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  C-87-CF Liberator Express Serial Number 41-11706  
Consairways

Pilot  Flight Captain Hugh W. Prince (KIA, BR)
Co-Pilot  Frederick F. Gundrum Jr. (KIA, BR)
Engineer  Willard L. Churchill (KIA, BR)
Navigator  Eddie B. Hult (KIA, BR)
Radio  J "Arthur" Strumph (KIA, BR) NY
Clerk  Pfc William A. Staley, 13170733 (KIA, BR) Pittsburgh, PA
Passenger  Air Commodore Isaac John Fitch, RAF, 22162 (KIA, BR) Bedfordshire, UK
Passenger  Lt. Col. John C. Pearson, 44527 Royal Artillery, 127 Lt. A.A. Regt. (KIA, BR) Surrey, UK
Passenger  Major Ronald R. Barton-Tates, 155697 British Army, Royal Corps of Signals (KIA, BR)
Passenger  Lt. Col. Paul H. Berkowitz, O-19375 U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (KIA, BR) PA
Passenger  Lt. Col. Euliss L. Duggan O-363515 USAAF (KIA, BR) TN
Passenger  Col. Charles P. Burnett Jr., O-306508 General Staff Corps (KIA, BR) Seattle, WA
Passenger  1st Lt. Stephen J. Maliszewski, O-1294336 (KIA, BR)
Passenger  2nd Lt. William P. Foil, O-521735 (KIA, BR) LA
Passenger  Capt. Herbert R. Gore, O-510365 (KIA, BR)
Passenger  Capt. John S. Ingraham, O-916676 1551 AAF Base Unit USAAF (KIA, BR) WA
Passenger  Maj. Morton L. Talley Jr., O-336771 (KIA, BR)

Crashed  July 26, 1944
MACR  16543

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at Fort Worth, Texas. Constructors Number 202. Assigned to Consolidated Airways Corp also known as Consairways.

This C-87 departed Fairfield-Suisun Airfield on a flight transporting passengers and cargo across the Pacific bound for Amberly Field in Australia.

Mission History
On July 26, 1944 at 11:00am took off from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field) piloted by Hugh Prince on a flight bound for Henderson Field on Guadlacanal. Aboard were five civilian crew and twenty-one passengers including Americans and British personnel. The weather was clear. Over Malaita Island, this C-87 was tracked by radar until 10:35pm then was not seen again. When this aircraft failed to arrive, it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Search
On July 27, 1944 three Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) flyingboats: PBY-5 Catalina NZ4014, PBY-5 Catalina NZ4015 and PBY-5 Catalina NZ401? from 6 Squadron took off from Halavo Bay Seaplane Base on a search mission for the missing plane. The Catalinas search the vicinity of San Cristobal, Santa Isabel and Malaita Island without result returning to base, they spotted a burned area of jungle on a hilltop on Florida Island.

On July 28, 1944 a search party departed aboard Catalina NZ4014 piloted by Flt. Lt. Butcher flew a rescue party to the crash site. The party included the Consairway station manager from Guadalcanal Dick Wood and Consairway Representative Ed Jones. Interviewing locals, they reported hearing a plane, seeing the landing lights and then heard a crash and guided the party to the site and recovered the remains of the crew.

At the crash site, Dick Wood recovered a briefcase marked “Top Secret” and turned it into headquarters on Guadalcanal. He was twice interrogated to determine if he opened it or saw any of the contents, he had not. The briefcase contained war plans from President Roosevelt to be delivered to General MacArthur. This brief case likely belonged to Col. Burnett who was assigned to the General Staff Corps.

Wreckage
This C-87 crashed north of Gaeta village on Florida Island on a jungle hilltop roughly 200' from the top of the ridge. When the crash site was located, the starboard stabiliser with "111706" was photographed.

Memorials
The entire crew and all passengers were officially declared dead on July 26, 1944. Fitch, Ingraham and Strumph were (incorrectly) declared dead on July 25, 1944.

On August 13, 1944, Fitch and Pearson were buried in the New Zealand section of the American Cemetery on Guadalcanal. Postwar, their graves were exhumed and transported to New Zealand and the United States for permanent burial.

Fitch and Pearson were buried at Bourail War Cemetery. Fitch at 8, 1. Pearson at 6, 9.

Four were buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Gundrum and Barton-Tates are buried in a group burial at section Q, site 1335. Strumph at section P, site 836. Ingraham at section C, site 860.

Gundrum also has a grave or memorial marker at Cottonwood Cemetery in Winters, CA.
Staley was buried on March 10, 1948 at Saint Mary's Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA.
Berkowitz was buried at the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery in West Point, NY.
Duggan was buried at Chattanooga National Cemetery at plot U, 1C-WS.
Foil was buried at Fisher United Methodist Church Cemetery in Franklinton, LA.

References
Missing Air Crew Report 16543 (MACR 16543)
CWGC - Isaac John Fitch date of death listed as July 25, 1944
CWGC - Ronald R. Barton-Tates
CWGC - John C. Pearson
FindAGrave - Frederick F. Gundrum, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Frederick F. Gundrum, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Jack Strumph (grave photo) date of death listed as July 25, 1944
FindAGrave - Corp William A. Staley (grave photo)
FindAGrave - LTC Paul H. Berkowitz (grave photo)
FIndAGrave - Euliss L Duggan (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Col Charles P Burnett, Jr. (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut William P. Foil
FindAGrave - John S Ingraham (grave photo) date of death listed as July 25, 1944
Eagles of the Pacific page 148, 166
ArchaeHistoria "Site FLOR5. Aircraft – “TOP SECRET CARGO” :- Consairway C-87 Liberator Express, 41-11706."
Thanks to Ewan Stevenson for additional information

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Last Updated
April 6, 2018

 

Tech Information
C-87

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