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  B-26 Marauder Serial Number 40-1426  
USAAF
5th AF
22nd BG
19th BS

Click For Enlargement
Charles Darby 1974

Click For Enlargement
Richard Leahy 1982

Pilot  2nd Lt. Christian I. Herron, O-406130 (KIA, BR) Bellefonte, PA
Co-Pilot  Squadron Leader Charles R. Gurney, 160 RAAF (KIA, BR) Edgecliffe, NSW
Navigator  2nd Lt. Noel A. Wright (survived)
Bombardier
 2nd Lt. George D. Barnhill (survived)
Engineer  Pvt Nelson V. Donaldson (survived)
Radio  Sgt Robert F. Jordan (survived)
Gunner  Pvt Fred J. Mikels (survived) FL

Crashed  May 2, 1942
MACR  none

Crew History
Christian "Chris" Herron graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1938. Joined the US Army during 1940. Posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart.

Co-pilot Robert "Bob" R. Gurney was a prewar pilot for Qantas. In New Guinea he flew the Junker G.31 from Lae Airfield to Bulolo Airfield in support of gold mining operations during the 1930s. An experienced pilot, Gurney was assigned to fly as a co-pilot with the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) in New Guinea during 1942.

Aircraft History
Built by Martin. Constructor Number 1291. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26 Marauder 40-1426.

Wartime History
During February 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force, 22nd Bombardment Group, 19th Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot Powell. Flown overseas to Australia by 1st Lt. Perrie G. Powell. On March 24, 1942 arrived at Archerfield Airfield. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On May 2, 1942 took off from from Kila Kila (3-Mile) near Port Moresby on a bombing mission against Simpson Harbor off Rabaul. This was this B-26's first combat mission. Over the target, this B-26 was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Simpson Harbor and departed the target area on only one engine, gradually loosing altitude.

Reaching Kiriwina Island, the pilots attempted a wheels down emergency landing on the southern end of the island on what they thought was firm ground. Touching down on swampy ground, the landing gear collapsed and the bomber flipped over landing upside down. During the impact, both pilots Herron and Gurney were instantly killed. The rest of the crew escaped without serious injury.

Fates of the Crew
The rest of the crew were transported aboard a RAAF PBY Catalina back to Port Moresby and returned to duty.

Recovery of Remains
Gurney and Herron were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Both were recovered and temporarily buried in the cemetery at Milne Bay, with Gurney at grave no. 1.

Memorials
On September 14, 1942 No, 1 Strip (Fall River) off Milne Bay was officially renamed "Gurney Field" in his honor. Postwar, both dead crew members were permanently buried. Gurney is buried in Bomana War Cemetery at A3. D. 14. Herron is buried in Manila American Cemetery at Plot A Row 12 Grave 203.

Relatives
Chris Mikels (relative of Fred Mikels)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Christian I. Herron
WW2 Nominal Roll - Charles Raymond Gurney
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26 40-1426
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-26 40-1426
FindAGrave - Christian I. Herron
CWGC - Charles Raymond Gurney
Revenge of the Red Raiders page 13, 39-45, 63, 66-67, 70-72, 79-80, 82, 87-88, 472, 495, 547
Diaries of Eddie Allan Stantton page 27-29
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks page 41 (upper)
S/L Gurney via Wayback Machine October 27, 2009

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Last Updated
May 11, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-26

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