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  B-24D-110-CO Liberator Serial Number 42-40885  
5th AF
43rd BG
64th BS

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John Douglas

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Justin Taylan 2005
Pilot  F/O Carl A. Nelson (survived) Emporia, KS
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. John H. Pfieffer (survived) Cunberland, MD
Navigator  2nd Lt. Alexander E. Nagy (survived)
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Wilbert Alwedt (survived)
Gunner  TSgt Troy W. Selvey (survived)
Gunner  TSgt Lucian I. Oliver, 14070201 (survived) Memphis, TN
Gunner  SSgt Warren Brooks (survived)
Gunner  SSgt Anthony Cantazaro (survived)
Gunner  TSgt Paul Barbus (survived)
Force Landed  October 18, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego at a cost of $297,627. Constructors Number 1962. On May 26, 1943 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force as B-24D-110-CO Liberator serial number 42-40885. Flown overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia arriving July 14, 1943.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men", 64th Bombardment Squadron (64th BS). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On October 18, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome (Jackson) near Port Moresby piloted by F/O Carl A. Nelson armed with 100 pound bombs on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. The formation included B-24 Liberators from the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG), 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG) and 380th Bombardment Group (380th BG). Due to bad weather, the formation bombed the the alternate target, Hoskins Airfield. Damage was noted as one small lugger sunk in harbor and a large column of smoke and a fire in target area.

Returning, this B-24 ran low on fuel approaching the coast of northern New Guinea. Pilot Nelson ordered the crew to bail out, while he and co-pilot Pfieffer force landed the bomber onto a flat grassy area west of Gona that proved to be a sago swamp.

In total, five bombers were lost, this aircraft plus B-24D "Sky Lady" 41-24043 (crew rescued), B-24D "Ben Buzzard" 42-40670 (four rescued, two KIA and five MIA) and B-24D 41-41088 (crew rescued).

The two pilots were unhurt in the crash landing. The remainder of the crew successfully parachuted to the ground. With the help of local people, the crew assembled at the crash site.

The next day, three B-24's (two from the 64th Bombardment Squadron and one from the 63rd Bombardment Squadron) located the crashed bomber and the crew. From the air, they dropped supplies to the crew. Afterwards, the crew was led to friendly forces and returned to duty.

Pilot Nelson flew his next combat mission on October 29, 1943. On November 21, 1943 TSgt  Oliver was killed as the radar operator/gunner aboard B-24D 42-40886 on a night radar search mission over Wewak.

After the crash, a US Army salvage team recovered the four engines, landing gear, machine guns and gun turrets from the bomber.

John Douglas visited the crash site in 2000:
"It is complete, but stripped. The villagers remember the plane crashed, including the fact that the pilot was named Nelson and the other crew member was a redhead."

Justin Taylan visited the crash site on September 4, 2005:
"Locals told the story of how their fathers: Clive Burau, Hayward Geroya and Copland Vigaba were gardening in the area near where the bomber force landed.  They witnessed the eight men bailing out, and the crash. One of the men, Copland Vigaba was given a note by the pilot and ran down to Yamboro where Australian soldiers were camped. He then led the Australians to the crash site to rescue the bomber's crew."

Robert Nelson (nephew of Carl Nelson)
Are you a member or relative of this bomber's crew? Contact us

Pilot Carl A. Nelson noted in his flight log: "Bombed Hoskin strip. Crash landed 6 miles N.W. Gona Wreach (sp), 8 men bailed out all ok. 2 men with ship ok".
After the war, John Pfeiffer wrote an account of the incident.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-110-CO Liberator 42-40885
"40885 lost over northern New Guinea afer raid on Rabaul Oct 18, 1943. Crashlanded on Gona Beach, all crew survived (pacificwrecks)"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-40885

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Last Updated
July 14, 2022


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