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  R4D-1 Bureau Number 01981  

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Nicolas Duprey 2001

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Claringbould Dec 2001
Pilot  Major Walter F. Kimball, 4713 Executive Officer VMJ-253 (KIA, BR) CA
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Donald E. Griffin, 9965 VMJ-253 (KIA, BR)
Navigator  Cpl John R. Troup, 376994 VMJ-253 (KIA, BR) CA
Crew Chief  Cpl Charles W. Mottram, Jr., 313403 VMJ-253 (KIA, BR) OH
Radio  Pfc Charles D. Vestal, 374955 (KIA, BR) Fairbury, NB
Passenger  Cpl Harry R. Merriner, 322123 MAG-14, VMSB-141 (KIA, BR) PA
Passenger  Pvt William F. Fromhold, Jr., 321846 MAG-14, VMSB-141 (KIA, BR) AL
Passenger  Sgt Edward F. Giczkowski, 285899, MAG-14, VMSB-141 (KIA, BR) Buffalo, NY
Crashed  October 9, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Construction Number 4437. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47 Skytrain serial number unknown. Delivered to the U.S. Navy (USN) as R4D-1 bureau number 01981.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 1 (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 25 (MAG-25), Marine Utility Squadron 253 (VMJ-253). No known nickname, nose art or squadron number.

Mission History
On October 9, 1942 at night with poor visibility took off from Tontouta Airfield piloted by Major Walter "Skip" F. Kimball (Executive Officer VMJ-253) heavily loaded with cargo, the flight crew from VMJ-253 plus three passengers from VMSB-141. After take off , there was poor visibility and one engine failed causing it to crash into Ousassio Hill near Nouméa. Aboard, everyone was killed in the crash. The loss of the flight crew was the first casualties of VMJ-253 in the South Pacific (SOPAC).

Recovery of Remains
The entire crew and passengers were officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the crash, the recovered remains were buried on New Caledonia. Postwar, the remains were transported to the United States for permanent burial.

The wreckage of this aircraft remains atop Ousassio Hill near Nouméa. On the wreckage are approximately twenty inscriptions from passengers inside the fuselage spanning from the tail assembly to the fuselage door. Among them are "USS Ibex" a tanker ship and the name of Hollywood actress "Joan Harlow". Plus names and addresses in the United States.

Nicolas Duprey adds in 2001:
"Three of the inscriptions contain an address, we have send letters to these address since July 2001. Only one of the 3 letter came back, one is: Carol J. McCutcheon, 3940 - 4th Ave, Sacramento, California."

Kimball is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section G, site 2087-A. After the crash, Ousassio Hill was renamed 'Kimball Hill (also known as Mount Kimball or Mt. Kimball) in honor of the deceased pilot Major Walter F. Kimball.

Mottram is buried at Fountain Cemetery in Fostoria, OH. In Ohio, Mottram Park is named in honor of Charlie Mottram.

Troup is buried at Goleta Cemetery at Goleta Cemetery at 3 West- Lot- 027-1/2- Space- 2

Griffin was reinterment on November 11, 1947 at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section D, site 598.

Vestal is buried at Fairbury Cemetery in Fairbury, NB.

Merriner is buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA.

Fromhold is buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Cullman, AL.

Giczkowski is buried at Holy Mother of the Rosary Parish Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY.

The burials of the other crew members are unknown, presumed to be buried in the United States.

John Little (son of Col. Joseph R. Little) adds:
"I am trying to get as many pictures of aircraft that my Father, Col. Joseph R. Little, USMC, Ret, flew. He was also assigned to MAG-25 and flew that exact aircraft on numerous occasions according to his log books."

Navy Serial Number Search Results - R4D-1 01981
"01981 (MSN 4437) to US Navy Jul 1942 - VMJ-253 - Hit mountain on New Caledonia Oct 9, 1942. 8 killed."
FindAGrave - Walter Frear Kimball (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Charles W. Mottram, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John Robert Troup (grave photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Donald Eugene Griffin (grave photo, news)
FindAGrave - PFC Charles David “Dave” Vestal (grave photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - CPL Harry Richard Merriner (grave photo)
FindAGrave - William F Fromhold, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Edward F Giczkowski (photo, grave photo)
Marine Air Group 25 and SCAT page 25
"On October 9, 1942, MAG-25 suffered its first casualties when VMJ-253's executive officer Maj. Walter "Skip' Kimball, a highly experienced airline pilot, took off at night with a heavy load in poor visibility from this runway and struck the distant hill, known afterward as 'Kimball Hill.' Also killed aboard R4D-1 01981 were copilot 2nd Lt. Donald Griffin, flight mechanic Cpl Charles Mottram Jr., navigator Cpl. John Troup, and radio operator Pfc. Charles Vestal, as well as three passengers."
Thanks to Nicolas Duprey, Ewan Stevenson, Matt Parson and Donna Esposito for additional information, photographs and research.

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Last Updated
October 8, 2021

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