|Pilot 2nd Lt. Leonard J. Hogland, O-753216 (MIA / KIA) Kansas City, MS
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Harold H. Morton, O-695267 (MIA / KIA) Canon City, CO
Navigator 2nd Lt Alexander Wasilenko, O-698803 (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Bombardier 2nd Lt Melvin R. Saxon, O-694802 (MIA / KIA) Iron River, MI
Radio TSgt Jan D. Arnold, Jr., 18188108 (MIA / KIA) Corpus Christi, TX
Engineer TSgt Harry E. Jones, 14161199 (MIA / KIA) Memphis, TN
Tail Gunner SSgt Jack W. Spriestersbach, 39200520 (MIA / KIA) Everett, WA
Nose Gunner SSgt Leslie E. Hoppel, 16162218 (MIA / KIA) Chester, IL
Right Waist Gunner SSgt Charles A. Derby, 36639151 (MIA / KIA) Chicago, IL
Left Waist Gunner Sgt Mettle J. Szelag, 11096401 (MIA / KIA) West Warwick, RI
Crashed June 11, 1944 at 2:45pm
Built by Consolidated. Constructors Number 235. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-20-CF Liberator serial number 42-63986. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 90th Bombardment Group, 319th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Louisiana Lullaby" on both sides the nose with art of a female figure on each side of the nose. On the left side of the nose was a standing female holding up her skirt. On the right side of the nose was a seated female with her legs crossed. On both sides of the nose was a scoreboard of bomb markings indicating missions flown and Japanese flags indicating fighters claimed by the gunners.
When lost, engines R-1830-43 serial numbers 42-39579, 42-63874, 42-38806 and 42-38566. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns, makes and serial numbers noted in Missing Air Crew Report 6584 (MACR 6584) page 5. Prior to the mission, this B-24 staged from Nadzab Airfield to Hollandia Airfield.
On June 11, 1944 in the morning took off from Hollandia Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Leonard J. Hogland on a flight to Wakde Airfield to re-arm and re-fuel with a maximum load of ammunition of 400 rounds per gun with a bomb load 180 x 30 pound fragmentation bombs and a full load of 3,100 gallons of fuel.
Afterwards, took off from Wakde Airfield on a bombing mission against Peleliu Airfield on Peleliu. A total of twenty-two B-24s took off and the formation included four 319th Bombardment Squadron B-24 and seven 400th Bombardment Squadron B-24s.
About fifty miles from the target, the formation was intercepted by an estimated forty enemy fighters that dropped aerial bombs and making attacks before and during the bomb run, along with accurate anti-aircraft fire. This B-24 was apparently hit by a fragment of phosphorous from a aerial bomb (Navy Mark 3 bomb) that lodged into the right wing, burning the right aileron, but this bomber managed to drop its bomb load over the target.
This B-24 appeared to be damaged, but held formation, with a fire that had burned out the right aileron, and forced the no. 4 engine to be feathered, then restarted and dropped out of formation for 2-3 minutes and was attacked, and the gunners failed to returning fire, possibly because they were wounded or dead during 35 minutes of aerial attacks by enemy fighters.
Although the B-24 but managed to rejoin the formation and appeared the fire were extinguished, it resumed burning and began loosing altitude and ditched into the sea, roughly 80 miles south of Palau. When this bomber failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
Afterwards, two of the crew were seen in their life raft, and were seen waving. A 400th Bombardment Squadron B-24 dropped supplies to them and circled for two hours sending IFF and the men were last seen paddling towards the items dropped. PBY Catalina "Gardinia 1" was notified, but failed to respond.
No PBY Catalina rescue was attempted, because fighter escort was not available. Other B-24s made strikes against the Palau area at that same time but failed to find any trace of them.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on February 13, 1946. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Hogland earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Morton earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart,
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-20-CF Liberator 42-63986
"63986 (90th BG, 319th BS) shot down Wakde Jun 11, 1944"
Missing Air Crew Report 6584 (MACR 6584) created June 13, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leonard J. Hogland
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold H. Morton
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Alexander Wasilenko
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Melvin R. Saxon
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jan D. Arnold, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry E. Jones
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jack W. Spriestersbach
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leslie E. Hoppel
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles A. Derby
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Mettle J. Szelag
FindAGrave - Leonard J. Hogland
Harold H. Morton
FindAGrave - Alexander Wasilenko
FindAGrave - Melvin R. Saxon
FindAGrave - Jan D. Arnold, Jr.
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group, page 120-121
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June 29, 2019