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  B-24J-170-CO Liberator Serial Number 44-40596  
13th AF
5th BG
72nd BS

Pilot  1st Lt. Grant M. Rea, O-684047 (MIA / POW, executed circa September 1944) Montebello, CA
Co-Pilot  1st Lt. William H. Moe, O-692807 (MIA / KIA) Chicago, IL
Navigator  1st Lt. Henry M. Blanchard II, O-691699 (MIA / KIA) Chattanooga, TN
Bombardier  1st Lt. Judd C. Sempel, O-685036 (MIA / KIA) Seattle, WA
Engineer  TSgt Ernest R. Pennington, 35637050 (MIA / KIA) Charleston, WV
Asst. Engineer  SSgt Von O. Hedrick, 14165136 (MIA / KIA) Thomasville, NC
Radio  SSgt Gregory Lecakes, 12128256 (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Asst. Radio  SSgt Reuben M. Evans, 34396817 (MIA / KIA) Phoenix City, AL
Gunner  SSgt Joel M. Matthews, 14128920 (MIA / KIA) Meansville, GA
Gunner  SSgt Earl R. Curry, 36014451
(MIA / POW, executed circa September 1944) Monmouth, IL
MIA  August 25, 1944
MACR  8873

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24J-170-CO Liberator Serial Number 44-40596. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 5th Bombardment Group, 72nd Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. This bomber was also known by the last three digits of the serial number "596". When lost, engines R-1830-65A serial numbers BP-440025, BP-441453, BP-440035 and BP-440003. Ten .50 caliber machine guns were aboard, serial numbers unknown.

Mission History
On August 25, 1944 took off from Wakde Airfield between 6:59am to 7:04am on a bombing mission against Koror Island in Palau. The weather was 2/10 cumulus clouds at 5,000' to 8,000' with slight alto-stratus layer at 10,000'. This B-24 was flying in the last element of the lead squadron as the no. 6 plane.

During the bomb run, the formation experienced heavy anti-aircraft fire. After bombing the target at 11:23, the formation was intercepted by 8-10 enemy fighters thought to be Zeros. A single Zero attacked from a cloud over the formation and was not spotted before it was diving down on this bomber, hitting it with gunfire and causing a fire.

This B-24 was apparently hit in the bomb bay and holes in the elevator and the no. 3 engine on fire. The waist gunners were observed to throw equipment out it before both bailed out. Also, the co-pilot was observed to bail out of the cockpit window, hit the tail rudder and was pulled off when his parachute opened. The bomber appeared to have all engines feathered and nosed down before disappearing into a cloud bank. Another bomber in the formation observed the plane falling out of formation in flames and crashed into the sea at approximately 11:32am at roughly 7° 9' N 134° 46' E into the sea southeast of Koror Island and Babelthuap Island.

One piece of wreckage hit a small marsh and a parachute descended into the water and a sea marker was observed after the parachute landed. Two other parachutes were observed but were not seen to land.

Fates of the crew
The co-pilot and right waist gunner parachuted successfully and landed near the Gadaraku anchorage. Curry was injured in the right arm and on the right side of his back and was captured by a landing craft then treated by the medical officer of the 45th Guard Unit. Rea was captured by Sub Chaser #12. Both became Prisoners of War (POW) and were likely detained at Kempeitai (military police) headquarters. According to the official Japanese POW report, both prisoners were placed on Uruppu Maru along with three other prisoners: Roeder, MacMahon and Black bound for Davao. This official statement was false. Instead, both were executed by the Kempeitai at Ngatpang (Gasupan Hill) on Babelthuap.

The entire crew was officially declared dead on February 27, 1946. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at MAC.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24J-170-CO Liberator 44-40596
"40596 (5th BG) lost Aug 25, 1944, South Spacific. MACR 8873"
Missing Air Crew Report 8873 (MACR 8873)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Grant M. Rea
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William H. Moe Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry M. Blanchard II

American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Judd C. Sempel
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ernest R. Pennington
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Von O. Hedrick
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gregory Lecakes
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Reuben M. Evans
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joel M. Matthews
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl R. Curry
FindAGrave - 1Lt Grant M Rea (tablets of the missing)
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BentProp "V. P-MAN II Expedition: Proposed Trip Agenda and Goals (at Initiation)"
BentProp "P-MAN XI POW Mission Report [PDF] page 8 March 3, 2009
Tia Belau “Search comes up blank” October 27, 2000 "one or possibly two B-24s that the Japanese anti-aircraft guns on 25 August [B-24J 44-40596] and a second on 1 September 1944 [B-24J 42-73453]"

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Last Updated
June 25, 2018


Tech Information

10 Missing
2 Prisoners

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