Pacific Wrecks
Pacific Wrecks    
  Missing In Action (MIA) Prisoners Of War (POW) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)  
Chronology Locations Aircraft Ships Submit Info How You Can Help Donate
  SBD-5 Dauntless Bureau Number 36661 Number 120
MAG 21

Pilot  1st Lt. Donald N. Stephenson (rescued)
Gunner  Pfc Ralph W. Selby, Jr., 816475 (MIA / KIA)
Ditched  May 30, 1944

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas at El Segundo. Constructors Number 5289. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as SBD-5 Dauntless bureau number 36661. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 2 (MAW-2), Marine Air Group 21 (MAG-21), Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 (VMSB-241). No known nickname or nose art. Squadron Number 120.

Mission History
On May 30, 1944 at 8:00am took off from Emirau Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. Donald N. Stephenson with gunner Pfc Ralph W. Selby, Jr. armed with a single 1,000 pound bomb plus two wing mounted 100 pound bombs as one of twenty-nine SBDs on a dive bombing mission led by Major James A. Feeley, Jr. against Kavieng Airfield at Kavieng on New Ireland. The formation also included TBF Avengers targeting the runway. Inbound, the weather was clear with cumulus cloud base at 1,500' with the tops at 15,000' on the way to the target.

Over the target by 9:45am, anti-aircraft fire was described as concentrated, intense and accurate including heavy anti-aircraft fire (fused to explode at low altitude) plus automatic anti-aircraft fire. Over Kavieng Airfield, the SBDs targeted anti-aircraft positions around the runway. This aircraft made a dive bombing attack on an automatic weapon position and was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the lower cowling that also hit the pilot in the leg. Damaged, this aircraft ditched to roughly six miles off North Cape. Also lost was SBD-5 54217 (MIA) and SBD-5 36630 (crew rescued).

Fates of the Crew
Stephenson sustained a superficial shrapnel wound in his right leg. After the ditching, Selby did not exit the rear cockpit after the ditching and likely went down with the aircraft and is listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Afterwards, Stephenson was rescued by PBY Catalina "Dumbo" and flown to safety. Later, he had a small fragment of shrapnel removed from his leg by a doctor.

Selby was officially declared dead the day of the mission and earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. Selby also has a memorial marker at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Sturgis, MI.

Navy Serial Number Search Results - SBD-5 Dauntless 36630
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List May 1944 - SBD-5 Dauntless 36630

NARA "Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 VMSB-241 War Diary May 1944" page 10, 33
(Page 10) "30 May 1944 - Major Feeley led a most hazardous strike on the Kavieng Airdrome. Thirty SBDs took off at 0800 and before they returned at 1050 we faced the tragic news of the loss of one pilot and two gunners as well as three aircraft... Lt. Stephenson went down after his plane was hit by shrapnel in the lower engine cowling and he himself received a superficial shrapnel wound in his right leg. A small fragment was later removed by the doctor. His gunner Pfc Ralph W. Selby Jr., failed to extricate himself from his rear cockpit in spite of attempted assistance give him by Lt. Stephenson. He went down with his plane and is missing in action. Lt. Stephenson was rescued by Dumbo."
(Page 32) "Damage to planes: Three planes lost... Plane #120 hit in engine cowling, probably a direct hit, made water landing north of Kavieng, 7 miles off North Cape, bearing 195°.
Personnel Casualties: Pfc Ralph W. Selby Jr. (816475), USMC, Lt. Stephenson's radio gunner failed to extricate himself from the rear cockpit immediately after Plane #120 made a water landing and is listed as missing in action. Lt. Stephenson received a superficial shrapnel wound in his right leg."
(Page 33) "Plane: 120 Pilot: Stephenson Gunner: Selby Call [Sign]: 23Mine1 Squadron: VMSB-241 Remarks: Reported damaging hit on auto position. Plane hit, made water landing 6 miles off N. Cape. Radio-gunner Selby, missing in action."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ralph W. Selby, Jr.
FindAGrave - PFC Ralph William Selby, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ralph William Selby, Jr (photo, memorial marker)

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
June 29, 2019


Tech InfoSBD

1 Missing
  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram