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February 15, 1943
Today in World War II Pacific History
Day by day chronology
MONDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 1943

In the Aleutians, a weather reconnaissance B-24 is called off due to weather. All other missions are canceled. Six float-type Japanese aircraft bomb and strafe Amchitka hitting Amchitka Airfield and causing casualties. The 18th Fighter Squadron, 343d Fighter Group with P-40s transfers from Adak to Amchitka.

CBI (Tenth Air Force) In Burma, B-24s strike the bridge at Myitnge for the second consecutive day but cause little damage.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force) B-17s again bomb Rabaul and hit the area nearby west of Simpson Harbor. A single B-17 attacks Rapopo Airfield. B-24s pound shipping and the town area at Amboina. B-25s pound supply dumps at Malahang. B-24s operating singly bomb the runway at Finschhafen, and claim a direct hit on a vessel in Stettin Bay. B-25s attack the Dili Town and Dili Airfield.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force) B-26s, P-39s and P-40s attack Vila Airfield. B-24s, hindered by effective AA fire, bomb Kahili Airfield and Ballale Airfield; Two B-24s are lost.

Nine B-24D Liberators from the 307th Bombardment Group (307th BG) intend to take off individually including five from the 370th Bombardment Squadron (370th BS) plus four from 424nd Bombardment Squadron (424th BS) between 5:55pm to 9:55pm to individual bomb runs against targets on either Ballale Airfield or Kahili Airfield.

Before take off, B-24D "The Rattler" 41-23925 (#925) pilot Lt. Jones suffered mechanical issues with the accumulator and was unable to participate in the mission. B-24D #877 took off at 5:55pm pilot Captain Max J. Sanny aborted the mission due to engine trouble and returned at 7:00pm.

Only seven B-24s proceed via the northern route bound for Kahili Airfield and the southern route bound for Ballale Airfield. Only four of the bombers reached the target area: B-24D #915 pilot 2nd Lt. Girard W. Bourgeois, B-24D #987 pilot 2nd Lt. Daniel E. McDonald, B-24D #881 pilot 2nd Lt. Samuel T. Gregory and B-24D #953 [sic] pilot Captain Henry L. Milledge. Over the target area, the bombers made repeated bombing runs between 8,000' to 4,000' with dive approaches for an hour over Ballale Airfield and 45 minutes over Kahili Airfield. Returning on February 16, 1943 in the early morning in bad weather, lost is B-24D "Bundles For Japan" 41-23969 (2 KIA, 7 rescued) and B-24D "Queenie Take It Off" 41-23870 (1 MIA, 8 rescued).

B-24D "Queenie Take It Off" 41-23870 took off at 6:50pm piloted by Captain Laurence F. Krebs on bombing mission (21V98) flying the southern route bound for Ballale Airfield. Unable to find the target area, returned to the vicinity of Henderson Field on February 16, 1943 around 4:00am but was unable to see any search lights and was unable to break through the bad weather overcast. At 5:10am ditched with one crew member missing and the rest of the crew were later rescued.

B-24D "Tillie" 41-23915 (#915) took off at 8:25pm piloted by 2nd Lt. Girard W. Bourgeois on bombing mission (22V98) flying the southern route bound for Ballale Airfield. At 10:35pm at 18,000' arrived over the target and made two bombing runs from 18,000' and 16,000' releasing six bombs each run. Visibility was good but the results could not be observed due to clouds. Over the target, searchlights were observed. Returning, heavy anti-aircraft fire was experienced over southern tip of Shortland Island and southern Fauro Island. Also a blinker transmitting a message was observed on island in the vicinity of Buin-Faisi-Fauro. Returning in bad weather, this bomber was unable to contact Henderson Field but managed to land safely on February 16, 1943 at 4:50am.

B-24D "Starlite" 41-23987 (#987) took off at 9:40pm piloted by 2nd Lt. Daniel E. McDonald on bombing mission (23V98) flying the southern route bound for Ballale Airfield. Arriving over the target on February 16, 1943 at midnight, visibility was extremely poor and after searching for two hours, was unable to locate the target. Instead, this B-24 salvoed all bombs from 6,000' over an an unidentified island in the Shortland-Fauro-Buin area without any result. No anti-aircraft fire or searchlights were seen. Returning, followed the southern route and became lost in bad weather and was unable to contact Henderson Field but managed to land safely at 7:27am.

B-24D "Jeremiah" 41-23877 (#877) took off at 5:55pm pilot Captain Max J. Sanny on a night bombing mission (24V98) against Kahili Airfield. After take off, aborted the mission due to engine trouble and returned at 7:00pm.

B-24D "The Rattler" 41-23925 (#925) pilot Lt. Jones was scheduled to fly night bombing mission (25V98) but before take off, suffered mechanical issues with the accumulator and was unable to participate in the mission.

B-24D "Bundles For Japan" 41-23969 took off at 7:30pm piloted by Captain Ulmer J. Newman on a night bombing mission (26V98) against Kahili Airfield.

B-24D 41-23943 [incorrectly listed in mission report as #953] took off at 8:20pm piloted by Captain Henry L. Milledge on bombing mission (27V98) flying the northern route bound for Kahili Airfield. Over the target experienced light anti-aircraft fire that was intense and accurate. Several searchlights were observed but evaded. Also, four or five large ships were just offshore. Returning in bad weather, this bomber used its radio compass and searchlights to find Henderson Field before landing safely on February 16, 1943 at 3:55am.

B-24D 41-23881 (#881) took off at 9:00pm piloted by 2nd Lt. Samuel T. Gregory on bombing mission (28V98) flying the northern route via Santa Isabel and Choiseul bound for Kahili Airfield. At 11:30pm faced poor visibility over southeastern Bougainville. For two hours, this bomber flew back and forth over what they believed was the southern coast at varying altitudes, sometimes as low as 600' without finding the target and without dropping any bombs. No anti-aircraft fire or search lights were observed. Returning via the inter-island route (the center of "The Slot") and landed safely on February 16, 1943 at 3:00am.

B-24D 41-24182 (#182) took off at 9:55pm piloted by Lt. Miller on on bombing mission (29V98) flying the northern route bound for Kahili Airfield. Due to bad weather unable to find the target area and returned at 11:50pm.

References
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) Intelligence Section, Advance Echelon 307th Bombardment Group (H) Guadalcanal 16 February 1943 page 1 (microfilm 1169) page 2 (microfilm 1170), page 3 (microfilm 1171)
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) Historical Data 370th Bombardment Squadron 1 July 1942 to 30 September 1942 page 14
(Page 14) "...the air echelon reached Espiritu Santo without incident. Several crews [including this B-24] were sent to Henderson Field Guadalcanal and went on their first combat mission from this base on Feb. 16th [sic February 15, 1943 take off night mission returning February 16, 1943]. Targets were Kahili and Ballale Airdromes. Due to adverse weather which prevented landing during darkness, two planes, piloted by Captain Krebs [B-24D "Queenie Take It Off" 41-23870] and Newman [B-24D "Bunles For Japan" 41-23969] ran out of gasoline and were forced to abandon their planes. Captain Krebs made a water landing and Captain Newman had his crew parachute to safety. During the next few days, Navy PBY's rescued all survivors. Casualties were 2 officer [Shirley] and 2 enlisted men killed [Knisley and Chudzik]; 1 enlisted man missing [Gartland]; 7 officers and 5 enlisted men injured."
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) 307th Bombardment Group (H) AAF "Interrogation of 3 members of Combat Crew #1 of 307th Bombardment Squadron (H) at Buttons, APO #708, on March 7, 1943" pages 1-4
Thank Robert Livingstone, Pete Johnson, James McCabe / 307th Bomb Group Association for additional information


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