|Missing In Action (MIA)||Prisoners Of War (POW)||Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)|
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|Pilot 1st Lt. James A. McMurria, O-372644 (POW, survived) Columbus, GA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert R. Martindale, O-72562 (POW, survived) TX
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Thomas F. Doyle, O-726885 (POW, executed March 3, 1944)
Navigator 2nd Lt. Alston F. Sugden, O-791006 (POW, executed March 3, 1944)
Engineer T/Sgt Leslie H. Burnette, 34179416 (POW, survived) NC
Radio S/Sgt Fred Stephen Engel, 16036143 (POW, survived) IL
Gunner Sgt Raymond J. Farnell Jr., 1906177 (POW, executed March 3, 1944)
Gunner Pfc Walter R. Erskine, 39169737 (MIA / KIA January 20, 1943) OR
Waist Gunner Pfc Patsy F. Grandolfo, 35301880 (MIA / KIA January 20, 1943) OH
Tail Gunner S/Sgt Frank O. Wynne, Jr., 14016975 (POW, survived) Merigold, MS
Ditched January 20, 1943
During take off, the runway was poorly lit with smudge pots and the bomber lost airspeed on patches of sand and mud washed onto the runway, forcing the pilots to abort takeoff, stopping 50 yards beyond the runway with the nose stuck in barbed wire. Taxing backwards, the debris was cleared and the B-24 was able to takeoff.
Due to thunderstorms over the Owen Stanley Mountains, McMurria flew up the south side of New Guinea to cross the mountains after daybreak.
Over Wewak at 9:00am flying at 14,000' they reported three transports in Wewak Harbor and observed twenty-two fighters parked at Wewak Airfield (Wirui) taking off to intercept them. These were A6M2 Zeros from the Junyō Detachment temporarily land based at the airfield. The B-24 salvoed their bomb load and turned to depart as the ships opened fire with their anti-aircraft fire that hit the no. 3 engine.
At 9:20am flying at roughly 16,000' they radioed they were being attacked by fighters while the damaged no. 3 engine began to smoke and was feathered. The fighter attacks damaged the bomber's control surfaces causing the B-24 to become sluggish and unresponsive. A cannon shell tore a hole in the nose and wounded Doyle in his left shoulder and left leg.
Heavily damaged, the B-24 ditched into the sea southwest of Wewak, the first American aircraft shot down by the Japanese during the Wewak campaign.
On impact, the bomber broke into half and the nose section immediately sank. The rear section remained afloat for a few minutes. During the ditching, two of the crew were killed and went down with the bomber: Erskine and Grandolfo. Co-pilot Martindale was trapped in the cockpit before being swimming to the surface. Only one life raft deployed.
Fates of the Crew
On March 13, 1943 while sleeping on the beach the entire crew was captured by a Japanese Army patrol, then taken by barge to Wewak then Kairiru Island. Afterwards, the crew was transported to Rabaul and imprisoned in cells at the Rabaul Prisoner Compound (Rabaul POW Prison).
On November 13, 1943 nine prisoners including Wynne, Engel, Burnette and Martindale were transported aboard a ship from Rabaul to Japan. They were interned at Omori POW Camp near Tokyo and liberated at the end of the war.
McMurria was one of only seven Allied POWs that survived until the end of the war at Rabaul. He died on August 5, 2003.
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