|Pilot 1st Lt Walter T. Mayberry, O-11227 (POW, executed May 5, 1944, BR) Daytona Beach, FL
Crashed August 30, 1943
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1 Corsair bureau number 02351. Shipped overseas to the South Pacific.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12) to squadron VMF-123 "Flying Eight Balls". No known nickname or nose art.
On August 30, 1943 took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia piloted by 1st Lt Walter T. Mayberry as one of twelve Corsairs on a mission to escort twenty-six B-24 Liberators on a bombing mission against Kahili Airfield on southern Bougainville. The fighter escort also included thirty-two other fighters.
Over the target during the bomb run, the formation was intercepted by approximately twenty-five to thirty-five to A6M Zeros and anti-aircraft fire was heavy and accurate. During the interception, a Zero got on the tail of Mayberry and caused him to loose altitude and go down off Fauro Island. When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Fate of the Pilot
Mayberry bailed out and was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW). He was transported to Rabaul and detained at Rabaul POW Camp. In early March 1944 tranposrted to Tunnel Hill POW Camp. During March 4-5,1944 he was executed during the Talili Bay Massacre (Tunnel Hill Massacre) and buried.
Towards the end of the Pacific War, to cover up the executions and war crimes, the Japanese claimed that approximately forty Allied prisoners were killed by Allied bombing during an air raid while at Talili Bay after being evacuated from Tunnel Hill and their bodies were cremated and their bodies were cremated and the ashes placed into a single box. The Japanese rehearsed a story that the prisoners were killed in an Allied bombing when a bomb scored a direct hit on their shelter.
Recovery of Remains
In September 1945 when the Allies occupied the Rabaul area, they interrogated personnel from the 6th Kempei Tai who claimed the Allied prisoners who died during the Tunnell Hill Massacre (Talili Bay Massacre) were killed by an Allied bomb and turned over a box with their cremated remains. This was a lie to cover up their murder.
The Allies divided the cremated ashes the Japanese claimed were those killed at Talili Bay proportionally based on the number of victims (22 Americans and 8 Australians) with 3/4 of the ashes to the Americans and 1/4 of the ashes to the Australians.
Mayberry was officially declared dead on March 5, 1944. On March 21, 1950 he was is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial section 78, sites 930-934.
NARA "Combat Tour of Marine Fighting Squadron 123 from 28 August 1943 to 18 September 1943" page 2
"August 30, 1943. A section went out on a strafing problem. Twelve squadron pilots, with approximately 32 other fighters, escorted 26 B24s to strike Kihili [sic Kahili]. Twenty-five to thirty-five Jap fighters attacked the formation just as the bombing run was being made, and AA fire was accurate and heavy. A Zero got on Mayberry's tail, Major Baker shot at this Zero and saw him peel off and start down but did not see him crash. The 0 apparently did substantial damage to Mayberry's plane for he lost altitude and went down off Fauro Island. A new type bomb explosion was observed at 22,000 ft. It burst into white smoke and then developes [sic develops] into an umbrella or cone like affair... No reports or information was received concerning Mayberry, who is missing in action."
NARA "War Diary Marine Aircraft Group Twenty One August 1, 1943 to August 31, 1943" page 19
"August 30  Twelve Corsairs escorted B-24's in the strike against Kihili [sic Kahili]. On the retirement from Munda, First Lieutenant Mayberry was shot down."
Sarasota Herald-Tribune "Walt Mayberry, Ex-Gator Grid Star Missing"
"DAYTONA BEACH--First Lt. Walter Mayberry, USMCR, former University of Florida football star, is missing in action "in performance of his duty and in the service of his country," his father, Thomas Mayberry, has been informed.
Word of the flier's disappearance was received from Lt. Gen. T. Holcomb, commander of the Marine corps.
Young Mayberry, who recently was credited with downing three Japanese planes, was captain of the Daytona Beach high Buccaneer grid squad before going to the University of Florida. He was captain of the Florida squad and gained wide recognition for his punting prowess. He was an all-Southeastern conference back."
Sarasota Herald-Tribune "Walter Mayberry of Football Fame Listed as Missing" September 7, 1943 page 14
"DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Sept. 8--First Lieut. Walter Mayberry, marine flier and captain of the University of Florida football team in 1936, is missing in action, his father, Thomas Mayberry of Daytona beach, has been advised.
The airman, who won wide recognition for his prowess as a punter during his high school and college days, recently was credited with downing three Japanese planes. He was an all-Southeast conference back in 1936."
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File Walter T. Mayberry
Navy Serial Number Search Results F4U-1 Corsair 02351
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List August 1943 F4U-1 Corsair 02351 incorrectly lists Mayberry as rescued
FindAGrave - 1LT Walter T Mayberry (obituary, group burial photo)
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida pages 19 (footnote 12 - Tunnel Hill Massacre), 95 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Mayberry)
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February 14, 2020