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  B-24J-50-CO Liberator Serial Number 42-73469  
USAAF
13th AF
5th BG
31st BS

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PacificWrecks.com
5th BG March 5, 1944

PacificWrecks.com
USAAF Sept 8, 1945
Pilot  Captain Lewis W. Haire, O-793323 (MIA / KIA) Memphis, TN
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. John H. Bauwens, O-684238 (rescued)
Navigator  1st Lt. William F. Halle, O-793323 (MIA / KIA) Detroit, MI
Bombardier  1st Lt. Walter R. Henthorn, O-733567 (MIA / KIA) Buffalo, NY
Engineer  SSgt Escoe E. Palmer, 34269270 (POW, survived) Gainsville, GA
Asst Engineer  Sgt Martin W. Lund, 12131953 (rescued) Middlesex County, NJ
Radio  TSgt Clarence F. Marcy, 3721223 (rescued) Kansas City, MO
Asst Radio / Ball Turret  Cpl Ruben Silver, 16070308 (MIA / KIA) Brookfield, IL
Gunner  SSgt Ellis J. Hammaker, 33230949 (MIA / KIA) Penbrook, PA
Gunner  SSgt Malven J. Houtz, 13145621 (MIA / KIA) Belleforte, PA
Photographer  SSgt Harold T. Flanagan, 39157425 (MIA / KIA) Los Angeles, CA
Crashed  March 5, 1944
MACR  15147

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-50-CO Liberator serial number 42-73469. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 5th Bombardment Group, 31st Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On March 5, 1944 took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia piloted by Captain Lewis W. Haire on a bombing mission against Tobera Airfield near Rabaul. After the bomb run on a southeasterly course, this B-24 was executing a wide right turn when it suffered two direct hits from anti-aircraft fire, possibly 40mm fire. The first impacted the nose and the second hit the main fuel tank and caused a fire. Several seconds later, the B-24 exploded mid-air over the Saint Georges Channel roughly five miles off the southeastern coast of East New Britain. When this bomber failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Missing Air Crew Report 15147 (MACR 15147) page 2
"Letter (filed in AG 704 file) from Escoe E. Palmer (a returned crew member) reads in part as follows:
On March 5th 1944 I was on board the air plane piloted by Capt. Haire on a raid to Tolara [sic Tobera Airfield], near Rabaul on New Britain Island, we had dropped our bombs and were in a long right turn, when we were hit by light anti-aircraft fire, I think it was 40mm shells that hit us and so far as I know no one on board was killed or injured badly by the shells. At the time the plane exploded it was on a southeast course and was about five miles off shore from New Britain. At the time the plane exploded it was on a southeast course and was about five miles off shore from New Britain."

Fates of the Crew
Seven of the crew died in the explosion or on impact when the bomber crashed into the sea: Haire, Halle, Henthorn, Silver, Hammaker, Houtz and Flanagan. All seven remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Four of the crew survived after bailing out or being blown clear of the bomber when it exploded.

Before the explosion, SSgt Escoe E. Palmer was the only member of the crew that managed to bail out and landed on East New Britain. Alone, he managed to evaded capture and attempted to walk towards the Cape Gloucester area in hopes of reaching Allied lines. On March 13, 1944 he was captured by a Japanese Army patrol and became a Prisoner of War (POW) and taken to Rabaul where he was imprisoned by 6th Kempei Tai (military police) at Tunnel Hill POW Camp. He survived captivity until the end of the Pacific War and was one of the seven Allied prisoners that survived the Pacific War at Rabaul. In early September 1945 transported aboard HMAS Vendetta (D69) to Jacquinot Bay where he and the other surviving POWs were treated at the Australian 2/8th General Hospital and was photographed speaking to Red Cross Superintendant K. Lawrie.

When the B-24 exploded, three crew members were blown clear of the bomber: Bauwens, Marcey and Lund. Each was wearing their parachute and deployed them and landed in the sea. Several hours later, all three were rescued by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Catalina piloted by F/Sgt J. B. Monk from No. 6 Squadron from roughly Lat 4° 25' South Long 152° 25' East off Cape Gazelle at the northeast tip of the Gazelle Peninsula and were flown to Blanche Bay and were put aboard USS Coos Bay (AVP-25) and later transferred to a U. S. Navy hospital ship off Christmas Island to recover. The other seven crew members are presumed to have gone down with the B-24.

Memorials
The seven missing crew members: Haire, Halle, Henthorn, Silver, Hammaker, Houtz and Flanagan were officially declared dead on the day of the mission. The missing crew members each earned the the Purple Heart, posthumously. Each is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Haire earned the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters and the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Halle also has a memorial marker at Great Lakes National Cemetery at section MS1 site 149.

Henthorn earned the Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters and the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Silver earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, IL.

Hammaker earned the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery at Section MA Site 82.

Houtz earned the Air Medal Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Lutheran Church Cemetery in Pleasant Gap, PA.

Marcy passed away May 22, 1976. He is buried at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery at section Q, site 981.

Palmer passed away on December 6, 1977. He is buried at Crest Lawn Cemetery in Atlanta, GA in the garden of roses.

Bauwens passed away on June 23, 2003. He is buried at New Melleray Abbey Cemetery in Peosta, IA.

References
This aircraft was possibly B-24J-50-CO Liberator serial number 42-73469
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Lewis W. Haire
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William F. Halle
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records -Walter R. Henthorn, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Escoe E. Palmer
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Martin W. Lund
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ruben Silver
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ellis J. Hammaker
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Malven J. Houtz
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Harold T. Flanagan
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File does not list Escoe E. Palmer as a POW, but this list is not complete
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-50-CO Liberator 42-73469
Missing Air Crew Report 15147 (MACR 15147) was created retroactively circa 1945-1946 and incorrectly states three crew were rescued by US Navy Catalina [sic RNZAF Catalina]
NARA USS Coos Bay AVP-25 War Diary March 5, 1944, page 1
(Page 1) "5 March 1944. PBY 5, Patrol Plane Commander Ft/Sgt J. B. Monk, R.N.Z.A.F. effected rescue... members of crew of B-24J, No. 2-37469 [sic, 2-73469] attached to 31st Bomber Squadron, 5th Bomber group based at Munda. The rescue was in the vicinity of 4° 25' South Latitude, 152° 25' East Longitude where the B-24 exploded and crashed in the water after being hit b A/A fire over Tobera."
Kansas City Star "Bold Rescue Near Rabaul: Kansas City Sergeant Among [?] Crewmen Picked Up - Blown Free of Death: A Bomber Crewman Home with Tale of His Escape Sergt Clarence Marcy Recovering From Burns Suffered Near New Britain When B-24 Is Shot Down" April 11, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lewis W. Haire
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William F. Halle
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Walter R. Henthorn
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ruben Silver
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ellis J. Hammaker
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Malven J. Houtz
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold T. Flanagan
FindAGrave - Capt Lewis W Haire (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - William Frank Halle (grave photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Walter R Henthorn (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ruben Silver (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ruben Silver (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Ellis J. Hammaker (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Ellis Hammaker (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Malven J. Houtz (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Malven J. Houtz (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Harold T Flanagan (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Escoe E. Palmer (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Clarence F. Marcy (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John Henry Bauwens (obituary, grave)
Jose Holguin Memoir by Jose Holguin
"Sgt. Escoe Palmer was a B-24 gunner shot down in late December 1943. He was a member of the 5th Bomb Group stationed in Guadalcanal. He was a very unassuming and shy individual. He never learned to speak either Pidgin English or Japanese. His quiet personality kept him out of trouble with the Japanese as well as with his fellow prisoners. Palmer passed away in 1979 [sic 1977] in his hometown of Gainesville, Georgia. I came upon this sad news in 1982 when five of the seven survivors decided to have a reunion and began a search for him. We located his family utilizing Kepchia’ connections in the United States Postal service. During the reunion Kepchia, Nason and I visited the family and had a long, friendly talk... Sgt Palmer had passed away in 1979 and, therefore, could not attend, but in 34 years that had elapsed since our liberation, Palmer and McMurria never sought each other out though they lived only 100 miles apart."
Hostages To Freedom (1995) by Peter Stone page 326 (Surviving Prisoners Of War - Seven Americans)
John Henry Bauwens Interview with Joanne Emerick, July 31, 1997
Courage Before Every Danger Honor Honor Before All Men (2010) by Joanne Pfannenstiel Emerick pages 192, 200 (photo of Fallin crew including Palmer with B-24D Scootin' Thunder 42-40100), 205 (photo Bauwens), 206-207, 390 (footnote 5, 10, 132), 410 (Palmer, Escoe E)
Dumbo Diary Royal New Zealand Air Force No. 6 (Flying Boat) Squadron 1943-1945 (2012) by Jenny Scott pages: March 5, 1944–March 8, 1944
Thanks to Richard O'Brien, 5th Bombardment Group Association and Joanne Emerick, 31st Bombardment Squadron Association, Pete Johnson and Robert Livingstone and Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis and additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019

 

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