|Pilot 1st Lt John W. Taylor, O-797637 (MIA / KIA) TN
Co-Pilot 1st Lt Earle P. Smith Jr., O-748821 (MIA / KIA) MA
Navigator 1st Lt Harold G. Schlesier, O-733471 (MIA / KIA) IL
Bombardier 2nd Lt James C. Brown, O-676418 (MIA / KIA) SC
Engineer S/Sgt Patrick P. Steffanelli, 12132191 (MIA / KIA) NJ
Asst. Engineer Sgt Joseph C. Keen Jr., 35467991 (MIA / KIA) OH
Radio S/Sgt Robert E. Fitzgerald, 31163118 (MIA / KIA) MA
Asst. Radio Sgt Joseph G. Bialy, 32452236 (MIA / KIA) NJ
Gunner Sgt Harry F. Huntington, 19087985 (MIA / KIA) CA
Gunner Sgt Louis D. Ball, 35342063 (MIA / KIA) IL
Crashed April 9, 1944
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-35-CO Liberator serial number 42-73338. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Super Mouse" with the nose art of Walt Disney Mickey Mouse's head atop a super man's body. When lost, engines R-1830-43 AAF Serial Numbers: 42-88841, 42-88846, 42-87685, 42-88844.
On April 9, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by 1st Lt John W. Taylor as one of eighteen B-24s on a bombing mission against Wewak but bad weather instead diverted to Hansa Bay to attack anti-aircraft positions at Awar Point. Approaching the target, the squadrons split to fly on opposite sides of a cloud with Taylor leading the 65th Bombardment Squadron while the 403rd Bombardment Squadron made a wide turn.
During the bomb run, B-24 was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the no. 3 engine (other sources say left inboard engine) and started smoking, almost extinguished, began loosing altitude. At 6,000'-7,000' the damaged bomber exploded with the main part of the plane diving downward and one of the wings and tail breaking off before it impacted off Hansa Bay. No parachutes were sighted. When this bomber failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
As this bomber dove down B-24 piloted by Patrick J. Freeman followed and searched the sea area for any survivors but did not observe any. No further searches were made nor was a Missing Air Crew Report
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Two of the crew Brown and Ball were officially declared dead on October 9, 1944. The entire crew is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
The entire crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.
Smith earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Medal. Schlesier earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Brown, Steffanelli, Keen, Fitzgerald, Bialy, Huntington and Ball earned the Air Medal.
Schlesier also has a memorial marker at Saint Johns Lutheran Cemetery in Decatur, IL.
Ball also has a memorial marker at Rochester IOOF Cemetery in Rochester, IN at plot 40 Section 3, Row 5.
This crew (with the exception of Lt. Smith and Schlesier) previously survived bailing out of B-24D "The Upstairs Maid" 42-41088 on October 18, 1943 and had returned to duty by November 2, 1943.
Note, other sources list this B-24 as nicknamed "Super".
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-35-CO Liberator 42-73338
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-73338
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John W. Taylor
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earle P. Smith Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold G. Schlesier
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James C. Brown
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Patrick P. Steffanelli
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph C. Keen Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert E. Fitzgerald
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph G. Bialy death date incorrectly listed as Oct. 9, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry F. Huntington
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Louis D. Ball death date incorrectly listed as Oct. 9, 1944
FindAGrave - 1Lt John W Taylor (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Earle P Smith, Jr
1Lt Harold G Schlesier
Harold George Schlesier (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - TSgt Patrick P Steffanelli (tablets of the missing photo)
SSgt Joseph C Keen, Jr
FindAGrave - TSgt Robert E Fitzgerald (tablets of the missing photo)
SSgt Joseph G Bialy (death date incorrectly listed as Oct. 9, 1944)
FindAGrave - SSgt Harry F Huntington
Sgt Louis D. Ball (tablets of the missing photo, death date incorrectly listed as Oct. 9, 1944)
FindAGrave - Sgt Louis D. Ball (memorial marker photo, letter home, obituary)
Ken’s Men Against The Empire, Volume II (forthcoming) April 9, 1944 mission and appendix II
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information.
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
February 18, 2020