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  PB4Y-1 Liberator Bureau Number 31992  

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John Harding 1969
Pilot  Lt. Commander Bruce A. Van Voorhis (MIA / KIA) Aberdeen, WA
 Lt(jg) Herschel A. Oehlert Jr. (MIA / KIA) Clarke County, IA
Navigator  Lt(jg) Jack Orville Traub (MIA / KIA) Pekin, IL
Crew  ACOM Charles D. Linzmeyer (MIA / KIA)
Crew  ACRM Johnny A. Renner (MIA / KIA) Erick, OK
Crew  AMM1 George Charles Stephens, 3166113 (MIA / KIA) SD
Crew  AOM2 Donald B. Clogston (MIA / KIA) Temecula, CA
Crew  AMM2 Charles A. Martinelli (MIA / KIA)
Crew  AMM2 Henry Ford Watson, 3824481 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew  AMM3 Frederick C. Barker, Jr. (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew  ARM3 Richard W. Roscoe (MIA / KIA) MN

Crashed  July 6, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-35-CO Liberator serial number 42-40154.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PB4Y-1 Liberator bureau number 31992 to squadron VB-102. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On July 6, 1943 took off from Carney Airfield (Bomber 2) on Guadalcanal at 4:20am on solo reconnaissance and bombing mission over Kapingamarangi (Greenwich) to report enemy movements. Van Voorhis volunteered for the mission spanning roughly 800 miles in each direction. After takeoff, there was no radio contact with the bomber.

Over Kapingamarangi Lagoon, the bomber came under anti-aircraft fire and aerial opposition. Van Voorhis made six ground attacks on the base, attacking the radio station on Hare Island, and claimed one plane in the air shot down, and three seaplanes destroyed in the water. Likely caught by its own bomb blast or accurate anti-aircraft fire, the bomber crashed into the lagoon only 700 meters from the base, near the beach area it was attacking. The entire crew was killed in the crash.

When this aircraft failed to return after the estimated time of arrival, it was declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Van Voorhis was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor (MOH) [read citation], the only U. S. Navy PB4Y-1 pilot during World War II.

Afterwards, a special search mission failed to find any trace of the bomber.

Recovery of Remains
Postwar, the crash site was investigated and the remains of the crew were recovered.

This Liberator crashed into Kapingamarangi Lagoon. The wreckage remains in 20-30' of water.

Hugh Reilly / MV Westward visited the site in 2007:
"There were many large, identifiable pieces scattered over an area about the size of a basketball court in 20-30' of water. Presumably these scattered pieces were the result of a crash landing. An informed viewer should not have any difficulty confirming the type of aircraft. The locals described it as a U.S. aircraft; I recall also being told that the pilot/crew were captured & killed by the Japanese [according to locals]."

Officially, the entire crew was declared dead on July 6, 1943. After the remains of the crew were recovered, they were permanently buried in the United States.

On March 15, 1950 Barker, Linzmeyer, Martinelli, Oehlert, Renner and Van Voorhis were buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial at section 79 graves 279-281.

Van Voorhis also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery section MI site 86 erected in 2014.
Barker also has a memorial marker at Winters Cemetery in Winters, CA at section 1, lot 175, Barker plot.

Two crew members are buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Stephens at Plot P Row 0 Grave 921. Watson at Plot P Row 0 Grave 544.

Oehlert has a memorial marker at Woodburn Cemetery in Woodburn, Iowa at section 1, Row 3, Headstone 4.
Traub is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 34, site 3546 on February 2, 1950.
Roscoe is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery at section C-4 site 7964.

This Damn Navy - Diary of James Claire Noland - July 6, 1943 (Tuesday)
"The skipper of VB-102, Van Voorhis, failed to return from patrol this evening. His intention to attack Kapingamarangi may have backfired on him. A damnfool and senseless stunt which cost the lives (apparently) of 10 good men. Nobody much gave a damn about Van Voorhis himself, though."
FindAGrave - LCDR Bruce Avery Van Voorhis (photo, memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Bruce A Van Voorhis (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - LTJG Herschel Allen Oehlert, Jr (memorial marker, obituary)
FindAGrave - LTJG Herschel Allen Oehlert, Jr (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Jack Orville Traub (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Charles D Linzmeyer (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Johnny Austin Renner (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - AMM1 George Charles Stephens (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Donald Benjamin Clogston (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Donald B. Clogston (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Charles A Martinelli (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - AMM2 Henry Ford Watson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Frederick C Barker, Jr (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Frederick C Barker, Jr (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Richard W Roscoe (grave photo)
The Honolulu Advertiser "photos confirm story of WWII's unluckiest plane" August 1969
We Flew Alone covers this loss
Thanks to Jim Sawruk and Minoru Kamada for additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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