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  B-24D-20-CF "Louisiana Lullaby" Serial Number 42-63986  
USAAF
5th AF
90th BG
319th BS

Click For Enlargement
USAAF c1944
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 Mettie J. Szelag, 11096401 (MIA / KIA) West Warwick, RI
Crashed  June 11, 1944 at 2:45pm
MACR  6584

Aircraft History
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.

Wartime History
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.

Mission History
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.

Search
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.

Memorials
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, posthumously.

Wasilenko earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Wasilenko also has a memorial marker at Saint Vladimirs Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Jackson, NJ.

Saxon earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Arnold earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Jones earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Spriestersbach earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Hoppel the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Hoppel also has a memorial marker at Lively Cemetery in Sparta, IL.

Szelag earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Szelag also has a memorial marker at Saint Mary Cemetery in West Warwick, RI.

Relatives
Leslie G Firestone (great nephew of Leslie E Hoppel)
"By reading this information you provided I have learned that he was a nose gunner on the Louisiana Lullaby B-24 42-63986 90th Bomb Group, 319th Bomb Squadron. I have wondered what really happened and now knowing what really happened helped me be able to tell the rest of the family. I do have some of his stuff that I can post later. Again Thank you for the information. I do have pictures of him and my mom says she has a book that was his that has the plane in it and other planes. We were also notified that they may have found his remains but are still trying to find someone family to do a DNA test to make sure they are his. Hopefully we/they can find someone to do it."

References
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) - Mettie J. Szelag
FindAGrave - 2Lt Leonard J Hogland (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Harold H Morton (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Alexander Wasilenko (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Alexander Wasilenko (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Melvin Rudolph Saxon (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - TSgt Jan D Arnold, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - TSgt Harry E Jones (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SSgt Jack W Spriestersbach (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - SSgt Leslie E Hoppel (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Leslie E. Hoppel (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Charles A. Derby (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Sgt Mettie J Szelag (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Mettie J. Szelag (memorial marker photo)
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group, page 120-121

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Last Updated
November 18, 2019

 

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