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  PB4Y-1 Liberator Bureau Number 31947  
USN
VP-51
(VB-101)

Pilot  Lt(jg) Donald H. Lehman, O-146519 (MIA / KIA) San Diego, CA
Co-Pilot  Lt(jg) Howard R. May, O-106186 (MIA / KIA) Holtville, CA
Crew  Ensign Charles Edward Heintzelman Jr., O-157307 (MIA / KIA) Massillon, OH
Crew  Ensign Joseph F. Winters, O-125232 (MIA / KIA) Centerville, Illinois
Crew  AR1c Gerald T. Granat, 3822054 (MIA / KIA) Studio City, CA
Crew  AMM1c Fernando P. Spadoni, 2125324 (MIA / KIA) Hopedale, MA
Crew  AO2c Anthony N. Cortese, 2506452 (MIA / KIA) Dunbar, PA
Crew  AMM2c Arthur J. Valhusky, 3722907 (MIA / KIA) Rock Springs, WY
Crew  AMM2c William E. Webber, 2686058 (MIA / KIA) Lyons , GA
Crew  AR2c George C. Wilson, 4051004 (MIA / KIA) Oakly, NJ
Crew  AMM3c Hulin O. Moore, 3825595 (MIA / KIA) San Bernardino, CA
Crew  AO2c John J. Colby, 2240632 (MIA / KIA) New York, NY

MIA  March 5, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army as B-24D-15-CO Liberator serial number 41-24050. Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PB4Y-1 Liberator bureau number 31947. Assigned to VB-101 later redesignated VP-51. No known nickname or nose art. Officially, this aircraft was stricken off charge (SOC) on March 26, 1943.

On January 13, 1943 took off piloted by Lt. Stuart T. Cooper with AMM2c James J. Curry plus six others on a flight that lasted 0.2 hours.

Mission History
On March 5, 1943 one of nine PB4Y-1 Liberators from VB-101 that took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal at 1:30am piloted by Lt(jg) Donald H. Lehman and his crew were from VB-102 on a mission to bomb Japanese shipping in Tonolei Harbor near Buin (Kahili) on southern Bougainville. Five bombers were armed with twenty flares to illuminate the target area and four bombers were armed with eight 500 pound bombs.

Over the target, five PB4Y-1 armed with flares flew along the southern coast of Bougainville and released their fares from 14,000' to 10,000' at half mile intervals to illuminate the area from Buin to Tonolei Harbor set to ignite at 3,000' and illuminated the area during 4:00am to 4:20am.

Visibility was unrestricted, except for the darkness and a slight haze over southern coast. No Japanese shipping was observed in the area. Several searchlights came on from Buin to Kahili area and light anti-aircraft fire was noted.

The four PB4Y-1 armed with bombs made runs over the illuminated area but failed to find any Japanese ships to bomb. Two instead proceeded to Ballale Island. One bombed the eastern end from 7,000'. The other bombed from 8,000' and apparently missed with its bombs falling into the sea. During their attack, a searchlight from Ballale came on and several bursts of anti-aircraft fire were noted.

When this bomber failed to return the entire crew was declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was PB4Y-1 31948 (MIA). No trace of either planes or their crews was ever located.  Their loss may have been due to a collision between the two PB4Y's.  However, each plane may have been lost individually due to Japanese anti-aircraft fire, mechanical failure, weather or pilot error or other unknown circumstances.

On the return flight, one of the surviving PB4Y Liberators spotted a large fire, with pieces falling off around 1,200' between Cape Esperance and the Russell Islands. The seven surviving bombers landed at Henderson Field between 6:15am to 7:00am.

Memorials
The crew was officially declared dead on December 10, 1945. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. The crew was also memorialized on memorial to Patrol Squadron VP 11/54/51, VB 101, PATSU 1-2 at Bomber 2 Airfield on Espiritu Santo.

Lehman also has a memorial marker at Violett Cemetery in Goshen, IN at plot new north, row 34, lot 412.
Heintzelman also has a memorial marker at Union Lawn Cemetery in Navarre, OH.
Valhusky also has a memorial marker at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Riverton, WY.
Valhusky also has another memorial marker at Mount Hope Cemetery in Lander, WY.
Webber also has a memorial at Hardens Chapel United Methodist Church Cemetery in Johnson Corner, GA.

References
Note, many published sources and some wartime records incorrectly give the date of losses as March 3, 1943.
Jim Sawruk adds: "Lehman and crew came from VB-102. Two crews were sent from them and appear as VP-51 crews in the records."
Flight Log Book, AMM2c James J. Curry from USN VP-51 via Bill Petrolino flights aboard "31947" January 13, 1943
NARA VB-101 Action Report March 5, 1943 page 1
"Strike: Primary target shipping Buin - Kahili. Secondary targets - Kahili, Ballale, Villa, Munda Airfields.
Nine PB4Y1s took off Henderson Field, Cactus 0105 to 01030 L."
NARA "MAW-2 War Diary - March, 1943" pages 36-35
“March 5, 1943: Operations: of 9 PB4Y’s out, 2 failed to return. These 2 apparently set off large fires at Kihili [sic] at 0400.”
Wakarusa Tribune "Goshen Pilot Declared Dead" January 10, 1946
"Goshen - Lt Donald H. Lehman who was reported missing in action in the Pacific March 5, 1943, is now presumed died, according to a letter received Saturday by his mother, Mrs. Naomi J Lehman, from Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. Lt Lehman was pilot of a navy Liberator bomber. Although he had been on the list of missing for almost 3 years the letter received Saturday gave the first official details of the circumstances surrounding Lt Lehman's disappearance. The letter said: 'In the early morning of March 5, 1943 the plane in which your son was flying took off from Henderson field, Guadalcanal, in a flight of 9 bombing planes, to participate in a strike against enemy shipping inn the Buin-Kahili (Bougainville) area. The weather at the time was good and visibility was clear. Some of the planes dropped flares over the target area, and when enemy searchlights came on, light anti-aircraft fire was encountered. After making runs over the illuminated area the planes proceeded to Ballale. In the mist of intense enemy anti-aircraft fire, many bombs were dropped on the target. It is believed that the plane in which your son was flying was hit and crashed.' Lt Lehman's wife and daughter, Jean, are now living in San Diego, Cal."
USAF Serial Number Search Results B-24D-15-CO Liberator 41-24050 to US Navy as PB4Y-1 BuNo 31947
Navy Serial Number Search Results PB4Y-1 Liberator 31947 (ex B-24D 41-24050) SOC Mar 26, 1943 with VB-101
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List March 1943 PB4Y-1 31947 date of loss March 5, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Donald H. Lehman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard R. May
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles E. Heintzelman Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph F. Winters
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gerald T. Granat
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Fernando P. Spadoni
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Anthony N. Cortese
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur J. Valhusky
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William E. Webber
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George C. Wilson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Hulin O. Moore
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John J. Colby
FindAGrave - LtJG Donald H Lehman (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Donald H Lehman (obituary)
FindAGrave - Donald H Lehman (memorials photo)
FindAGrave - LtJG Howard R May (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ens Charles E J Heintzelman (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Charles E. Heintzelman, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Ens Joseph F Winters (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - ARM1 Gerald T Granat (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM1 Fernando P Spadoni (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AOM2 Anthony N Cortese (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM2 Arthur J Valhusky (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Arthur J Valhusky (Odd Fellows Cemetery memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Arthur J. Valhusky (Mount Hope Cemetery memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - AMM2 William E Webber (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - William E. Webber (memorial marker photos)
FindAGrave - ARM2 George C Wilson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM3 Hulin O Moore (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AOM2 John J Colby (tablets of the missing)
We Flew Alone page 14, (appendix A) 101

Thanks to Richard Dunn, Edward Rogers and Jim Sawruk for additional information.

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

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MIA
MIA
12 Missing

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