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|Pilot Lt. Robert J. Brower, O-114553 USNR (MIA / KIA) Columbus, NB
Co-Pilot Lt(jg) David C. Davis, 129327 (rescued, POW, survived) Denver, CO
Crew Ensign Ned E. Brown, O-395956 USNR (MIA / KIA) Idaho Falls, ID
Crew AOM3c John V. Brennan, Jr., 8857669 USN (MIA / KIA) Chowchilla, CA
Crew AOM3c William H. Cates, 8674499 USNR (MIA / KIA) Bonnieville, KY
Crew ARM3c Stanley Sunshine, 7115755 USNR (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Crew AOM3c Earl K. Elias, 6380285 USNR (MIA / KIA) St. Thomas, ND
Crew S1c Robert B. Watson, 2091328 USNR (MIA / KIA) Hawthorne, CA
Crew AMM2c Frank R. Gardner, 6386058 (rescued, POW, survived) St. Paul, MN
Crew ARM1c Jack R. Lewis, 8778802 (rescued, POW, survived) Burbank, CA
Crew S1c Theodore Kalmuk, 8149898 (rescued, POW, survived) St. Albans, NY
Crew AMM2c George E. Dacier, 6061142 (rescued, POW, survived) Brockton, MA
Crashed July 7, 1945
Built by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation at San Diego as Model 32. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PB4Y-2 Privateer Bureau Number 59538.
Assigned to Patrol Bombing Squadron 124 (VPB-124). No known nickname or nose art.
On July 7, 1945 at 4:05am took off from Yontan Airfield on Okinawa piloted by Lt. Robert J. Brower armed with nine 250 pound bombs on a search and reconnaissance mission over the Taushima Straits between Kyushu and Korea with PB4Y-2 Privateer pilot Lt. Osborn Jr. The weather was broken and scattered clouds at 2,000'. The pair arrived over the target area during 7:50am until 9:30am with clear visibility.
At 7:50am at roughly 34° 35' N Long 128° 15'E the pair spotted two enemy destroyer escorts and a destroyer headed for a cove on shore. Spotting the Privateers, they opened fire with 5" anti-aircraft fire, forcing them to abort an attack. Their position was reported to base.
At 8:10am flying at 150-250' off sea level spotted a pair of Rex float planes at 1,200' that dove down and attacked then made another run. This Privateer's top turret gunner fired at one of them and observed hits that caused it to crash into the sea. The other Rex was also claimed as damaged and observed to be smoking and headed towards land. During the attack, this Privateer likely sustained damage to the hydraulic system.
At 9:01am after turning towards base, the pair spotted a sub-chaser, Sub Chaser No. 168. Brower reported over the radio to Osborne that his aircraft had a hydraulic leak, likely caused by damage from the float planes. Circling the vessel roughly four miles off Uku Island (Ukushima) the northernmost island in the Goto Retto Island Group.
When the pair began an attack run, Brower radioed "Get out of the way Ossie [Osborne]. We're going in." Incorrectly believing Brower wanted to make a solo attack run and broke off his attack. The sub-chaser opened fire on both Privateers and scored hits on Brower's aircraft near the No. 2 engine causing it to smoke. Brower's plane made an attack run with the bomb bay doors closed (likely due to the hydraulic leak) but his gunners strafed the vessel before crashing into the sea roughly a half mile from the sub-chaser.
From only 100', Osborne's Privateer strafed and dropped five bombs with the nearest bomb exploding 15' astern. The vessel was deemed to have been seriously damage and was observed to be listing with the stern down.
Afterwards, Osborne circled the PB4Y-2 crash site and observed five or six crew alive in the sea floating in their life vests and dropped their life boat to them. The survivors were seen to retrieve the boat. During this run, Osborne's Privateer came under fire from anti-aircraft fire estimated to be 40mm and 5" gunfire from shore batteries on Uku Island with shell bursts that straddled his plane. Low on fuel, Osborne returned to base.
Fates of the Crew
At least five of the crew survived the crash and were rescued by Japanese fisherman: Davis, Gardner, Lewis, Kalmuk and Dacier. They were handed over to the Japanese Navy and became Prisoners Of War (POW). They were transported to Sasebo. On July 11, 1945 arrived at Ofuna Camp. At the end of the Pacific War, they were liberated from Tokyo POW Camp (Shinjuku).
The eight Missing In Action (MIA) crew members were officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl) in the courts of the missing. Brower, Brown, Brennan and Cates on court 5. Sunshine and Watson on court 2. Elias on court 3.
Brower earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Gold Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Fullerton Cemetery in Fullerton, NB.
Brown earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Lehi City Cemetery in Lehi, UT at plot 54, 10, 4.
Brennan earned the the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Saint Mary Cemetery in Missoula, MT.
Cates earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Mount Pisgah Cemetery in Munfordville, KY.
Sunshine earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Elias earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.
Watson earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Kalmuk passed away January 21, 1987. He is buried at Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, OH.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - PB4Y-2 Privateer 59538
NARA Patrol Bombing Squadron 124 (VPB-124) War History 15 March 1943-15 August 1945 narrative does not mention loss, page 10 (chronology) 29 (crew #7)
(Page 10) "Chronology - 7 July 1945 - One plane and entire crew lost to AA fire in attack on enemy sub chaser off coast of Kyushu. Crew consisted of: Lt. R. J. Brower..."
(Page 29) "Crew #7: Robert J. Brower Lieutenant Seattle, Washington..."
NARA VPB-124 War Diary July 1945 page 3
(Page 3) "Date: 7 July 1945 / Location: Tsushima Straits / How Lost: Shot down while attacking sub-chaser. One PB4Y-2 destroyed. See ACA-1 Report No. 26".
NARA USN VPB-124 Aircraft Action Report (AAR) No. 26 July 7, 1945 pages 1-6
(Page 2) "VI. Loss or Damage: PB4Y-2 / VPB-124 / Believed hit by M/G fire from plane but damage not serious. Later hit by 20mm from ship and possible hit by short batteries with 40mm / Machine gun fire hit hydraulic system. Fire from ship or shore batteries hit plane on port side - probably no. 2 engine / Plane crashed into sea Bureau no. 59538."
Center for Research - Allied POWs Under The Japanese - Ofuna Roster
Center for Research - Allied POWs Under The Japanese - Ofuna Roster NARA RG 407 Bx115 [PDF]
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Lt(jg) David C. Davis
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Frank R. Gardner
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Jack R. Lewis
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Theodore Kalmuck
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - George E. Dacier
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert J. Brower
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ned E. Brown
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John V. Brennan, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William H. Cates
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Stanley Sunshine
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl K. Elias
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert B. Watson
FindAGrave - Lt Robert Julian Brower (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Robert Julian Brower (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Ens Ned E Brown (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Ned Eldred Brown (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - AOM3 John Vincent Brennan, Jr (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - John Vincent Brennan, Jr (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - AMM3 William H Cates (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - William H. Cates (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - ARm3 Stanley Sunshine (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - AOM3 Earl K Elias (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - S1 Robert Bruce Watson (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Theodore “Ted” Kalmuk (grave photo)
Thanks to Minoru Kamada for additional information
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Do you have photos or additional information to add?
July 7, 2020
July 7, 1945
MIA / POW
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