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  SBD-5 Dauntless Bureau Number 28608 Squadron Number 10
USS Essex (CV-9)

Time-Life November 1943
Pilot  Lt(jg) Paul K. Conrath, O-112437 USNR (MIA / KIA)
Gunner  AMM2c Norris Hadley Montee, 6281708 (MIA / KIA) KS

Crashed  November 18, 1943 at 7:10am

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas in El Segundo, California. Constructors Number 3955. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as SBD-5 Dauntless 28608. Assigned to USS Essex (CV-9) to squadron VB-9 (Bombing Squadron 9). No known nickname or nose art. Squadron Number 10 was painted in white in large digits on both sides of the tail.

During November 1943, this SBD sustained tail damaged including damage to the tail elevator and tail vertical. This damage was photographed by Time-Life with the pilot looking at the wreckage.

Mission History
On November 18, 1943 one of twelve SBD Dauntless took off from USS Essex (CV-9) piloted by Lt(jg) Paul K. Conrath on a predawn dive bombing mission against enemy fortifications on Tarawa (Betio).The formation was led by Lt. Commander Decker and formed up in a "Z" formation and departed for the target at 6:30am climbing to 11,500'.

Approaching the target from the southeast, this SBD made a dive bombing attack from 10,000' starting at 7:10am but failed to recover from its dive and crashed into Tarawa Lagoon north of the eastern end of Tarawa (Betio). All other SBDs returned safely. When this aircraft failed to return the entire crew was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Conrath was officially declared dead on January 11, 1946. He is memorialized at the courts of the missing at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Conrath on court 5. Montee on court 1. Conrath earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Montee earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Montee also has a memorial marker at Mount Olive Cemetery in Pittsburg, KS.

USN Casualty Card - Paul K. Conrath
NARA Bombing Squadron 9 - 10 December 1944 - 21 December 1944
"Lieutenant (jg) Paul K. Conrath, A-V(N) USNR of Marietta, Ohio, on 18 November 1943 at Tarawa, Gilbert Islands."
NARA Bombing Squadron 9 - Part Two page 21 (November 18, 1943 mission report)
ARA Bombing Squadron 9 - Aircraft Action Report November 18, 1943
Navy Serial Number Search Results - SBD-5 Dauntless 28608
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List November 1943 SBD 28608 pilot B. K. Conrate [sic]
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul K. Conrath
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Norris H. Montee
FindAGrave - LtJg Paul K Conrath (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Norris Hadley Montee (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - AMM2 Norris Hadley Montee (courts of the missing photo)
Thanks to Katherine Rasdorf for additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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