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  B-24J-185-CO Liberator Serial Number 44-40924  
13th AF
5th BG
23rd BS

5th BG c1944
Pilot  2nd Lt. Thomas M. Coberly, O-770950 (MIA / KIA, BR) Los Angeles, CA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Jerome "Jerry" Rosenthal, O-771130 (MIA / KIA) Los Angeles, CA
Navigator  2nd Lt. Frederick H. Brennan Jr., O-2064512 (MIA / KIA) Santa Ana, CA
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Philip R. Corrin, O-776633 (survived) Los Angeles, CA
Engineer  Sgt James F. Knoch, 39410685 (survived) Sacramento, CA
Asst. Engineer  Cpl Edward J. Haviland, 13141736 (survived) Baltimore, MD
Radio Operator  Cpl Daniel G. Illerich, 19188369 (survived) Sacramento, CA
Asst. Radio  Sgt Clarence T. Capin, 15374802 (survived) Fort Wayne, IN
Gunner  Cpl John R. Nelson, 19220892 (survived) Boise, ID
Gunner  SSgt Francis E. Harrington, 31092660 (survived) New Bedford, MA
Photo/Gunner  Sgt Elmer W. Phillips, 38259174 HQ Squadron (MIA / KIA) Baton Rouge, LA

MIA  November 16, 1944 at 11:35am
MACR  10335

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 4860. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-185-CO Liberator serial number 44-40924. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field to the South West Pacific Area (SPWA).

Wartime History

Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 5th Bombardment Group, 23rd Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines R-1830-65A serial numbers BP-443694, BP-443773, BP-443777 and BP-443576. Armed with ten .50 caliber machine guns, makers and serial numbers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 10335 (MACR 10335).

Mission History
On November 16, 1944 took off from Pitu Airfield (APO 719) on Morotai Island piloted by 2nd Lt. Thomas M. Coberly armed with five 1,000 pound bombs as one of six B-24s from the 23rd Bombardment Squadron on a mission against Japanese warships in Brunei Bay in northwest Borneo.

The formation also included B-24s from the 31st BS, 72nd BS and 394th BS plus six B-24s from the 307th Bombardment Group escorted by P-38 Lightnings. The weather was .3 low cumulus inbound with unlimited visibility over the target with no winds.

Over the target at 11:00am at an altitude of 10,500' for roughly 12-14 minutes, the bombers were subjected to heavy anti-aircraft fire from gunners on the warships and land batteries with 2,000-5,000 bursts of fire observed by the formation of different colors: black, white, yellow, green, pink, red and blue.

Hit by anti-aircraft fire, navigator Brennan was killed and the pilot Coberly badly injured and later died. Co-pilot Rosenthal was also was mortally wounded but continued to fly onward but after about 20 minutes, told the crew to bail out.

Crew members aboard another B-24 in the formation observed parachutes from this bomber before it crashed around Lat 3° 50' N Long 116° 10'E over northern Borneo. When this B-24 failed to return it was listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was B-24J 44-40962 (6 MIA, 4 rescued).

Fates of the Crew
In fact, seven of the crew landed safely and were hidden for seven months by local people before being rescued seven months later. Knoch and Capin on June 6, 1945. Nelson on June 27, 1945. Corrin, Haviland, Illerich and Harrington on July 1, 1945.

The four crew killed were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Three of the crew remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). All three are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. Coberly is buried at Manila American Cemetery at Plot N Row 14 Grave 193.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-185-CO Liberator 44-40924
"40924 (5th BG) lost Nov 16, 1944, SW Pacific. MACR 10335"
Missing Air Crew Report 10335 (MACR 10335) created June 29, 1945
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas M. Coberly
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jerome Rosenthal
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frederick H. Brennan Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Elmer W. Phillips
FindAGrave - Sgt Elmer W Phillips, Jr  (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Frederick H Brennan, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Thomas M Coberly (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Jerome "Jerry" Rosenthal  (photos tablets of the missing)
The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II by Judith M. Heimann
PBS / NOVA "Secrets of Dead" The Airmen and the Headhunters originally aired November 10, 2009
Thanks to Sharon Farley for additional information

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Last Updated
November 13, 2019


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