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  B-24L-5-CO Liberator Serial Number A72-133 Code SJ-B
RAAF
25 Squadron

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Claude Bernard 200?
Pilot  S/L Jack Aubrey Wawn, 261720 (POW, survived) Charing Cross, NSW
Co-Pilot  F/Lt David William James Buchanan, 420132 (POW, survived)
Bombardier   F/O Colin Cairns Allen Robertson, 412704 (POW, survived)
W/AG  F/O Peter Stuart Sykes, 424228 (POW, survived)
W/AG
 F/Lt Lyndon Lloyd McKenzie, 416284 (POW, survived)
W/AG   F/O Ronald Thomas Robertson, 418680 (POW, survived)
Gunner  F/Sgt Bernard William McInerney, 438399 (POW, survived)
Gunner   F/Sgt Norman William Haywood, 115806 (POW, survived)
Gunner  Sgt Desmond Joseph Moloney, 432724 (POW, survived)
Wireless Operator  W/O Thomas Bonnice, 401737 (POW, survived)
Engineer  Sgt Lloyd Francis Medwin, 29811 (POW, survived)
Observer  F/Lt Ernest Radcliffe Oldfield, 406221 DFM (POW, survived)
Ditched  April 27, 1945

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 5445. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24L-5-CO Liberator serial number 44-41509. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Liberator serial number A72-133. Assigned to No. 25 Squadron with code SJ-B. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On April 26, 1945 at 8:55pm took off from Cunderdin Airfield piloted by S/L Jack Aubrey Wawn as one of eight Liberators that on a night bombing mission against Malang Airfield on Java, with an alternate target of Denpasar on Bail. Returning from the mission, this Liberator radioed "Making for R.65A aircraft vibrating badly" and Truscott Airfield reported their position.

On April 27, 1945 after midnight, this B-24 radioed "ditching" at approximate position of 1° 15' S, 12° 36' E. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, this Liberator ditched onto a coral reef 20 yards off shore near Cape Nangeh on Sumba Island (Soemba Island / Samba Island).

Fates of the Crew
In fact, the entire crew survived unhurt. Afterwards, they were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW).

Daniel Leahy adds:
"A quick search of NAA returns a heap of Casualty items (none online), which also mention 'repatriation', suggesting that the crew either were POWs or were not located for some time. There is also another document simply titled "Fate of Crew" which would be interesting (again, not online). All but F/Lt Buchanan, F/O R T Robertson and W/O Bonnice are listed on the WW2 Nominal Roll as being POWs at one time or another. This really doesn't mean anything though (ie, chances are WW2 NR is wrong not listing them as POW) as I have had to request numerous records be updated with this fact (particularly for aircrew in the Pacific)."

Search
A Catalina from Truscott Airfield and a Liberator from Fenton Airfield were sent to search for the downed Liberator and sighted the bomber on the reef 20 yards off shore, near a beach on the tip of Cape Nangeh, Soemba Island. No trace of the crew was observed. Additional searches were made without result.

Wreckage
On May 16, 1945 the Liberator was destroyed by RAAF aircraft. Later, locals sold the aluminum to scrap dealers going to Surabaya. Today, some wreckage remains on Samba Island, including the landing gear leg.

Claude Bernard adds:
"I spent two years looking for this aircraft and the crew and twice I went to Indonesia. I had a chance to meet an old man  in Bail  he was 7 or 10 years old  the morning the Liberator crashed in Samba  in from of his house. So I wrote days after days all his souvenirs and the next year I came to Samba to meet all his friends. We had a meeting on the spot, and I spent four days with them. I was fascinated by the precision of the testimonies like one of the crew used many times  in front of the Japanese officer his comb and put back in his back  pocket. The  all crew refused to hands up  like prisoners and  the commandant refused to talk to the Japanese officer sited  on a chair in front of them unless he had  also a chair  for himself. The A72-133 was to destroyed by  bombs but a month later by the local they sold the aluminum to scrap dealers going to  Surabaya. I would like to write the journey of all prisoners going to Jakarta. Unfortunately I can not find any information from the Japanese Army. I know the crew returned safely to Australia but they were prisoners for one year. I like to know from the time they were made prisoners to the liberation in Jakarta camp. Can you help me?"

John adds:
"The entire crew were POWs and all survived the war. (I interviewed two of them, Wawn and Oldfield, a few years back."

Relatives
David Oldfield (son of Ernest Oldfield)
"The whole crew of the B-24 were captured after failing to launch their rafts over the reef in the dark while the Japanese fired at them from the beach - I have a number of details regarding this particular story and their ensuing captivity - the whole crew survived the war, which as you would appreciate, was very unusual for captured air crew, especially at that time, a story in itself."

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24L-5-CO Liberator 44-41509
"41509 to RAAF as A72-133 - ditched returning from ops 4-45."
ADF Serials - Liberator A72-133
WW2 Nominal Roll - Jack Aubrey Wawn, 261720
WW2 Nominal Roll - David William James Buchanan, 420132
WW2 Nominal Roll - Colin Cairns Allen Robertson, 412704
WW2 Nominal Roll - Stuart Sykes, 424228
WW2 Nominal Roll - Lyndon Lloyd McKenzie, 416284
WW2 Nominal Roll - Ronald Thomas Robertson, 418680
WW2 Nominal Roll - Bernard William McInerney, 438399
WW2 Nominal Roll - Norman William Haywood, 115806
WW2 Nominal Roll - Desmond Joseph Moloney, 432724
WW2 Nominal Roll - Thomas Bonnice, 401737
WW2 Nominal Roll - Lloyd Francis Medwin, 29811
WW2 Nominal Roll - Ernest Radcliffe Oldfield, 406221

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Last Updated
April 26, 2020

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Liberator

POW
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12 Prisoner
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