|Pilot Captain Lark E. "The Lark" Martin, Jr., O-791050 (MIA / KIA) GA
Co-Pilot F/O Herman E. Malmquist, T-000112 (MIA / KIA) MN
Engineer M/Sgt Burl Newport, 14043363 (MIA / KIA) TN
Radio T/Sgt Hodge J. Collins, 34258838 (MIA / KIA) NC
Passenger S/Sgt Jack L. Gunderson, 19072583 (MIA / KIA) UT
Passenger Sgt Irving Herson, 11037604 (MIA / KIA) MA
Passenger Sgt Edward T. Baker, 12041080 (MIA / KIA) NY
Passenger 1st. Lt Richard B. Stanton, O-659492 (MIA / KIA) Chicago, IL
Passenger 1st Lt. Frank J. Jerome, III, O-409215 (MIA / KIA) IL
Crashed September 2, 1943 at 3:00pm
The pilot of the aircraft
was Captain Lark E. Martin whose nickname was "The Lark". Martin was
trained in Canada as a fighter pilot and was renown for his low-level
flying. Passenger Jerome was with the 871st Airborne Engineer. Riding as a passenger on this plane was 1st Lt. Richard B. Stanton, from Chicago, Illinois. Lt. Stanton was among the first group of P-38 pilots to arrive in Brisbane, Australia in 1942, and he served with the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group based at Port Moresby. He went along on the test flight as a friend of Captain Martin, while serving with the Troop Carrier Command.
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army on June 29, 1943. During August 1943, ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 90th Bombardment Group, 400th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Battlin' Betts" after the bombardier's wife. No known nose art. When lost, engines R-1830-43 AAF serial numbers: 42-87521, 42-87577, 42-87485, 42-87874. Officially condemned on November 11, 1943.
On September 2, 1943 took off from 5 Mile Drome (Wards) near Port Moresby on an
engineering test flight over Fishermans Island. The last radio contact was near Kekini Rocks off Redscar Bay at 3:00pm. This B-24 failed to return and was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Later, parts presumed to be from this bomber were found floating near Fishermans
Island, but no bodies were ever located. One tire floated ashore. It was assumed that this B-24 has flown too low over the ocean and crashed.
Robert N. Hoffman 871st Airborne Engineers adds:
"In an old notebook from WWII I see an address: Mrs. F. J. Jerome,
10951 Longwood Drive, Chicago, Illinois. I do not know if that was his
wife or his mother. I do not know the date of his death. Sam Parmelee
may know more details than I, but I was at least peripherally involved
because I believe I got the phone call from the outfit that lost the
bomber (90th Bomber Squadron, maybe) asking if we had a "Lieutenant
Ashburner" in our battalion. [ Lt. Ashburner was our Motor
Officer and Hooper was the NCO in charge of the Motor Pool. Lt. Sam
Parmelee was Personnel Officer.]
I told the caller we did, and was informed that
he was on a B-24 that was missing. I told the caller that I had seen
Lt. Ashburner only an hour or so earlier and that he couldn't be on
the missing plane. Further checking indicated that Lt. Jerome had borrowed
Lt. Ashburner's jeep to go to the Bomber Squadron's location where Lt.
Jerome had friends. The jeep had Lt. Ashburner's tool box in it with
his name painted on the box. The jeep had our markings on it and that's
why they called us. I may be wrong, but I think Sgt. Cornelius L. Hooper
was the one who went to pick up the jeep."
I had a call a couple of months later from a Sergeant
at the 90th Bomber Sq. (if it was the 90th) who told me that they were
sending out a party to look for signs of wreckage on Fisherman's Island
(I think that 's what he said) and did I want to go along? I told him
I was not interested, but that I would appreciate knowing if they found
anything. The word got back was that they had found a tail wheel strut
with the plane number on it and that it probably went down at sea. I
never heard anything further."
From some source I was told that the B-24's pilot
was Jack Martin and that he had a reputation for stunting, such as skimming
the ocean surface, etc. Allegedly he also on occasion let friends who
were fighter or transport pilots fly planes he had invited then to ride
on with him. We were near the 90th Bomb Group (Heavy) the "Jolly
Rogers" in Port Moresby at that time."
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Martin has a memorial marker at Evergreen Cemetery in Fitzgerald, GA.
Gunderson has a memorial marker at Ferron City Cemetery in Ferron, UT.
Robert H. Stanton (nephew of Richard B. Stanton) adds:
"In response to an inquiry made by an acquaintance of Lt. Stanton's father, the Managing Editor of the Chicago Tribune, J.L. (Pat) Maloney, wrote his old friend Major General Ennis C. Whitehead (Commander, Advanced Echelon, 5th AF) in New Guinea, requesting information about the missing plane. Maloney stated that he flew with Whitehead as a member of the First Pursuit Group in World War I on the Chateau Thierry and Argonne fronts. In a letter from General Whitehead to Maloney, dated 19 November 1943, Whitehead stated that "Capt. Martin... was going to test a new ball turret." Martin had given his time of return as 1545 local time.
Whitehead went on to give his conclusion:
"It is undoubtedly difficult for anyone who has not seen the terrain in New Guinea to understand how an airplane can disappear without a trace, occasionally however, such things happen. Anyone of a half a dozen reasons might have caused this crash. There is so much bad weather in New Guinea and adjacent thereto the terrain is very rugged. The country is sparsely populated and in my own best judgment I believe that a local bad weather caused the loss of this airplane and its crew."
Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 652
The Jolly Rogers page 110, 196 includes Saturday Evening Post article on "Lark"
by Chuck Rawlings
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-41099
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lark E. Martin Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Herman E. Malmquist
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Burl Newport
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Hodge J. Collins
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack L. Gunderson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Irving Herson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward T. Baker
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard B. Stanton
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank J. Jerome, III
FindAGrave - Capt Lark E Martin, Jr (photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Lark Martin, Jr (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - FltOff Herman E Malmquist (tablets of the missing)
MSgt Burl Newport (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - TSGT Hodge J Collins (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Jack L. Gunderson (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Ssgt Jack L Gunderson (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - SSgt Jack L Gunderson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Irving Herson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Edward T Baker (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Richard B Stanton (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Frank J Jerome, III (tablets of the missing)
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February 18, 2020