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  PB4Y-1 Liberator Bureau Number 31960 Squadron Number 51-P-6
USN
VP-51 (VB-101)

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-25-CO Liberator serial number 41-24241.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Navy USN) as PB4Y-1 Liberator bureau number 31960. Assigned to squadron VP-101, later redesignated VP-51. No known nickname or nose art. Squadron number 51-P-6.

On January 4, 1943 took off from Barbers Point Airfield piloted by Lt. Hall with AMM2c James J. Curry plus five others on a navigation flight that lasted 0.2 hours.

During the middle of January 1943, ferried via Barbers Point Airfield across the Pacific Ocean flying via Palmyra Airfield, Canton Airfield, Nadi Airfield before arriving in the South Pacific at Bomber 2 Airfield (Pekoa Field) on Espiritu Santo then to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal to fly combat missions.

On January 28, 1943 took off piloted by Lt. Frank M. Fisler with AMM2c James J. Curry plus eight others on a flight that lasted 9.7 hours.

On February 14, 1943 "Saint Valentines Day Massacre" took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal piloted by Lt. James C. Nolan with a crew of ten armed with a single 1,000 pound bomb. One of nine PB4Y-1 Liberators on a daylight mission against enemy shipping off southern Bougainville in the Buin-Shortland area. The bombers were escorted by ten P-38s Lightnings from the 347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron plus twelve F4U Corsairs from VMF-124.

After the bomb run, the formation was intercepted by roughly thirty A6M Zeros and fifteen A6M2-N Rufe floatplanes from Shortland. During the combat, two Liberators were shot down, PB4Y-1 pilot Lt. Jay D, Bacon, Jr. or PB4Y-1 Liberator piloted by Lt. Stuart T. Cooper. One was shot down by head-on attack by enemy fighters over the target and crashed. The other crash landed or ditched off New Georgia. Due to the severe American losses, this mission became known as the "Saint Valentines Day Massacre".

The ultimate fate of this Liberator is unknown. Likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

Memorials
Nolan retired from the U. S. Navy as a Lieutenant Commander. He passed away on September 11, 1992. He is buried at O'ahu Cemetery in Honolulu, HI in section 7.

References
Diary of James C. Nolan - February 13, 1943 (Saturday) via This Damn Navy
Flight Log Book, AMM2c James J. Curry from USN VP-51 via Bill Petrolino flights aboard "31960" December 4, 1942 and January 28, 1943
USAF Serial Number Search Results B-24D-25-CO Liberator 41-24132 (to US Navy as PB4Y-1 BuNo 31960)
Navy Serial Number Search Results PB4Y-1 Liberator 31960 (ex USAAF B-24D 41-24132)
History of Patrol Squadron-11F, Patrol Squadron-54, Patrol Squadron-51, VB-101, PATSU 1-2, and CASU F-56
U. S. Navy Patrol Squadrons - VP-51 History
FindAGrave - LTC James C. Nolan (grave photo)
Thanks to Jim Sawruk for additional information

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Last Updated
February 14, 2018

 

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