|Pilot 2nd Lt. Ralph Poulsen (survived)
Co-Pilot Major Joshua H. Barnes, Jr. C. O., 65th BS (survived) Bourbon County, KY
Radio Sgt Michael J. Reilly (survived)
Passenger SSgt Nicholas J. Marcinek (survived)
Passenger TSgt Eleuterio Nava, Jr. (survived)
Passenger Sgt Herbert M. Billings (survived)
Passenger TSgt Thomas H. Skorczewski (KIA, BR) MN
Ditched September 9, 1943
Built by Consolidated at San Diego for $297,627.00 on September 12, 1943. Constructors Number 1142. On December 15, 1942 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-30-CO Liberator serial number 42-40065. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field across the Pacific to Australia arriving around April 14, 1943.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 90th Bombardment Group, 321st Bombardment Squadron operating from 5 Mile Drome (Ward) near Port Moresby. During 1943, this B-24 flew many bombing missions over New Guinea.
Next, assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 403rd Bombardment Squadron operating from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. Assigned to pilot Bill Martin nicknamed it "Joltin Janie" named after his wife in large white block letters with a large J shared by both words. The nose art included "Thumper" bunny rabbit from Walt Disney animated film Bambi (1942). Identical nickname and nose art were painted on both the left and right sides of the nose.
During September 1943, this B-24 sustained minor damage to a wingtip when it impacted the edge of a revetment at 7 Mile Drome and was repaired.
On September 9, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by 2nd Lt. Poulsen on a training flight for co-pilot Barnes who was transitioning from B-17s to B-24s. Aboard was crew chief Skorczewski who asked to join the flight, but Barnes refused, but stowed away as an unauthorized passenger. After take off, the landing gear did not raise and Skorczewski was ordered into the nose to manually retract the nose wheel. Also, one engine did not sound normal and the bomber did not gain altitude above above 100' and the pilots opted to ditch into Bootless Bay near Oyster Bay.
On impact, the bomb bay doors were ripped off and the fuselage broke forward of the waist positions. Skorczewski was killed in the crash or drown in the nose section as water rapidly began filled the bomber. The upper escape hatch was jammed shut by the top turret from the force of the crash.
Fates of the Crew
After the ditching, SSgt Marcinek and TSgt Nava in the fuselage were able to exit though the hole in the fuselage and rendered aid to the rest of the crew. They were unable to open the jammed upper escape hatch and instead passed a pair of pliers to Sgt Billings to remove the hinge allowing it to be bent inward allowing him and Sgt Reilly to exit.
The four enlisted men found both pilots unhurt but pinned in their seats by the the flight controls and sea water was rapidly filling the cockpit and threatened to drown both men. Sgt Nava used the inflation hose for a life vest as a breathing straw attached to their oxygen masks to allow them to breath while they tried to free them both. The four first focused on Barnes who was unconscious and used one of the waist .50 caliber machine guns as a lever to pry open the aluminum to skin then worked to free him. Afterwards,
Poulsen was able to slide into his seat and was also lifted out then rested on the wings.
Soon afterwards, a crash boat arrived to rescue the crew.
Skorczewski had not been seen since the ditching and was presumed lost. When the crash boat arrived, Sgt James B. Goetz searched underwater inside the wreckage but was unable to find his body.
The four enlisted men were each awarded the Soldier's Medal for their efforts to save the two pilots and were interviewed by reporter Robert Cromine in a story that appeared the next day in the Chicago Tribune.
After the loss of this bomber regular pilot Bill Martin nicknamed his next aircraft B-24D "Joltin Janie II" 42-40233.
Recovery of Remains
The next day, the remains of Skorczewski were located and recovered. He was buried in Port Moresby and postwar transported to the United States for permanent burial.
This aircraft was largely intact after the war, but gradually pieces have been removed by villagers for scrap metal. By the 1980s all that remained was the wings and center fuselage.
Skorczewski is buried at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Cemetery in Ivanhoe, MN. He has a military marker and is listed on his parents grave stone.
Marcinek passed away on December 11, 1981. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Toledo, OH at section 37, lot 6, grave 3.
Nava remained in the U. S. Army and retired with the rank of Lt. Col. He passed away on September 15, 1995 and is buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery at section 9 grave 2236.
Poulsen passed away on May 24, 1998 and is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at CA, 550.
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records -
Joshua H. Barnes, Jr.
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-24D 42-40065
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-30-CO Liberator 42-40065
"40065 (MSN 1142, 90th BG, 321st BS, *Joltin' Janie*) crashed into sea on takeoff Dec 9, 1943"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-40065
FindAGrave - Thomas Skorczewski (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Nicholas Joseph Marcinek
FindAGrave - Eleuterio Nava, Jr
FindAGrave - Ralph William Poulsen (grave photo)
Wrecks & Reefs page 130-131
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume 1 page 219 (profile 20), 224 (profile 20a, 20b detail), 276-278 (September 9, 1943, photos), 322, 369, 395 (index Joltin' Janie)
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March 14, 2020