494th BG c1945
USAAF May 4, 1945
494th BG May 4, 1945
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Glen R. Custer, O-2058730 (KIA, BR) MO
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Irving R. Brown, O-778710 (KIA, BR)
Navigator 2nd Lt. Wallace F. Kaufman, O-931082 (POW, executed May 24, 1945, BR) Kings County, NY
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Norbert J. Giese, O-929814 (KIA, BR) Chicago, IL
Radio T/Sgt James F. Tenney, 32677148 (KIA, BR) Oswego County, NY
Engineer Sgt Richard E. Grimes, 32974352 (KIA, BR) Westchester Country, NY
Nose Gunner Cpl Victor B. Wilson, 13195222 (KIA, BR) Dunmore, PA
Top Turret Cpl Irving Topp, 12177268 (KIA, BR) Brooklyn, NY
Ball Turret Cpl Robert N. Shillenn, 33576063 (KIA, BR)
Tail Gunner Cpl Albin Rynkiewicz, 4205866 (KIA, BR) Nanticoke, PA
Passenger Sgt Floyd Collins Bennett, 14185619 (KIA, BR) Blue Mountain, MS
Crashed May 4, 1945 at 10:37am
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 5994. At the factory, this bomber had an unpainted aluminum finish. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24M-15-CO Liberator serial number 44-42058. Flown overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the Central Pacific.
Assigned to the 7th Air Force (7th AF), 494th Bombardment Group (494th BG), 867th Bombardment Squadron (867th BS). Nicknamed "Brief" with the nose art of the USAAF star with wings plus a nude female figure with brunette hair in a reclining position with her hands behind her head and legs crossed wearing only high heels and a beaded necklace.
The tail had the serial number had U. S. Army Air Force serial number abbreviation "442058" and larger "058" the last three digits of the serial number. The upper right and lower left portions of the tail were painted a dark rectangle of color. The other two rectangles were aluminum.
When lost, engines R-1830-65 serial number 45-5366, 45-5448, 45-5918, 45-5304. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns makers unknown serial numbers: 1665019, 1415253, 1266567, 1266886, 1540482, 1052918, 1220912, 1220827, 1266615, 1221313.
On May 4, 1945 took off from Angaur Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Glen R. Custer on a bombing mission against anti-aircraft installations on Koror Island (Oreor). Aboard was passenger Sgt Floyd C. Bennett aboard as a cook. The formation included twenty-two B-24s and this bomber was flying in the no. 4 position. The weather was clear to undercast.
Over the target during the bomb run, this B-24 sustained a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire between the no. 2 engine and fuselage, causing the left wing to fold upward then brake off. The fuselage fell in a flat spiral until it crashed at 10:37am. At least one parachute was observed opening and descending into the water approximately 400 yards from the crash site.
Another B-24 in the same formation recorded film footage of this bomber including the moment it was hit by anti-aircraft fire causing the left wing to fold upward and break off. This footage appeared in the film "Mission to Koror and Arakabesan, Palau Islands". As the wreckage fell, a photograph was taken showing the wreckage falling towards Koror. Also, several other air crew members aboard other bombers in the formation witness the crash.
The film footage shows the rest of the formation beginning to release their bombs. Some viewer incorrectly believe that a bomb hit this B-24, this is incorrect. The damage was caused by a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire during the bomb run.
Pat Scannon adds:
"There is a myth about an American bomb striking the wing. We dispelled when Dan [O'Brien] got his superbly cleaned up version [of this footage]. When looking frame by frame (which I have done for hours), one can see no bomb strike the wing (although you can see plenty of bombs falling from above, as he points out) and one can clearly see the wing explode from below. Even the vets from 494th go back and forth on this but it all happened so fast that the only way to tell is by examining the cleaned up film. The wing streaming fuel in that footage is also from this same B-24. Dan O'Brien found that footage with the better known wing collapse footage."
Fates of the Crew
Navigator Kaufman successfully bailed out and was immediately captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW).
He was executed by Lt. Katsuyama as of May 24, 1945.
Pat Scannon adds:
"In '01, working with
Professor Donald Shuster and his wife at the University of Guam,
we located his executioner in Japan and I was able to interview
him there - quite an experience." [This interview is included in the documentary Last Flight Home].
After the crash a U. S. Navy (USN) PBY Catalina attempted a search but the crash site was in close proximity to enemy installations and it could not get close enough to perform a meaningufl search.
The wreckage of this B-24 landed on Koror Island and Iberor Island at roughly 7° 20' N 134° 29' E.
The fuselage landed in a mangrove swamp on Koror Island. Debris still remains in a mangrove swamp near the present day Nikko Hotel. The left wing landed at the tip of Iberor Island off Koror Island, a small island. This wing wreckage was identified to be associated with this bomber in 1994 by Pat Scannon. This wing is located roughly a mile from the wing of B-24J 44-40603 crashed August 28, 1944.
The entire crew with the exception of Kaufman were officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, the following crew members are buried together at Long Island National Cemetery on August 31, 1949 at section J at sites 13630, 13631, 13649, 13650: Rynkiewicz, Brown, Tenney,
Grimes, Wilson, Shillenn,
Bennett, Giese and Topp.
Kaufman is buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, NY at Block 81, Ref 2, Line PP4, Grave 2 with the epitaph "Our darling boy our sweetheart and pal we miss you so much honey in our hearts you'll live forever."
Custer has a memorial marker at Crane Community Cemetery in Crane, IL at section II, row K, lot 6, grave 3.
Charles A. Bennett adds:
"My uncle was Sgt Floyd Collins Bennett."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Wallace F. Kaufman
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James F. Tenney
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Richard E. Grimes
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Victor B. Wilson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Irving Topp
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Floyd Collins Bennett
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24M-15-CO Liberator 44-42058
"42058 (494th BG, 867th BS, "brief") lost May 4, 1945 over Koror Island in Palau, Central Pacific MACR 14351. 10 crew KIA, 1 captured and executed. This plane was hit by AAA between no 2 engine and the fuselage and was the aircraft featured in the film "Air Death--A B-24 Shot down in Carolines Raid"
Missing Air Crew Report 14351 (MACR 14351) created May 5, 1945
NARA "Mission to Koror and Arakabesan, Palau Islands" 35mm film footage (18-CS-3897)
YouTube British Pathé - B24 Liberator Bomber Shot Down In Carolines Raid In WWII (1945) 0:52–1:15
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File -
Wallace F. Kaufman
Japanese National Diet Library microfilm Legal Section 3722 (LS-3722)
Area Case Files: Pa-251, Killing of Lieutenant Kaufman at Koror, November 1945
FindAGrave - Glen R. Custer (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Glen Custer (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Irving R Brown (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Wallace F Kaufman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Norbert J. Giese (photos, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - James F. Tenney (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Richard E Grimes (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Victor B. Wilson (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Irving Topp (reward poster, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Robert Neil Shillenn (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Albin Daniel Rynkiewicz (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Floyd Collins Bennett (photo, group burial photo)
Last Flight Home tells the story of this bomber and execution of Kaufman
Bent Prop "The '058 B-24" via Wayback Machine March 17, 2016
"This brand new 7th AAF B-24M, airplane # '058, also nicknamed "Brief", was on a routine bombing mission to Koror from Angaur when, on 5 [sic 4] May 1945, AA fire hit the left wing. Within seconds, this "milk run" turned into disaster. The wing separated and only one crewmember parachuted out. All the rest died, including a cook who had gone along for fun. The wing landed in the jungle on a small island, Iberor, near Koror. The fuselage landed in a mangrove swamp along side of Koror. Debris still sits in the swamp at the base of the Nikko Hotel, a favorite hotel for Japanese scuba diving tourists. The navigator, Lt. Wallace Kaufman, was captured while still in the water. Records from the Japanese War Crimes Trials, held after the war, graphically tell what happened to Lt. Kaufman. General Inoue decided that it would be good for morale to behead the navigator and bestowed the honor to the unit commander who shot down "Brief". Although the young officer later testified he nearly fainting, he managed to carry out the order with the help of an experienced swordsman. One can only wonder what Lt. Kaufman's last thoughts were, knowing that the rest of his unit was safe and less than 30 miles away. The executioner and two others were sentenced to 25 years in prison after the war, but were pardoned after seven years. Of note, several other American aviators and crew members are suspected of being captured during the various Palau air campaigns; only two American prisoners are reported to have lived long enough to be taken away by ship (they were never heard of again). All the rest have simply disappeared and no records appear to remain."
Thanks to Pat Scannon / BentProp for additional information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
May 4, 2020
7° 20' N
134° 29' E