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  B-24D-110-CO Liberator Serial Number 42-40886  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
64th BS

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
90th BG c1943

Pilot  1st Lt. Richard T. Heuss, O-736519 (MIA) Berkley, MI
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Robert Miller, O-740102 (MIA) Memphis, TN
Navigator  2nd Lt. Robert R. Streckenbach, O-797421 (MIA) Green Bay, WI
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Edward "Ed" R. French, O-734883 (MIA) Erie, PA
Engineer  TSgt Charles A. Bode, 13072686 (MIA) Baltimore, MD
Asst Engineer  SSgt Ivan O. Kirkpatrick, 39234213 (MIA) Whittler, CA
Radio  SSgt Roy Surabian, 11052826 (MIA) Medford, MA
Asst Radio  SSgt William K. Musgrave, 36368255 (MIA) Robinson, IL
Gunner  SSgt James T. Moran, 32432306 (MIA) Sloatsburg, NY
Gunner  SSgt James B. "Dinty" Moore, 11088506 (MIA) Woburn, MA
Radar/Gunner  SSgt Lucian I. Oliver, Jr., 14070201 (MIA) Memphis, TN

Crashed  November 20, 1943
MACR  1771

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructor Number 1963. Delivered to the U. S. Army.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 64th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. Ferried overseas by pilot Nicholas Arabinko from Lincoln, Nebraska in June 1943 overseas via Hickam Field, arriving at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby during July 1943.

Pilot Nicholas Arabinko, 43rd Bombardment Group recalled:
"Our crew received a new B-24D, # 42-40886 at Lincoln, Nebraska in June 1943 and flew it to Port Moresby arriving July 1943. We stopped at Hickam Air Base, Hawaii and replaced the glass nose with a twin 50 cal nose turret. Our co-pilot, Asa Lewelling suggested naming her, "The Great Speckled Bird" but it did not come to pass as time ran out on November 20, 1943. To this day, I thought that she was the greatest B-24 in the world, me-thinks I am biased; I was the pilot of that crew."

When lost, this bomber had R-1840-43 engines serial numbers: 42-61639, 42-61597, 42-61603 and 42-62679. 50 caliber machine guns serial numbers 493108, 490019, 596119, 595510, 490628, 468396, 141757, 490660, 490018, 216430, 371295. 30 caliber machine guns 120838 and 110886.

On a sadly ironic note, SSgt Lucian I. Oliver had survived another force landing in B-24D 42-40885, (the previous B-24 in production line) only to die aboard this aircraft.

Mission History
On November 20, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Richard T. Heuss on a night radar search mission for enemy shipping over the Bismarck Sea and Wewak. Last contact was via radio at 21:45. When this B-24 failed to return, it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Search
After the crash, B-24D 42-40913 piloted by Captain Ben F. Collier searched for this missing bomber, taking off from 7-Mile Drome to Yule Island, Kerema, Bulldog Airfield, Wau and up the Ramu Valley as far as Dumpu, returning by way of Ogelbeng (north of Mount Hagen), sighting only a series of fires. Returning, sighted wreckage of B-24 near Wau on Edie Creek. But, this wreckage was deemed not to be this wreck, and was reportedly an older crash site. [ Map of search mission ]

Wreckage
Crashed near Mount Eiyawaiy and Engati in Morobe Province. Discovered in 1982 by villagers, as bones were reportedly laid out by villagers and a report with two data plates made to the US Embassy on August 2, 1982, that was forwarded to PNG National Museum modern history curator Bruce Hoy.

During July 1984, Richard Leahy over flew the site and visited the crash with Alan Cameron and Dave Griffiths. Leahy identified the site as a B-24 and reported the site to US Army CILHI when they returned.

Richard Leahy adds:
"I located this aircraft in 1983 or 1984 using my usual sources, the village people, in this instance, Engati. In July 1884 Alan Cameron flew me to the site along with another pilot friend of mine, Dave Griffiths. I had already "found" the site from my Cessna 185. We did an ID on the aircraft and had a good look around as well as taking some photographs. I advised CILHI of my findings soon after.

The site is more or less up against a rock face which is the base of a very steep gully. The terrain is most unstable. Flooding over the years has carried a lot of wreckage downhill from the point of impact and human remains would have accompanied this debris downhill. The aircraft is seriously smashed. I was told that some human remains had previously been collected by the Engati people and kept in their village. CILHI parties were advised of this."

Recovery
US Army CILHI / JPAC made at least four confirmed visits to this crash site during a twenty year period spanning 1984-2004.

The first visit by US Army CILHI occurred on August 27-28, 1984 with a team that included SFC Richard Huston, SSG Jeffrey Willingham, SSG Bruce Logan, PFC Raymond Harrison, and Bruce Hoy (Modern History curator of PNG National Museum) arrived at the crash site and established their camp. The crash site was coded "04CIL84". became immediately apparent that the crash site was in an extremely hazardous and dangerous location as a landslide had covered most of the aircraft wreckage and the ground above the crash-site appeared very unstable. Despite these conditions, the team commenced surveying the crash-site the following day, the 28th with the operation dependent on the positive identification of the aircraft.

During the day, Hoy made a preliminary identification of the aircraft as B-24D 42-40886 based on the last two digits of the serial number '86' on two separate pieces of ripped metal that he had found, the white diagonal stripe of the 64th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bombardment Group present on the tail wreckage which had to be dug out of the ground as well as the faded constructor's number from an engine access panel. Recovery operations continued on the 29th at a location indicated by Hoy as a likely place and at 10.30am, the first remains of the crew were found and carefully removed. More of the tail serial number was found confirming the identification as being 42-40?86 with one numeral outstanding. The team continued to work at the site, with additional remains being located on the 30th when two members of the team were lifted out to augment the recovery operations being conducted simultaneously at the crash site of B-24D 41-23766. The remaining members of the recovery team were lifted out on the 31st and flown to B-24D 41-23766.

The second visit by US Army CILHI occurred on June 5, 1986, when two members of CIL-HI returned to ascertain whether the site had improved or was still too dangerous. They determined that the area containing the wreckage at the bottom of a large landslide, despite the landslide having occurred several decades previously, was too unstable to justify the risk of placing personnel in extreme danger. Thus the remaining crew members of this aircraft who had not been recovered in 1984 were deemed non-recoverable.

The third visit by US Army CILHI occurred on June 15, 1987 which only involved a re-confirmation of the determination made in 1986, but recommended the site remain open for future investigation with its priority reduced due to the safety hazards and the resources required to clear the site. Due to the potential landslide conditions, a proper assessment would be required to minimize the safety hazards.

A fourth visit by JPAC during late 2004. According to their report, no human remains or personal effects were found during the 2004 investigation, because the area surrounding the remains of the aircraft was too dangerous.

A JPAC document dated December 27, 2004 states:
"Total area excavation in this region would be extremely dangerous since it would destabilize the existing landslide deposits and potentially weaken underlying bedrock," the report states. The aircraft is in, "a gully complex containing a major landslide measuring over 150-200 meters long" and up to 40 meters wide. It further described the scene by stating, "wreckage is distributed throughout the landslip with loose fragments of aircraft skin and aluminum visible on the deposit surface and also firmly wedged/crushed" in the ground.

Brian Bennett adds:
"I have been to this site a number of times and it is a very difficult location. The aircraft impacted in the top end of a very steep ravine and i mean steep down the sides and steep from top to bottom. little aircraft wreckage can be seen as the aircraft has or appears to have been buried in a landslide. There could be 100's to several 1000's of cubic yards of rock on this one. I am not certain what the status is but i am positive that there are engineering problems for recovery as well as quite serious safety issues."

Memorials
The entire crew is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. The Sloatsburg, New York World War II / Korea memorial lists James T. Moran as killed during the war.

In 2009, a Department of Defense (DoD) news release stated the remains of the eleven crew members were identified. Afterwards, seven of the crew members were returned to relatives for burial in private cemeteries in their hometowns during late 2009. In July 2009, the remains of Moore were returned to his family in and buried at Cavalry Cemetery in Winchester, MA. On September 26, 2009, Edward French was buried in Erie, PA.

Four of the crew (including Moran) were not "defined well enough" their remains were buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery during the Spring of 2010. Two of the crew had individual burials at Arlington National Cemetery. Miller at section 60 site 9645. Musgrave at section 60 site 9342.

Relatives
Stephen Ward (nephew of James T. Moran):
"My uncle was Staff Sgt. James T. Moran My Uncle and 3 others, will be buried together at Arlington Cemetery this upcoming spring [2010] with full military Honors. Until I petitioned JPAC in 2004 for information about the plane; no public record was available and none of the relatives had been informed that the plane had been found. We were officially notified by JPAC on August 18th of 2004, contacting James's remaining sisters that the plane was found / visited in 1984, US CILHI 04CIL84."

Lynne Valante (niece of James B. Moore):
"I was notified in 2004 that the plane was found but later learned it was visited in 1984. We knew remains had been found there and repatriated to Hawaii. After submitting DNA in 2004, we learned this past Memorial Day weekend [2008] that his remains were positively identified. Although I have no other photos of him to share or any of his plane, I am happy to tell you that this past August [2009] we were blessed to have his remains returned to Massachusetts and buried with family. It was an emotional time for our us and we're grateful for the welcome home he received and the honor shown to him. My hope is for the other families of this crew to feel the peace we now have. We plan to attend a service in Arlington national Cemetery for the crew in spring 2010."

Chuck Clorley (nephew of Edward French):
"I was just informed that the remains of all 11 airmen have been recovered and that we will be having a memorial service for him in Erie PA on Saturday Sept. 26, 2009."

Keith W. Bode (nephew of Charles A. Bode)

References
Missing Air Crew Report 1771 (MACR 1771)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard T. Heuss
"1LT Heuss remains have been recovered and identified in 2009"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert A. Miller
"2LT Miller's remains have been recovered and identified on March 2, 2009"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert R. Streckenbach Jr.
"His remains have been recovered and identified on March 2, 2009"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward R. French
"His remains have been recovered and identified on March 2, 2009"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles A. Bode
"TSGT Bode's remains were recovered and identified in 2009"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ivan O. Kirkpatrick
"His remains have been recovered and identified on March 2, 2009"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
FindAGrave -
Deryck J. Thompson Letter to Embassy of America, 2 August 1982
Hoy, Bruce. Letter to Deryck J. Thompson (District Coordinator), 13 August 1982
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-40886
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) incorrectly lists the crew's date of death as November 21, 1944. It is unclear if they were officially declared dead a year later, or this listing is in error.
Musgrave is misspelled "Mulgrave" in some reports
Another reference places the crash site at approximately 09 degrees 18S, 146 degrees 54E, but this position is in the sea near Port Moresby.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)
notes "remains have been recovered and identified on March 2, 2009" for each crew member
Record-Journal "Family not told for 17 year" by George Moore July 17, 2009
43rd BG Kensmen - Lost Crew Members references to crew of this B-24
DoD New Release "Airmen Missing In Action From WWII Identified" Feb 10, 2011
Stars and Stripes "Great lengths, cost as U.S. identifies remains of 11 missing in WWII bomber" by Kevin Baron February 10, 2011 incorrectly states pilot was TSgt Charles A. Bode as [sic, Bode was flight engineer]
CNN "U.S. officials identify remains of 11 missing WW II airmen" February 10, 2011
LoHud "Remains of WWII airman recovered" by James O'Rourke Feb 10, 2011
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Richard Leahy, Brian Bennett for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

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