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  B-24D-20-CO Liberator Serial Number 41-24101  
5th AF
90th BG
321st BS

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USAAF 1942

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USAAF September 1945
Pilot  1st Lt. James A. McMurria, O-372644 (POW, survived) Columbus, GA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Robert R. Martindale, O-72562 (POW, survived) Brownsville, TX
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Thomas F. Doyle, O-726885 (POW executed March 4, 1944 or March 5, 1944 BR)
Navigator  2nd Lt. Alston F. Sugden, O-791006 (POW executed March 4, 1944 or March 5, 1944 BR)
Engineer  T/Sgt Leslie H. Burnette, 34179416 (POW, survived) Franklin County, NC
Radio  S/Sgt Fred Stephen Engel, 16036143 (POW, survived) Chicago, IL
Gunner  Sgt Raymond J. Farnell Jr., 19061774 (POW executed March 4, 1944 or March 5, 1944 BR)
Gunner  Pfc Walter R. Erskine, 39169737 (MIA / KIA January 20, 1943) Douglas County, OR
Waist Gunner  Pfc Patsy F. Grandolfo, 35301880 (MIA / KIA January 20, 1943) Mahoning County, OH
Tail Gunner S/Sgt Frank O. Wynne, Jr., 14016975 (POW, survived) Merigold, MS
Ditched  January 20, 1943
MACR  6384 / 15066

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-20-CO Liberator serial number 41-24101. 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. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers were not noted in the Missing Air Crew Report 6384 (MACR 6384) or Missing Air Crew Report 15066 (MACR 15066).

Mission History
On January 20, 1943 at 5:40am took off from 5 Mile Drome (Ward) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. James A. McMurria on a patrol and reconnaissance mission over the Madang-Wewak-Manus-Vitiaz Strait area.

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 was able to take off on the second attempt. Due to thunderstorms over the Owen Stanley Mountains, pilot McMurria followed the south coast of New Guinea to cross the mountains after daybreak.

Over Wewak at 9:00am at an altitude of 14,000' they reported three transports in Wewak Harbor and observed twenty-two fighters taking off to intercept them. These were A6M2 Zeros from the Junyō Detachment temporarily land based at Wewak Airfield (Wirui). The B-24 salvoed their bomb load and turned to depart as the ships opened fire with anti-aircraft fire and their no. 3 engine was hit.

At 9:20am flying at roughly 16,000' they radioed they were being attacked by fighters and the damaged no. 3 engine began to smoke and was feathered. The fighters damaged the 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 leg.

Damaged, the B-24 ditched off Wewak. This was the first American aircraft shot down by the Japanese during the Wewak campaign.

On impact, the bomber broke into half with the nose section sinking immediately. The rear section remained afloat for a few minutes. During the ditching, Erskine and Grandolfo were killed and went down with the bomber. Both remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Co-pilot Martindale was trapped in the cockpit as it sank before freeing himself and swimming to the surface. Only one life raft deployed before the bomber sank.

Fates of the Crew
The eight survivors spent two and a half days clinging to the single four-man life raft until reaching Wageo Island, where they encountered friendly natives who cared for them for nearly two months.

Attempting to return to friendly lines, the crew were transported by canoe along the chain of island including Wei Island then to the north coast of New Guinea near the mouth of the Sepik River.

On March 13, 1943 while sleeping on a beach the entire crew were captured by a Japanese Army patrol and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Afterwards, transported by barge to Wewak then Kairiru Island then to Rabaul where they were imprisoned at Rabaul Prisoner Compound (Rabaul POW Prison) in cells.

On November 13, 1943 nine prisoners including Wynne, Engel, Burnette and Martindale were transported by ship from Rabaul to Japan. Four were detained at Omori POW Camp near Tokyo and liberated at the end of the Pacific War.

McMurria, Doyle, Sugden and Farnell remained in captivity at at Rabaul Prisoner Compound (Rabaul POW Prison). On March 2, 1944 due to the heavy bombing of Rabaul, the Allied Prisoners Of War (POWs) were trucked to Tunnel Hill POW Camp arriving around 7:15pm and crammed into a single tunnel.

On March 4, 1944 and March 5, 1944, thirty-one Allied Prisoners Of War (POWs) including Doyle, Sugden and Farnell were removed from Tunnel Hill POW Camp walked to Tanoura at the edge of Talili Bay and executed. These executions became known as the Talili Bay Massacre / Tunnel Hill Massacre / Tunnel Hill Incident.

McMurria was one of only seven Allied POWs that survived captivity at Rabaul until the end of the Pacific War. In early September 1945 liberated by Australian forces and taken to Jacquinot Bay then flown by C-47 to New Guinea.

Erskine and Grandolfo were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Both earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Both are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Doyle was officially declared dead March 5, 1944.

Postwar, the remains of Doyle, Sugden and Farnell were located and exhumed. On March 21, 1950 they were buried in a group burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 78, graves 930-934.

Engel passed away September 25, 2000 at age 80. He is buried at Calvary Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Dallas, TX.

Wynne passed away July 9, 2003 at age 84. He is buried at Merigold Cemetery in Merigold, MS.

McMurria authored two memoirs about his wartime experiences: Trial and Triumph (1992) and Fight For Survival! (2003). He passed away on August 5, 2003 at age 85. He is buried at Springwood Cemetery in Greenville, SC.

Burnette passed away on February 20, 2005 at age 85. He is buried at Pineview Cemetery, Rocky Mount, NC.

Martindale earned the Air Medal, Purple Heart, Reserve Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars, Victory Medal and Defense Service Medal. Postwar, he remained in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in the reserves until retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He researched and wrote his memoirs The 13th Mission published in 1998 and donated items from his time in captivity in Japan to the National Museum of the Pacific War (Nimitz Museum). He passed away on May 9, 2010 at age 90.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James A. Mc Murria surname spelled "Mc Murria"
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Alston F. Sugden
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Leslie H. Burnette
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Fred Stephen Engel
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Raymond J. Farnell Jr
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Walter R. Erskine (Douglas County, OR)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Walter R. Erskine (Los Angeles, CA)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Patsy F. Grandolfo
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Frank O. Wynne, Jr.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-20-CO Liberator 41-24101
"24101 (90th BG) MIA SW Pacific Jan 20, 1943. MACR 6384"
Missing Air Crew Report 6384 (MACR 6384) created retroactively circa 1945-1946
Missing Air Crew Report 15066 (MACR 15066) created retroactively circa 1945-1946
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Walter R. Erskine
FindAGrave - Walter R. Erskine (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Patsy F. Grandolfo
FindAGrave - PFC Patsy F Grandolfo (photo, tablets of the missing)
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - James A. Mc Murria
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Robert R. Martindale
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Thomas F. Doyle
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Alston F. Sugden
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Leslie H. Burnette
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Fred Stephen Engel
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Raymond J. Farnell Jr.
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Frank O. Wynne
FindAGrave - Lieut James Austin McMurria (photos, grave photo)
Austin American-Statesman "Obituary Robert Rene Martindale" May 16, 2010
FindAGrave - Thomas F. Doyle (group burial photos)
FindAGrave - 1LT Alston F Sugden (group burial photos)
FindAGrave - Leslie Herman Burnette (obituary, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Fred Engel (obituary, grave photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Raymond J Farnell (group burial photos)
FindAGrave - Frank O. Wynne, Jr. ( grave photos)
Perpetuation of Testimony of Former 1st Lieut. James A. McMurria, O-373644 July 21, 1948
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 41-24101
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida pages 19 (footnote 12 - Tunnel Hill Massacre), 93 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Burnette), 94 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Doyle, Farnell, Engel), 95 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - McMurria, Martindale), 96 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Sugden, Wynne)
The 13th Mission (1998) by Robert R. Martindale
Trial and Triumph (1992) by James McMurria
Fight For Survival! (2003) by James McMurria
Thanks to Henry Sakaida and Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
November 13, 2022


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2 Missing
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