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Stuckey January 7, 1944
David Gillis 1969
Richard Leahy 1989
Justin Taylan 2004
|Pilot 1st Lt Dewitt P. Johnson (survived)
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Edward D. Falkenberg (survived)
Navigator 2nd Lt. Charles W. Smith (WIA, survived)
Nose Gunner SSgt Edwin S. Park (survived)
Radio Sgt Milton N. Hoch (WIA, survived)
Radar Operator Cpl Eugene F. Hurley, 36248165 (WIA, died of wounds) Green Bay, WI
Ball Turret Gunner SSgt Robert C. Brown (WIA, survived)
Gunner SSgt Kieth E. Johnson (survived)
Gunner Sgt George O. Fraunfelder, 15353915 (survived) Cuyahoga County, OH
Force Landed December 23, 1943
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 2168. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-130-CO Liberator serial number 42-41091. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia arriving August 16, 1943. This bomber had an AVS radar installed and retained the Sperry ball turret.
During September 1943, assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men", 403rd Bombardment Squadron (403rd BS). Nicknamed "Flying Wolf" with the nose art of a wolf with an open mouth. The upper corners of both tails were painted white with dark green camouflage painted on portions of the tail. Assigned to crew chief Dean.
On December 23, 1943 at 8:06am took off from Horanda Airfield near Dobodura piloted by 1st Lt Dewitt P. Johnson on an armed reconnaissance of the Bismarck Sea off Wewak. Over the target area had partial cloud cover. At 4:40pm spotted a Japanese 1,200 ton cargo ship off But and the crew decided to make an attack from 3,500' but was unable to bomb due to cloud cover and went around.
During a second bomb run, targeted by anti-aircraft fire from But Airfield with a shell bursting below the bomb bay and caused shrapnel to enter the plane and wounded radio operator Hoch and jammed the bomb bay doors shut and when the bombs were released tore the doors off. Damaged, the B-24 climbed to 8,000' and turned back toward base.
Five minutes later, intercepted by a pair of Japanese fighters that the crew claimed were a "Zero" and "Hamp" (sic, both were likely Ki-43 Oscars or possibly one was a Ki-61 Tony). The "Hamp" attacked first from 1 o'clock position and opened fire passing only 100' and hit the middle of the fuselage and damaged the no. 3 engine and damaged the hydraulic system and intercom. Shrapnel or shell fragments hit radar operator Cpl Hurley in the head who fell unconscious, waist gunner SSgt Johnson was hit in the back and ball turret gunner SSgt Brown was injured. Afterwards, the "Zero" made two passes but did not cause any other damage. Following these attacks, the enemy fighters became less aggressive.
At 5:20pm, after ten minutes of air combat, this bomber entered a cloud and escaped. Flying on only three engines and loosing altitude from the damage, the crew jettisoned equipment including machine guns and ammunition. Johnson opted to make a force landing in a small runway in the kunai grass but was unsure of the location was in Japanese or Allied territory.
While lowering the landing gear, the nose wheel did not extend, likely due to hydraulic damage. Landing at Faita Airfield in Allied territory, the main wheels dug into the soft ground and skidded to a stop with the nose down and tail upward. After inspection on the ground, the bomber had over 400 holes and two engines were damaged and one of the nose turret .50 caliber machine guns had failed to operate due to jammed ammunition.
Fates of the Crew
On the ground, the crew were helped by Australian Army 2/2nd Commands and Papuan scouts plus a small U.S. Army Signal Corps detachment operating at this location. Hurley never regained unconscious and overnight died of his wounds.
On December 24, 1943 three of the crew: Brown, Johnston and Hoch were flown out individually aboard L-5s from the 25th Liaison Squadron. In the afternoon, a C-47 landed for the rest of the crew but was unable to depart until the next morning. Injured Brown was later transported back to the United States for additional medical treatment.
On January 7, 1944 the bomber with Australian Army 2/2 Commandos inspecting was photographed by Norman Bradford Stuckey, VX123484. After the crash landing, stripped for usable parts and equipment. Later, the fuselage was cut behind the the top turret leaving the nose section laying on its left side. The rest of the wreckage remained in situ until the late 1990s.
In the late 1990s the wings of were recovered by the B-24 Liberator Restoration Fund and used in their restoration of B-24M Liberator A72-176 at Werribee Airfield.
Justin Taylan adds:
"I visited this wreck in August 2004, it did not look much like an airplane anymore. The tail and wings were removed, and the waist section was cut into two pieces - top and bottom halves and remain. The cockpit section remains, but had been gutted either during the war or by the recovery team."
Hurley was officially declared dead on the day of the mission. On January 10, 1944 a memorial mass was held in his honor at St. Patrick's Church in Green Bay, WI. Later, his remains were transported back to the United States. He was buried at Allouez Catholic Cemetery And Chapel Mausoleum in Green Bay, WI.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Eugene F. Hurley
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-130-CO Liberator 42-41091
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-41091
WW2 Nominal Roll - Norman Bradford Stuckey, VX123484
Green Bay Press-Gazette "A requiem mass for Corp. Eugene F. Hurey - Eugene Hurley Is Killed in Action" January 5, 1944 pages 6 (photo), 9
FindAGrave - Eugene F. Hurley (photo, obituary)
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume 2 (2019) pages 55-58 (December 23, 1943) 56 (photos), 354 (December 23, 1943 summary), 379 (42-41091, 403rd BS), 446 (index Flying Wolf), 451 (index Johnson)
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