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  B-24J-180-CO Liberator Serial Number 44-40831  
USAAF
14th AF
308th BG
375th BS

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USAAF c1944

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CILHI 1997
Pilot  2nd Lt. George H. Pierpont, O-802781 (MIA / KIA, BR) Salem, VA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Franklin A. Tomenendale, O-802956 (MIA / KIA, BR) Shabbona, IL
Navigator  2nd Lt. Robert Deming, O-741781 (MIA / KIA, BR) Seattle, WA
Bombardier  2nd Lt. George A. Ward, O-688567 (MIA / KIA, BR) Jersey City, NJ
Engineer  Staff Sgt. Anthony W. De Lucia, 6949724 (MIA / KIA, BR) Bradford, PA
Radio  Sgt. Ellsworth V. Kelley, 35404515 (MIA / KIA, BR) Newark, OH
Radar  Pvt. Fred P. Buckley, 17175674 (MIA / KIA, BR) Garden City, KS
Gunner  S/Sgt William A. Drager, 32303245 (MIA / KIA, BR) Washington, NJ
Gunner  Sgt Robert L. Kearsey, 13011330 (MIA / KIA, BR) McKees Rocks, PA
Gunner  Pvt Vincent J. Netherwood, 12155792 (MIA / KIA, BR) Kingston, NY
Crashed  August 31, 1944
MACR  8020

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 4767. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-180-CO Liberator serial number 44-40831.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 14th Air Force, 308th Bombardment Group, 375th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers listed in Missing Air Crew Report 8020 (MACR 8020). Prior to their loss, this entire crew was photographed posing with B-24J "Tough Titti" 44-40296.

Mission History
On August 31, 1944 at 4:30pm took off from Liuchow Airfield in China on a mission to bomb enemy ships in Takao Harbor off Takao (Kaohsiung) on Formosa (Taiwan). Over the target area, intercepted by A6M Zeros including pilot Takeo Tanimizu who badly damaged B-24J 44-40783 (MIA) with gunfire and claimed the bomber as shot down.

On its return flight, this B-24 diverted to an alternate airfield because Liuchow Airfield was under air attack. On its way to the alternate airfield, this bomber crashed into Mount Arisan at 6,000' then tumbled into a deep ravine. When this aircraft failed to return, the entire crew was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Wreckage
On October 2, 1996 two Chinese farmers discovered the crash site on Mount Maoer roughly 62 miles south of Gualin, Guangxi Province. By November 1996, People's Republic of China President Jiang Zemin turned over photographs of the dog tags, as well as a videotape of the crash site to American authorities. Dog tags were located belonging to five of the crew including: Buckley, Kelley, Netherwood, Tomenendale and Ward.

Recovery of Remains
After the Chinese report, at least four visits were made to the crash site by teams from US Army CILHI. Multiple visits were required due to the difficult location and steep terrain. At least four visits were made to the crash site between 1997–1999.

The first visit during January 1997 was by a team from US Army CILHI. The second visit was during 1998. The third visit was during 1999 and the team confirmed the aircraft locating the serial number "40783" (U. S. Army Air Force serial number 44-4083). The fourth visit was later during 1999. During the four visits, teams recovered human remains, additional dog tags and located all four engines, six machine guns, bullets, eight pistols, five coins, a pocket watch and a flashlight.

Afterwards, the recovered remains underwent forensic testing including DNA testing by US Army CILHI. During 2000, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced that each crew member was identified: six in a group burial and three were individually identified: Kelley.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead on March 20, 1946. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

On August 21, 2000 the remains of the crew were buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60, site 7927 (Netherwood, Kearsey, Drager, Buckley, Kelley, Deming, Tomenendale, Pierpont), 7928 (Pierpont), 7929 (Deming) 7930 (Tomenendale) 7931 (Ward), 7932 (Kelley).

After the recovery of remains between 1997-1999, a memorial plaque was placed at the crash site summarizing the mission and the efforts of the Chinese farmer who reported the site and listing the names of each member of the crew.

Pierpont earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at East Hill Cemetery in Salem, VA.

Tomenendale earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Deming earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Ward earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

DeLucia earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at St. Bernard Cemetery.

Kelley earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Wilson Cemetery in Newark, OH. After his remains were individually identified, Kelley's remains were buried at this grave.

Buckley earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at St. Bernard Cemetery.

Drager earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. After his remains were individually identified, his remains were buried at Pleasant Grove Presbyterian Churchyard in Pleasant Grove, NJ.

Kearsey earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Greenlawn Cemetery.

Netherwood earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at St. Mary's Cemetery in Kingston, NY.

Relatives
Elmer De Lucia (brother of Anthony W. De Lucia)

Betty Drager (sister of William A. Drager)

References
Note crew member De Lucia is spelled both "De Lucia" and "DeLucia" in wartime records
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George H. Pierpont
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Franklin A. Tomenendale
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert Deming
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George A. Ward
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Anthony W. DeLucia
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ellsworth V. Kelley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Fred P. Buckley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William A. Drager
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert L. Kearsey
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Vincent J. Netherwood
USAF Serial Number Search Results B-24J-180-CO Liberator 44-40831
"40831 (308th BG, 375th BS) lost in China Aug 31, 1944 on mission to Taiwan. MACR 8020. Crew remains recovered and interred in Arlington Aug 2000."
Missing Air Crew Report 8020 (MACR 8020) created September 2, 1944
Report of Investigation Division, Legal Section GHQ, SCAP "Unknown X-848 identified as Merlin PADDOCK. Prosecution Division advises that prosecution action is to be taken in the case. Case closed." October 26, 1948
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George H. Pierpont
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Franklin A. Tomenendale
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert L. Deming
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George A. Ward
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Anthony W. De Lucia
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ellsworth V. Kelley
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Fred P. Buckley
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William A. Drager
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert L. Kearsey
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Vincent J. Netherwood
"remains were recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery"
FindAGrave - 1Lt George H Pierpont (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT George H Pierpont (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - George Hobart Pierpont (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Franklin A Tomenendale (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2LT Franklin A Tomenendale (photo, group burial photo, individual grave photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert L Deming (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt George A Ward (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2LT George A Ward (group burial photo, individual grave photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Anthony W “Bib” De Lucia (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SSGT Anthony W “Bib” DeLucia (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Ellsworth V Kelley (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ellsworth V. Kelley (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Ellsworth V. Kelley (photo, memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Fred P Buckley (tablets of the missing photo, news)
FindAGrave - SSgt William A Drager (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William A Drager (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert L Kearsey (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Robert L Kearsey (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Vincent J Netherwood (tablets of the missing)
CILHI Interview with Major Irwin duration: 4:22 [Quicktime Audio]
ABC News 20/20 "Final Journey Home" August 8, 1999 [transcript]
Army Link News "WWII Army air crew laid to rest" August 23, 2000
Takeo Tanimizu - Japanese Fighter Pilot

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Last Updated
August 31, 2019

 

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B-24

MIA
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