|Pilot Lt James E. Bridges, O-104354 USNR (MIA / KIA) Brinson, GA
Gunner ARM2c James Albert Green, 6690963 USNR (MIA / KIA) MO
Radio ANM1c Robert Ellis Bruton, 3814807 USN (MIA / KIA) CA
Crashed February 17, 1944
Built by General Motors, Eastern Aircraft
Division as a model G-40. Delivered to the United States Navy (USN) as TBM-1C Avenger bureau number 25270. Assigned to USS Intrepid (CV-11) to squadron VT-6. No known nickname, nose art or squadron number.
On February 17, 1944 during "Operation Hailstone" took off from USS Intrepid CV-11 at 7:15am piloted by Lt James E. Bridges as part of Strike 2B against Truk Lagoon. Over the target, this Avenger dropped bombs onto Aikoku Maru that hit the ship's forward deck that was jammed with munitions. The resulting explosion nearly blew the ship in a half and caused it to sink within a minute. This Avenger was destroyed in the blast. When it failed to return, this aircraft was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
The Japanese version of the sinking "a Grumman crashed near the bridge of the ship and caused a big pillar of fire and black smoke with an explosion. From this explosion, the ship started sinking and went completed under at 0830h". The perception that this Avenger crashed into the ship might be how it was observed from the vantage point of survivors.
Although the shipwreck of the Aikoku Maru is known and often visited by SCUBA divers, no wreckage from this Avenger has ever been located.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on January 15, 1946. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Bridges also is memorialized Brinson Cemetery in Brinson, GA.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - TBM-1C Avenger 25270
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - TBM-1C Avenger 25270
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James E. Bridges
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James A. Green
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert E. Bruton
Lieut James Edwin Bridges (memorial marker photos)
FindAGrave - ArM2 James A Green (tablets of the missing
FindAGrave - AM1C Robert E Bruton (tablets of the missing)
WWII Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon pages 273, 280, 502 (index)
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February 18, 2020