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Oscar C. Fitzhenry
B-24 Liberator pilot, 5th Bombardment Group

Background
Oscar Charles Fitzhenry was born in August 3, 1921 in San Antonio, Texas. He completed one year of college and worked as a salesperson.

Wartime History
On January 13, 1942 Fitzhenry enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as an aviation cadet serial number 18101845. Commissioned as a second lieutenant at Lubbock, TX. He was assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 5th Bombardment Group (5th BG) 72nd Bombardment Squadron (72nd BS). Assigned to B-24D "Scootin' Thunder" 42-40100 as pilot with co-pilot Lt. Robert Houser and began flying combat missions over the South Pacific.

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Later, assigned to the 394th Bombardment Squadron (394th BS) and continued flying combat missions.

On December 30, 1943 scheduled for take off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia piloting B-24J Liberator 42-73268 armed with 1,000 pound bombs on a bombing mission against Tobera Airfield near Rabaul. Before take off, bomber's no. 2 supercharger failed. During the repair, 13th Bomber Command gave this bomber an alternate then took off at 10:15am to bomb the alternate target of Maleai on Magusaiai Island in the Shortland Islands and returned safely. This was Fitzhenry's forty-third combat mission.

On December 31, 1943 took off from Koli Field (Bomber 3) on Guadalcanal as one of five B-24s on a search mission over Bougainville and New Ireland for the crew of B-24D "Pretty Prairie Special" 41-24186 including Colonel Marion D. Unruh (C. O., 5th Bombardment Group). At 10:30am the two other bombers piloted by 2nd Lt. James D. Robertson and Captain Fitzhenry spotted something white on the southern coast of New Ireland. Flying at low altitude, Fitzhenry's bomber took three photographs of a group of eight white men on the beach plus native people and native huts among the coconut trees. They were unable to determine their precise identity but believed the tallest man was Unruh. The bombers circled at 400' and 100' and dropped a medical kit, rations and relayed their position at 11:30am and noon before departing due to lack of fuel.

On February 17, 1945 he married Ruth Burton of Virginia. The couple had four children: two boys and two girls.

Today
Fitzhenry retired from the U. S. Air Force (USAF) with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He has a total of eleven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. His wife passed away 2013. Today, he lives in retirement in South Carolina.

Relatives
Jim Campbell (grandson)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Oscar C. Fitzhenry
Report of Turn-Back Aircraft, Date January 1, 1944
"3. Date of mission: December 30, 1943 6. Pilot's Statement: No. 2 supercharger was out so I couldn't take off until 10:15 from Munda. After it was fixed, Bomber Command gave me the target, village of Maliai on Morgusiai"
Missing Air Crew Report 1620 (MACR 1620) page 17
Statement by Captain Oscar G. Fitzhenry via Missing Air Crew Report 1620 (MACR 1620) page 17:
"I flew within 100 feet of the men on the beach, and at the same time my waist gunner counted eight men on the beach. We buzzed the place once more, dropping the large emergency kit and taking two photos. The gunners thought they recognized Col. Unruh standing on the beach, and identified one of the Colonel's enlisted men. Both ships then left and each of us sent a message to COMAIRSOLS, telling them the time sighted, position, and number of persons sighted. Lieut. Roberson, pilot of the other plane sent his message 1130L and I sent mine at 1200L. Before this latter message was sent, the identical message was sent to COMAIRSOLS through DANE Base, and I was told the message would receive immediate attention. Upon landing, we found that Group Operations already had word, proving that at least one of the messages was received. The film was developed and found to show eight men on the beach, several natives in the background, and a number of native huts among the coconut trees. We did not land at Munda Airfield because of bad weather."
Moultrie News "Tales of Valor - Turbulent times in the South Pacific" September 28, 2017
KOAA News5 "A veteran, a B-24, and a painting of both" October 22, 2018
YouTube "A veteran, a B-24, and a painting of both" October 22, 2018
Thanks to Oscar C. Fitzhenry for additional information

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