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  B-24J-1-CO "Miss Bee Haven" Serial Number 42-72982  
USAAF
7th AF
30th BG
38th BS

Click For Enlargement
USAAF c1943


38th BS November 1943

Click For Enlargement
USAAF c1943



USAAF Jan 21, 1944


Sake Denched Postcards
circa 2000s


Los fantasmas de Tarawa
circa 2000s
Pilot  1st Lt Morris A. Skaalen, O-739688 (survived) Boyd, MN
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Carl A. Swalberg, O-743536 (survived) UT
Navigator  2nd Lt. Theodore A. Parsons, O-741808 (survived)
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Donald E. Underwood, O-738751 (MIA / KIA, BR) Wayne County, MI
Engineer  SSgt Edward A. Horney, 33236164 (KIA, BR) Lebanon, PA
Radio  TSgt John S. Bailey, 33190516 (MIA / KIA, BR) Woodstock, VA
Asst. Engineer
  SSgt Jack R. Busch, 32474977 (KIA, BR) Erie County, NY
Asst. Radio  SSgt Vincent J. Rogers, Jr., 12169863 (MIA / KIA, BR) Erie County, NY
Tail Gunner  SSgt Thomas E. LaSota, 3308941 (KIA, BR) Royalton, MN
Observer  Captain George Van Vleet, Jr., O-917892 S-2 (MIA / KIA, BR) Fresno, CA
Crashed  January 21, 1944 at 12:21am
MACR  2818

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 2542. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-1-CO Liberator serial number 42-72982. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then to the Central Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 7th Air Force, 30th Bombardment Group, 38th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Miss Bee Haven" painted in white with the nose art of a nude figure holding a bomb in her left hand and a pistol in her right hand on the left side of the nose plus mission markings indicating bombing missions flown and "Lt. M. A. Skaalen" stenciled below the pilot window. The right side of the nose was blank with "Lt. C. A. Swalberg" stenciled below the co-pilot window.

On November 12, 1943, this bomber was based at Nanumea Airfield and flew at least eight combat missions, sometimes staging from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field).

When lost, engine serial numbers R-1830-65 serial numbers 42-90275, 42-90734, 42-91509 and DP-40063. Aboard were twelve .50 caliber machine guns, serial numbers unknown and one pyrotechnic pistol M-8. None of the weapon serial numbers are noted in Missing Air Crew Report 2818 (MACR 2818).

Mission History
On January 21, 1944 at 12:21am took off from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field) on Tarawa (Betio) piloted by 1st Lt Morris A. Skaalen on a bombing mission against Roi Island at Kwajalein Atoll. Aboard as an observer was Captain George Van Vleet, Jr. from intelligence S-2. This bomber took off on a west to east direction but was unable to attain an altitude of 100'. Both pilots lowered the nose slightly in an attempt to gain speed, then pulled up sharply before impacting Tarawa Lagoon tail first. This bomber exploded on impact roughly 150 yards off the southern shore of Tarawa (Betio) roughly two-thirds of a mile east of the runway. Seventeen minutes later, B-24J 42-72999 also crashed into the sea further to the east.

Fates of the Crew
Three survived the crash and seven were killed on impact. The three survivors were able to escape from a hole torn to the rear of the co-pilot's position allowing them to escape. Observing the crash from Tarawa (Betio), Dr. Feves waded out to the crash site and assisted the three survivors into a life raft.

Wreckage
The wreckage of this bomber settled at a depth of 18" or partially exposed during low tide. During the crash, the tail section broke off rear of the bomb bay scattering bombs and the tail section landed upside down. The front half of the bomber impacted nose first then spun to the right. The bottom of the nose section was badly damaged and torn. Rear of the co-pilot's position was torn, allowing the three survivors to escape.

Recovery of Remains
After helping the survivors, Dr. Feves entered the wreckage and found the bodies of six of the crew: Van Vleet, Horney, Rogers, Underwood, Bailey and Busch. The recovered remains were placed into a life raft and moved ashore then placed in a tent under guard until wooden crates arrived to use as burial boxes.

On January 22, 1944 the recovered remains were buried in Marine Cemetery No. 33 on Tarawa (Betio) at a depth of 4' with temporary grave markers. Later, the remains of another member of the crew, presumed to be from this B-24 was recovered and buried in Marine Cemetery no. 33 at plot 13, row 3, grave 2.

In March 1946 the graves of these crew members were exhumed and relocated to Lone Pine Cemetery on Tarawa (Betio). One of the sets of remains was designated unknown X-File (X-14), these remains were later identified as Van Vleet. Afterwards, the remains of Busch were exhumed and transported to U.S. Army Mausoleum at Schofield Barracks on Oahu then transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Postwar, Horney, Busch and LaSota were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

The graves of Underwood, Bailey, Rogers and Van Vleet were lost and never exhumed and their status listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

On April 3, 2017, DPAA disinterred the grave of "Tarawa Unknown X-012" from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).  During June 2017, a row of graves were located by History Flight on Tarawa (Betio) working under contract for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). History Flight recovered three sets of remains remains with dog tag were and were transported to their laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH) for identification.

On September 14, 2017 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of 2nd Lt. Donald E. Underwood using dental, anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence.

On September 18, 2017 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of TSgt John S. Bailey using dental, anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence.

On March 23, 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of Captain George Van Vleet, Jr.. He was identified using DNA testing using samples provided by Ann Wanger and Peter Van Vleet plus skeletal, dental and materials analysis, medical examiners were able to make a positive match.

On April 1, 2019 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of SSgt Vincent J. Rogers, Jr. He was identified using dental and anthropological analysis and Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.

On April 2019, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of SSgt. Jack R. Busch, Jr. Previously, his family granted permission to have his grave exhumed for DNA testing. The remains buried were determined to be associated with a set of remains and were consolidated for further testing.

On March 18, 2020, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of 2nd Lt. George M. Johnson

Memorials
The six crew killed in the crash were officially declared dead the day of the mission.

Underwood earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 5. After his remains were identified on September 14, 2017 a rosette was placed next to his name indicating he was accounted for. On March 14 2017 a memorial service attended by his brother, George Underwood was conducted at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60, site 11603. After his remains were identified, his remains were buried on November 28, 2017 at Flat Rock, Michigan next to his mother's grave.

Horney is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lebanon, PA.

Bailey earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7. After his remains were identified on September 18, 2017 a rosette was placed next to his name indicating he was accounted for. On June 13, 2018 buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester, VA at section B, plot 118.

Busch was buried in 1946 in Acacia Park Cemetery in North Tonawanda, NY at section F, lot 507, grave 12. The Busch family agreed to allow the grave to be exhumed and the remains were transported to the DPAA Laboratory and determined to be associated with a remains found by History Flight in Cemetery No. 33 on Tarawa (Betio). The two sets of remains were consolidated for further testing.

Rogers earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7. Rogers also has a memorial marker cenotaph at Yorks Corners Cemetery in Willing, New York.

LaSota is buried at Holy Trinity Cemetery in Royalton, MN.

Van Vleet earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 5. After his remains were identified on March 23, 2018 a rosette was placed next to his name indicating he was accounted for. Postwar, the American Legion Post No. 594 in Fresno, CA was renamed the Van Vleet Post in his honor.

Skaalen passed away November 30, 1999 at age 81. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at section CBE, row 2, site 180.

Display
During 2015, March Field Air Museum (March AFB Museum) opened an exhibit devoted to SSgt Vincent J. Rogers Jr., in their main hanger, west wall. The exhibit includes Rogers' personal letters home, a B-24 turret plus six 8' x 4' interpretive panels.

March Field Air Museum Future Exhibits - Staff Sergeant Vincent J. Rogers Jr. Exhibit
"The "Staff Sergeant Vincent J. Rogers Jr. Exhibit" is open. Using six 8' by 4' interpretive panels with period artifacts, sound isolation domes and a newly restored B-24 gun turret the exhibit traces the wartime experiences of Staff Sergeant Rogers. Dedicated to preserving the legacy of the common Army Air Force service members of World War II the exhibit was developed from Roger’s wartime letters. Motion activated sound domes permit visitors to hear Rogers describe each step of his captivating personal journey from recruit to hardened veteran as he teaches us the true cost of war."

Relatives
George Underwood (brother of Donald E. Underwood)
Ann Wanger (daughter of George Van Vleet)
Peter Van Vleet (brother of George Van Vleet)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Morris A. Skaalen

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Carl A. Swalberg
The Fresno Bee "Prominent Fresno Man Is Killed in South Pacific" February 22, 1944
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-1-CO Liberator 42-72982
"72982 (30th BG) lost Jan 21, 1944, Central Pacific. MACR 2818"
Missing Air Crew Report 2818 (MACR 2818) created February 25, 1944
AFHRA "38th Bombardment Squadron (H) January 1944, IRISNUM: 00043992
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Howard T. Lurcott pages 29-34
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Donald E. Underwood
"remains of 2nd Lt. Donald E. Underwood were accounted for in 2017."
FindAGrave - 2Lt Donald E Underwood (photos, courts of the missing photos)
FindAGrave - 2LT Donald Eugene Underwood (photos, Arlington memorial marker photo)
DPAA Release "Airman Killed During World War II Accounted For (Underwood, D.)" September 14, 2017
DPAA Release "Funeral Announcement For Airman Killed During World War II (Underwood, D.)" Release No: 17-134 Nov. 17, 2017
FindAGrave - TSGT Edward A Horney (photo, grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - John S. Bailey
"remains of Tech Sgt. John S. Bailey were accounted for in 2017."
FindAGrave - TSGT John S Bailey (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - TSGT John S. “Jack” Bailey (photo, grave - Mount Hebron Cemetery)
DPAA Release "Airman Killed During World War II Accounted For (Bailey, J.S.)" Sept. 25, 2017
DPAA Release "Funeral Announcement For Airman Killed During World War II (Bailey, J.S.)" Release No: 18-074 June 5, 2018
FindAGrave - SSGT Jack R Busch (photos, memorial marker/grave photo)
Pilot Accounted For From World War II (Johnson, G.) Release No: 19-241 March 18, 2020
"In April 2019, DPAA identified a set of remains as U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Jack R. Busch, Jr. He had reportedly been accounted for in 1946 and buried near Niagara, New York. Permission was granted by Busch’s family to exhume the remains in New York for testing. The New York remains were determined to be associated with a set of remains from the History Flight coffin burials. The two sets of remains were consolidated for further testing."
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Vincent J. Rogers Jr.
FindAGrave - SSgt Vincent Jerome Rogers, J (photos, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Vincent Jerome Rogers, Jr (photos, memorial marker)
DPAA Release "Airman Accounted For From World War II (Rogers, V.)" Release No: 19-053 April 1, 2019 updated April 29, 2019
FindAGrave - SSGT Thomas E LaSota (photo, grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - George Van Vleet Jr.
"remains of Capt. George Van Vleet were accounted for in 2018."
FindAGrave - Capt George Van Vleet, Jr (photos, courts of the missing photo)
DPAA Release "Airman Killed During World War II Accounted For (Van Vleet, G.)" March 23, 2018
"March 23, 2018 Capt. George Van Vleet, killed during World War II, has now been accounted for"
FindAGrave - Capt Morris Arnold "Mike" Skaalen (photos, grave photo)
Sake Drenched Postcards - The Guns of Betio includes photos of this B-24 wreckage
Los fantasmas de Tarawa [The ghosts of Tarawa] includes photos of this B-24 wreckage
B-24 Liberator Units of the Pacific War (1999) page 37 (photo), 97 (index)
March Field Air Museum Future Exhibits - Staff Sergeant Vincent J. Rogers Jr. Exhibit
Associated Press "WWII remains on Pacific island identified as Michigan man" by Ed White September 14, 2017
Washington Top News "WWII remains on Pacific island identified as Michigan man" by AP September 14, 2017
Thanks to Katherine Rasdorf, Pete Johnston and Bob Livingstone and Jeff Houlihan / March Field Museum for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020

 

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Jan 21, 1944

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