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  B-24J-200-CO "Woody Woodpecker" Serial Number 44-41179 Nose 179
USAAF
13th AF
307th BG
424th BS

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Wallacea Dive 2003

Pilot  2nd Lt. Lee R. Dukes, O-2058740 (survived)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. William P. Barner, O-929401 (KIA, BR) Decatur, IL
Navigator  F/O George O. Vetter, Jr., T-132407 (MIA / KIA) Ridgefield, CT
Bombardier  1st Lt William Greenburg, O-926933 (survived)
Engineer  TSgt Dionicic Castillo, 38553542 (survived)
Asst Engineer  SSgt Clifford E. Gillinghauer, 33874030 (survived)
Radio  TSgt Frank L. Savino, 33762578 (KIA, BR) Altoona, PA
Asst Radio  SSgt Henry L. Burkhalter, 39556454 (survived)
Gunner  SSgt James J. Shea, Jr., 31417078 (survived)
Armorer Gunner  SSgt Albert M. Edwards, 38392663 (KIA, BR) Munroe, LA
Photographer  SSgt Jack W. Smalling, 18005030 (KIA, BR) Corsicana, TX

Crashed  May 9, 1945
MACR  14413

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

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 307th Bombardment Group, 424th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Woody Woodpecker" with the nose art of the Warner Brothers cartoon character and the nickname in red lettering. Nose number "179" in red outlined in black. This B-24 flew extensive bombing missions. When lost, engines R-1830-65 serial numbers 42-87752, 42-40548, 42-92508 and BP-427365. Aboard were .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers 1253664, 12537, 391090, 365299, 1253792, 12534, 1253662, 1538889, 1254204 and 1254983.

Mission History
On May 9, 1945 one of two B-24s that took off from Pitu Airfield on Morotai on a shipping search over the Makassar Straits. The weather was 2/10 low cumulus clouds at 3,000'. Over the target, this B-24 was damaged by anti-aircraft fire forcing it to feathered the no. 4 engine which had lost all oil and fuel pressure and jettison its remaining seven 250 pound bombs into the Makassar Straits The no. 1 engine was also damage and began smoking and loosing oil pressure, but continued to run.

The B-24 was able to maintain an altitude of 10,000' flying at 135mph. All jettisonable equipment was thrown out to lighting the load. At approximately Lat 3° S Long 120° E the damaged no. 1 lost power and the power on the remaining two engines were increased, allowing it to reach the Gulf of Tomini. Finally, the no. 2 engine began to smoke and the crew prepared to bail out over the Togian Islands near Celebes. At 6:50pm, the crew began to bail out from 9,000' with the aircraft in C-1. All eleven crew members successfully bailed out and landed on both Togian Island and Batoedaka Island.

Search
On May 10, 1945 a search mission was conducted by a OA-10A "Nurse Maid" 44-33928 piloted by Captain Humphreys from the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron. Spotting two parachute flares, the Catalina landed and three of the crew went ashore, rescuing one of the crew and informing natives to search for the other crew members. Taking off again in the afternoon, Humphreys spotted a signal mirror and dropped a message directing the survivors to a pickup point on the west coast. Returning on May 11, 1945 the same Catalina rescued five more of the crew. Resulting in the rescue of Durkes, Greenburg, Shea, Gillinghauer, Costello and Burkhalter.

Memorials
The four crew members that died were officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, all were transported to the Philippines or the United States for permanent burial.
Savino is buried at Manila American Cemetery at Plot D Row 14 Grave 26.
Barner is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot Q 1332.
Barner also has a memorial marker at Graceland Cemetery at the memorial circle in section b and d.
Vetter is buried at Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, New York at lot 806, map 4.
Edwards is buried at Mulhearn Memorial Park Cemetery in Monroe, LA.
Smalling is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana, TX.

Wreckage
The crash site of this B-24 was discovered intact in the sea. One of the tail turret machine guns is still in place.

References
Missing Air Crew Report 14413 (MACR 14413)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank L. Savino
FindAGrave - TSgt Frank L Savino (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lieut William P Barner (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut William P. Barner (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - George O Vetter, Jr (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Albert M Edwards (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Jack W. Smalling (grave photo)
2nd ERS Mission Report 10 May 1945
"10 MAY 1945 - Captain Lloyd R. "Chief" Humphreys, pilot of "Playmate 41", departed Morotai at 0443, arriving over the Togian Island group at 0730, where he began a search of the island. Captain Humphreys flew up and down the valleys and around all of the bays. Finally, at 0817, he sighted two parachute flares. Fixing the spot, he continued his search and at 0910 landed in a lagoon in the middle of the islands. Three officers went ashore to search for the survivors. A native led them about two and one half miles inland, where they found the man who had signaled them. He was unhurt and returned to the ship with the search party, arriving at 1200. During the absence of the landing party, Captain Humphreys interrogated the natives and with difficulty extracted a promise that they would assist in finding any remaining survivors and conceal them until they could be rescued.
Captain Humphreys took-off again at 1253 in search for more survivors. The rescued survivor, who was the pilot of the crashed plane, directed Captain Humphreys to the possible positions of the remaining crew members. At 1300, they spotted mirror flashes and four more survivors. He landed at 1307 on the northern shore of Paloedal Island and picked up five more survivors of the lost crew. Captain Humphreys took-off again at 1330 and continued the search, sighting mirror flashes at 00° 25'S, 121° 55'E. He dropped a message to the survivor directing him to the west coast where he would be picked up on the morning of 11 May. At 1430, having received an urgent message concerning a possible Snafu, Captain Humphreys set course to intercept them and at 1525 picked up their IFF and followed them to their base at Morotai, arriving at 1800 with six survivors who were as follows: (P) Lt Lee R. Durkes, Lt W. Greenburg, S/SGT James J. Shea, S/SGT C.E. Gillinghauer, T/SGT C. Costello and S/SGT N.L. Burkhalter, all members of the 424th Bomb Squadron.
Lt Durkes, pilot of the ill-fated B-24, stated that while on a bombing run over Makassar, one engine was shot out and on the way home another engine went out forcing them to bail out over the Togian Islands at dusk on 9 May 1945. He flew on a course of 180° and all members escaped from the ship. The pilot was the last one to leave and landed on the south side of the island. The crew was scattered over a distance of 25 miles. Throughout the night, the survivors remained where they landed and at daylight headed for the beach, five of them finally forming into a group on the north shore where they were rescued. The remaining five crew members were ultimately found by the natives and taken to a previously designated village. Unfortunately, however, the Japs learned of their presence and attacked the village, killing four of the airmen and wounding and capturing the fifth. The natives were willing to help our airmen, but were in mortal fear of the Japs, which accounted for their reluctance to assist.
Rescued B-24 crew: (P) Lt Lee R. Durkes [sic], Lt W. Greenburg, S/SGT James J. Shea, S/SGT C.E. Gillinghauer, T/SGT C. Costello and S/SGT N.L. Burkhalter, all members of the 424th Bomb Squadron.
AIRCRAFT: OA-10A 44-33928 "Nurse Maid" CALLSIGN: "PLAYMATE 41" CREW: (P) Cpt Lloyd R. Humphreys, (CP) 2Lt Jay K. Brockett, (N) 2Lt Wayne K. Warner, (E) Cpl Stewart, (R) Pfc Mason, (Rad) Sgt Therrien, (FS) Cpt James O. Fields"

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

Tech Information
B-24
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