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IJN December 31, 1943
Rita Haddock 2000
|Pilot 1st Lt. Ivan M. Osborne, O-662817 (MIA / KIA) Bakersfield, CA
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Raymond D. Cloyer, O-728059 (MIA / KIA) IL
Navigator 2nd Lt. Virgil A. Tramelli, O-2845295 (POW, executed, MIA) MO
Bombardier 1st Lt. Maxie G. Deer Jr., O-728260 (POW, executed, MIA) AL
Engineer TSgt Edward J. Bislew, 16047634 (POW, executed, MIA) WI
Asst Eng Pvt Williston F. Rumsey, 20275475 (POW, executed, MIA) NY
Radio TSgt Joseph J. Perry, 32162027 (POW, executed, MIA) PA
Asst Radio SSgt John J. Dell, 33261245 (POW, executed, MIA) PA
Gunner SSgt Warren C. Hill, 13029683 (POW, executed, MIA) Lehighton, PA
Gunner SSgt Hulbert J. Swaim, 35400152 (POW, executed, MIA) OH
Ditched December 29, 1943 at 12:01pm
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-1-CO Liberator serial number 42-73013. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field to the Central Pacific.
Assigned to the 7th Air Force, 11th Bombardment Group, 431st Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Baby Sandy 2". When lost, engines R-1380-65 serial numbers 42-90212, BP-400022, 42-90075 and 42-89866. Armed with ten .50 caliber machine guns, serial numbers unknown plus two .30 caliber machine guns, serial numbers unknown.
On December 29, 1943 took off from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins) piloted by 1st Lt. Ivan M. Osborne on a bombing mission against Taroa Airfield. The weather was good. After releasing their bombs, the formation was attacked by over thirty A6M Zeros.
Damaged, this B-24 was observed to have a large 8" hole in the fuselage and right stabilizer, plus a 6" hold in the left upper No. 2 engine nacelle, causing the No. 2 engine to begin throwing oil and smoking, followed by the No. 3 engine. Later, the No. 1 engine also began to smoke and the bomber began loosing altitude and broke away from the formation and began flying towards Majuro Atoll. Each propeller was spinning, but must have not been generating much power or were unable to be feathered.
Two B-24s in the formation: B-24 piloted by 2nd Lt. Donald H. Joyce and B-24J 42-73006 piloted by 2nd Lt. Harvey I. Lundy escorted the damaged bomber. They were required to use half flaps to match the damaged bomber's airspeed of roughly 130 mph.
Over Majuro Atoll, pilot Osborne made a "U" turn into the wind in preparation for ditching. At this time, the No. 2 engine was feathered or had stopped turning. This B-24 made a perfect water landing onto the west reef between Majuro Island and Ajola Island at 12:01pm. Two Zero followed the B-24s to Majuro (Laura). Spotting the ditched bomber, two Zeros dove down to strafe the bomber, until driven off by the orbiting B-24s.
The aircraft was not broken up and was resting high in the sea with most of the plane above water. It did not catch fire or explode. The two escorts departed due to a lack of fuel and ammunition, as did the Zeros. The orbiting B-24s did not observe any survivors from the bomber before departing. The entire crew was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
American aircraft searched for any sign of the crew but saw none. A U.S. Navy PBY Catalina proceeded to the ditching location. They attempted to bomb the ditched but intact B-24, but failed to destroy it.
Fates of the Crew
During the ditching, the pilot and co-pilot died on impact. The other eight members of the crew survived the ditching and managed to reach a small island to the northeast.
When the two A6M Zeros that strafed the downed B-24 returned to Taroa Airfield, they reported ditched bomber. The Kaikou Maru departed Maloelap to investigate the ditching.
On December 30, 1943 the surviving crew were located and captured by the Japanese Navy and became Prisoners Of War (POW). All eight were transported to Maloelap. On December 31, 1943 the survivors were photographed holding their names written in kanji. Possibly, they were transported to Kwajalein and executed. All eight remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Matt Holly adds:
"The story now has an old version, a middle version, and my new one. The old version was created by Dirk Spennemann. It is incorrect. The middle story is what I produced for the National Park Service in 2000, which basically explained the Japanese had some float planes at the east end of Majuro that day, and possibly forced them to not try a rescue. Also found was the Navy also lost a PB4Y on the same day and was also searching for it. In any case a search was made and no signs of life were seen at the aircraft, which was then bombed to avoid its assets or technology from falling into enemy hands. The bombs missed. All ten crew were presumed captured and executed.
The crew reportedly escaped and fled to a small island to the northeast, where they were captured the next day. The Zeros had reported the crash landing and a boat was immediately sent from Maloelap. (The boat was named the Kaikou Maru, which I discovered sunk in Maloelap in 1981). This information also included a photo of the crew, taken on Maloelap, in which the aircrew still has on flight gear and is clean shaved. It was not a week later. The crew was reportedly paraded through the streets of Majuro, beaten and abused, including Marshallese who were forced to attend. I do not know if I believe this story, as I don't think they were in Majuro long enough to do this. But this is a local story. A machine gun from the aircraft was found in Laura during Majuro's capture. There were few Japanese here and they transferred to Mili Atoll.
They were taken to Maloelap, and presumably treated well. They were reportedly attacked by Japanese pilots and crew, who had lost so of their buddies during the B-24 attacks. The Admiral reportedly gave them some of his whiskey and safe haven and shipped them to Kwajalein the next day.
The Japanese Admiral, in his notes to the investigating war crimes investigators, states the words 8 survivors of the crash. The photo on Maloelap shows 8 aircrew, and Osborne and his co-pilot are missing. There is no other information, and people searching for the lost aircrew after Majuro was captured looked for but did not find any crew. It has been presumed that the aircrew was executed on Kwajalein shortly before the American invasion on February 1, 1944. This was always presumed to be all 10 aircrew, but I think only the surviving 8 were killed on Kwajalein.
About six months ago I was taking with some older Marshallese when showing them some of my US Navy war photos of the local population, trying to identify those in the pictures. Out of the blue this older woman asks me what about the 2 pilots buried at the end of Majuro? I nearly fell of my chair! Without prompting, I asked her to explain herself, as only I knew at this point that two were unaccounted for. She told me they were killed in the aircraft, and that the Marshalese near the end of Laura had found their bodies and buried them near the end of the island. They had done this secretly, and only a handful of people had known. The people asking the questions after the war never spoke to these people, and over the last few months I have five people still alive that may know the exact site. I think Osborne and Cloyer are buried on Majuro!"
This B-24 remains in situ in 1-1.5m of water at low tide on west reef between Majuro Island and Ajola Island. Present are the port wing, most parts of the starboard wing, the central fuselage section between the wings, and four engines. A number of small parts can be found scattered around the area. All propellers can be seen in place except for those of the No. 1 engine, which has fallen off its mounting and is resting nose down in the sand. The blades of the propellers are not bent, indicating that the pilot could feather the engines before the crash landing.
The crew was declared dead on February 4, 1946. The entire crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Each of the crew are memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing. Osborne, Cloyer, Bislew, Dell, Hill, Perry, Rumsey and Deer on court 7. Tramelli and Swaim on court 5.
Osborne and Cloyer earned the Air Medal.
Tramelli earned the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
Deer earned the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters. He also has a memorial marker at Mason Cemetery in Escambia County, Alabama.
Bislew earned the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.
Rumsey earned the Air Medal.
Perry the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
Dell earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Hill earned the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Swaim earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Connie Blackmon Cauthen (relative of Max G. Deer)
"Deer was a relative of ours and his family was never given any of the above information. His Parents never knew anymore than that he was MIA. Interestingly Deer was friends with the actress Rosalind Russell."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-1-CO Liberator 42-73013
"73013 (431st BS, 11th BG) crash-landed on reef off Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands after attack by enemy aircraft Dec 29, 1943. MACR 1627 Crew apparently captured but never heard from again. The wreck is still there."
Missing Air Crew Report 1627 (MACR 1627) created December 31, 1943
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - does not list any of the crew as POWs
The Bakersfield Californian "Bakersfield Pilot Is Hero of Pacific Raid" November 27, 1943 page 9
The Bakersfield Californian "Ivan M. Osborne Missing In Action" January 28, 1944 page 5
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ivan M. Osborne unit listed as 430th Signal Construction Company, Aviation, his unit should be 431st Bomber Squadron, 11th Bomber Group, Heavy
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Raymond D. Cloyer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Virgil A. Tramelli
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Maxie G. Deer Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward J. Bislew
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Williston F. Rumsey
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph J. Perry
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John J. Dell
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Warren C. Hill
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Hulbert J. Swaim
FindAGrave - 1Lt Ivan M Osborne (news, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Raymond D Cloyer (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Virgil A Tramelli (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Maxie G Deer, Jr (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Maxie G Deer, Jr (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Williston F Rumsey (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt Joseph J Perry (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt John J Dell (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Warren C Hill (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Hulbert J Swaim (courts of the missing photo)
Thanks to Dirk H. R. Spennemann and Matt Holly for additional information
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POW / MIA
1.5m / 4'
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