|Pilot 1st Lt. Ivan M. Osborne, O-662817 430th Signal Construction Company, Aviation (MIA / KIA) CA
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Raymond D. Cloyer, O-728059 (MIA / KIA) IL
Navigator 2nd Lt. Virgil A. Tramelli, O-2845295 (POW, executed, MIA) MO
Bombardier 1st Lt. Maxie G. Deer Jr., O-728260 (POW, executed, MIA) AL
Engineer T/Sgt Edward J. Bislew, 16047634 (POW, executed, MIA) WI
Asst Eng Pvt Williston F. Rumsey, 20275475 (POW, executed, MIA) NY
Radio TSgt Joseph J. Perry, 32162027 (POW, executed, MIA) PA
Asst Radio S/Sgt John J. Dell, 33261245 (POW, executed, MIA) PA
Gunner S/Sgt Warren C. Hill, 13029683 (POW, executed, MIA) PA
Gunner S/Sgt Hulbert J. Swaim, 35400152 (POW, executed, MIA) OH
Ditched December 29, 1943 at 12:01pm
Damaged, this B-24 was observed to have a large 8" hole in the fuselage and right stabilizer, plus a 6" hold in the left upper No. 2 engine nacelle, causing the No. 2 engine to begin throwing oil and smoking, followed by the No. 3 engine. Later, the No. 1 engine also began to smoke and the bomber began loosing altitude and broke away from the formation and began flying towards Majuro Atoll. Each propeller was spinning, but must have not been generating much power or were unable to be feathered.
Two B-24s in the formation: B-24 piloted by 2nd Lt. Donald H. Joyce and B-24J 42-73006 piloted by 2nd Lt. Harvey I. Lundy escorted the damaged bomber. They were required to use half flaps to match the damaged bomber's airspeed of roughly 130 mph.
Over Majuro Atoll, pilot Osborne made a "U" turn into the wind in preparation for ditching. At this time, the No. 2 engine was feathered or had stopped turning. This B-24 made a perfect water landing atop west reef between Majuro Island and Ajola Island at roughly 12:01pm local time. Two Zero followed the B-24s to Majuro. Spotting the ditched bomber, two Zeros dove down to strafe the bomber, until driven off by the orbiting B-24s.
The aircraft was not broken up and was resting high in the sea with most of the plane above water. It did not catch fire or explode. The two escorts then departed due to lack of fuel and ammunition, as did the Zeros. The orbiting B-24s did not observe any survivors from the bomber before departing. The entire crew was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
On December 30, 1943 the crew were located by the Japanese Navy and captured and became Prisoners Of War (POW). The crew was transported to Maloelap Atoll and later executed.
Matt Holly adds:
The crew reportedly escaped and fled to a small island to the northeast, where they were captured the next day. The Zeros had reported the crash landing and a boat was immediately sent from Maloelap. (The boat was named the Kaikou Maru, which I discovered sunk in Maloelap in 1981). This information also included a photo of the crew, taken on Maloelap, in which the aircrew still has on flight gear and is clean shaved. It was not a week later. The crew was reportedly paraded through the streets of Majuro, beaten and abused, including Marshallese who were forced to attend. I do not know if I believe this story, as I don't think they were in Majuro long enough to do this. But this is a local story. A machine gun from the aircraft was found in Laura during Majuros capture. There were few Japanese here, and they transferred to Mili Atoll.
They were taken to Maloelap, and presumably treated well. They were reportedly attacked by Japanese pilots and crew, who had lost so of their buddies during the B-24 attacks. The Admiral reportedly gave them some of his whiskey and safe haven, and shipped them to Kwajalein the next day.
The Japanese Admiral, in his notes to the investigating war crimes investigators, states the words 8 survivors of the crash. The photo on Maloelap shows 8 aircrew, and Osborne and his co-pilot are missing. There is no other information, and people searching for the lost aircrew after Majuro was captured looked for but did not find any crew. It has been presumed that the aircrew was executed on Kwajalein shortly before the American invasion on February 1, 1944. This was always presumed to be all 10 aircrew, but I think only the surviving 8 were killed on Kwajalein.
About six months ago I was taking with some older Marshallese when showing them some of my US Navy war photos of the local population, trying to identify those in the pictures. Out of the blue this older woman asks me what about the 2 pilots buried at the end of Majuro? I nearly fell of my chair! Without prompting, I asked her to explain herself, as only I knew at this point that two were unaccounted for. She told me they were killed in the aircraft, and that the Marshalese near the end of Laura had found their bodies and buried them near the end of the island. They had done this secretly, and only a handful of people had known. The people asking the questions after the war never spoke to these people, and over the last few months I have 5 people still alive that may know the exact site. I think Osborne and Cloyer are buried on Majuro!"
Also, Deer has a memorial marker at Mason Cemetery in Escambia County, Alabama.