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  PB4Y-1 Liberator Bureau Number 31940  
USMC
MAW-1
VMD-154

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego as Consolidated Aircraft Corporation Model 32. Constructors Number 741. Assigned to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-13-CO Liberator serial number 41-23946.

Wartime History
Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PB4Y-1 Liberator bureau number 31940. Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to squadron VMD-154. No known nickname or nose art. One of two PB4Y-1 Liberators ferried overseas from NAS San Diego via Hawaii and New Caledonia and Bomber 2 on Espiritu Santo.

On December 29, 1942 took off from Bomber 2 on Espiritu Santo piloted by 2nd Lt. Gordon E. Gray on a solo photographic reconnaissance mission over Munda Airfield on New Georgia. The crew included co-pilot Lt. Earl C. Miles, engineer Sgt. "Andy" Anderson, photographer/right waist gunner TSgt Leverett Jones, photographer George H. Brown, tail gunner Pfc Jack Tarver, crew chief TSgt "Pappy" Caudle, radio Sgt. Harry Schaub and nose gunner Pfc. Dennis Johnson.

Over the target at 12,000', the weather was low scattered clouds and began the photographic run and were intercepted by what they claimed to be twelve Hamps [A6M3 Zeros]. After completing the photographic run, Gray went to full power and dove to escape and maneuvered violently at low level above the sea. The Zeros began making frontal attacks damaging the bomber. Gray was wounded in his left forearm by shrapnel during a frontal attack and a second time from a 7.7mm bullet. Finally, the Zeros departed.

In fact, they were intercepted by nine A6M3 Zeros from the 204 Kōkūtai took off from Kahili Airfield (Buin Airfield) on a patrol and sited this bomber at 11:20am. This bomber was claimed by Sigato Ohichi. None of the Zeros were shot down. Afterwards, they landed at Munda Airfield to refuel then returned to Kahili Airfield (Buin Airfield).

Returning from the mission, the damaged bomber landed at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The hydraulic system was damaged and the landing gear was extended manually. A warning light indicated the nose wheel was not locked down before making a straight in approach to land while the rest of the crew braced in the rear of the plane. After a safe landing, Miles, Gray and Schaub were given medical treatment. The bomber was riddled with bullet holes and towed off the runway.

Afterwards, temporary repairs were made including using a piece of a Quonset hut as a temporary repair on the nose. On January 4, 1943 after being repaired and the pilots were out of the hospital, this bomber was flown by the crew back to Bomber 2 on Espiritu Santo. Afterwards, Schaub returned to the United States for additional treatment. Gray required additional hospitalization in Australia then later returned to duty.

This bomber returned to the United States. On January 31, 1945 stricken off charge (SOC) at NAS Pensacola.

Memorials
Miles was promoted to a Major and served in the Korean War. He was killed in a crash in Korea on May 29, 1952. He is buried at Loma Vista Memorial Park in Fullerton, CA.
Brown passed away August 15, 2014.
Gray passed away on November 8, 2016.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D Liberator 41-23946
Navy Serial Number Search Results PB4Y-1 Liberator 31940
Kodochosho, 204 Kōkūtai, December 29, 1942
We Flew Alone page 13-14

VMD-154 "Gordon E. Gray & George H. Brown Memoir"
FindAGrave - Gordon Emerson Gray (photos)
FindAGrave - Maj Earl Clarence Miles (grave photo)
FindAGrave - George H. Brown (photo)
Legacy - George H. Brown obituary

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Last Updated
January 31, 2018

 

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