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  B-24J-1-CO Liberator Serial Number 42-72999  
USAAF
7th AF
30th BG
38th BS


38th BS January 1944
Pilot  1st Lt Howard T. Lurcott, O-665064 819th BS (MIA / KIA, BR) St. Louis, MO
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. George M. Johnson, O-534947 38th BS (MIA / KIA, BR) Seaford, DE
Navigator  2nd Lt. Stanley J. Alenier, O-801180 819th BS (MIA / KIA) CT
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Stephen J. Dabrowski, O-669210 (MIA / KIA, BR) Hudson County, NJ
Engineer  SSgt Donald L. Polzien, 17038352 (MIA / KIA) NB
Radio  SSgt Carl M. Shaffer, 33186567 819th BS
(MIA / KIA, BR) Pottstown, PA
Asst. Radar  SSgt John F. Fenzel, 33064378 819th BS (MIA / KIA) South Baltimore, MD
Asst. Engineer  SSgt James W. Shell, 14047616 819th BS (MIA / KIA) Fulton County, GA
Armorer-Gunner  SSgt Arthur E. Myers, 35038018 (MIA / KIA, BR) Muskingum County, OH
Radar-Gunner  Sgt Howard Rothman, 32075843 819th BS (MIA / KIA) Atlantic County, NJ
Crashed  January 21, 1944 at 12:38am
MACR  2629 / 9894

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 42-72999. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then to the Central Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 7th Air Force, 30th Bombardment Group, 38th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. 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 42-90414, 42-90076, 42-89485 and 42-89998. Aboard were ten .50 caliber machine guns, serial numbers 677866, 677332, 671009, 671774, 671523, 677467, 748982, 671076, 670983 and 670898. Also aboard were two .30 caliber machine guns serial numbers 18140 and 27877. Plus, one pyrotechnic pistol M-8 serial number unknown.

Mission History
On January 21, 1944 at 12:38am took off from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field) on Tarawa (Betio) piloted by 1st Lt Howard T. Lurcott on a bombing mission against Roi Island at Kwajalein Atoll. This bomber took off seventeen minutes after B-24J "Miss Bee Haven" 42-72982 which crashed after take off.

After taking off to the east, the engines did not sound as though they were developing power. After reaching an altitude of roughly 250' to 300', the bomber started to settle slowly. At 12:38am crashed into the seas roughly 3 miles to the east outside Tarawa Lagoon.

On impact, the B-24 blew up in two distinct explosions heard on Tarawa. The entire crew was presumed to be killed in the crash and were all listed as Missing In Action (MIA). The crash was believed to have been caused by water in the gas.

Wreckage
The wreckage of this B-24 sank into to Tarawa Lagoon at a depth of 24'.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of three of the crew, later identified as Dabrowski, Polzien and Myers were recovered and buried in the main U.S. Marine Cemetery No. 33 on Tarawa (Betio). The remains of other crew members including Lurcott were also recovered and buried on Marine Cemetery no. 33 on Tarawa (Betio).

In March 1946 the graves of Dabrowski, Polzien and Myers were exhumed and relocated to Lone Palm Cemetery on Tarawa (Betio). Afterwards, the remains of Dabrowski and Myers were again exhumed and transported to U.S. Army Mausoleum at Schofield Barracks on Oahu before being transported to the United States for permanent burial.

On January 23, 2017 grave of "Tarawa Unknown X-15" was exhumed from National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) and the remains went to the DPAA laboratory for forensic testing. Later in 2017 History Flight on Tarawa (Betio) located a series of coffins buried in Cemetery No. 33 that were exhumed and transported to the DPAA laboratory for analysis and consolidated with the remains recovered from Tarawa Unknown X-15. These remains were tested using dental, anthropological analysis plus circumstantial and material evidence and mDNA analysis.

On December 12, 2019 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of 2nd Lt. George M. Johnson using dental, anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence. To identify Johnson’s remains, dental, anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence was used plus mDNA analysis.

On December 20, 2018 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the identification of SSgt Carl Shaffer.

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

Lurcott earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Afterwards, his remains were buried on buried in Cemetery No. 33 on Tarawa (Betio) and as "Tarawa Unknown X-15" at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7. After his remains were identified on January 28, 2019 a rosette was placed next to his name indicating he was accounted for. Lurcott was permanently buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 3 site 8968-C.

Johnson earned the earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7. After his remains were identified on December 12, 2019 a rosette was placed next to his name indicating he was accounted for. Johnson also had a memorial marker at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Seaford, DE. After his remains were identified he was originally scheduled to be buried on May 8, 2020 but was delayed until October 2, 2021 at the memorial marker adding a grave marker.

Alenier earned the earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7.

Dabrowski is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot C site 1314.

Polzien earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7. He also has a memorial marker at Fort McPherson National Cemetery section MA, site 10. Polzien also has a second memorial marker at Jefferson Cemetery in Jefferson, IA.

Shaffer earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7. After his remains were identified on December 12, 2019 a rosette was placed next to his name indicating he was accounted for.

Fenzel earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7.

Shell earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7.

Myers is buried at Dresden Cemetery in Dresden, OH at block 5, row 10.

Rothman earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the court of the missing on court 7.

References
Note, the Lurcott crew missing in this crash were photographed with B-24D "Galloping Gus" a different aircraft.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Howard T. Lurcott
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Stanley J. Alenier
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Stephen J. Dabrowski
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Donald L. Polzien
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Carl M. Shaffer
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John F. Fenzel
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James W. Shell
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Arthur E. Myers
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Howard Rothman
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-1-CO Liberator 42-72999
"72999 (30th BG) lost Jan 21, 1944, Central Pacific. MACR 2629"
Missing Air Crew Report 2629 (MACR 2629) created February 18, 1944 (microfilm version from NARA)
Missing Air Crew Report 9894 (MACR 9894) tcreated February 18, 1944 wo page form only that appears in crew Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) including Johnson pages 14-15.
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Howard T. Lurcott
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - George M. Johnson
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Stanley J. Alenier
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Donald L. Polzien
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Carl M. Shaffer
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - John F. Fenzel
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - James W. Shell
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Howard Rothman
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Howard T. Lurcott
FindAGrave - 1Lt Howard T Lurcott (photos, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT Howard Thomas Lurcott (photos, grave photo)
ANC Explorer - Howard T Lurcott (grave photos)
DPAA "Pilot Accounted For From World War II (Lurcott, H.)" Release No: 19-037 January 31 2019 / March 12, 2019
"1st Lt. Howard T. Lurcott, 26, of Philadelphia, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Jan. 28, 2019."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George M. Johnson
FindAGrave - 2Lt George M Johnson (photos, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT George McMullen Johnson (photos, memorial marker photo)
DPAA "Pilot Accounted For From World War II (Johnson, G.)" Release No: 19-241 March 18, 2020
"Johnson, 23, of Seaford, Delaware, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Dec. 12, 2019"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Stanley J. Alenier
FindAGrave - 2Lt Stanley J Alenier (photos, obituary, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Stephen J Dabrowski (photos, grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Donald L. Polzien
FindAGrave - SSgt Donald L Polzien (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Donald L Polzien (memorial marker photo - Fort McPherson)
FindAGrave - Sgt Donald L. Polzien (memorial marker photo - Jefferson Cemetery)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Carl M. Shaffer
FindAGrave - SSgt Carl M Shaffer (photos, courts of the missing photo)
Airman Accounted For From World War II (Shaffer, C.) Release No: 19-036 March 12, 2019
"Shaffer, 22, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Dec. 20, 2018"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John F. Fenzel
FindAGrave - SSgt John F Fenzel (photos, courts of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James W. Shell
FindAGrave - SSgt James W Shell (photo, courts of the missing photos)
FindAGrave - Arthur E. Myers (photos, grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard Rothman
FindAGrave - Sgt Howard Rothman (photos, courts of the missing photo)
Thanks to Katherine Rasdorf, Pete Johnston and Bob Livingstone for research and analysis

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Last Updated
August 28, 2021

 

Tech Information
B-24

SCUBA
24' / 7.3m

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Jan 21, 1944

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