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  B-24D-145-CO "Heaven Can Wait" Serial Number 42-41216  
USAAF
5th AF
90th BG
400th BS

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USAAF c1943

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USAAF c1943

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USAAF c1943

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Wood c1943

Pilot  1st Lt Herbert G. Tennyson, O-745216 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Sedgwick County, KS
Co-Pilot
 2nd Lt Michael J. McFadden, Jr., O-806878 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Sarben, NE
Bombardier  
2nd Lt Thomas V. Kelly Jr., O-752864 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Livermore, CA
Navigator
 2nd Lt Donald W. Sheppick, O-808158 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Washington County, PA
Engineer
 T/Sgt Edward Gorvetzian, 32618088 320th BS (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Radio
 T/Sgt Eugene J. Darrigan, 32662082 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Wappingers Falls, NY
Gunner
  T/Sgt Walter W. Graves, 17129162 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Parsons, KS
Gunner  S/Sgt Donald W. Burd, 12162694 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Somerset County, NJ
Gunner  S/Sgt Eugene A. Reinhardt, 35671016 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Hamilton County, OH
Gunner  S/Sgt Paul W. Martin, 37181162 320th BS (MIA / KIA) Glenwood, MO
Photographer  S/Sgt John W. Emmer Jr., 37021765 319th BS (MIA / KIA)
Minneapolis, MN
Crashed  March 11, 1944
MACR  Unnumbered / 16272

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated in San Diego, CA using funds F-1; A.A.F. Order No. AC-24620 at a cost of $297,267.00. Constructors Number 2293. On July 17, 1943 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-145-CO Liberator serial number 42-41216.

On July 21, 1943 flown to Tuscon, AZ and the next day to the modification center. On August 7, 1943 to Biggs Field. Early on, this B-24 was nicknamed "Heaven Can Wait" likely in reference to the Hollywood movie of the same name. The nickname was painted on the right side of the nose in block letters with a shadow. The nose art was a cartoon style woman in a cocktail dress with angel wings and a halo on the right side of the nose.

On September 11, 1943 took off from California on a ferry flight via Hickam Field then across the Pacific. On September 21, 1943 arrived in Australia. At the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field at Townsville modified to model D-1.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 90th Bombardment Group "Jolly Rogers", 400th Bombardment Squadron "Black Pirates". This B-24 operated from Dobodura in late 1943 and Nadzab in February 1944 until lost on March 11, 1944.

In total, this bomber flew over thirty bombing missions over New Guinea with bomb markings indicating missions flown painted below the cockpit. The nose wheel hub had "Keg" with a squiggle below it.

On October 18, 1943 took off piloted by Lt. Vowell on a mission over Hood Point on the south coast of New Guinea and Kiriwina Island in the Solomon Sea.

On October 21, 1943 took off piloted by Lt. Briggs on a bombing mission against Sattelberg and Finschafen on the north coast of New Guinea.

On December 14,1943 took off piloted by Col. Rogers (C. O. 90th Bombardment Group) on a bombing mission against Arawe on the tip of West New Britain.

On March 11, 1944 this B-24 was on temporarily on loan to the 320th Bombardment Squadron "Moby Dick" for use by 1st Lt Herbert G. Tennyson and his crew. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers were not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 16272 (MACR 16272) but were noted in Missing Air Crew Report unnumbered (MACR unnumbered). Engines R-1820-65 serial numbers 42-39547, 42-38812, 42-88174 and 42-41083. This bomber was armed with Browning .50 caliber M2 machine guns serial numbers 45320, 474152, 424662, 121787, 454642, 474322, 454531 and 473827. The top turret was a Martin 250CF5.

Mission History
On March 11, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 piloted by 1st Lt Herbert G. Tennyson armed with eight 1,000 pound fragmentation bombs on Mission Number 71-D. The primary target on the outbound leg was Boram Airfield near Wewak. The secondary target during the return leg was anti-aircraft positions on Awar Point bordering Hansa Bay. This B-24 was one of eleven B-24s on the mission from the 400th Bombardment Squadron and 320th Bombardment Squadron. The weather was described as turbulence, smooth, visibility good and clear with scattered clouds.

Arriving over the primary target at 12:58pm, Boram Airfield was obscured by a undercast so the B-24s from the 400th Bombardment Squadron and 320th Bombardment Squadron dropped a total of 48 x 1,000 pound bombs on targets of opportunity, with some falling near an anti-aircraft position, causing a small secondary explosion. Anti-aircraft fire was spasmodic, as the Japanese gunners were firing through the same undercast. Intercepting were eight Zekes [actually Ki-43 Oscars] and Ki-61 Tonys that damaged one B-24. The bombers' gunners claimed one attacking fighter as damaged.

Afterwards, the formation turned eastward and followed the north coast of New Guinea over the Stephan Strait toward the secondary target of anti-aircraft guns on Awar Point bordering Hansa Bay. At 2:01pm, Tennyson’s bomber plus two others from the 320th Bombardment Squadron turned southward to begin their bomb run against the secondary target. The three bombers were flying at roughly 8,000' with this aircraft in the no. 3 position and intended to release a total of 24 x 1,000 pound bombs.

Soon after turning toward the target and while still some distance away, the three planes flew into a box barrage of anti-aircraft fire and Tennyson’s plane flying in the no. 3 position was hit by unusually accurate fire. This occurred near the start of the bomb run, and the Tennyson plane quickly burst into flames. The fire began near the back of the forward bomb bay, presumably by an ignited fuel leak from a tank punctured by an anti-aircraft hit, and within seconds flames had enveloped the entire rear of the plane from the tail to the front bomb bay. The flames then moved forward as far as the cockpit.

As this was happening, this bomber initially maintained its course with the attacking formation. It then rose and banked slightly to the left before gradually losing altitude in what soon became a dive. Between the time that the Tennyson plane was initially hit and when it eventually reached the sea, three crew members and one large object (assumed by one eyewitness to be S/Sgt Emmer’s camera) were observed either jumping or falling from the rear of the aircraft. No parachutes were observed to have opened.

At some point as the burning plane headed toward the water, the entire tail assembly either broke off or was torn off in a small explosion. Eyewitness accounts note that while the tail assembly fell off by itself into the Stephan Strait, the main portion of the aircraft continued intact toward the water. All four engines were still running when the main portion of the aircraft finally crashed into the sea off Awar Point while slipping sideways relative to its direction of motion. Eyewitness accounts note that the wreckage of the main portion of the aircraft burned on the surface for a period of time before sinking, after which a large oil slick was left on the surface. Three Japanese boats were launched toward the crash site soon after the plane went down, but eyewitnesses were confident that the crash into the water was too violent for anyone to have survived. After Tennyson’s plane crashed into the water, the remaining two planes in the formation completed their bomb run and circled to the right to scan the crash area for any possible survivors before retuning to Nadzab Airfield No. 1. When this bomber failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

SSgt Arnold S. Smith, 31155620 waist gunner aboard B-24D #917 report in MACR unnumbered, page 3:
"I was in M917 [B-24D #917], flying #2 position, with M216 [B-24D "Heaven Can Wait" 42-41216], flown by Tennyson, in #3 position. The formation approached to make a run. Off the point [Awar Point], before we got over land, flames started to pour from the front bomb bay of M216. I believe the fire was started from gasoline pouring over the fuselage from a fuel cell possibly hit by A/A. In 2 or 3 seconds flames enveloped the plane from the first bomb bay to the tail. The plane rose nose first and banked slightly to the left. Three men jumped or fell out of the rear of the plane (probably the camera hatch). A fourth object also fell out but it appeared to be the camera. The first man wore no chute, and spread eagled straight down into the water. I saw a white streamer as if from a chute coming from the second man, but I did not see whether it opened. The third man was wearing a chute but I did not see it open. The tail assembly broke off and fell into the ocean. The plane banked left and drove in a slip into the water a quarter of a mile off the point. All four engines were running until the plane hit the water. There was fire in the water for some time after the plane hit, and after those flames were finally extinguished an oil slick was prominent. After the bombing run the formation circled to the right and endeavored with binoculars to see signs of survivors. I could see no evidence that bodies remained at the surface."

1st Lt. John H. Gray, Jr.’s consolidated eyewitness report in MACR unnumbered, page 4:
"A/P [airplane] M-216 [B-24D "Heaven Can Wait" 42-41216] was seen to burst into flames at start of bombing run at Hansa Bay. The fire appeared to start in back of bomb bay, spreading rapidly and enveloping fuselage as far as the cockpit. The A/P maintained its course momentarily then peeled off and went into a dive, burning fiercely. A possible explosion during the dive tore off the entire tail assembly. Three (3) men were seen to clear plane, either jumping or being blown out. One member was seen to pull ripcord but chute either split or failed to catch the wind. One member of crew reported that second man also tried to open chute but consensus of opinion is that neither second man also or third man were seen to attempt to open chutes. The A/P crashed into the water off Awar Point, burned and then sank. Three (3) Jap boats took off from shore when A/P hit water. The A/P was believed hit by accurate A/A [anti-aircraft] bursting around the other planes. Photos were taken of the crash. There were nil possible survivors of the crash."

Search
The officer in charge of the search was Major Dale J. Thornhill. No trace of the bomber or crew was located.

Wreckage
During October 2017, a team from Project Recover led by Eric Terrill with Mark Alan Moline, Andrew Pietruszka, Eric Gallimore, Bob Hess, Andy Nager and Brian Kim performed an underwater underwater survey covering nearly 27 square kilometers of the sea floor nearly 27 square kilometers of the sea floor.

After eleven days, the team located the debris field of a B-24 Liberator at a depth of 212' on a sandy sea floor. A Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) documented the wreckage including the nose turret, nose wheel, main landing gear leg, propeller and tail section with one vertical stabilizer.

Based on the aircraft type and location, the team concluded is the crash site to be B-24D 'Heaven Can Wait' 42-41216. This identification has not yet been confirmed with a unique identifier associated with the bomber. During March 2018, this site was reported to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

Memorials
The entire crew were declared dead the day of the mission. Each crew member earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

McFadden also has a memorial marker at Fort McPherson National Cemetery at Section MA Site 54.
Kelly also has a memorial marker at Saint Michaels Cemetery Livermore, CA plot 19 west.
Sheppick also has a memorial marker at Howe Cemetery in Coal Center, PA.
Emmer also has a memorial marker at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, MN.

Darrigan has a memorial marker at Saint Mary's Cemetery in in Wappingers Falls, NY
Darrigan has a memorial plaque outside the Wappingers Falls Garner Engine (where he volunteered prewar) in Wappingers Falls, NY.
Darrigan is also memorialized at the Lt. Col. John K. Rinaldi Memorial Park (Dutchess County War Memorial) in Pougkeepsie, NY.

Relatives
Scott Althaus (first cousin once removed of Thomas V. Kelly)
Diane Christie (cousin of Thomas V. Kelly)

Tom Schindler (son of Darrigan)
Gary Thompkins (nephew of Darrigan)
Eugene Tompkins (nephew of Darrigan and namesake)
Virginia "Ginny" Pineiro (niece and goddaughter of Darrigan)

Resources
Note, some sources and records incorrectly list B-24D 42-41216 as assigned to the 320th Bombardment Squadron.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-145-CO Liberator 42-41216
"41216 (90th BG, 400th BS) shot down Mar 11, 1944, Hansa Bay"
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-24D Liberator 42-41216
90th BG History: Frame 1226 40085
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Thomas V. Kelly Jr.
Missing Air Crew Report [unnumbered] (MACR [unnumbered) created March 16, 1944
Missing Air Crew Report 16272 (MACR 16272) was created retroactively circa 1946
"Killed in action March 11, over New Guinea Staff Sgt. Paul W. Martin" March 1944
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-41216
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Herbert G. Tennyson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Michael J. McFadden, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas V. Kelly Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Donald W. Sheppick
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward Gorvetzian
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene J. Darrigan
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Walter W. Graves
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Donald W. Burd
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene A. Reinhardt
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul W. Martin
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John W. Emmer Jr.
FindAGrave - 1Lt Herbert G. Tennyson (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Michael Joseph McFadden, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Micheal Joseph McFadden, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Thomas V Kelly, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Thomas V. Kelly, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Donald W Sheppick (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Donald W Sheppick (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt Edward Gorvetzian (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Eugene J Darrigan (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Walter Wayne Graves (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Donald W Burd (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Eugene A Reinhardt (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt Paul W Martin (photo, obituary, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSgt John W. Emmer, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt John W. Emmer, Jr (memorial marker photo)
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group pages 105 (photo), 106, 114 (map), 200 (casualties/chronological) 204 (index Heaven Can Wait), 207 (index Tennyson)
The Jolly Rogers: History of the 90th Bomb Group during World War II page 128 (photo)
Project Recover 2017 Annual Report pages 20-25
Althaus, Scott. "Summary Compilation of Eyewitness Accounts, Contemporary Details, and Operational Records Regarding the March 11, 1944 Wreck of B24-D-1 “Heaven Can Wait” (SN# 42-41216) Off Awar Point in Hansa Bay, Papua New Guinea” April 2018. [PDF]
Illinois News Bureau "Lost but not forgotten: Why this Memorial Day is different" by Scott Althaus May 21, 2018
New Release "Missing World War II B-24 Bomber Discovered By Project Recover In Hansa Bay Off Papua New Guinea" May 22, 2018
Associated Press (AP) "Family rejoices at finding of soldier’s World War II plane" May 24, 2018
Vimeo "Project Recover: The Finding of ‘Heaven Can Wait’ B-24" May 20, 2018
Poughkeepsie Journal "Remains of first Wappingers soldier killed in WWII found after more than 70 years" 05-25-18
YouTube "Memorial Day and Lt. Thomas Kelly" May 26, 2018
Poughkeepsie Journal "Son reacts to discovery of father's remains" May 27, 2018
ABC "Why the discovery of a WWII bomber is bringing closure to a Folsom Woman"
05-27-18
Poughkeepsie Journal "Son 'amazed' at discovery of Wappingers World War II soldier" May 28, 2018
New York Times "A World War II Mystery Is Solved, and Emotions Flood In" by Mike Ives May 28, 2018
Thanks to Scott Althaus and Pete Johnson for additional information, research and analysis.

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Last Updated
June 4, 2018

 

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March 11, 1944

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