77. He is buried at Sardis-Edgefield Cemetery in Rusk, TX

Wolf passed away on June 14, 2007 at age 87. He is buried at North Fairview Cemetery in Wellington, TX.

Relatives
Jeanne Fischer adds (cousin of Eugene Marx):
"Eugene Marx was born in Gregory, South Dakota.  I am curious how you derived the circumstances of the crash.  My family has a different remembrance.  He survived the war, and also flew during the Korean War during 1949-1950 flying B-29s. Killed at age 31 in the crash of a B-47B Stratojet as a student pilot in Wichita, KS on March 26, 1953. Although I have slight memories of him, he has always been one of my heroes.  In fact I was named after him."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ulmer J. Newman
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Eugene J. Marx
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Jack A. Newton
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Wayne T. Shirley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John L. Knisley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Henry R. Wolf
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Silas M. Bell, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Anthony T Chudzik
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George W. Gathers
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) B-24D 41-23969
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-13-CO Liberator 41-23969

Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) Air Base Headquarters Special Orders Number 68, October 19, 1942 page 2 (Annex "A" Combat Crew #7) page 5
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. 989 [41-23969] pages 1-2
"11. This plane was equipped with radar detector."
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
(Page 1)
"S/Sgt / Bell, Silas M. Jr. / 18063945 / Aerial Engineer-Gunner"
"S/Sgt / Gathers, George W. / 12044516 / Aerial Engineer-Gunner"
"S/Sgt / Knisley, John L. / 13040397 / Aerial Engineer-Gunner"
(Page 2)
"S/Sgt / Wolf, Henry R. / 38069870 / Radio Operator-Gunner"
"S/Sgt / Chudzik, Anthony T., 31106840 / Tail 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 [B-24D "Queenie Take It Off" 41-23870] and Newman 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 3) "Capt. Newman's plane was believed to have been heard at approximately the same time as that of Capt. Krebs [B-24D 41-23870]. His last position was reported as over the Russell Islands [sic New Georgia Islands].
Naval planes were dispatched at day break to locate the flyers. There search at the time of compilation of this report was fruitless."
The Salt Tablet "Bundles For Japan" Began New Move In Long Range Pacific Air Combat" Vol. 2 No. 47 November 25, 1943 page 5
"There have been Bundles for Britain, Bundles for Belgium and many similar bundles. But 'Bundles For Japan' was something else again. A sturdy Liberator bomber, winged her way back over 2150 miles of ocean leading 25 other Liberators from the now-famous raid on Wake Island.
Her pilot Major Ulmer J. Newman, 27-year old native of Dallas, Texas, stooped off at Second Army Air Force headquarters, Colorado Springs, Colorado, today en route to a new station...
Asked what became of “Bundles For Japan,” Major Newman replied: 'We were forced down in the water during a storm and landed near an island. Some of the crew members swam ashore. Three were lost. Natives came out and picked me up. They hid us from the Japanese, later took us back to our home base.
'The chief’s wife spent half a day preparing something like a meat loaf… only it was all vegetables and no meat. It didn't taste like American food, but it was good and the chief’s wife was proud as she watched us put it away."
FindAGrave - Sgt John L Knisley (grave photo) death is incorrectly listed as February 15, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Anthony T Chudzik
FindAGrave - SGT Anthony T Chudzik (photo, grave photos)
WWII Memorial - World War II Honoree Wayne T. Shirley
FindAGrave - Eugene Joseph Marx (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Ulmer Justin Newman (photos, obituary, grave photos)
FindAGrave - Silas Monroe Bell Jr. (grave photos)
FindAGrave - Henry Randolph Wolf (obituary Amarillo Globe-News, June 15, 2007, grave photo)
B-24 Best Web - Bundles For Japan (photos)
307th BG(H) Aircraft Assignment and Losses - 13th Army Air Force (and some related aircraft) B-24D 41-23965 [sic 41-23969] "Bundles For Japan".
307th BG(H) Aircraft Assignment and Losses - 13th Army Air Force [PDF]
Passage Note [120928, 0707UTC, Kalivera Bay, Vangunu Island, Solomon Islands 08º31' S / 157º 58' E] by Leslie Linkkila & Philip DiNuovo, September 28, 2012
"As part of his entrepreneurial ventures and for a small kastom fee, Luten will guide you to an American airplane wreck from WWII immediately ashore in the bay to the south of the pass. His cousin Alex sneers at this in typical wantok fashion, because he says the plane wreck is on land that is outside of Luten's holdings. Luten, who is about 4'8" tall when he stands on his tippy-toes, easily fit in the dinghy with us, and we motored from his landing across the smooth lagoon waters to the crash site. The site was immediately ashore, in fact some pieces are submerged at some tides, and is reasonably intact, though it appears there have been scrap seekers extracting aluminum. Inside one of its wing it says "766 B24-D"; despite this, it appears to have been a P-38 [sic B-24D 41-23969]. Luten claims that his father helped hide the 7 survivors from the Japanese and then to smuggle them to safety. According to his story, two more men drowned when they landed in the sea, but their bodies were recovered and buried by locals, and later retrieved by the USA. We don't know how much of what we learned is truth and how much is myth, but we enjoyed his stories however embellished, and came away pleased with the experience and a few shekels poorer."
Thanks to Jeff Johnson, Dave Franchina, Jeanne Fischer, Shane Elliott, Philip DiNuovo & Leslie Linkkila SV Carina, Robert Livingstone, Pete Johnson, James McCabe / 307th Bomb Group Association for additional information

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Last Updated
November 23, 2020

 

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