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|Pilot 2nd Lt. Joseph C. Tafaro, O-691163 (survived) Newark, NJ
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Harley L. Stone (survived)
Navigator 1st Lt. Leo D. McDarmott (survived)
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Nixon B. Schrader, Jr. (survived) TX
Nose Gunner Sgt Orlyn R. Due (survived) Lufkin, TX
Engineer Sgt Frank M. Zabielski, 36351932 (survived) Chicago, IL
Radio/Ball Turret TSgt Tandy O. Lofland, 18226412 (survived) Mexia, TX
Left Waist Gunner Cpl Edward A. Cespedes (survived)
Right Waist Gunner Sgt Glen J. Gregory, 13064965 (survived)
Asst Engineer/Tail Gunner TSgt Harold M. Clover (survived)
Ditched October 10, 1944
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 3355. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-80-CO Liberator serial number 42-100206. Flown overseas by 2nd Lt. Robert G. Thunander via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
During February 1944 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 22nd Bombardment Group (22nd BG), 33rd Bombardment Squadron (33rd BS). Tail letter "Z" in black on a yellow rectangle on the tail. Assigned to crew chief Conrad.
Nicknamed "Liberty Belle" in block letters on the right side of the nose with the nose art of a seated nude woman holding a bell in one hand wearing a short white dress and holding a bell in one hand. On the right side of the cockpit below the co-pilot window was "Henry" (in quotes) in block letters and below the navigator window was "Little Looie" in block letters. Later, both these names were over painted with olive drab paint.
During 1944, this bomber operated from Nadzab Airfield flying combat missions over New Guinea. On March 13, 1944 this bomber flew its first combat mission. During July 1944 operated from Owi Airfield flying combat mission over Netherlands East Indies (NEI). In total, this B-24 flew at least 51 combat missions before it was lost.
On October 10, 1944 took off from Owi Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Joseph C. Tafaro as one of twenty-six B-24s from the 22nd Bomb Group on a bombing mission against Balikpapan on Borneo. This bomber was part of a five B-24 formation led by 1st Lt. A. V. Sewell flying in a diamond formation.
Inbound to the target, intercepted by 40-50 Japanese fighters that made aggressive attacks and dropped phosphorous bombs to break up the bomber formation.
During the interception, the 33rd Bomb Squadron formation was attacked by roughly a dozen fighters that made multiple passes totaling roughly thirty before, during and after the bomb run. In total, gunners aboard the 33rd BS B-24s claimed seven shot down. About two minutes before reaching the target, this bomber was hit in the no. 2 engine by 20mm cannon fire. Pilot Tafaro opted not to feather the engine so as not to appear damaged to the attackers. At 10:55am on the bomb run, a pair of Zeros approached from the left side of the formation from 12 o'clock high and the nose gunner of this bomber opened fire fired as it approached and claimed it blew up and caused the second to peel off and was fired on this bomber's top turret gunner before flying straight into B-24J 44-40774 causing it to crash. Although damaged, this bomber released its bomb load and was hit by gunfire that damaged the radio and aileron cables.
Leaving the target area, this bomber was targeted and for the next forty minutes a total of twenty enemy aircraft continued to press attacks from all angles and scored three more 20mm cannon hits that caused more damage including a hole in the no. 3 fuel tank resulting in fuel loss and others damaged electrical line and gas lines causing fuel to leak into the bomber. The rear of the B-24 was also hit by several dozen 20mm hits and punctured a bottle of hydraulic fluid in the waist compartment. Damaged, this B-24 fell to the rear of the formation and gunners claimed four more attackers shot down and was supported by B-24 #313 remained with the crippled bomber to add defensive firepower.
Roughly 180 miles east of Balikpapan the Japanese broke off their attacks and the damaged no. 2 engine was feathered and fell behind the formation. Low on fuel, Tafaro planned to ditch in the Togian Islands (Togean) and hoped to be rescued by PBY Catalina "Daylight 13" assigned to the mission.
Reaching the Togian Islands, the pilots flew over the lagoon and attempted to ditch without any airspeed or altitude instruments as both were knocked out in the attacks while the rest of the crew took up brace positions to the rear. Ditching, this bomber slid over a mangrove swamp knocking down trees and vegetation for 3/4 of a mile until the left wing and swung to a stop off Batudaka Island. Inside the cockpit, both pilots were covered in dirt, vegetation and tree limbs that entered the nose or broke the canopy.
Fates of the Crew
The entire crew survived the landing unhurt. Only Tafaro suffering injuries including moderate head lacerations from the crash landing. After the landing, Tafaro took a photograph of the force landed bomber with the no. 1 and no. 2 engines visible with their propellers bent backward from the landing. That night, the entire crew spent the night inside their bomber and when the tide came in were surrounded by shallow water.
On October 11, 1944 in the morning, the crew placed a parachute on the wing with the message "10 OK <--" ten OK with an arrow indicating their direction ashore. Next they used their machetes to hack their way to the shoreline and were met by friendly natives who took them in canoes to their nearby village where they fed them.
On October 12, 1944 they were spotted by low flying P-38 Lightnings and fired a flare to attract their attention. Spotted, they waggled their wings and pilots waved, dove over the village then departed to the east.
On October 13, 1944 their third day after the landing a PBY Catalina escorted by two P-38s returned to the area. The PBY landed in the lagoon and taxied close to shore. After thanking the natives, the crew gave then their remaining supplies and machetes then were paddled out in canoes to the seaplane.
Overloaded, the Catalina had to dump some fuel and after a long take off run finally got airborne. Before departing, the P-38s asked permission to strafe the wreckage of the bomber but the crew urged them not to do so, for fear they might hurt the natives that aided them.
The Catalina flew to them to Morotai where they boarded an Air Transport Command (ATC) C-47 back to Owi Airfield. Safely back at base, the crew were photographed posing together and arranged for supplies to be dropped to the friendly natives who aided them. Afterwards, they gave the nickname "Liberty Belle II" to their replacement aircraft B-24J 44-41234.
Zabielski passed away on October 16, 1989 at age 74. He is buried at Crystal Lake Memorial Park in Ridgefield, IL.
Clover passed away on December 15, 1989 at age 66. He is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery at C188, 31.
Due passed away on December 22, 1995 at age 72. He is buried at Garden of Memories Cemetery in Lufkin, TX at plot crestview.
Shrader passed away on January 29, 2004 at age 80. He is buried at Houston National Cemetery at section N1 Site 587.
Lofland passed away on January 28, 2012 at age 88. He is buried at Houston National Cemetery at section R2, site 0063.
Tandy O. Lofland, III (son of Lofland)
"My father, T. O. Lofland, Sr. of Anchorage , Alaska, formerly of Houston, Texas, was the radio operator and ball-turret gunner and is the only surviving member of the crew of which all ten survived and were rescued after being sheltered by the natives who hid them from the Japanese who controlled the area."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph C. Tafaro
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harley L. Stone
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Frank M. Zabielski
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Tandy O. Lofland, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Glen J. Gregory
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harold M. Clover
Other sources incorrectly list this bomber as "Liberty Belle II" that was B-24J "Liberty Belle II" 44-41234
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-80-CO Liberator 42-100206
Flight Journal "Mission to Balikpapan B-24s Bomb Pacific Oil Refineries" by David Lewis February 2003
FindAGrave - Nixon B Shrader, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Orlyn Ray Due (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Frank M Zabielski (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Tandy Osro “T O” Lofland (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harold M Clover (grave photo)
Aerothentic "Frozen in Time: Mission to Pandansari Refinery, Borneo" (2003)
Revenge of the Red Raiders (2006) pages 259 (photo), 292 (painting caption), 293 (painting), 318-322 (October 10, 1944 mission), 502 (42-100206 nickname listed as "Liberty Belle", 307 (color profile #27), 570-572 (profile #27, photo, crew photo), 576, 614 (index Liberty Belle)
Thanks to Tandy O. Lofland, III for additional information
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