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  B-24D-155-CO "The Big Ass Bird II" Serial Number 42-72801  
USAAF
5th AF
380th BG
531st BS

Pilot  1st Lt. Otto H. Martens, O-437245 (MIA / KIA, BR) Ogallala, NE
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Ernest R. Hedges, O-681411 (MIA / KIA, BR) New Albany, IN
Navigator  2nd Lt Clifford M Odegaard, O-808127 (MIA / KIA, BR) Missoula, MO
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Brian J. Kennedy, O-682551 (MIA / KIA, BR) Flushing, NY
Gunner  T/Sgt Arthur J. Schechtel, 12157189 (MIA / KIA, BR) NY, NY
Gunner  S/Sgt Walter H. Dellinger, 34085818 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lowell, NC
Gunner  S/Sgt Henry F. Flanagan, 31231640 (MIA / KIA, BR) Framingham, MA
Gunner  S/Sgt Charles F. Burtis, 32427593 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lynbrook, NY
Gunner  S/Sgt Howard W. Musson, 16156517 (MIA / KIA, BR) Bensenville, IL
Gunner  T/Sgt William T. Rabbitt, Jr. 32535761 (MIA / KIA, BR) Mt. Vernon, NY
Passenger  Sgt Henry William Clapinson, 6109 RAAF (MIA / KIA, BR) Wellington, NZ
Passenger  L/Sgt Kenneth Dreis Ireland, NX134938 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR)
Passenger  Cpl Arthur Wesley Filewood, QX6556 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR) Kensington, VIC
Passenger  Cpl James Norman McPherson, VX16623 AIF (MIA / KIA, BR) West Sunshine, VIC
Passenger Cpl Godfrey Charles Mitchell-Burden, NX134272 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR) St. Kilda, VIC
Passenger  Cpl Ernest Charles Marshall, WX4211 AIF "Z" Special Unit (MIA / KIA, BR) Kalgoorlie, WA

MIA  March 19, 1944
MACR  3723

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 380th Bombardment Group, 531st Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "The Big Ass Bird II". When lost, engines R-1830-65 serial numbers 42-90354, 42-90078, 42-89852 and 42-90498.

Mission History
On March 18, 1944 took off from Fenton Airfield south of Darwin at approximately 10:59pm for a night mission over Babo. In addition to the crew of ten Americans, six Australian crew members were aboard, for a total of sixteen passengers. The Australian Army passengers were part of the Z Special Unit. This B-24 was last seen on take off. When the bomber failed to return, the entire crew was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). The B-24 was presumed to be lost sometime after midnight on March 19, 1944.

1st Lt. John E. Lawor adds:
"This aircraft was on a highly secretive mission, the details of which are unknown to this headquarters, the operation being conducted by the RAAF at Darwin. In addition to the regular crew of ten men this headquarters has been informed that six additional men were aboard the missing airplane. At approximately 0345/L on 19 March 1944 four of our crew reported seeing an explosion which appeared to originate at approximately 5,000' altitude. This sighting was observed in the vicinity between 3.05S 132.40E and Kokas village. All crews reporting were from 20-30 miles distant and no other details of the explosion were observed.

Search
On March 20, 1944, a search mission was conducted in the area where an explosion was reported for one hour, but no signals from possible survivors were observed or sighting of a crashed airplane were made.

Wreckage
This B-24 crashed into the Baham Mountains near Fak Fak, killing everyone aboard on impact.

Recovery of Remains
During the middle of 1947, the wreckage was located by a RAAF Searcher Team led by F/Lt. Martin T. O'Shea and remains of the crew were recovered.

By January 13, 1948 American Graves Registration Service (AGRS), HQ Philippines reported this B-24 had crashed at Fak Fak and was found by an Australian search unit that recovered 15 sets of remains that were interred in a group burial at Galala War Cemetery at Ambon at grave numbers ZDB 1 to 15.

One body was recovered with flight jack with the name "O. H. Martens", and thus was identified and temporarily buried at USAF Cemetery Manila No. 2 during 1948. Later, his remains were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

During March 16-31, 1948 investigated by a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS).

After the recovery operations, the recovered remains were transported to the Philippines.

Memorials
The Australian crew members were officially declared dead on March 19, 1944. The American crew members was officially declared dead on February 18, 1945.

After the recovery of remains, the American crew and Australian passengers were transported to the United States and permanently buried in a a group burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 84, site 402.

Martens, was the only crew member individually identified. He was buried at Ogallala Cemetery in Ogallala, NB.
Hedges has a memorial marker at Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, IN.
Dellinger has a memorial marker at Edgewood Cemetery in Lowell, NC.

References
Missing Air Crew Report 3723 (MACR 3723)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-72801
FindAGrave - Otto H. Martens
FindAGrave - Ernest R Hedges (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Ernest R. Hedges (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Clifford M Odegaard (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Brian J Kennedy (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Arthur J Schechtel (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Walter H Dellinger (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Walter Hansell Dellinger (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Henry P Flanagan (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Charles F Burtis (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Howard W Musson (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - William T Rabbitt, Jr (group burial photo)
CWGC - Henry William Clapinson
CWGC - Kenneth Dreis Ireland
CWGC - Arthur Wesley Filewood
CWGC - James Norman McPherson
CWGC - Godfrey Charles Mitchell-Burden (alias "M. C. Taylor")
CWGC - Ernest Charles Marshall
RAAFDB - Consolidated B-24D Liberator 42-72801
RAAFDB - Henry William Clapinson
[Newspaper article, details unknown] "Special RAAF Search Mission... aircraft that failed to return from wartime operations over the NEI and found the remains of 85 Australian, American and Dutch airmen" [published mid-1947]
"At Fakfak, in south-west Dutch New Guinea, bodies were recovered from a US Liberator which had crashed at night into Baham Mountains. There were six Australians as passengers in the plane."
AGRS Sheet No. 3 / Explanations to the attached overlay map: 2, Location: Prunatmo, Fakfak, Type of plane: Believed to be a B-24, Date of crash: on or about February 1944. Date investigatedL 16 March 48 to 31 March 48"
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-24

MIA
MIA
16 Missing
Resolved

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