|Pilot Captain George W. Thornbrough, O-022400 73rd BS, Operations Officer (MIA / KIA) Kearny County, KS
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Norman A. Nysteen, O-407068 (MIA / KIA) Lane County, OR
Navigator 2nd Lt. James L. Smart, O-430431 (MIA / KIA) Stephens, AR
Bombardier 2nd Lt. James F. Lee, O-432989 (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Gunner SSgt Joseph L. Wiseman, 6392850 (MIA / KIA) NC
Radio Sgt Howard K. Jaycox, 6547583 (MIA / KIA) WA
Gunner Sgt Roy E. Jordan, 6288129 (MIA / KIA) TX
MIA June 4, 1942 at 11:00pm
Built by Martin in Baltimore, Maryland. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26 Marauder serial number 40-1408.
Assigned to the 11th Air Force, 28th Bombardment Group (28th Composite Group), 73rd Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On June 4, 1942 took off from Cold Bay Airfield piloted by Captain George W. Thornbrough as one of six Marauders armed with a aerial torpedo on a mission to attack the Japanese task force attacking Dutch Harbor. The formation was led by Col Eareckson on a southwesterly course where the force was reported by a U. S. Navy PBY Catalina.
Inbound, the formation experienced bad weather including fog down to sea level. While attempting to climb above the overcast, Thornbrough's B-26 became lost but opted to continue searching alone and spotted the enemy force. The other five B-26s were unable to find the Japanese and landed at Umnak Airfield.
Spotting the Japanese force, this B-26 made two unsuccessful passes but was unable to release his torpedo, then dove, attempting to arm the torpedo and release it as a bomb. Below, the Japanese anti-aircraft fire targeted the solitary bomber as the carriers increased their speed and turned into his attacks. Heavy seas prevented them from launching any Zeros to intercept.
Targeting Ryūjō, the B-26 made a torpedo attack from amidships but the torpedo impacted roughly 200 yards away, missing the carrier. Afterwards, this B-26 returned to Cold Bay Airfield to rearm with bombs to make another attack. While being rearmed and refueled, Thornbrough reported the location and description of the enemy task force, so it could be broadcast to all available aircraft.
Later that same day, this B-26 took off again from Cold Bay Airfield in foggy conditions to attack the Japanese force but was unable to locate it. Returning to the Cold Bay area after dark with a solid overcast, this B-26 was heard at approximately 11:00pm over the radio requesting radio navigation and reporting it was low on fuel. His last radio message was "Over station, nine thousand feet on top, trying to find a hole."
At Cold Bay Airfield, the commander relayed his distress call to USS Casco (AVP-12) which attempted to use the ships direction finder on the B-26's radio signal. When this bomber failed to return, the entire crew was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Missing Air Crew Report 15389 page 2:
"Subject: Battle Casualties - Change in Classification... Captain George W. Thornbrough and crew in a B-26, aircraft, were last heard of on June 4, 1942, at approximately 23:00
when he called in to the ground station in Cold Bay requesting radio navigation aid and reporting his fuel supply to be very low. Weather was approximately 5 to 8 hundred feet and 3 to 4 miles visibility with light rain and light fog. Piece of his aircraft - nose wheel and seat pads were later found on the beach of Bristol Bay about 70 miles northeast of Cold Bay. One body, strapped to a metal chair, was found at the same locality and at the time was identified as the radio operator in Captain Thornbrough's aircraft."
Reportedly, a month later, the wreckage of this B-26 was located on the beach on a peninsula roughly 40 miles from Cold Bay. Another source says the body of the "radio operator" [Sgt Howard K. Jaycox] strapped to his seat washed ashore at a beach roughly 90 miles north of Cold Bay. If true, he and the entire crew still remain listed as Missing In Action.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. The entire crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Nysteen, Wiseman, Lee, Jaycox, Jordan and Smart earned the Air Medal. All are memorialized on the courts of the missing at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Thornbrough and Wiseman on court 5.
Nysteen, Lee, Jaycox, Jordan and Smart on court 7.
Thornbrough also earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Afterwards, Cold Bay Airfield was renamed "Thornbrough Field" in his honor. Thornbrough also has a memorial marker at Lakin Cemetery in Lakin, KS at lot 3, block 43, section 4.
Wiseman also has a memorial marker at Wiseman Cemetery in Avery County, NC.
Jordan also has a memorial marker at Ridge Park Cemetery in Hillsboro, TX at section 23.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26 40-1408
"1408 (28th BG, 73rd BS, 11th AF) MIA near Cold Bay, Alaska Jun 4, 1942. MACR 15389. All 7 crew killed."
Missing Air Crew Report 15389 (MACR 15389) was created retroactively in 1945 or 1946
Aleutian Campaign, Part III: June 1942-August 1943. Draft Chronology Compiled by John Haile Cloe. page 20
"4 Jun 1942: KIA The following Eleventh Air Force airmen were reported killed in action from the 73th Bombardment Squadron when their B-26, 40-1408, crashed near Cold Bay after returning from a bombing mission against the carrier task force on 4 June: Capt George W. Thornborough [sic], Lt. Norman A. Nysteen, Lt. James L. Smart, Lt. James F. Lee, SSgt Joseph L. Wiseman, Sgt. Howard K. Jaycox and Sgt. Roy E. Jordan. The airfield at Cold was later named Thornborough Army Air Field and later Air Force Base in honor of Captain Thornborough. (Col William S. Carlson and Maj. George D. Brodsky, "No Mean Victory, the Saga of the Army Air Forces in Alaska and the Aleutians," a draft manuscript dated 15 Jul 1945, an unnumbered appendix list casualties.)"
History of the 73rd Bombardment Squadron (M) From 26 October 1927 To 1 July 1943 pages 7, 15, 19, 20-21, 23, 24-25
(Page 7) "June 4, 1942, this [73rd Bombardment] Squadron participated in attack upon enemy Task Force which was attacking Dutch Harbor, Alaska. This was the initial operation of the 73rd in Alaska. A chronological summary of subsequent operations of the Squadron shows information as follow: From June 3 to June 6 inclusive, planes of this Squadron took part in seven (7) missions in search of enemy surface craft. Contact was made on June 4 (1942) with the enemy force, and damaged inflicted to such an extent that the enemy was forced to turn back."
(Page 15) "Cold Bay, 4 June 1942: B-26 No. 40-1408, loaded with bombs, took off after Jap task force. Weather closed in, and plane did not return. Parts of the wrecked plane were later found off beach in vicinity of Cold Bay:
Capt. George W. Thornborough
1st Lt. Norman A. Nysteen
2nd Lt. James F. Lee
2nd Lt. James L. Smart
SSgt Joseph L. Wiseman
Sgt Howard K. Jaycox
Sgt Roy E. Jordan"
(Page 19) "Roy E. Jordan, Sergeant, 4 June 1942, participated in bombing attack on enemy naval concentration - missing in action ever since - Air Medal - authority GO #105, 11th AF, 5 October 1942."
(Page 20) "James F. Lee, 2nd Lt., 4 June 1942, participating in bombing of heavy enemy naval concentration - missing in action ever since - Air Medal - authority GO #105, 11th AF, 5 October 1942."
(Page 21) "Norman A. Nysteen, 1st Lt. 4 June 1942, bombing enemy naval concentration in face of heavy AA fire - missing in action ever since - Air Medal - authority GO #105, 11th AF, 5 October 1942."
(Page 23) "Henry s. Taylor, Captain, 4 June 1942, 1st pilot, for courage in torpedo attack against naval concentration - Distinguished Flying Cross, - authority GO #58, 11th AF, 1 August 1942."
(Page 24) "George W. Thornbrough, Captain, 4 June 1942, 1st pilot, torpedo attack on fleet - 150 miles from Ft. Glenn - was killed - Distinguished Flying Cross (posthumously) - authority GO #67, 11th AF, 31 July 1942."
(Page 25) "J. L. Wiseman, S/Sgt., 4June 1942, bombing attack on naval concentration, missing in action - Air Medal - authority GO #105, 11th AF, 4 October 1942."
2nd Lt. James Ladell Smart (B 26 Navigator) 28th Composite Gp. 73rd Bomb Sqd. Cold Bay AAF, Alaska
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
George W. Thornbrough
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Norman A. Nysteen
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James L. Smart
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James F. Lee
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph L. Wiseman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard K. Jaycox
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Roy E. Jordan
FindAGrave - Capt George Wayne Thornbrough (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - George Wayne Thornbrough (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Norman A Nysteen (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt James Ladell Smart (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt James F Lee (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Joseph L Wiseman (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Joseph L Wiseman (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Howard K Jaycox (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Roy E Jordan (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Roy Edison Jordan (memorial marker photo)
The Thousand-Mile War pages 44-48, 50
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
February 14, 2020