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  B-24D-53-CO "Beautiful Betsy" Serial Number 42-40387  
USAAF
5th AF
380th BG
528th BS

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528th BS Aug 30, 1943

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Aerothentic 1999

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Justin Taylan 2003
Pilot  1st Lt. William E. McDaniel, O-696476 (MIA / KIA) San Angelo, TX
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Eugene A. Kilcheski, O-834448 (MIA / KIA) Trenton, NJ
Navigator  2nd Lt. Hilary E. Routt, 2060434 (MIA / KIA) Upton, KY
Navigator/Bombardier  2nd Lt. Jack W. Owen, 1686450 (MIA / KIA) CO
Engineer  Sgt Raymond L. Tucker, 32167086 (MIA / KIA) Ellendale, DE
Radio  Sgt Harold J. Lemons, 14053461 (MIA / KIA) Stokesdale, NC
Passenger  F/L Thomas John Donald Cook, 124854 RAF, 548 Squadron (MIA / KIA) Surrey, UK
Passenger  F/O Roy Albert Arthur Cannon, 142064 RAF, 548 Squadron (MIA / KIA) UK
Crashed  February 26, 1945
MACR  12758

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego between February 4-16, 1943. Constructors Number 1464. On February 20, 1943 made its first test flight. On March 2, 1943 flown to Fort Worth modification and remained until March 26, 1943 when flown via Topeka, Kansas to Hamilton Field. On April 15, 1943 departed Hamilton Field flying via Hickam Field then across the Pacific before arriving at Amberly Field near Brisbane in Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 90th Bombardment Group, 319th Bombardment Squadron on a familiarization mission. Next, assigned to the 380th Bombardment Group (380th BG), 528th Bombardment Squadron (528nd BS). Nicknamed "Beautiful Betsy". Crew chief MSgt Elmer S. Riding. In total, this B-24 flew twenty-two bombing missions. During 1943-1945 operated from Fenton Field to the south of Darwin.

On June 11, 1943 first combat mission piloted by Roth flew on bombing mission (FEN I-35) against Koepang on Timor Island.

On November 21, 1943 last combat mission piloted by Henschke on a reconnaissance mission (FEN III-27) over Nabire, Manokwari and Sorong.

Afterwards, this bomber was retired from flying combat missions and had the armament removed and was used as a "fat cat" squadron hack to transport personnel and cargo. When lost, engines R-1830-43 serial numbers 42-40387, 42-90445, BP-428061 and CP-302849. No armament was aboard when lost.

Mission History
On February 26, 1945 at 10:00pm took off from Fenton Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. William E. McDaniel on a ferry flight bound for Eagle Farm Airfield near Brisbane. Aboard were two Royal Air Force (RAF) Spitfire pilots from No. 548 Squadron plus passengers from the 380th Bombardment Group (380th BG), 528th Bombardment Squadron (528th BS) and 530th Bombardment Squadron (530th BS). When this aircraft failed to arrive it was declared missing.

Search
Two days later, B-24J 42-100221 piloted by 1st Lt. Lloyd C. Hughes and B-24J 44-40371 2nd Lt. Ossie D. Hamrick flew the route this bomber was presumed to have taken from Darwin to Brisbane, flying 15-20 miles apart but failed to find any trace of the missing bomber, focusing on the Claraville, Queensland area where the bomber was last reported at 3:00am. Afterwards, the fate of this missing bomber remained a mystery until located on August 2, 1994.

Wreckage
In fact, this B-24 crashed into a hillside inside present day Kroombit Tops National Park west of Biloela in Central Queensland near Monto roughly 80km from Gladstone.

On August 2, 1994 park ranger, Mark Roe was checking the results of a controlled burn-off in the area and while standing on an escarpment, saw something glinting in the sunlight about 800m to the north and found the crash site and reported it to authorities.

Recovery of Remains
During 1994, the Australian Army and a team from U. S. Army CILHI visited the crash site and recovered the remains of the crew. The team recovered a dental prosthesis (bridge), 153 bone fragments and personal effects including: 9 dog tags, 2 ID bracelets, 38 coins, 4 gold rings and an aviator's ring. Also, a flare gun with flare, aviator badge, bomber badge, whistle, two dress uniform belt buckles, 9 expended .45 cal rounds, 2 British buttons, 12 American buttons. Also a razor, cigarette lighter, three eyeglass frames, a pocket watch, and 1938 class ring.

Memorials
The crew was officially declared dead February 27, 1946. Since this aircraft was lost over a non-combat area, none of the crew or passengers earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

The six American crew members were memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

McDaniel earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Kilcheski also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at section MC site 32E.

Owen earned the Air Medal. He also has a memorial marker at Hillside Cemetery in Fort Lupton, CO at block 80, lot 3, grave 1 memorial the epitaph reads: "in memory of those who died in service".

Lemons earned the Air Medal.

On September 29, 1995 the crew and passengers were buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at section 34, collective grave 2084. The burial includes the remains of Cook and Cannon both from the United Kingdom. The group burial headstone lists official date of death as February 27, 1946m not the actual date of death February 26, 1945.

After the discovery of the crash site, a bronze plaque was attached to a rock at the crash site that reads:
"In memory of the six Americans and and two British airmen who lost their lives here 27 February 1945.
Lt. William McDaniel (Captain)  380th Bomb Group, USAF
Lt. Eugene A. Kilcheski (Co-Pilot)  380th Bomb Group, USAF
Lt. Jack W. Owen (Navigator/bombardier)  380th Bomb Group, USAF
Lt. Raymond S. Tucker (Engineer)  380th Bomb Group, USAF
Sgt Harold J. Lemons (Radio operator)   380th Bomb Group, USAF
Passengers: British Spitfire pilots
Flg. Off. Roy Cannon   548th Squadron, RAF
Flt. Lt. Thomas Cook  548th Squadron, RAF
REST IN PEACE"

Relatives
Lorene McDaniel Sands (widow of William McDaniel)
Sandra Kay Proctor (niece of William McDaniel)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Hilary E. Routt
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Raymond L. Tucker
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harold J. Lemons
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-53-CO Liberator 42-40387
"40387 (380th BG, "Beautiful Betsy") missing Feb 26, 1945 on flight from Fenton to Eagle Farm Airfield, Australia. MACR 12758. Wreck was found in Kroombit Tops National Park, Australia Aug 2, 1994, remains of the 9 aboard found at the site."
Missing Air Crew Report 12758 (MACR 12758) created February 26, 1945 lists point of departure "Darwin" [Fenton Airfield] and intended destination "Brisbane" [Eagle Farm Airfield].
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William E. McDaniel "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene A. Kilcheski "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Hilary E. Routt "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack W. Owen "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Raymond L. Tucker "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold J. Lemons "remains recovered"
CWGC - Thomas John Donald Cook
CWGC - Roy Albert Arthur Cannon
FindAGrave - 1Lt William E Mcdaniel (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - William E McDaniel (Arlington group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Eugene A Kilcheski (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Eugene A Kilcheski (Arlington memorial marker)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Hilary E Routt
FindAGrave - Lieut Hilary E Routt (Arlington group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Jack W Owen
FindAGrave - Lieut Jack W Owen (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - TSgt Raymond L Tucker
FindAGrave - Harold Jefferson Lemons (Arlington group burial photo)
380th BG Association - B-24D "Beautiful Betsy" 42-40387
380th BG Association - B-24D "Beautiful Betsy " 42-40387 - Mission Record

Australian Army report on B-24 "Beautiful Betsy" 1994
Aerothentic "Rundle's Obsession Beautiful Betsy 42-40387
King of the Heavies (1983) page 160
Best in the Southwest (1995) pages 41, 72, 474 (photos, artwork)
The Searchers (1999) 182, 200-205, 210, 211, 231 (index)
Oz@War Crash of a B-24D Liberator "Beautiful Betsy" Kroombit Tops Forest Near Biloela on 26 February 1945
Thanks to Lorene McDaniel Sands and Sandra Kay Proctor for additional information

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Last Updated
June 30, 2020

 

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