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  B-24D-1-CO "Big Emma" Serial Number 41-23751  
USAAF
5th AF
90th BG
321st BS

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PacificWrecks.com
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USAAF c1943

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Bruce Hoy 1973

Pilot  2nd Lt. John T. Moller, O-791231 (KIA) Mt. Vernon, NY
Crew  1st Lt. Stanley D. Whitney Jr., O-662324 (KIA) Alameda, CA
Crew  1st Lt. Robert Thompson, O-727585 (KIA)
Crew  2nd Lt. Olyn H. Hill, O-134561 (KIA) Louisville, MS
Crew  2nd Lt. Leonard H. Weiler, O-673653 (KIA) New Orleans, LA
Crew  T/Sgt Harold E. Hampsmire, 17031059 (KIA) Hull, IL
Crew  T/Sgt Morris Acuff, 14044136 (KIA) Eustis, FL
Crew  S/Sgt Harris H. "Skippy" Horder, 10641078 (KIA) Ervington, NJ
Crew  S/Sgt Kosta Giannaras, 15087742 (KIA) Whitesville, WV
Crew  S/Sgt Edward D. Rogers, 16023261 (KIA) Ashland, WI
Crew  S/Sgt William Saltzman, 36045293 (KIA) Chicago, IL
Crew  S/Sgt Joseph G. Barry, 17055379 (KIA) IL

Crashed  August 8, 1943
MACR  15575

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army during July 1942. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 90th Bombardment Group, 321th Bombardment Squadron on September 12, 1942 at McClellan Airfield (Sacramento Air Depot). Assigned to pilot Leroy C. "Ivy" Iverson.

Took off from Hamilton Field piloted by Leroy C. Iverson on a ferry flight overseas via Hickam Field and Kipapa Gulch Field on Oahu before departing across the Pacific Ocean flying via Christmas Island Airfield, Samoa, Nadi Airfield and Plaine des Giacs before arriving at Amberley Field. This aircraft became one of the first B-24 Liberators in the South-West Pacific Theater.

While waiting for ten days at Amberley Field, tail gunner Jack R. Cantrell painted the nose art of a fanged black cat riding a bomb on the left side of the nose. Afterwards, operated from Mareeba Airfield and Iron Range Airfield.

Later, the nickname "Big Emma" was painted on the right side of the nose. On the frame of the pilot's window was "Ivy", the nickname of pilot Leroy C. Iverson. Later, below the cockpit was a scoreboard of bombs indicating combat missions and enemy aircraft claimed.

On November 16, 1942 at Iron Range Airfield shortly after midnight, while taking off, B-24D "Bombs To Nip On" 41-23942 collided with this B-24, damaging it. Also damaged were B-24D 41-23765 and B-24D 41-23812, both later repaired. Destroyed was B-17F 41-24522.

Afterwards, this bomber was repaired and continued flying combat missions from Australia over New Guinea. At some point, the left tail fin from B-24D 41-23764 was used as a replacement right tail fin for this B-24.

Mission History
On August 8, 1943 took off from 5 Mile Drome (Wards Drome) near Port Moresby piloted by Moller on a patrol mission off the north coast of New Guinea. After successfully completed the mission and returning to Port Moresby, this B-24 experienced terrible weather conditions. Their last radio message was signaling Port Moresby to "turn on searchlights". Unable to find them, pilot Moller radioed his crew would bail out. That was the last radio message received from the bomber. In fact, this B-24 crashed into a mangrove swamp roughly a quarter mile from the coast, possibly trying to ditch near Galley Reach (Fairfax Station) west of Port Moresby. The entire crew was killed in the crash.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, American forces reached the crash site and found that all had perished. A water pump was needed to drain the sea water from the mangroves in order to search for and recover the remains of the crew.

Wreckage
Until the early 1970s, the wreckage of this B-24 remained in situ.

Bruce Hoy adds:
"This aircraft is lying in the same position as described in the various reports and is the only aircraft in that vicinity. Attached is a black and white image showing its serial number [stenciled on the inside part of the right tail fin]. I also have a side view photograph somewhere, taken of the aircraft at Wards Drome. I must have taken two cameras with me as I also have a series of slides taken with Kodachrome Colour Slide film. Getting out to this crash site was one I would never wish to repeat. Each step and my legs disappeared almost up to my knees. The mosquitoes were prolific, and we were both very concerned should we encounter a crocodile. The serial number was also painted on the inboard of the starboard tail fin. The aircraft is in the location where the bodies were recovered. You can see the inboard serial number with my fellow traveler being Monty Armstrong. I have another taken of the outboard of the same fin, but the serial does not show very clearly due to excessive corrosion."

During the 1990s, locals cut up and removed most of the bomber's aluminum for scrap metal. All that remains today are the larger metal pieces including both main undercarriage legs, a piece of armor plate and other smaller wreckage.

Memorials
The entire crew was declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, four of the crew were permanently buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Moller at plot A row 0 grave 95. Acuff at plot B row 0 grave 11297. Horder at plot P row 0 grave 555. Barry at plot C row 1 grave 612.

Whitney is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, CA at the main mausoleum garden terrace C-248 T-2.
Hill is buried at Corinth National Cemetery in Corinth MS at section D site 5829.
Weiler is buried in May 1949 at Cypress Grove Cemetery in New Orleans, LA.
Giannaras is buried at Lawson Cemetery in Boone County, WV.
Rogers is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Ashland, WI.
Saltzman is buried at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery in Forest Park, IL.
Hampsmire is buried in Akers Chapel Cemetery in Hull, IL.

Thompson's burial is unknown, his buried in private cemetery in his hometown.

Relatives
Cynthia Trenkamp (niece of Hampsmire)

References
The serial number of this aircraft is sometimes confused with B-24D Liberator 41-23764 in published sources
Missing Air Crew Report 15575 (MACR 15575) does not list the serial number and was created retroactively
Bruce Hoy adds:
"Claringbould's books, Forty of the Fifth and The Forgotten Fifth gives two identities for "Big Emma". The first book lists 41-23751 and the second 41-23764.  Peter Dunn's website makes reference to a combat diary which quotes Iverson as the pilot for 41-23751 with the nickname “Big Emma”, although the two pages of a diary that was pictured on the webpage do not give a corresponding nickname in the same manner that several other B-24s have had their nicknames mentioned, B-24D "Pudgy" 41-23830 and B-24D "Patches" 41-23673 although when these names were added and who actually added these names is unknown.  Other pages in that diary may mention 41-23751 as being "Big Emma". Neither of the published histories, John Alcorn’s The Jolly Rogers or Wiley Woods Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group quote the serial number of Big Emma, although Wiley in a letter to me mentions both the serial number and nickname."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24 Liberator "Big Emma" 41-23764 [sic 41-23751]
Forty of the Fifth page 58 - 62 [ sample chapter ] lists B-24 "Big Emma" serial number as 41-23751
The Forgotten Fifth lists B-24D "Big Emma" serial number as 41-23764
The Jolly Rogers mentions this aircraft, does not quote serial number
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group mentions this aircraft, does not quote serial number
Oz@War - 16 November 1942 crash of a B-24 Liberator at iron Range 4 aircraft destroyed 11 men killed
FindAGrave - John T Moller (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Stanley Daniel Whitney, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Olyn H Hill (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Leonard Hugo Weiler
FindAGrave - Sgt Morris E Acuff (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harris H Horder (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Kosta Giannaras (photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Edward D. Rogers (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William Saltzman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joseph G Barry (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harold E. Hampsmire (grave photo)
AviationHeritage.org - Harris H. Horder
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Pete Johnson and John Douglas for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

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