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  B-24D-85-CO "Pride of the Cornhuskers" Serial Number 42-40682  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
403rd BS

Click For Enlargement
43rd BG Sept 1943

Pilot  F/O Howard J. Wood, T-000252 (KIA, BR) NB
Co-Pilot  1st Lt Howard R. Thomas, O-790734 (KIA, BR) NY
Crew  2nd Lt Ralph M. Hart, O-675188 (KIA, BR) Oklahoma City, OK
Crew  2nd Lt Robert G. McDonald, O-738996 (KIA, BR) FL
Engineer  S/Sgt John Hrywnak, 33345669 (KIA, BR) PA
Crew  T/Sgt Charles P. Seip, 7033077 (KIA, BR) PA
Crew  T/Sgt Hyman Silverstein (KIA, BR) MA
Crew  S/Sgt Joel L. Herndon, 34082449 (KIA, BR) GA
Crew  S/Sgt Donald F. Wilcott, 16075243 (KIA, BR) IL
Crew  S/Sgt Samuel M. Wilkinson, 33277954 (KIA, BR) PA
Crew  S/Sgt Samuel B. White, 14044815 (KIA, BR)

Crashed  September 7, 1943 at 4:25am
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego for a cost of $297,627.00. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 43rd Bombardment Group, 403rd Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Microbe Hunter". Later renamed "Pride of the Cornhuskers" with the nose art of a University of Nebraska football player wearing a helmet with "N" on his uniform, about to throw a bomb from his right hand.

Mission History
On September 7, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a reconnaissance mission. Soon after take off, this B-24 crashed at 4:25am, impacting into a truck convoy loaded with Australian Army 2/33rd Infantry Battalion soldiers on the eastern end of the runway.

During the crash, a total of 59 people were killed and 92 injured from the Australian Army 2/33rd Infantry Battalion, D Company. These soldiers were in trucks awaiting orders to board C-47 Dakotas to be flown northward to Nadzab Airfield via Tsili Tsili Airfield.

Veteran William Bentson recalls:
"I was in Port Moresby at the time of this crash. It happen at Jackson Air Strip. The B-24 was fully loaded with fuel and bombs. I went out to Jackson Air Strip, late that afternoon and even by them the crash site was really a mess. Recovery of the dead and aid to injured went on into the night. There were 134 Australian troops, of the 2/33rd Australian Infantry Battalion AIF, in trucks, waiting to board other aircraft to fly to Nadzab and the B-24 crashed right into the trucks the men were setting in. 73 men were killed and 91 injured. The accident and loss of life was so appalling, it was kept secret from the Australian public for morale purposes. Even after the war it was rarely mentioned. It was the worst loss of the war suffered by the 2/33rd Battalion, which had fought in the Middle East, before campaigning in New Guinea. The the sad part of this crash, these men had survived battles in the Middle East and upon returning to Australia, were sent directly to New Guinea. The survivors were simply loaded on the next available plane and flown off to war, and less than two days later they were fighting the Japanese."

After the crash, a rumor surfaced that "Mexican Saboteurs" caused the B-24 to crash. Investigators found no evidence of sabotage and instead ruled the crash was due to pilot disorientation in the darkness.

Wreckage
The wreckage of this B-24 remained until the 1980s, until the construction of a runway extension, when the remaining wreckage was removed or otherwise disappeared.

Michael Claringbould adds:
"In 1967 myself and several school friends tried to remove one of the main under carriage legs which was still there. The crash site was built over by a runway extension in the 1980s."

Memorials
The crew of the B-24 were officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, the crew was initially, they were buried at Ipswich Cemetery in Australia. Postwar, they were exhumed and transported to the United States for final burial.

Three of the crew are buried at National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Seip at plot A grave 552. Wilcott at plot C grave 1607. Herndon at plot B grave 847.
Herndon also has a memorial marker at Bethesda United Methodist Church Cemetery in Hart County, GA.
Wood at Fort McPherson National Cemetery at plot Q, 0, A-5.
Hrywnak at Gettysburg National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA at section 2, site 346.
McDonald at Hopewell Memorial Gardens in Plant City, FL
Thomas at Maple Grove Cemetery in Horseheads, NY
Wilkinson is buried at Belle Vernon Cemetery in Belle Vernon, PA at section 4 lot 35 grave 3. A memorial marker was established on December 2, 1943. During March 19,1948, his body was buried at the site.
White's burial is unknown, presumed to be in a private cemetery in his hometown.

References
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-40682
FindAGrave - Howard J. Wood (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Howard R Thomas
FindAGrave - Lieut Ralph M. Hart
FindAGrave - Robert G. McDonald (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - John Hrywnak (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Charles Seip (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Hyman Silverstein (grave photo, photo)
FindAGrave - Joel L. Herndon (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Donald F. Wilcott (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Samuel M. Wilkinson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joel L Herndon (grave photo)
FIndAGrave - Joel Leigh Herndon (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Donald F Wilcott (grave photo)

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Information
B-24
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