USAAF Jan 21, 1944
Sake Denched Postcards
Los fantasmas de Tarawa
|Pilot 1st Lt Morris A. Skaalen, O-739688 (survived) Boyd, MN
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Carl A. Swalberg, O-743536 (survived) UT
Navigator 2nd Lt. Theodore A. Parsons, O-741808 (survived)
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Donald E. Underwood, O-738751 (MIA / KIA) Wayne County, MI
Engineer SSgt Edward A. Horney, 33236164 (KIA, BR) PA
Radio TSgt John S. Bailey, 33190516 (MIA / KIA) VA
Asst. Engineer SSgt Jack R. Busch, 32474977 (KIA, BR) NY
Asst. Radio SSgt Vincent J. Rogers, Jr., 12169863 (MIA / KIA) Erie County, NY
Tail Gunner SSgt Thomas E. LaSota, 3308941 (KIA, BR) MN
Observer Captain George Van Vleet, Jr., O-917892 (MIA / KIA) Fresno County, CA
Crashed January 21, 1944 at 12:21am
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 2542. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried to Hawaii then to the central Pacific.
Assigned to the 7th Air Force, 30th Bombardment Group, 38th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Miss Bee Haven" painted in white with the nose art of a nude figure holding a bomb in her left hand and a pistol in her right hand. On the left side of the nose were mission markings indicating bombing missions flown. On November 12, 1943, this bomber was based at Nanumea Airfield and flew at least eight combat missions, sometimes staging from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field).
When lost, engine serial numbers R-1830-65 serial numbers 42-90275, 42-90734, 42-91509 and DP-40063. Aboard were twelve .50 caliber machine guns, serial numbers unknown and one pyrotechnic pistol M-8. None of the weapon serial numbers are noted in Missing Air Crew Report 2818 (MACR 2818).
On January 21, 1944 took off from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field) on Tarawa (Betio) at 12:21am piloted by 1st Lt Morris A. Skaalen on a bombing mission against Roi Island at Kwajalein Atoll. This bomber took off on a west to east direction but was unable to attain 100' altitude and the pilots lowered the nose slightly in an attempt to gain speed, then pulled up sharply, but impacted the sea tail first. This B-24 crashed into into Tarawa Lagoon at a depth of 18" and exploded on impact roughly 150 yards southern shore of Tarawa (Betio) roughly two-thirds of a mile east of the runway. Roughly seventeen minutes later, B-24J "Galloping Gus" 42-72999 also crashed into the sea.
Fates of the Crew
Three survived the crash and seven were killed on impact.
The three survivors were able to escape from a hole torn to the rear of the co-pilot's position allowing them to escape. Observing the crash from Tarawa (Betio), Dr. Feves waded out to the crash site and assisted the three survivors into a life raft.
During the crash, the tail section broke off rear of the bomb bay scattering bombs and the tail section landed upside down. The front half of the bomber impacted nose first then spun to the right. The bottom of the nose section was badly damaged and torn. Rear of the co-pilot's position was torn, allowing the three survivors to escape.
Recovery of Remains
After helping the survivors, Dr. Feves entered the wreckage and found the bodies of six of the crew: Van Vlett, Horney, Rogers, Underwood, Bailey and Busch. He was unable to locate the LaSota's body.
Afterwards, the remains of three of the crew were recovered and buried on Tarawa (Betio) including Horney, Busch and LaSota.
Postwar, they were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial. The remains recovered were placed into a life raft to shore and placed in a tent under guard until burial boxes were made from wooden crates for burial.
On January 22, 1944 the recovered remains were buried in Marine Cemetery No. 33 on Tarawa (Betio) at a depth of 4' with temporary grave markers. Later, the remains of
another member of the crew, presumed to be from this B-24 was recovered and buried in Marine Cemetery no. 33 at plot 13, row 3, grave 2.
In March 1946 the graves of these crew members were exhumed and relocated to Lone Pine Cemetery on Tarawa (Betio). Afterwards, the remains of Busch were exhumed and transported to U. S. Army Mausoleum at Schofield Barracks on Oahu then transported to the United States for permanent burial
The six crew killed in the crash were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Four of the crew remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA): Underwood, Bailey, Rogers, Van Vleet. All four are memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at the court of the missing. Underwood and Van Vleet on court 5.
Bailey and Rogers on court 7. Rogers also has a memorial marker cenotaph at Yorks Corners Cemetery, Willing, New York.
Horney is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lebanon, PA.
Busch is buried in a private cemetery in New York State.
LaSota is buried at Holy Trinity Cemetery in Royalton, MN.
Underwood has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery with a military funeral on March 14 2017 attended by his brother.
Skaalen passed away November 30, 1999. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at section CBE, row 2, site 180.
At the March Field Air Museum (March AFB Museum) is a display devoted to SSgt Vincent J. Rogers Jr., located in the main hanger, west wall. The exhibit was completed in 2015 and includes Rogers' personal letters home,
a B-24 turret plus six 8' x 4' interpretive panels.
Staff Sergeant Vincent J. Rogers Jr.
The final phase of the Main Hangar west wall is the personal story of Staff Sergeant Vincent J. Rogers Jr. 30th Bomb Group, World War 2 who trained at March Field in 1943. SSgt. Roger’s captivating personal letters form the basis of this engaging, entertaining and ultimately heartbreaking exhibit. Nearly lost, his letters were saved through the intercession of the March Field Air Museum staff and have been developed into a comprehensive telling of the common man’s experience of war. The exhibit takes SSgt Rogers from his enlistment to radio and air gunner training, B-24 familiarization at March Field to combat in the South Pacific. Six 8’ by 4’ interpretive panels with their associated artifacts, graphics, letters and sound form the exhibit along with a newly restored B-24 gun turret.
Status: Exhibit Complete 2015
George Underwood (brother of Donald E. Underwood)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Morris A. Skaalen
World War II Army Enlistment Records - Carl A. Swalberg
Missing Air Crew Report 2818 (MACR 2818) date of report February 25, 1944
AFHRA "38th Bombardment Squadron (H) January 1944, IRISNUM: 00043992
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF)
- Howard T. Lurcott pages 29-34
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Donald E. Underwood
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - John S. Bailey
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Vincent J. Rogers Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - George Van Vleet Jr.
Capt Morris Arnold "Mike" Skaalen (photos)
FindAGrave - 2LT Donald Eugene Underwood (photos)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Donald E Underwood (photos, courts of the missing photos)
FindAGrave - TSGT Edward A Horney (photo, grave photo)
TSGT John S Bailey (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Jack R Busch
FindAGrave - SSgt Vincent Jerome Rogers, J (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Vincent Jerome Rogers, Jr (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - SSGT Thomas E LaSota
Capt George Van Vleet, Jr (photo, courts of the missing photo)
Sake Denched Postcards - The Guns of Betio includes photos of this B-24 wreckage
Los fantasmas de Tarawa [The ghosts of Tarawa] includes photos of this B-24 wreckage
B-24 Liberator Units of the Pacific War page 37 (photo), 97 (index)
Thanks to Katherine Rasdorf, Pete Johnston and Bob Livingstone and Jeff Houlihan / March Field Museum for research and analysis
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May 22, 2017
Jan 21, 1944
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