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  PB4Y-1 Liberator Bureau Number ????? Squadron Number 51-P-?
Formally VP-51

Pilot  Lt. Jay Darwin Bacon, Jr., O-079900, USNR (MIA / KIA) CA
Co-Pilot  Ensign Edmund John Kolazyk, O-146507, USN (MIA / KIA) Fitchburg, MA
Crew  AOM2c Frank Eugene Atkins, 2627848, USN (MIA / KIA) ) Easley, SC
Crew  ARM2c William Barber, 3762721, USN (MIA / KIA) East Palo Alto, CA
Crew  ARM1 Frank Lee Betz, Jr., 4073077, USNR (MIA / KIA) Houston, TX
Crew  AMM1 Jessie Lloyd Henderson, 2722465, USN (MIA / KIA) AL
Crew  AMM2c Norman Levi North, 2689387, USN (MIA / KIA) Longwood, FL
Crew  AMM2c John Melvin Walker, 2686043, USN (MIA / KIA) Macon, GA
Crew  AMM2c Oscar Kenneth Ward, 3759133, USN (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew  AMM3c Roy Russel Wells, 3604159, USN (MIA / KIA) TX
Crew  AOM3c Joseph Harold Zattera, 3763622, USN (MIA / KIA) San Francisco, CA
MIA  February 14, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. The aircraft was either PB4Y-1 Liberator Bureau Number 31948 or PB4Y-1 Liberator Bureau Number 31970. Assigned to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-15-CO Liberator as either serial number 41-24051 or 41-24241.

Wartime History
Delivered to the U.S. Navy (USN) as PB4Y-1 Liberator either bureau number ????? or 31970. Assigned to Patrol Squadron VB-101, later redesignated VP-51. Assigned squadron Number (side number) 51-P-11 or 51-P-??. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On February 14, 1943 took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal piloted by Lt. Jay Darwin Bacon, Jr. armed with a single 1,000 pound bomb as one of nine on a mission against enemy shipping off southern Bougainville in the Buin-Shortland area. The bombers were escorted by ten P-38G Lightnings from the 347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron plus twelve F4U Corsairs from VMF-124.

Aboard this Liberator was a crew of eleven. Although the crew lists of both bombers are know, it is unclear which aircraft each was flying aboard: PB4Y-1 pilot Lt. Jay D, Bacon, Jr. or PB4Y-1 Liberator pilot Lt. Stuart T. Cooper. Over the target, the PB4Y-1s bombed Hatachi Maru and damaging another ship.

After the bomb run, the formation was intercepted by roughly thirty A6M Zeros and fifteen A6M2-N Rufe floatplanes from Shortland. During the combat, two Liberators were shot down, PB4Y-1 pilot Lt. Jay D, Bacon, Jr. or PB4Y-1 Liberator piloted by Lt. Stuart T. Cooper. One was shot down by head-on attack by enemy fighters over the target and crashed. The other crash landed or ditched off New Georgia. When this Liberator failed to return, the entire crew was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Due to the severe American losses, this mission became known as the "Saint Valentines Day Massacre".

The entire crew was officially declared dead on December 10, 1945. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. The entire crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. The crew was also memorialized on memorial to Patrol Squadron VP 11/54/51, VB 101, PATSU 1-2 at Bomber 2 Airfield on Espiritu Santo.

Bacon earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Kolazyk earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Jeannette Banks (niece of Norman Levi North)
"My mother was contacted about a year ago to send her DNA because she was told that his plane had been found and they needed the DNA for the remains.  We have not heard anything as of yet.  My mom is 93 years old and has been excited and now depressed.  Can you direct us to someone who would know about this. His pilot was Bacon. Photo #1 of AMM2c Norman Levi North in uniform and Photo #2 AMM2c Norman Levi North in uniform."

Notes on PB4Y-1 Liberator crew list for February 14, 1943
Letter Commander A. C. Jacobs USNR, Head of Casualties and Allotments Section to Mr. and Mrs. Clayton N. North February 29, 1944
"...reported as missing as of 14 February 1943, when the plane which he was aboard failed to return to its base in the Pacific area following an engagement with the enemy on that day. As yet, there is a lack of first hand information as to what happened to your son and further investigation is being continued.
Pursuant to the provisions of Public Law 490, as amended, the Secretary f the Navy has given careful consideration to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of your son. In view of the meager and inconclusive information available in regard to the fate of your son, the Secretary of the Navy has directed that he be continued in a missing status until information is received or other circumstances occur which would indicate the he should no longer be counted in this status."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jay D. Bacon Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edmund J. Kolazyk
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank E. Atkins
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William Barber
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank Lee Betz Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jessie L. Henderson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Norman L. North
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John M. Walker
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Oscar K. Ward
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Roy R. Wells
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph H. Zattera
FindAGrave - Lt Jay Darwin Bacon, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ens Edmund John Kolazyk (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ens Edmund John Kolazyk (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - AOM2 Frank Eugene Atkins (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - ARM2 William Barber (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - ARM1 Frank Lee Betz, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Frank Lee Betz, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - AMM1 Jessie Lloyd Henderson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM2 Norman Levi North (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Norman Levi North (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - AMM2 John Melvin Walker (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AP1C Oscar Kenneth Ward (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM3 Roy Russell Wells (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AOM3 Joseph Harold Zattera (tablets of the missing photo)
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1943 for February 14, 1943 does not listed either PB4Y-1 loss
History of Patrol Squadron-11F, Patrol Squadron-54, Patrol Squadron-51, VB-101, PATSU 1-2, and CASU F-56
"The next day, February 14,1943, off the coast of Southern Bougainville Island. nine PB4Y-1 aircraft fully armed, bombs and ammunition, bombed and sank a large enemy transport and a destroyer from 22,000 feet altitude. After the flack came 50 to 60 enemy fighters from Kahili airfield to intercept the bombers and their cover. The top cover consisted of 4 Army P-38's and the lower cover consisting of Navy F6F's and Marine Corps Corsairs (F4U). The Marine Corsair was in combat for the first time in this mission. Two PB4Y-1 Bombers -- 101-B-3 and 101-B-4 and entire crews were shot down. The entire top cover was destroyed and six of the lower cover aircraft were destroyed. It was reported by observers that the enemy lost 26 aircraft in this fight. This 'skirmish' was named in most military history books as the 'Saint Valentines Day Massacre'. The losses for both sides were very heavy for the day."
History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II page 135
"On 14 February, their third day in the combat area, the F4U pilots learned that Japanese flyers had not lost their skill or aggressiveness. About 50 well-alerted Zeros were waiting from the raid on Kahili Field in southern Bougainville. The Japanese shot down two F4U's, two Navy PB4Y's, two P-40's and the entire top cover of four P-38's, with a loss to themselves of only three Zeros, [sic only one was lost], one of which collided with a F4U. This 'Saint Valentine's Day massacre' was a painful blow to the Guadalcanal-based flyers of all services."
13th Fighter Command In World War II page 118
Guadalcanal and the Origins of the 13th Air Force page 182
We Flew Alone (2000) by Alan C. Carey pages 13-14
Thanks to Jim Sawruk, Minoru Kamada and Jeannette Banks for additional information

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Last Updated
March 3, 2021

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