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|Pilot Colonel Marion D. Unruh, O-298478 5th BG C.O. (POW, survived) Pretty Prairie, Kansas
Co-Pilot 1st Lt Thomas B. Fessenger, O-663706 (MIA / POW, died July 15, 1944, BNR) CA
Navigator Major Frederick K. Koebig, O-375573 (MIA / POW executed March 5, 1944)
Bombardier 1st Lt Anthony Kuhn, O-738645 (MIA / POW executed March 5, 1944)
Engineer S/Sgt Lawson Stewart, 3 4425408 (MIA / POW executed March 5, 1944)
Asst Engineer Cpl Vincent Wasilevski, 1303815 (MIA / POW executed March 5, 1944)
Radio S/Sgt Roy E. Bixler, 35005257 (MIA / KIA) OH
Asst Radio Sgt John J. Gillis Jr., 20610868 5th BG, HQ (MIA / POW died August 2, 1944) IL
Gunner S/Sgt Edward T. Constantin, 14123662 (MIA / POW executed March 5, 1944)
Gunner S/Sgt Romulus F. Mull, 14187785 (MIA / POW executed March 5, 1944)
Photographer S/Sgt Albert Schaffran, 13039217 (MIA / KIA) PA
Ditched December 30, 1943
Returning, this this bomber sustained some damage causing the bomb bay doors to hang open. About five to ten miles southeast of the Duke of York Islands over the sea, two explosions were observed within the aircraft: one ahead omitting clear blue smoke and causing three of the four doors to fall off. Afterwards, this B-24 rocked its wings to signal that it was dropping out of formation with the no. 2 engine smoking before entering cloud cover. Last seen at 12:37 descending into clouds from an altitude of 10,000' roughly ten miles north of the southern tip of New Ireland under control before ditching into the sea.
The two other bombers piloted by Lt. Robertson and Captain Fitzhenry spotted something white on shore and investigated. It proved to be a parachute being waved by eight men on the beach on the southern coast of New Ireland at roughly Lat 4.43 Long 153.00. They photographed eight white men on the beach plus native people and native huts among the coconut trees, but were unable to determine their precise identity. The bombers circled at 400' and 100' and dropped a medical kit, rations and relayed their position at 11:30am and noon before departing due to lack of fuel. Afterwards, a PBY Catalina "Dumbo" was dispatched to the location but found no one. Additional searched yielded no results and the search was terminated on January 4, 1944.
Fates of the Crew
The eight surviving crew members were captured by the Japanese sometime after December 31, 1943 and transported to Rabaul where they were detained as Prisoners Of War (POW) in cells.
On March 5, 1944 six of the crew: Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin were executed at Tunnel Hill.
Two others died in captivity at Tunnel Hill. Fessenger was died on July 15, 1944 and his remains were never recovered. Gillis died on August 2, 1944, and his remains were recovered postwar.
Marion D. Unruh was held as a prisoner at Rabaul, and as a senior officer was transported to Japan. He was detained for the remainder of the war at Rokuroshi POW Camp. As the senior officer at the camp, he became the commander of the American prisoners. At the end of the war, he accepted the surrender of the camp commander, Lt. Tsuntaro Habo, who handed his sword over to him.
Gillis was officially declared dead August 2, 1944. Postwar, his remains were recovered and identified. He was permanently buried at Manila American Cemetery Plot D Row 6 Grave 1.
Postwar, the remains of six of the crew were recovered from Tunnel Hill and were transported back to the United Sates for permanent burial. On March 21, 1950 Koebig, Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin were buried in a group burial with others at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 78 sites 930-934. The grave lists their date of death as March 5, 1944 for Kuhn, Stewart, Wasilevski, Mull and Constantin and March 6, 1944 for Koebig.
Constantin has a memorial marker at Green Hill Cemetery in Waynesville, NC in section two.
Marion D. Unruh served in occupied Japan and the Korean War. He married Yozelle Davis. After retiring form the military he returned to his hometown in Pretty Prairie, Kansas and died on April 14, 1968 and is buried at Lone Star Cemetery in Pretty Prairie, KS.
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