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  B-24D-155-CO "Ten Knights in a Bar Room" Serial Number 42-72806  
USAAF
5th AF
90th BG
321st BS

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90th BG 1943

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John Douglas 2003
Pilot  1st Lt Oliver Sheehan, O-740956 (MIA / KIA, BR) San Bernardino County, CA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt James A. Gebbie, O-676371 (MIA / KIA, BR) IL
Navigator  2nd Lt Wendell P. Rawson, O-747103 (MIA / KIA , BR)
Bombardier  2nd Lt Robert J. Rothwell, O-681481 (MIA / KIA, BR) IL
Gunner  T/Sgt Uhland S. Adair, 14150043 (MIA / KIA) AL
Gunner  T/Sgt John J. Haggerty, 11071556 (MIA / KIA, BR) Worcester County, MA
Gunner  S/Sgt Raymond M. Phillips, 13040503 (MIA / KIA, BR) PA
Gunner  S/Sgt Richard D. Wall, 39536717 (MIA / KIA, BR) Los Angeles, CA
Gunner  S/Sgt Thomas D. McNamara, 37075129 (MIA / KIA, BR) St. Louis, MO
Gunner  S/Sgt Rocco W. Bobbora, 16127310 (MIA / KIA, BR) Chicago, IL
Crashed  December 1, 1943 at 1:14pm
MACR  2085

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 2376. On July 30, 1943 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-155-CO Liberator serial number 42-72806. On July 31, 1943 flown to Tucson, AZ then on August 16, 194 to Topeka, KS. On September 7, 1943 ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific before arriving in Australia four days later.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG) "Jolly Rogers", 321st Bombardment Squadron (321st BS) "Bombs Away" based at 5 Mile Drome (Wards) near Port Moresby.

Nicknamed "Ten Knights in a Bar Room" in white with each word in block letters. The words "in a" were lower case in an italics font on the right side of the nose. This nickname was a play on the title of the book Ten Nights in a Bar Room, and What I Saw There (1854) by Timothy S. Arthur that became a famous temperance novel, moralizing on the certainties of bar room life, and was also a play.

The nose art had a large white Pegasus winged horse with a female figure with long hair and a dress riding atop. The Pegasus had both wings extended in a prancing pose with the tail curved into an "s" shape and wearing a bit, harness and bridle held by a female figure with long hair and a dress riding atop.

The tail below the serial number was a large skull and cross bombs in white the motif of the 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG).

On October 18, 1943 took off from 5 Mile Drome (Ward) near Port Moresby piloted by Lt. O'Brien on a bombing mission via Hood Point to Kiriwina.

On October 21, 1943 took off from 5 Mile Drome (Ward) piloted by Lt. Sheehan on a mission against the Sattelberg and Finschafen area.

When lost, engines R-1830-65 serial numbers 42-90868, 42-9590, 42-9190 and 42-90868. Aboard were .50 caliber machine guns makers unknown serial numbers: right tail gun: 382354, left tail gun: 381824, left top turret: 382683, right top turret: 382841, left ball turret: 332737, right ball turret: 382372, right waist gun: 382739, left waist gun: 382324. Left and right nose guns, serial number unknown.

Mission History
On December 1, 1943 took off from 5 Mile Drome (Ward) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt Oliver Sheehan on a bombing mission against Wewak. This bomber was in the number five position in the formation.

After the bomb run at 11:12am over Wewak, a single Ki-61 Tony attacked from the direction of the sun and fired a momentary but accurate burst that hit the port wing of this bomber, causing it to catch fire, with flames coming out of the waist windows. The bomb bay opened just prior to the wings buckling and the tail broke off, crashing near Angoram. The tail section impacted roughly a half mile from the rest of the wreckage. The attacking Ki-61 Tony followed the bomber down to the ground. Possibly, at least one of the crew bailed out before it impacted the ground.

S/Sgt James W Cayten, tail gunner of B-24 "Blonde Bomber" witnessed:
"the number two engine caught fire. Approximately 15 seconds after the engine was afire, flames broke out through the bomb bay, and waist windows. I saw three chutes open behind the plane. I also saw an object which might have been a man leave the ship, but no parachute was seen. I saw two parachutes float with the clouds, and watched the other until out of view. The plane started losing altitude just after the engine was hit. After approximately a minute and half the plane wen into a dive and started breaking apart”.

S/Sgt Clarence Roper, right waist of B-24 "Blonde Bomber" witnessed:
“Shortly after observing the fire in the waist, number two engine blew up and the wing came off, and as the plane started down the tail came off”. The attacking Tony was observed to turn on its back and follow the wreckage almost to the ground. Some in the Liberators wondered why it did not make opportunity for a second pass."

A total of three B-24s were lost this mission including this aircraft plus B-24D "Lobo" 42-40830 and B-24D "Pistol Packin' Mama" 42-41209. Officially this B-24 was condemned on December 2, 1943.

Wreckage
During 1971, Patrol Officer (Kiap) J. Beitling from Angoram Patrol Post located the wreckage of this B-24 near Angoram and recovered the remains of the crew.

John Douglas adds:
"It was found once after the war in 1971, when the crew were recovered [most of them]; and has been undisturbed since that time. The tail came apart from the main body and has survived quite well as can be seen from the photos. The rest is scrap metal."

Brian Bennett adds:
"I went to the site in September 2005 in an official capacity [for Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC)]. I GPS'ed it, it did not find any remains or personal effect, it came in very hard, and it burned."

Recovery of Remains
The remains of the crew recovered in 1971 were turned over to the U.S. Government and transported to the United States. Only one member of the crew, McNamara was individually identified. Nine of the crew were not able to be individually identified: Adair, Haggerty, Rothwell, Bobbora, Phillips, Sheehan, Gebbie, Rawson and Wall.

Memorials
The entire crew were officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. After their remains were recovered in 1971, a rosette was added next to each of their names to indicate they were accounted-for.

After the 1971 recovery of remains, nine of the crew were buried in a group burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 81, site 311-313. The group burial includes: Adair, Haggerty, Rothwell, Bobbora, Phillips, Sheehan, Gebbie, Rawson and Wall.

Sheehan earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Gebbie earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Rawson earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Rothwell earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Sunset Memorial Park in Danville, IL.

Adair earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Haggerty earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Phillips earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Mount Airy Cemetery in Natrona Heights, PA.

Wall earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

McNamara earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. On May 22, 1971 he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri at plot 24, grave 2288.

Bobbora earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Oliver Sheehan
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Richard O. Wall
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James A. Gebbie
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Wendell P. Rawson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert J. Rothwell
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Uhland S. Adair
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John J. Haggerty
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Raymond M. Phillips
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Richard O. Wall
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Rocco W. Bobbora

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-155-CO Liberator 42-72806
"72806 (90th BG, 321st BS, "Ten Knights in a Bar Room") shot down by Ki-61 "Tony" at Wewak, PNG Dec 1, 1943. MACR 2085. 10 KIA"
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-24D Liberator Serial Number 42-72806
Montgomery Advertiser May 15, 1971 article about B-24D 42-72806
Ten Knights in A Bar Room (1990) by Michael J. Cundiff
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group (1997) page 89
The Jolly Rogers (1981) page 197
Mistake Over Wewak - December 1, 1943 Mission
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-72806
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Oliver Sheehan "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - 1LT Oliver Sheehan (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Oliver Sheehan (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James A. Gebbie "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - 2Lt James A Gebbie (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - James A Gebbie (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Wendell P. Rawson "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - Wendell P Rawson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Wendell P Rawson (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert J. Rothwell "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - 2LT Robert J Rothwell (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Robert J Rothwell (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Robert J. Rothwell (photo, memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Uhland S. Adair "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - TSGT Uhland S Adair (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Uhland S. Adair (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John J. Haggerty "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - TSGT John J Haggerty (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - TSGT John J Haggerty (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Raymond M. Phillips "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - SSGT Raymond M Phillips (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Raymond M. Phillips (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Raymond M. Phillips (memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard D. Wall "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - SSGT Richard D Wall (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Richard D Wall (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas D. McNamara "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - SSGT Thomas D McNamara (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Thomas D "Tommy" McNamara (photos, grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Rocco W. Bobbora "his remains were recovered..."
FindAGrave - SSGT Rocco W Bobbora (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Rocco W Bobbora (group burial photo)
The Daily Courier "Air Crew Buried 27 Years After Bomber's Crash" by UPI June 10, 1971, page 24
Thanks to John Douglas, Brian Bennett and Daniel Leahy for additional information

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Last Updated
December 1, 2022

 

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