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Nippon News Sept 1943
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Earl B. Johnson, O-735385 (KIA, BR) Pasadena, CA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Thomas H. Chambers, O-797468 (POW, survived) Paterson, NJ
Navigator 2nd Lt. Jack D. Quarant, O-797390 (POW, survived) New York, NY
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Joseph R. Manella, O-734953 (POW, survived) Milford, MA
Engineer T/Sgt Earl S. Vann, 34305605 (POW, survived) Murfreesboro, NC
Asst Radio TSgt Herschell R. Nelson (KIA, BR)
Asst Engineer SSgt Abe Trachtenberg, 13081374 (POW, survived) Ashley, PA
Radio/Ball Turret SSgt William L. Lambert, 33212423 (KIA, BR) Pulaski, VA
Waist Gunner SSgt Paul Cybowski, 32554616 (MIA / KIA, BR) South Plainfield, NJ
Tail Gunner SSgt Frank D. Robbins, 37219214 (KIA, BR) Wichita, KS
Crashed September 15, 1943 at 2:30pm
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructor Number 1864. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-95-CO Liberator serial number 42-40786. Ferried overseas to the China Burma India (CBI).
Assigned to the 14th Air Force, 308th Bombardment Group, 373rd Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Mohawk". The crew planned to rename the bomber "'Pistol Packin Mama'" but the name was never applied before it was lost. When lost, engines R-1830-43 serial numbers a) 42-86860 b) 42-86940 c) 42-86768 d) 42-86939. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers and makers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 2355 (MACR 2355).
On September 15, 1943 at 1:05pm took off from Yangkai Airfield in China piloted by 2nd Lt. Earl B. Johnson as one of seven B-24s on a bombing mission against a cement plant north of Haiphong near Hanoi. During the take offs, two B-24s became stuck in the mud and were unable to take off leaving only five to participate. The weather was ceiling and visibility unlimited (CAVU).
The five bombers included B-24D "Daisy Mae" 41-24218 pilot Captain Leroy Cunningham leading the formation plus this bomber, B-24D "Temptation" 41-24129 pilot 1st Lt. William A. Rutledge, B-24D "Doodlebug" pilot Lt. Bernard O'Hara and B-24D "Flub Dub" pilot Lt. Ruie Suggs. The bombers proceeded to the target area without escort.
While on the bomb run at 12,000', the bombers were intercepted by 50+ Japanese fighters. During their attacks, five of the crew were killed at their stations. Johnson was killed in the cockpit at the controls and gunner Robbins, Cybowski, Nelson and Lambert were killed at their positions. Chambers was badly wounded.
Severely damaged, the other five surviving crew managed to bail out: Vann, Manella, Chambers, Quarant and Tractenberg. Manella who exited the nose wheel door, Tractenberg out of the bomb bay. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was B-24D "Temptation" 41-24129 (MIA / POW) and B-24D "Daisy Mae" 41-24218 (MIA).
This B-24 crashed into a this B-24 crashed into a rice paddy near Haiphong. The intact tail section broken off and was separated with serial number "240786" clearly visible plus damage to the leading edge from the impact with the ground and the fabric on the rudder damage with holes and tears.
The same day, the crash site was visited by French officials and the remains of the five recovered. The Japanese visited the crash site soon after the crash and recorded cine footage of them inspecting the crash site that was released on October 19, 1943 by Nippon News in Japan.
Fates of the Crew
After landing, Quarant and Manella were initially picked up by the French and taken to a hospital in Hanoi along with Stomberg a crew member from B-24D "Temptation" 41-24129. All five were eventually captured or turned over to the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW).
Afterwards, the crash site and several of the crew being interrogated was filmed by a cameraman from Nippon News and released on October 19, 1943 in Japan.
The five POW crew were imprisoned in Hanoi and interrogated by the Japanese. During one interrogation, they were shown a photographs of Robbins and Nelson and informed both were dead. It is unclear if these were photos recovered from the bodies of both men or photos of their dead bodies. All five POWs survived until the end of the Pacific War and the official surrender of Japan in September 1945.
On September 21, 1945 Vann, Manella, Chambers, Quarant and Tractenberg were liberated from Malaya Camp #5 Malay Peninsula 6-104 and transported to the United States. Afterwards, Manella was hospitalized at Walter Reed Hospital and debriefed by intelligence on October 1, 1945.
Recovery of Remains
The five dead: Johnson, Robbins, Cybowski, Nelson and Lambert were recovered from the crash site by French officials and buried near Haiphong.
Postwar, the remains of the five crew killed in the crash were recovred by American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) and four of the five were identified. The recovered remains were transported to the United States and Hawaii for permanent burial.
Cybowski was never individually identified and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). One of the recovered crew was never individually identified and buried as an unknown at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).
In August 2018, the unknown grave at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) was exhumed and remains DNA tested by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). On July 2, 2019 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced Cybowski was positively identified.
The crew killed in the crash were officially declared dead on September 15, 1943.
Cybowski remained Missing In Action (MIA) until 2019. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Cybowski is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. After his remains were identified, Cybowski will be buried on September 25, 2019 in his hometown in South Plainfield, NJ.
Lambert was is buried at at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at row C site 444
Robbins is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Wichita, KS.
Johnson has an unknown burial, presumably in a private cemetery in the United States.
Nelson has an unknown burial, presumably in a private cemetery in the United States.
Quarant was discharged with the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He passed away on February 1, 1989 at age 72. He is buried at IOOF Cemetery in Golconda, IL.
Vann was discharged from the U. S. Army with the rank of Master Sergeant. For his World War II service he earned the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal and Bronze Star. He passed away January 19, 2000 at age 83. He is buried at Roberts Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery in Pendleton, NC at section A, plot 24, position 8.
Rikki Traina (granddaughter of Abe Tractenberg)
Sal Traina (grandson in law of Abe Tractenberg)
Jim Manley (great nephew of Paul Cybowski)
"Paul Cybowski is my great uncle and I've been working a few years with DPAA to recover his remains. Back in the late 90's I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend with Earl Vann, the flight engineer, who survived the crash. Earl shared with me that the crew had decided to name their aircraft 'Pistol Packin Mama', after the name of a popular song at that time. Unfortunately they had not gotten around to painting the nose art prior to the shoot down. I have a picture of the crew with all individuals named if you would like."
MIA / POW
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