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  TBF-1C Avenger Bureau Number 24264 Plane Number 102
USMC
1st MAW
MAG-11
VMTB-233

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USAAF c1944

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Bob Halstead 2011

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Rod Pearce April 2015

Pilot  1st Lieutenant James W. Boyden, O-017011 USMCR (MIA / KIA, BR) Daytona Beach, FL
Radio  Pfc Arthur J. Patrickus, 816591 USMCR (MIA / KIA) Detroit, MI
Gunner  Pfc Bernard C. Pardun, 468686 USMCR (MIA / KIA) Clarion, IN

Crashed  February 14, 1944


Aircraft History
Built by Grumman in Bethpage, New York as a model G-40. Constructors Number 5147. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as TBF-1C Avenger Bureau Number 24264. Shipped overseas to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Delivered to the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Assigned to 1st Marine Air Wing (1st MAW), Marine Air Group 11 (MAG-11) to squadron VMTB-233 "Bulldogs/Rainbow". Squadron number (Plane Number) 102. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On February 14, 1944 took off from Piva Uncle Airfield on Bougainville at 2:30am on a mission to drop aerial mines into the northern half of Simpson Harbor near Rabaul. Each Avenger was armed with one Mark 12-1 aerial parachute mine. The formation included three groups of Avengers, this aircraft was part of "Group C", the last to take off and last over the target.

This aircraft took off as one of eight Avengers in "Group C", the last to take off and last over the target. The formation also included "Group A" with nine Avengers plus "Group B" with eight Avengers (one aborted the mission).

Over the target, each aircraft attacked from less than 600' altitude at a slow speed of less than 180 knots. During the attack, the Avengers were targeted by searchlights and intense anti-aircraft fire. One plane was lost from "Group A" (attacking east to west at 2:00am), two planes were lost from "Group B" (attacking west to east at 3:10am) and three were lost including this aircraft from "Group C" (attacking east to west at 4:15am).

When this Avenger failed to return from the mission, the crew were officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). A total of six Avengers were lost including this aircraft plus TBF 47506 (POW/MIA), TBF 06311 (MIA), TBF 24340 (MIA), TBF 25327 (MIA) and TBF 25316 (MIA).

Wreckage
This Avenger crashed upside down into the northwest portion of Simpson Harbor near the eastern side of Lakunai Airfield.

In the 1980s, this aircraft was first discovered by Shane Crowley and was fairly intact. After the 1994 volcanic eruption, the aircraft was covered with ash. In the aftermath, many vessels began anchoring nearby, and the wreck was damaged and broken in half by a ship's anchor. The rear turret is missing.

During 2007, the aircraft was rediscovered by Davy Flinn and Rod Pearce and reported to the U. S. Government. During their dives, they located a mae west life vest and observed human remains inside the wreckage.

Rod Pearce adds:
"The TBF was first found back in the 80's by a mate Shane Crowley on my old vessel M/V Barbarian. Covered by silt from the volcanic eruption in 1994 it was re found by myself and Dave Flynn around 2007."

Recover of Remains
During January 2015, USNS Salvor (T-ARS-52) anchored near the site and U. S. Navy divers led by JPAC underwater archaeologist Dr. Andrew Pietruszka surveyed this aircraft and conducted an underwater investigation then lifted the wreckage out of the water to recover remains aboard the vessel. During the lifting, the cockpit drained out. Afterwards, the wreckage was placed back into Simpson Harbor at roughly the same location, west of the Rabaul Yacht Club (RYC).

During January-March 2016 USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50) anchored near the site and U. S. Navy divers led by DPAA underwater archaeologist Rich Wills continued to recover remains from the wreckage. The remains recovered from this recovery were transported to Jackson Airport and were part of a repatriation ceremony on May 13, 2016 and then were flown to DPAA at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPPH).

On March 3, 2017 the Department of Defense (DoD) officially identified pilot Boyden using laboratory analysis and circumstantial evidence.

Memorials
The entire crew is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Boyden also has a memorial marker at Rose Hills Memorial ParkĀ in Whittier, CA.
Patrickus also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at plot MF grave 50-6.

Boyden was officially declared dead on April 15, 1945 and posthumously earned the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), and was promoted to Captain, posthumously. Patrickus and Thompson were officially declared dead on February 15, 1945 and earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

References
Fold3 / NARA "USMC War Diary VMTB-233 1 February 1944 Through 29 February 1944" pages 53, 80-82
(Page 53) 14 February 1944
(Page 80-81) COMAIRSOLS Strike Command TBF Intelligence Struck 14, February, 1944
(Page 82) "Plane No. 102, Pilot Boyden, Passengers Patrickus, Thompson (did not return)"
1st Lieutenant James W. Boyden Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) citation:
"The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant James W. Boyden (MCSN: 0-17011), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for heroism, conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a Section Leader of a Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron engaged in aerial combat activities in the Solomon Islands and New Britain areas. First Lieutenant Boyden participated in numerous night and daylight attacks upon heavily defended enemy land installations and shipping during the periods from 11 August to 22 September 1943, from 1 November to 10 December 1943, and from 26 January to 14 February 1944. In a night mine laying mission conducted in Simpson Harbor, Rabaul, on 14 February 1944, First Lieutenant Boyden courageously pressed home his attack which required straight and level flight at a slow airspeed and precariously low altitude in the face of numerous enemy searchlights and severe and intense heavy and automatic anti-aircraft fire. Before reaching his objective First Lieutenant Boyden was picked up by many enemy searchlights and was forced to maneuver his aircraft through an intense and accurate barrage of enemy anti-aircraft fire. Despite the enemy fire which repeatedly hit and damaged his aircraft, First Lieutenant Boyden courageously and skillfully drove home his attack and released his mine in its assigned position in the mine field before being shot down by the severe enemy fire. His high courage, superb airmanship, and devotion to duty throughout were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. General Orders: Commander South Pacific: Serial 4271 (October 11, 1944)"
Riverside Daily Press "Missing Pilot Awarded DFC" February 8, 1945, page 10, col. 1
USMC Casualty Card - James W. Boyden
USMC Casualty Card - Arthur J. Patrickus
USMC Casualty Card - Bernard C. Pardun
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James W. Boyden
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur J. Patrickus
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Bernard C. Pardun
FindAGrave - Capt James W Boyden (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - CPT James Wentworth Boyden (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - PFC Arthur J Patrickus (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Arthur J Patrickus (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Bernard C Pardun (photos, tablets of the missing)
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - TBF-1C Avenger 24264 pilot Boyden
U. S. Embassy Port Moresby "Repatriation Ceremony Honors WWII American Servicemen" May 13, 2016
Dive Training May/June 2016 "WWII Wreck sites in South Pacific" page 13
DPAA Recently Accounted For 2017 - Captain James W. Boyden accounted-for 3/3/2017
DPAA "Marine Missing From World War II Accounted For (Boyden)" News Release March 29, 2017
Thanks to Rod Pearce and Dave Flynn for additional information

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Last Updated
April 4, 2017

 

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