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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) Chicago, IL
Navigator 2nd Lt. Virgil A. Tramelli, O-2845295 (POW, executed, MIA) St. Louis, MO
Bombardier 1st Lt. Maxie G. Deer Jr., O-728260 (POW, executed, MIA) Montgomery, AL
Engineer TSgt Edward J. Bislew, 16047634 (POW, executed, MIA) Racine County, WI
Asst Eng Pvt Williston F. Rumsey, 20275475 (POW, executed, MIA) Genesee County, NY
Radio TSgt Joseph J. Perry, 32162027 (POW, executed, MIA) Lackawanna County, PA
Asst Radio SSgt John J. Dell, 33261245 (POW, executed, MIA) Allegheny County, 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 Aircraft Corporation at San Diego. Constructors Number 2583. 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 (7th AF), 11th Bombardment Group (11th BG), 431st Bombardment Squadron (431st BS). 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 makers and serial numbers unknown plus two .30 caliber machine guns, makers and 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 in Maloelap Atoll. 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 observed no trace of them. A U.S. Navy (USN) PBY Catalina managed to reach the location where the bomber ditched and attempted to bomb the intact B-24, but failed to destroy it.
Fates of the Crew
During the ditching, the pilot and co-pilot were killed on impact. The other eight crew members 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.
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. Afterwards, they were transported elsewhere, likely Kwajalein or Saipan and executed or died in captivity. All eight remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
There is strong evidence that at least two of the crew had been transported from Truk to Saipan where they were detained in the jail at Garapan during June 1944. One was described as a "tall flyer" and inside his cell a leather flight jacket marked "J.J. Perry" was later found discovered, presumably belonging to TSgt Joseph J. Perry. The other aviator was described as the "short one" slightly shorter, blonde and had a wound on his left arm. These two prisoners may have been scheduled for transport to Japan as had four POWs from B-24J "Cloudy Joe" 42-73499 flown from Saipan to Japan on June 6, 1944. Both of the prisoners died on the eve of the American landings at Saipan on June 15, 1944.
On July 9, 1944 after the battle of Saipan, the graves of the two aviators were shown to U.S. Army intelligence officer Maj. Owen Durham by Neratus of Palau who had been jailed alongside the Americans in early June. Major Durham had autopsies performed and launched a war crimes investigation. Elements of his report were included in the book "Saipan: The Battle that Doomed Japan in World War II".
The two prisoenrs guarded by Japanese civilian police. When the intensity of the U.S. bombardment and air strikes against Sapian became too intense on June 13, 1944 the jailers abandon the two prisoners. The four jailers and Neratus returned on the night of June 14, 1944 to collect food and found that the blonde-haired prisoner had been killed by strafing U.S. planes. The Japanese police apparently decided time to kill the other prisoner. He was removed from his cell and had his hands tied behind his back. Nitta, the chief of police used his sword to strike hit neck. Next, the head jailer drew his sword and cut the prioner's arms and back.
Still alive with mortal wounds, the prisoner was carried a few yards away and placed on the ground until he died. Another prisoner, Palauan Neratus was ordered to burn the two bodies. He made a wooden cross and then waited forty minutes until the mortally wounded prisoner stopped breathing then cremated his body and after the fire began fled the area.
The autopsy of the two aviators took place at the 369th Station Hospital on Saipan. The blonde-haired prisoner had been killed by a .50 caliber bullet found in his abdomen. The tall prisoner had a deep cut at his neck while his right arm had been severed. Neither of these bodies were positively identified at this time. The four Japanese civilian policemen: Nitta, Kinashi, Yamashita, and Yokota "who were alleged to have committed, or were suspected to complicity in, this incident" could not be located at the Japanese civilian internment camp. The investigation indicated that all four had died between June 20-30, 1944 near Mount Tapachau. No one was ever charged for the murder of the two prisoners.
Another piece of evidence about the identification of the two prisoners was a name scratched into the inner wall of the corridor along the main cell block at Garapan jail. It was transcribed as "J. J. Beiser, June 15, 1944". It is possible that the name actually reads "E.J. Bislew" the engineer in this crew. The date, if accurate, is one day after the date given by Neratus for execution of the American prisoner.
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 U.S. 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 two 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.
Each member of the crew was officially declared dead on February 4, 1946. Each of the crew is 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 earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Cloyer earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Tramelli earned the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Deer earned the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Mason Cemetery in Escambia County, Alabama.
Bislew earned the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Rumsey earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Perry the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Dell earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Hill earned the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, posthumously.
Swaim earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart, posthumously.
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."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ivan M. Osborne
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Raymond D. Cloyer
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Virgil A. Tramelli
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Maxie G. Deer Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Edward J. Bislew
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Williston F. Rumsey
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph J. Perry
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John J. Dell
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Warren C. Hill
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File does not list any of the crew as official POWs of the Japanese, this was not uncommon for prisoners captured in forward areas that were never reported in official channels.
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)
Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War (2002) by Bruce Petty page 37
Saipan: the Battle that Doomed Japan in World War II (2019) by James H. Hallas pages 86-87 (two captured American aviators in jail in Garapan), 446-447 (war crimes), 488 (footnotes 70, 71), 521 (footnote 63)
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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