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SSgt Edward T. Constantin
Gunner B-24D "Pretty Prairie Special" 41-24186
Background
Edward Thomas Constantin was born on July 8, 1916 in Rockaway Beach, NY. Graduated from New Jersey and married a woman from Waynesville, NC.

Click For EnlargementWartime History
On July 8, 1942 enlisted in the U. S. Army with serial number 14123662 at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC. Assigned to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF), 13th Air Force, 5th Bombardment Group "Bomber Barons" as an aerial gunner aboard B-24 Liberators.

Mission History
On December 30, 1943 took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia as a gunner aboard B-24D 'Pretty Prairie Special' 41-24186 piloted by Colonel Marion D. Unruh armed with 1,000 pound bombs leading a bombing mission against Rabaul. Inbound to the target, the weather was very poor as the formation flew following the western coast of Bougainville before flying westward towards the target. Over the target, the bombers were intercepted by enemy fighters but managed to successfully bomb Rabaul.

After descending through the clouds, this B-24 was seen by local people with the engine smoking coming from Cape Saint George before the crew bailed out and the bomber crashed into hillside on the southeastern coast of New Ireland.

Fates of the Crew
New of the crew: Unruh, Fessenger, Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Gillis, Constantin and Mull parachuted out of the B-24 over southeastern New Ireland. Several of the crew landed in the sea and were aided ashore by locals in outrigger canoes that paddled out to assist them.

By December 31, 1943 nine survivors were together a native village on the coast. At 10:30am they survivors were spotted by two B-24s piloted by 2nd Lt. James D. Robertson and Captain Oscar G. Fitzhenry that dropped a medical kit and rations before departing. They were never seen again by other search aircraft.

Sometime after December 31, 1943 the eight survivors were ambushed at night by Japanese forces that opened fire on the hut they were sleeping inside. During the ambush, the crew attempted to flee.

Prisoner Of War (POW)
After the ambush, six were captured: Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Gillis, Constantin and Mull and taken to Cape Saint George then transported to Rabaul and became Prisoners Of War (POW) of the Japanese Army Kempei-Tai. Later, Unruh and Fessenger were also captured. The men became Prisoners Of War (POW) and were detained by the Japanese Army Kempei-Tai at Tunnel Hill POW Camp. On March 5, 1944 six of the crew: Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Constantin and Mull were executed during the Talili Bay Massacre.

Recovery of Remains
Postwar, the remains of the Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin executed at Talili Bay were recovered were recovered and transported to the United Sates for permanent burial.

Memorials
On March 21, 1950 Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin were buried in a group burial with others executed at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 78 sites 930-934. The grave lists the date of death as March 5, 1944 for Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin and March 6, 1944 for Koebig.

Relatives
Joseph Ugalde (first cousin twice removed Edward Constantin)
"This is absolutely remarkable! This information really helps us put the pieces of the puzzle together and have a better understanding of our family during those challenging war torn years. I have already shared much of what we discussed with the family and they are just astounded. It's honestly like something out of a movie."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Edward T. Constantin
NARA World War II Prisoner of War Data File - Constantin Edward T last report Mar 5, 1944
NARA World War II Prisoners of the Japanese Data Files - Constantin Edward T
FindAGrave - Sgt Edward T. Constantin (photo, memorial marker photo)
5th Bombardment Group Association "Expedition to New Ireland: Solving a B-24 Mystery" by Donna Esposito September 21, 2018

Thanks to Joseph Ugalde and Donna Esposito for additional information

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