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  B-24J-50-CO "Patches" Serial Number 42-73474  
USAAF
5th AF
380th BG
531st BS


380th BG c1944
Pilot  2nd Lt. James F. O'Brien, O-830674 (POW died June 15, 1945, BR) Youngstown, OH
Co-Pilot  F/O Harry S. Letchas, T-63634 (MIA / KIA) Thomasville, GA
Navigator  2nd Lt. Robert T. Graham, O-2070010 (MIA / KIA) San Francisco, CA
Bombardier  2nd Lt. William L. Brueggeman, O-785650 (MIA / KIA) Detroit, MI
Engineer  Cpl Newell W. McClay, 35804927 (MIA / KIA) Troy, OH
Radio  Cpl Junius D. Jenkins, 39917402 (MIA / KIA) Naber City, OH
Gunner  Cpl John J. Barrow, 33810386 (MIA / KIA) Swarthmore, PA
Gunner  Cpl Kile Bingham, 38532269 (MIA / KIA) Burleson, IA
Gunner  Cpl Max A. Brown, 35242781 (MIA / KIA) Norville, IN
Gunner  Cpl Joseph J. Hanish, 42010802 (MIA / KIA) Old Forge, PA
Ditched  April 20, 1945 at 12:58pm
MACR  14303

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego between October 18-27, 1943. Constructors Number 3044. On October 27, 1943 first flown on a test flight. On October 28, 1943 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-50-CO Liberator serial number 42-73474. On October 29, 1943 flown to the modification center in Tucson, AZ. On November 9, 1943 to Topeka, KS. On December 1, 1943 departed Fairfield Airfield on a ferry flight overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific. On December 5, 1943 arrived at Garbutt Field at Townsville.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 380th Bombardment Group (380th BG), 531st Bombardment Squadron (531st BS) based at Long Airfield. Nicknamed "Patches" with the nose art of a topless woman standing looking over her right shoulder with one hand extended only a short skirt with patches and high heels. Assigned to crew chief Sgt Hugh P. Reynolds.

On February 26, 1944 took off piloted by Lurty on a reconnaissance mission over Waigeo Island. In total, this B-24 flew a total of 62 bombing missions including 45 missions from Australia and Netherlands East Indies (NEI) plus 17 from the Philippines. When lost, engines R-1830-65 serial numbers BP-428614, 42-41315, 42-61717 and 41-13241. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers noted in Missing Air Crew Report 14303 (MACR 14303).

Mission History
On April 20, 1945 took off from San Jose Airfield (McGuire) on Mindoro piloted by 2nd Lt. James F. O'Brien on a bombing mission against Saigon. The weather was reported as good. Returning, this B-24 radioed at 11:51am "returning one engine out" by ground station by 1st Lt. James L. Brasfield. At 12:58pm a very faint QRM (I am being interfered with [radio interference]) and QSA [what is the strength of my signals?] were heard with parts of the message without call signs that was believed to be a radio message from this bomber. The replies from the ground station to both messages were not heard or acknowledged. Last known position was reported as Lat 10° 15' N Long 110° 15' E over the South China Sea. When bomber failed to return, it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Officially written off the same day. In fact, this B-24 ditched into the sea.

Search
When this B-24 failed to return, Air-Sea Rescue, 310th Bomb Wing was notified to check with Puerto Princesa Airfield and contact 3rd Air-Sea Rescue Squadron for any news or reports. Afterwards, Major Edwin H. Harrison organized search efforts. On April 21, 1945 at 6:30am three B-24s took off on a search mission flying 15 miles apart covering 60 miles in width down to the northern tip of Palawan then down the coast west of Puerto Princesa then on the course of the missing bomber to the last reported position Lat 10° 15' N Long 110° 15' E and flew 100 miles further west of this position. The weather was reported as good and the search was flown at 6,000'. Returning, the B-24s descended to 1,500' and continued to search but nil sightings were made and the bombers returned at 5:30pm.

On April 22, 1945 the squadron again bombed Saigon and all crews briefed to search for this missing aircraft enroute but no sightings were made.

Fates of the Crew
Pilot O'Brien was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW). He was tortured and killed and officially declared dead on June 15, 1945. Postwar, his remains were recovered and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Relatives
Margaret Leone (niece of James F. O'Brien):
"James F. O'Brien was my cousin and was shot down over Indochina and was captured, tortured and killed by the Japanese. I am trying to find out more information about him. I was 12 years old at the time and never got the complete story of what happened to him, or where he took off and what mission he was on. He was a very nice young man and I am his last living relative. I hope you can help me. I have run into many dead ends."

Memorials
The entire crew with the exception of O'Brien were officially declared dead the day of the mission. The entire crew is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

O'Brien was officially declared dead on June 15, 1945. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown, OH.

Letchas earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker Laurel Hill Cemetery in Thomasville, GA.

Graham earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Brueggeman earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

McClay earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Jenkins earned the Air Medal, Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Memory Grove Memorial in Salt Lake City, UT.

Barrow earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Hanish earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William L. Brueggeman
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Newell W. Mc Clay
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Junius D. Jenkins
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John J. Barrow
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Kile Bingham
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Max A. Brown
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph J. Hanish
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File does not list O'Brien as an official POW of the Japanese
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-50-CO Liberator 42-73474
"73474 (380th BG 'Patches') MIA Apr 20, 1945 after aborting during mission to Saigon. MACR 14303"
Missing Air Crew Report 14303 (MACR 14303) created April 22, 1945
The Portsmouth Times "Scioto Co. Airman is presumed dead: Cpl McClay unheard from after B-24 mission" March 20, 1946
News "Army Reports Trojan Dead Corp. Newell William McClay" March 24, 1946
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry S. Letchas
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert T. Graham
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William L. Brueggeman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Newell W. McClay
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Junius D. Jenkins
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John J. Barrow
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Kile Bingham
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Max A. Brown
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph J. Hanish
FindAGrave - 2LT James F. O'Brien (grave)
FindAGrave - FltOff Harry Samuel Letchas (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Harry Samuel Letchas (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert T. Graham (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt William L. Brueggeman (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Newell William “Billy” McClay, Jr (obituary, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Junius D. Jenkins (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Junius D. Jenkins (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - CPL John Joseph Barrow (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Kile Bingham (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - CPL Max A Brown (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Joseph F. Hanish (tablets of the missing photo)
380th.org B-24D 42-73474 - Data Sheet
380th.org B-24D 42-73474 - Mission Record
King of the Heavies pages 88 (photo), 154 (photo), 331 (photo)
Best in the Southwest (1995) pages 194 (photo) 331 (photo), 339 (photo), 503 (photo)

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Last Updated
April 20, 2020

 

Tech Information
B-24

Map
Map
April 20, 1945

MIA
POW / MIA
1 Prisoner
9 Missing
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