|Pilot Captain Paul G. Smith, O-433417 C. O. 531st BS (MIA / KIA) Oklahoma City, OK
Co-Pilot 1st Lt Theron A. Dreier, O-728612 (MIA / KIA) Osocola, NB
Crew 2nd Lt Clarence V. Hartman, O-733565 (MIA / KIA) Rosedale, IN
Crew 2nd Lt John H. Larson, O-736011 (MIA / KIA) IN
Crew 2nd Lt Ronald L. Orton, O-736320 (MIA / KIA) St. Paul, MN
Crew M/Sgt Edgar K. Crislip, 15013380 (MIA / KIA) Athens, OH
Crew T/Sgt Gary D. Delp, 39173438 (MIA / KIA) MT
Crew T/Sgt Bernard L. Wright, 35357777 (MIA / KIA) Whitestown, IN
Crew S/Sgt Joseph C. Aylward, 37113270 (MIA / KIA) Emmetsburg, IA
Crew Pvt Thomas E. Falltrick, 6583561 (MIA / KIA) Los Angeles, CA
Crew Pvt Earl C. Kilduff, 6564078 (MIA / KIA) WA
MIA June 11, 1943
Built by Consolidated at San Diego during March 6-18, 1943. Constructors Number 1604. First flight March 19, 1943. Delivered to the U. S. Army on March 22, 1943. Then, flown to Tuscon, AZ modification center on March 25, 1943. Afterwards, flown to a staging base at Topeka, KS on April 21, 1943. Ferried overseas departing on May 5, 1943 from Hamilton Field via Hawaii before arriving at Amberly Field near Brisbane on May 11, 1943.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 380th Bombardment Group, 531st Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "The Leila Belle". Temporarily assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group to fly bombing missions in New Guinea, including the June 11, 1943 mission when it was lost. This B-24 flew at least 4 combat missions.
On June 11, 1943 took off from Port Moresby piloted by Smith with B-24s from the 43rd Bombardment Group on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. Flying via Cape Ward Hunt, the formation experienced bad weather and instead proceeded to bomb Gasmata Airfield. It is believed that this aircraft was one of those who bombed that target. A bomber, believed to be this aircraft was tracked on a southerly course over the Milne Bay area to about 50 miles south of Milne Bay. Afterwards, officially stricken from charge on June 12, 1943.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on January 8, 1946. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Smith is memorialized at Fairlawn Cemetery in Oklahoma City, OK.
Dreier is memorialized at Greenwood Cemetery in York, NB.
Hartman is memorialized at Roselawn Memorial Park in Terre Haute, IN at section C.
Wright is memorialized at Spencer Cemetery in Sheridan, IN.
Since the 1970s, this wreck was listed on the "Port Moresby Log" as lost near Basilaki Island.
Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 15884 was created retroactively, mentions the target as Rabaul.
Other sources list this B-24 as shot down off coast of New Britain during the night of June 11-12, 1943.
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-40527
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul G. Smith
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Theron A. Dreier
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Clarence V. Hartman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John H. Larson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ronald L. Orton
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edgar K. Crislip
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gary D. Delp
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Bernard L. Wright
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph C. Aylward
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas E. Falltrick
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl C. Kilduff
380th Bomb Group Association - B-24D "The Leila Belle" 42-40527
FindAGrave - Capt Paul Glendon Smith (memorial marker photo)
Theron A. Dreier (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Clarence Victor Hartman (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Ronald G Orton
FindAGrave - Bernard Lamar "Johnny" Wright (memorial marker photo)
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June 3, 2020