|Missing In Action (MIA)||Prisoners Of War (POW)||Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)|
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USAAF Dec 15, 1943
|Command Pilot Lt. Col. Arthur J. Walker, O-22462 Deputy 30th BG (POW, survived)
Pilot 1st Lt. Fred F. Garrett, O-740163 (POW, survived)
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. James J. Palladino, O-747476 (POW, MIA / KIA) CA
Navigation 2nd Lt. Charles W. Holland, O-807218 (POW, MIA / KIA) CA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Donald E. Wright, O-684660 (POW, MIA / KIA) Wichita, KS
Engineer TSgt John D. Travers, 33373905 (MIA / KIA) Baltimore, MD
Radio TSgt Virgil F. Abbott, 39838966 (POW, MIA / KIA) Eagle Point, OR
Asst. Engineer SSgt John R. Ormesher, 13131466 (MIA / KIA) PA
Asst. Radio SSgt Lester G. Schwam, 12185887 27th BS (MIA / KIA) NY
Tail Gunner SSgt George S. Lunsford, 37226920 (POW, MIA / KIA)
Passenger Major Thomas F. Harper, Jr., O-366491 30th BG, HQ (MIA / KIA) MS
Ditched December 15, 1943
MACR 1415 / 3688
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 2534. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-1-CO Liberator serial number 42-72969. Ferried to Hickam Field then to the Central Pacific.
Assigned to the 7th Air Force, 30th Bombardment Group, 27th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Our Baby" with the nose art of a blonde woman. Below the cockpit window were bomb markings indicating missions flown. During the middle of November 1943 based at Nanumea Airfield.
On December 15, 1943 one of twenty B-24s that took off from Nanumea Airfield on a bombing mission against Taroa. Weather unlimited unlimited with .3 coverage cumulus clouds. Over the target, while in a slight dive from 8,100', this B-24 was hit by anti-aircraft fire hitting the no. 1 engine and creating holes in the wing. The no. 1 caught fire and burned until reaching 1,000'. The other three B-24s in the formation boxed in this damaged bomber and attempted to escorted it, while being attacked by enemy aircraft.
Damaged, this B-24 hit the water in a complete stall and impacted between two swells. The tail briefly surfaced above the surface, indicating it broke off in the crash. The left wing also broke off when it hit the water. The other three B-24s were still under fighter attack and were unable to see if there were any survivors. The entire B-24 sunk within 40 seconds or less after the impact.
Fates of the Crew
The seven survivors were rescued by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POWs). All seven were transported to Kwajalein and detained and interrogated. The fates of Palladino, Wright, Holland, Abbott and Lunsford are unknown, likely executed or died in captivity. All five remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
The Japanese interrogated Walker and referred to him as "Lt. Col F.". The other five crew members of the crew were referred to as H, I, J, K, L.
At the end of January 1944 when the U.S. liberated Kwajalein, a captured Japanese document found revealed that seven of the crew were taken prisoner by the Japanese including Walker, Garrett, Palladino, Wright, Holland, Abbott and Lunsford. Although these men were indeed POWs, their official status was not changed to POW in official records for unknown reasons, and instead remained listed as MIA.
All are memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing. Palladino, Holland, Harper and Abbott, Ormesher, Schwam, Lunsford and Harper on court 7. Wright and Travers on court 5.
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