|Pilot 2nd Lt. John C. Bennett, O-696311 (MIA / KIA) Binghamton, NY
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Stewart L. Widdowson, Jr., O-765373 (MIA / KIA) Honolulu, HI
Navigator 2nd Lt. Jerome K. Northrup, O-708214 (MIA / KIA) Los Angeles, CA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Hustus F. Stevens, O-765854 (MIA / KIA) New Castle, PA
Engineer SSgt A. P. Mullins, 18183629 (MIA / KIA) Lamesa, TX
Asst. Engineer Sgt Robert E. Strait, 35797615 (MIA / KIA) Rossburg, OH
Radio SSgt Gaetano D. Francese, 31290589 (MIA / KIA) Providence, RI
Asst Radio Cpl Albert C. Foust, Jr., 38589060 (MIA / KIA) Fawnes, OK
Gunner Sgt William J. Lawson, 14136150 (MIA / KIA) Parrish, FL
Gunner Sgt Eldred J. Loes, 37676377 (MIA / KIA) Cascade, IA
Crashed June 17, 1944 at 11:02am
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. At the factory completed with an aluminum finish. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-170-CO Liberator serial number 44-40566. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field to the South Pacific (SOPAC).
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 5th Bombardment Group, 72nd Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Also known as #566 for the last three digits of the serial number. When lost, engines R-1830-65A serial numbers BT-439855, BT-440053, BT-441307 and BT-440919. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers 1105443, 1108864, 1108210, 1108425, 1108199, 1108131, 1107760, 1108980 and 1108539.
On June 17, 1944 took off from Mokerang Airfield on Los Negros Island between 6:38am to 6:43am piloted by 2nd Lt. John C. Bennett armed with twelve 500 pound bombs (Navy MX XII-2) on a mission number 169-B-13 a bombing mission against Etan Airfield (Target D-11) in Truk Lagoon. This bomber was one of five, flying in the no. 3 position. Weather was wind 90° at 10,000' with visibility unlimited and 8/10 towering cumulus.
Over the target due to cloud cover, the formation diverted to bomb Param Airfield. Before the bomb run, a Zero made a head on pass from twelve o'clock high and dropped two aerial bombs. One of the two phosphorous bombs exploded in front of this bomber. Last seen by Captain David G. Dougherty to the south of Truk Lagoon at roughly Lat 7° N Long 151° 40' E. When this bomber failed to return, the crews was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). This loss was attributed to possible enemy action.
Captain David G. Dougherty statement via Missing Air Crew Report 7013 (MACR 7013) page 10:
"Airplane #44-40566 [this aircraft], pilot 2nd Lt. Bennett, was flying #3 position in the Seventy Second Squadron formation on Truk strike, 17 June 1944. Just prior to the bomb run a Zero made a pass from twelve o'clock high and dropped two (2) phosphorous bombs, one of which exploded just in front of airplane #566 at plane level. Airplane #566 nosed down from formation, pulled back up into position then away from the squadron formation in a steep left turn, losing altitude rapidly and wavering slightly. Fire was observed in the forward bomb bay just as turn was started. Airplane #566 broke away from formation at 1102K., at the same time a right turn was being made on the bomb run. Bombs were dropped at 1103K. Airplane #566 was last seen about one (1) to two (2) miles behind formation still in a left turn and loosing altitude. Enemy interception and cloud cover prevented further observation. Attempts were made to contact airplane #566 on all frequencies with out any success. All rescue facilities were notified, and airplane 42-110113 circled at approximately 151° 50' E. 06° 20'N at 1140K., later circled position of reported splashes in water 151° 30' E. 05° 50' N. at 1300K with nil results."
Afterwards, B-24s from Mokerang searched an area in excess of 20,000 miles without results.
Bennett was officially declared dead on April 26, 1946. The rest of the crew were officially declared dead on February 26, 1946.
The entire crew earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Bennett also has a memorial marker at Vestal Hills Memorial Park in Vestal, NY.
Stevens also has a memorial marker at Northwood Cemetery Cambridge, OH at section 16 lot 89.
Strait also has a memorial marker at Teegarden Congregational Christian Church Cemetery in Ansonia,
OH at section A.
Foust also has a memorial marker at Highland Cemetery in Pawnee, OK at gate 1-2 south section.
Loes also has a memorial marker at Saint Marys Cemetery in Cascade, IA.
Leonard Cifelli (nephew in law of Widdowson)
"The copilot was my wife's uncle."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J 44-40566
"40566 (5th BG) lost Jun 17, 1944. MACR 7013"
Missing Air Crew Report 7013 (MACR 7013) created June 19, 1944
Headquarters 72nd Bombardment Squadron Mission Number 169-B-13 June 17, 1944
Press and Sun-Bulletin "In Army Air Forces (John C. Bennett wings and commissioning) February 1, 1944
Press and Sun-Bulletin "Complete Basic Training" (John C. Bennett) September 4, 1944
Press and Sun-Bulletin "Lieut. John C. Bennett Missing In Action" June 1, 1944
Press and Sun-Bulletin "J. C. Bennett Is Declared To Be Dead" March 7, 1946
New Castle News "Second Lieut Hustus F. Stevens arrived in South Pacific" June 23, 1944 page 7
New Castle News "Letter Confirms Missing Report (Stevens)" July 11, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission - John C. Bennett
American Battle Monuments Commission - Stewart L. Widdowson, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission - Jerome K. Northrup
American Battle Monuments Commission - Hustus F. Stevens
American Battle Monuments Commission - A. P. Mullins
American Battle Monuments Commission - Robert E. Strait
American Battle Monuments Commission - Gaetano D. Francese
American Battle Monuments Commission - Albert C. Foust, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission - William J. Lawson
American Battle Monuments Commission - Eldred J. Loes
2Lt John C Bennett (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut John C. Bennett (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Stewart L Widdowson, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Jerome K Northrup (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Hustus F Stevens (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Hustus F Stevens, Jr. (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt A P Mullins (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert E Strait (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Robert E Strait (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Robert E. Strait (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Gaetano D Francese (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Corp Albert C “A.C.” Foust, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Albert Crosley “A.C.” Foust, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William J Lawson (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Eldred J Loes (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Eldred Loes (memorial marker photo)
Thanks to Leonard Cifelli, Richard O’Brien, President of the 5th Bomb Group (H) Association and Donna Esposito for additional information.
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February 24, 2020
June 17, 1944