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  B-24D-105-CO "Lakanooki" Serial Number 42-40857  
USAAF
13th AF
307th BG
371st BS

Tech Info
371st BS c1944

Tech Info
371st BS c1944
Pilot  2nd Lt. Gayle W. Kizer, O-700404 (rescued) Caddo County, OK
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Jack S Callaway, Jr., O-767739 (MIA / KIA) Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Navigator  2nd Lt. Richard D. Wiley, O-708600 (rescued) Summit County, OH
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Leslie E. Klinefelter, O-765808 (MIA / KIA) Windham County, VT
Engineer  SSgt Harold A. Smethurst, Jr., 12040886 (MIA / KIA) Sullivan County, NY
Asst Engineer  Cpl Robert G. Ashby, 18163229 (rescued) OK
Radio  Sgt Sherlock T. McNab, Jr., 14101598 (MIA / KIA) Hillsborough County, FL
Asst Radio  Cpl Chester Bauer, 33734914 (MIA / KIA) Baltimore, MD
Gunner  Cpl James W. Erickson, 39334046 (rescued) Columbia County, OR
Tail Gunner  Cpl Joseph C. Patla, 16170402 (MIA / KIA) Chicago, IL
Photographer  Sgt Hilary Gilbert, Jr., 33525525 (rescued) VA
Ditched  July 15, 1944
MACR  7180

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 1934. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-105-CO Liberator serial number 42-40857.Ferried overseas via Hickam Field to then across the Pacific to the South Pacific (SOPAC).

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 307th Bombardment Group, 371st Bombardment Squadron. Aircraft Number 857 painted on the left side of the nose below the window. Nicknamed "Lakanooki". When lost, engines R-1830-43 serial numbers 42-36960, 42-56842, 42-3661 and 42-59540. Armed with ten .50 caliber machine guns plus two .30 caliber machine guns. Weapon makers and serial numbers not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 7180 (MACR 7180).

Mission History
On July 15, 1944 took off from Mokerang Airfield on Los Negros Island on a bombing mission against Yap Island. The weather was good with scattered cumulus clouds. After bombing the target at 12:10pm, the Liberators turned towards base and slowed as one bomber had an engine feathered and the entire formation slowed to keep pace.

At approximately 1:40pm the no. 4 engine stopped working and the propeller was feathered. Next at 3:00pm the no. 1 engine stopped and the propeller was feathered. Aboard, the crew jettisoned all loose equipment to lighten the bomber. Next, the no. 2 engine started to experience problems and the crew prepared to ditch.

At 4:16pm, this B-24 ditched with only the pilot, co-pilot and radio operator in the cockpit with the rest of the crew bracing in the tail. After ditching, the nose started to sink. On impact, McNab sustained a facial injury and was bleeding badly.

This B-24 was seen to ditch into the sea at 4:16pm at roughly Lat 1° 50' N Long 144° 16' E to the northwest of the Admiralty Islands and was deemed loss due to an early fuel transfer. When this bomber failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Fates of the Crew
As the bomber quickly sank, the surviving crew exited the bomber and began to swim among large swells and waves. It is unknown if all members of the crew exited the B-24 before it sank.

Four of the crew: Wiley, Gilbert, Ashby and Erickson managed to get into a life raft and were together until spotted on July 17, 1944 and rescued first.

Statement by 2nd Lt. Richard D. Wiley via Missing Air Crew Report 7180 (MACR 7180) page 9
"Just before dawn on the first night we heard calls from others in another raft. We called back and tried to make them understand to stay close to us, but by dawn we had drifted apart, and we never did see the raft. I believe I recognized the voices of two men and believe them to be Lt. Klinefelter, the bombardier and Cpl. Patla, a gunner. We were picked up on our second day in the raft at about 1530 by a Navy PBY. I believe it is possible everyone got out of the plane and are on life rafts."

Alone, Kizer located a life raft and attempted to paddle towards the others but drifted away due to the swells. On July 17, 1944 during afternoon Kizer heard an aircraft overhead released marker dye and flares and was the last to be rescued.

Statement by 2nd Lt. Gayle W. Kizer via Missing Air Crew Report 7180 (MACR 7180) page 8
"The front section of the plane had just started to submerge and wasn't more than three or four feet under when I got out. The co-pilot, Lt. Callaway and radio operator, Sgt McNab were already out by the time I got out. I know Sgt McNab got hurt pretty badly in the landing and his face was bleeding. After getting out I saw others swimming around but was unable to identify them. I soon reached a life raft and tried to get to those that were swimming around in the water but the swells were large and I drifted away. I didn't see any other rafts. On the afternoon of 17 July 1944 I heard a plane overhead. I threw sea marker around my raft and shot up some flares. The plane spotted me, however in circling overhead it also spotted the other raft with Lt. Wiley, Sgt Gilbert, Cpl Ashby and Cpl Erickson and picked them up before taxing over to pick me up, We were picked up about 1530 by a Navy PBY. inasmuch as I did not see other life rafts and could not identify those swimming around after the crash, I cannot make a statement as to the status of those of my crew that were not picked up."

Search
On July 16, 1944 two B-24s conducted a square search and picked up a signal but made no sightings. On July 17, 1944 four B-24s conducted a parallel search without results. On July 18, 1944 two B-24s conducted a parallel search without results, apparently this search was conducted to continue search for the other six still missing.

Rescue
Meanwhile, on July 17, 1944 PBY Catalina piloted by Lt(jg) J.G. Cummings took off from Manus on a search mission and located five members of the crew at roughly Lat 02° 06' N Long 144° 58° E. This Catalina spotted a raft and landed to rescue four aboard: Wiley, Gilbert, Ashby and Erickson. Next, it landed separately to pickup Kizer. All five were transported to Los Negros and photographed after their rescue. Four were returned to combat duty. Afterwards, Erickson requested ground duty and survived the war.

Memorials
The six Missing In Action (MIA) crew members were officially declared dead March 30, 1946. All six are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Callaway earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Klinefelter earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker on his parents grave in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hanover, PA.

Smethurst earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

McNab earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Bauer earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Patla earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Kizer later went Missing In Action (MIA) on October 22, 1944 piloting B-24L 44-41422 on a bombing mission. He was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Kizer is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial maker at Fairview Cemetery in Apache, OK. He has another memorial marker at Riverside National Cemetery at MA site 8.

Wiley later went Missing In Action (MIA) on January 4, 1945 as navigator aboard B-24J 44-41383. He was officially declared dead on January 5 1946. He was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Wiley is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Chestnut Hill Memorial Park in Cuyahoga Falls, OH.

Ashby later went Missing In Action (MIA) on February 27, 1945 as assistant radio operator aboard B-24J 44-41176. He was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Ashby is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Gilbert later went Missing In Action (MIA) on August 10, 1944, as B-24J 44-40571. He was officially declared dead on March 12, 1946. Gilbert is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Erickson passed away February 24, 2016. He is buried at Murray Hill Cemetery in Clatskanie, OR.

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Gayle W. Kizer
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Jack C. Callaway [middle initial listed as "C."]
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Richard D. Wiley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Sherlock T. McNab, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James W. Erickson
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-105-CO Liberator 42-40857
"40857 (307th BG) lost Jul 15, 1944, South Pacific. MACR 7180"
Missing Air Crew Report 7180 (MACR 7180) created July 18, 1944
NARA "VP-101 War Diary July 1944" pages 4-5
(Page 4) "17 July - One (1) plane rescue mission from Manus, Admiralty Island positive."
(Page 5) "July 17 cont'd - Picked up five (5) members of a downed B-24 crew in two rafts at 02° 06' /144° 58° E. Those rescued were all of the 371st Squadron, 307th Group, U.S. Army 2nd Lt. G.W. Kizer 2nd Lt. R.D. Wiley Sgt Hilary Gilbert Jr. Cpl. R.G. Ashby Cpl. James Erickson Lt. (jg) J.G. Cummings, USNR patrol plane commander."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack S. Callaway Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leslie E. Klinefelter

American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold A. Smethurst, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Sherlock T. McNab, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Chester Bauer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph C. Patla
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gayle W. Kizer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard D. Wiley
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert G. Ashby
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Hilary Gilbert
FindAGrave - 2Lt Jack S Callaway, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Leslie E Klinefelter (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Leslie E Klinefelter (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Harold A Smethurst, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Sherlock Terence McNab, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Chester Bauer (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Joseph C Patla (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Gayle Wayne Kizer (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Gayle Wayne Kizer (memorial marker Fairview Cemetery photo)
FindAGrave - Gayle Wayne Kizer (memorial marker Riverside National Cemetery photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Richard Dean Wiley (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT Richard Dean Wiley (photos, Chestnut Hill Memorial Park)
FindAGrave - SSgt Robert Gale Ashby (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Hilary Gilbert, Jr (photos, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - James Willard Erickson (grave Murray Hill Cemetery)
Missing Air Crew - Yap Island Mission Loss—15 July 1944

Missing Air Crew - Kizer Crew, MACR #7180, Yap Island Mission, 15 July 1944
Thanks to Pat Ranfranz and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
August 10, 2019

 

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July 15, 1944
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