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  B-24A Liberator Serial Number 40-2374 Number 74
USAAF
5th AF
7th BG
11th BS

Pilot  Major Edson Eugene Kester, O-22354 (MIA / KIA) FL
Co-Pilot  Captain William "Bill" Ragsdale, Jr., O-022514 (MIA / KIA) TX
Passenger
 Sgt Melvin O. Donoho, 18003946, 17th PS, armorer (survived) Covington, OK
Passenger  Sgt Willard J. Beatty, 6256686 24th PG, 17th PS (MIA / KIA) CO
Passenger  Captain Charles A. Stafford, 022686 Medical Corps (MIA / KIA) WY
Passenger  Keats Poad, O-421213 (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger  2nd Lt. Richard L. Taylor, O-427045 (MIA / KIA) NY
Passenger  SSgt Howard C. Cliff, 7021697 (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger  SSgt John M. Rex, 6581412 (MIA / KIA) UT
Passenger  SSgt Elvin P. Westcott, 6386186 (MIA / KIA) MS
Passenger  Sgt Samuel F. Foster, 6252463 (MIA / KIA) AR
Passenger  Cpl Jack T. Taylor, 18034892 (MIA / KIA) TX
Passenger  Pvt Richard G. Sheetz, 13000321 (MIA / KIA) VA
Passenger  2nd Lt. Howard K Petschel, O-412158 7th BG, HQ (MIA / KIA) MN
Passenger  Captain Charles A. Stafford, O-022686 Medical Corps (MIA / KIA) WY
Passenger  Captain Harry W Markey, O-021663 (MIA / KIA) WA
Passenger  Pvt Joseph N. Gordon, 34044808 52nd Signal Battalion (MIA / KIA) TN
Passenger  Pfc Nicholas D. Bunardzya, 6999625 (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger  Pvt Clarence B. Johnson, 20911984 43d Material Sq, 32d ABG (MIA / KIA) CA
Passenger   SSgt Leo D. Steinmetz, 6914316 (MIA / KIA) KS
Passenger  Cpl Hubert McDonald, 14029544 (MIA / KIA) GA

Crashed  March 3, 1942 at 9:30am
MACR  15467

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego during 1941. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Assigned to Ferrying Command based at Bolling Field. Prewar, painted in neutrality markings with a large US flag on the side of the nose. Later, assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group, 11th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Aircraft number "74".

Wartime History
On March 2, 1942 piloted by Major Edson Kester on a flight from Melbourne to Broome Airfield with a crew of only three aboard and all weapons removed.

Mission History
On March 3, 1942 at 9:15am at Broome Airfield Kester was given a list of nineteen evacuees from Java to be flown southward to Perth. Among the passengers was Captain Charles Stafford (7th Bombardment Group medical officer) with wounded under his care. Also, seven ground crew from the 17th Pursuit Squadron including Sgt Beatty and Sgt Donoho.

Again on March 3, 1942 took off from Broome Airfield at 9:23am just prior to the Japanese air raid on Broome. Overloaded, this B-24 struggled to climb to 600' altitude and was attacked by A6M2 Zero piloted by Warrant Officer Osamu Kudo who had just strafed the airfield. Hit in the fuselage fuel tank, the bomber caught fire and crashed into Roebuck Bay roughly 10 miles from shore and 7 miles off Cable Beach. On impact, the fuselage broken into two pieces, the wings separated and the pieces sank within three minutes.

Fates of the Crew
During the crash, Donoho was thrown clear of the fuselage and found Beatty. Both donned life jackets and began swimming towards shore for the remainder of the day and night, fighting the 30' tidal waves.

Near shore, Donoho observed that Beatty gave up from exhaustion, and was not seen again. It is claimed that Beatty's body was later found by Australians on the beach. According to a 1943 article by war correspondent George Weller, the Australians who found Beatty's body “found signs of life, but he remained completely delirious. Flown the same day to Perth, he died there in hospital in 24 hours without regaining consciousness”. Beatty is still listed as Missing In Action (MIA), yet presumably was buried in Australia after he died. Reportedly, his brother traveled to Australia years later to search for him, but never found anything. Also, it is possible he was buried in Australia and his remains never recovered by the American military. Or, he in fact died at sea and his body was never found and recovered.

Donoho managed to reach the shore and walked to Broome, arriving at Broome Airfield during the evening of March 4. He angrily reported to Lt. Col Legg that no search had been mounted to search for more of the crew. Afterwards he was sent to the hospital to recuperate, and the next evening evacuated to Perth.

Memorials
All the crew were officially declared dead on March 3, 1942. Beatty and Bunardzya were officially declared dead on July 3, 1942. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Bob Waterhouse adds:
"The Returned Services Club in Broome dedicated a memorial in 2001 to these men and some 100 Dutch refugees from Java who were killed on the Flying boats during the Japanese attack on that day."

Relatives
Arvon Staats (nephew of Sgt Samuel Foster)
Glenn Beatty (brother of Willard Beatty)

References
MACR 15467 was created during 1947, does not list the B-24 serial number and lists the unit as the 19th Bombardment Group, 10th Ferrying Squadron and loss at 10:00am
Everyday A Nightmare page 327-328, 331-332
Oz@War crash of two B-24s 3 March 1942 incorrectly lists serial number as 40-2370
The Ongoing Mystery of Sgt Willard Beatty, USAAF (PDF)
Military "The Unknown Fate of Sgt. Willard J. Beatty" May 2003 by Charles Jarrells

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Information
B-24

MIA
MIA
21 Missing

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