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  B-24D-155-CO "The Big Ass Bird II" Serial Number 42-72801  
5th AF
380th BG
531st BS

Pilot  1st Lt. Otto H. Martens, O-437245 (MIA / KIA, BR) Ogallala, NE
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Ernest R. Hedges, O-681411 (MIA / KIA, BR) New Albany, IN
Navigator  2nd Lt Clifford M. Odegaard, O-808127 (MIA / KIA, BR) Missoula, MO
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Brian J. Kennedy, O-682551 (MIA / KIA, BR) Flushing, NY
Gunner  T/Sgt Arthur J. Schechtel, 12157189 (MIA / KIA, BR) NY, NY
Gunner  S/Sgt Walter H. Dellinger, 34085818 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lowell, NC
Gunner  S/Sgt Henry F. Flanagan, 31231640 (MIA / KIA, BR) Framingham, MA
Gunner  S/Sgt Charles F. Burtis, 32427593 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lynbrook, NY
Gunner  S/Sgt Howard W. Musson, 16156517 (MIA / KIA, BR) Bensenville, IL
Gunner  T/Sgt William T. Rabbitt, Jr. 32535761 (MIA / KIA, BR) Mt. Vernon, NY
Passenger  Sgt Henry William Clapinson, 6109 RAAF (MIA / KIA, BR) Wellington, NZ
Passenger  L/Sgt Kenneth Dreis Ireland, NX134938 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR)
Passenger  Cpl Arthur Wesley Filewood, QX6556 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR) Kensington, VIC
Passenger  Cpl James Norman McPherson, VX16623 AIF (MIA / KIA, BR) West Sunshine, VIC
Passenger Cpl Godfrey Charles Mitchell-Burden, NX134272 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR) St. Kilda, VIC
Passenger  Cpl Ernest Charles Marshall, WX4211 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR) Kalgoorlie, WA
MIA  March 19, 1944
MACR  3723

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego between July 17-26, 1943. Constructors Number 2371. On July 28, 1943 first test flight. On July 30, 1943 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-155-CO Liberator serial number 42-72801. On September 9, 1943 took off from Fairfeld on a flight via Hickam Field overseas then across the Pacific to Australia. On September 17, 1943 arrived Garbutt Field at Townsville.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 380th Bombardment Group (380th BG), 531st Bombardment Squadron (531st BS). Nicknamed "The Big Ass Bird II" (Big Ass Bird II). Assigned to MSgt Robert S. Christison with mechanics Sgt James A. Rhem and Sgt Warren O. Reed.

On November 9, 1943 took off piloted by Manley (Mission FEN III-21) on a bombing mission against Surabaja on Java. In total, this bomber flew 29 bombing missions before lost. When lost, engines R-1830-65 serial numbers 42-90354, 42-90078, 42-89852 and 42-90498.

Mission History
On March 18, 1944 at approximately 10:59pm took off from Fenton Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. Otto H. Martens (mission FEN V-28) for a special night mission spy drop mission "Hawk" over Babo in New Guinea. In addition to the ten American crew were six Australian Army "Z" Force commandos. This B-24 was last seen on take off. When the bomber failed to return, the entire crew was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Officially stricken off charge on March 20, 1944.

1st Lt. John E. Lawor adds:
"This aircraft was on a highly secretive mission, the details of which are unknown to this headquarters, the operation being conducted by the RAAF at Darwin. In addition to the regular crew of ten men this headquarters has been informed that six additional men were aboard the missing airplane. At approximately 0345/L on 19 March 1944 four of our crew reported seeing an explosion which appeared to originate at approximately 5,000' altitude. This sighting was observed in the vicinity between 3.05S 132.40E and Kokas village. All crews reporting were from 20-30 miles distant and no other details of the explosion were observed.

On March 20, 1944, a search mission was conducted over the area where the explosion was reported for one hour, but no signals from possible survivors were observed or sighting of a crashed airplane were made.

In fact, this B-24 crashed into the Baham Mountains inland from Fak Fak, killing everyone aboard on impact.

Recovery of Remains
During the middle of 1947, the wreckage was located by a RAAF Searcher Team led by F/Lt. Martin T. O'Shea and remains of the crew were recovered.

By January 13, 1948 American Graves Registration Service (AGRS), HQ Philippines reported this B-24 had crashed at Fak Fak and was found by an Australian search unit that recovered 15 sets of remains that were interred in a group burial at Galela War Cemetery at Ambon at grave numbers ZDB 1 to 15.

One body was recovered with flight jack with the name "O. H. Martens". In 1948 these remains were identified and temporarily buried at USAF Cemetery Manila No. 2. Later, his remains were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

During March 16-31, 1948 the crash site was visited by a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS). Afterwards, the recovered remains were transported to the Philippines.

The Australian crew members were officially declared dead on March 19, 1944. The American crew members were officially declared dead on February 18, 1945.

After the recovery of remains, the American crew and Australian passengers were transported to the United States and permanently buried in a a group burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 84, site 402.

Martens, was the only crew member individually identified. He was buried at Ogallala Cemetery in Ogallala, NB.

Hedges has a memorial marker at Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, IN.

Dellinger has a memorial marker at Edgewood Cemetery in Lowell, NC.

This bomber's nickname is listed as both "The Big Ass Bird II" and "Big Ass Bird II".
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-155-CO Liberator 42-72801
"72801 (380th BG, 531st BS) lost Mar 19, 1944, SW Pacific. MACR 3723"
Missing Air Crew Report 3723 (MACR 3723)
[Newspaper article, details unknown] "Special RAAF Search Mission... aircraft that failed to return from wartime operations over the NEI and found the remains of 85 Australian, American and Dutch airmen" [published mid-1947]
"At Fakfak, in south-west Dutch New Guinea, bodies were recovered from a US Liberator which had crashed at night into Baham Mountains. There were six Australians as passengers in the plane."
AGRS Sheet No. 3 / Explanations to the attached overlay map: 2, Location: Prunatmo, Fakfak, Type of plane: Believed to be a B-24, Date of crash: on or about February 1944. Date investigated 16 March 48 to 31 March 48"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-72801
380th BG Data Sheet - B-24D "Big Ass Bird II" 42-72801
380th BG Mission Record - B-24D "Big Ass Bird II" 42-72801

FindAGrave - Otto H. Martens (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Ernest R Hedges (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Ernest R. Hedges (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Clifford M Odegaard (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Brian J Kennedy (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Arthur J Schechtel (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Walter H Dellinger (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Walter Hansell Dellinger (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Henry P Flanagan (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Charles F Burtis (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Howard W Musson (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - William T Rabbitt, Jr (group burial photo)
CWGC - Henry William Clapinson
CWGC - Kenneth Dreis Ireland
CWGC - Arthur Wesley Filewood
CWGC - James Norman McPherson
CWGC - Godfrey Charles Mitchell-Burden (alias "M. C. Taylor")
CWGC - Ernest Charles Marshall
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information

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Last Updated
February 25, 2021


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