|Pilot 1st Lt William S. Watson, O-424590 (MIA / KIA) IL
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Leonard H. Whittington, O-427074 (MIA / KIA) TX
Navigator 2nd Lt John P. Schuman, O-437472 (MIA / KIA) CO
Bombardier Sgt James E. Via, 6296877 (MIA / KIA) TX
Nose Gunner SSgt Richard C. Decker, 17017220 (MIA / KIA) IA
Engineer / Top Turret Gunner Cpl
Albert E. Owen, 17012203 (MIA / KIA) NB
Tail Gunner Cpl Bernard C. Seitz, 32027847 (MIA / KIA) NY
MIA June 4, 1942 at 7:05am
Built by Martin in Baltimore, Maryland. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26B Marauder serial number 41-17570.
Assigned to the 38th Bombardment Group, 69th Bomber Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. During early March 1942, this B-26 was flight tested at Patterson Field.
On May 19, 1942 ordered to proceed across the United States departing from Patterson Field flying via
Baer Field to McClellan Airfield. At Sacramento Air Depot (SAD), this B-26 was stripped of all guns and armor from the planes and installing auxiliary fuel tanks in forward and rear bomb bays allowing it to carry 1,000 U. S. gallons of fuel then flown to Hamilton Field in preparation for the final leg of the ferry flight to Hawaii.
On May 22, 1942 took off from Hamilton Field on a 13 hour ferry flight to Hickam Field. This bomber was one of two B-26s from the
38th Bombardment Group, 69th Bombardment Squadron plus two B-26s from the 22nd Bombardment Group, 408th Bombardment Squadron that were flown to Midway Airfield to defend against the Japanese fleet that was expected to attack Midway Atoll during early June 1942.
On June 4, 1942 during the Battle of Midway took of from Midway Airfield on Eastern Island piloted by 1st Lt William S. Watson at 6:30am armed with an aerial torpedo on a mission to attack Japanese Navy vessels during the Battle of Midway. The weather was described as "very good".
The formation of four bombers was led by B-26 piloted by Captain James F. Collins (38th BG, 69th BS) with left wingman B-26 "Satan's Playmate" 40-1424 piloted by 1st Lt Herbert C. Mayes (22nd BG, 408th BS) and right wingman (this aircraft) B-26 41-17570 piloted by 1st Lt William S. Watson (38th BG, 69th BS). Behind them was B-26 "Susie-Q" 40-1391 piloted by 1st Lt. James P. Muri (22nd BG, 408th BS).
At 7:10am, the formation attacked the Japanese Navy carrier force roughly 150 miles northwest of Midway Atoll. Flying in a diamond formation at 700' altitude the bombers descend to 200' to make their torpedo attack. The B-26 formation was intercepted by two A6M2 Zeros flying a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) and defensive anti-aircraft fire from Akagi. During the attack, this bomber was shot down by enemy fighters and anti-aircraft fire at 7:05am. When this B-26 failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing. Watson, Whittington, Via and Decker on court 5. Schuman and Owen on court 7. The entire crew earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Whittington also has a memorial marker at Roscoe Cemetery in Roscoe, TX.
Via also has a memorial marker at Happy Cemetery in Happy, TX.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26B Marauder 41-17570
Missing Air Crew Report 16386 (MACR 16386) includes details both MIA crews on June 4, 1942 Mayes (B-26B 41-17570) and Watson (B-26B 40-1424) bombers and of created retroactively between 1943-1948
[Page 2] Type of mission: Bombing [sic, torpedo]
[Page 3] "This MACR comprises two crews of B-26 bombers. As we as unable to determine who is with what crew we are sending them along this way"
69th Bomb Squadron Official History (adapted)
"The air echelon of the 38th Bombardment Group (M) moved to Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio, on March 8, 1942, to participate in service testing of the new B-26B. On 19 May, 1942, the 69th Bomb Squadron received orders to proceed overseas. Leaving Patterson, the squadron staged through Baer Field, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, on their way to Hamilton Field, near San Francisco, Ca., landing first at the Sacramento Air Depot, where the planes were stripped of all guns, armor and unnecessary equipment, and were fitted with additional fuel tanks in their bomb bays for their overseas flight. The first flight, consisting of Cpt. James F. Collins, 1st Lt. Lewis C. Long, and 2nd Lt. William S. Watson, departed from Hamilton Field on 22 May, 1942, arriving at Hickam Field, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii 13 hours later. Upon arrival, the flight was hastily trained in torpedo tactics over the next ten days before being deployed to Midway along with the two B-26s of the 408th BS, 22nd BG. Lt Long's plane was damaged in a hard landing and remained at Hickam. Between 22 May and 10 June all B-26Bs of the 69th and 70th Bomb Squadrons, 26 planes total, successfully flew the 2200 mile trip to Hawaii."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William S. Watson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leonard H. Whittington
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John P. Schuman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James E. Via
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard C. Decker
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Albert E. Owen
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Bernard C. Seitz
1Lt William Stapleton Watson (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Leonard H Whittington (photo, courts of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2LT Leonard Hillman Whittington (photo, memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt John P Schuman (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt James Edwin Via (news, court of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - James Edwin Via (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Richard C Decker (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Albert Edgar Owen (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Bernard C Seitz (courts of the missing photo)
The Midway Marauders - B26 Midway Marauders 1942 22nd BG 38th BG via Wayback Machine March 3, 2016
Revenge of the Red Raiders pages 101-105, 283 (painting)
Sun Setters of the Southwest Pacific Area pages 39-43, AII-2
Thank Greg Boeser for information on the ferry flight.
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February 14, 2020