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Built by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24 Liberator serial number unknown. Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PB4Y-1 Liberator bureau number unknown, five digits.
Assigned to Patrol Bombing Squadron 111 (VPB-111). No known nickname or nose art.
On June 1, 1945 took off at 2:37am from Puerto Princesa Airfield on Palawan Island piloted by Lt(jg) Heyler with "crew no. 104" on a photographic reconnaissance mission with PB4Y-2 Privateer 59563 over Singapore to photograph any of any Japanese Naval vessels in Singapore Harbor.
Aboard was "crew no. 104" pilot Lt(jg) Romayn F. Heyler, co-pilot Ensign Harvey H. Roscoe, navigator Lt. D. J. Quinlan, AMM1c V. J. Walters, AOM3c G. B. Barkley, AMM3c N. J. O'Rourke, AOM3c Gordon H. Lund, ARM1c R. C. Gonzalez, S1c W. L. Evans, ARM3c M. L. Travy, S1c E. S. Sruba and AMM2c T. D. Carlin.
Also aboard was photographer SSgt George D. Hayball, 36113556 (2nd Photo Charting Squadron, 311th Mapping and Reconnaissance Wing) who volunteered to fly the mission and installed K-17 aerial cameras in the waist window for photography. In preparation for fighter interception, the crew brought along extra .50 caliber ammunition.
The formation was led by PB4Y-2 Privateer 59563 piloted by Mears with this Liberator to perform the photographic reconnaissance with the Privateer providing increased defensive firepower in case of fighter interception.
Inbound to the target, the Liberators and Privateer would approach the target area separately and rendezvous over the Singapore Strait then circle Singapore counter clockwise for the photographic run at 10,000'. By dawn, the formation reached Anambas Islands and joined two Liberators to perform the photo reconnaissance on a parallel course about 15 miles apart and joined in a loose formation.
As they crossed the Malay coastline, they closed into a tight formation with this Privateer leading and reached Cape Punggai at 9:15am. At roughly the same time, two Ki-43 Oscars were spotted a distance away but made no effort to come closer. Flying at an altitude of 11,000' the formation was over Kong Kong and the western side of the Johore River when heavy anti-aircraft guns in the Navy yard and from aboard a cruiser at anchor opened fire on the formation with accurate altitude but did not have the correct deflection the closest round exploding 150 yards away. It was believed the Ki-43 Oscars might have been relaying altitude information and the formation changed altitude by 500' to spoil the gunner's aim.
Two more Ki-43 Oscars were spotted above in front and the gunners manned their guns for 20 minutes and at 9:40am one of them made an attack run, opening fire out of gun range with his 20mm cannons from 1 o'clock and scored hits on PB4Y-2 Privateer 59563 no. 3. The Oscar was fired on by the formation as it passed below. This Privateer's damaged no. 3 engine caught fire over Johore and began loosing altitude. This PB4Y-1 descended escorting as both bombers turned towards the southwest around Singapore.
A dozen Oscars and a Hamp made at least three more fighter attacks but repelled by defensive gunfire. One Oscar attacked from 1 o'clock high but broke off at 200' diving away. Another made a feint then a snap roll and attempted a low port side run that was repelled. Another Oscar was shot down that was believed to be the one that had made the initial attack that damaged the engine when it made an attack from 1 o'clock, broke of trailing smoke, pulled up in a stall, flipped over and dove into the sea. A photograph showed this Oscar in a dive at 300' before it crashed into the sea. All the while, anti-aircraft fire from vessels in Singapore Harbor were firing at the bombers.
At 3,000' the PB4Y-2 Privateer 59563 no. 3 engine flames appear to go out and the engine was feathered, but flames broke out again and Mears radioed Heyler stating: "I'm sorry but I am going to have to ditch. Thank you for the way you stuck with me." At the same moment, the no. 4 engine cut out and the glide increased rapidly at an altitude of roughly 1,000' then the right wing broke off between the two engines at about 300' and then flipped upside down, did a split-s and crashed into the Singapore Strait upside down.
The Japanese fighters claimed the PB4Y-2 as shot down by Flight Pilot Sergeant Okubayashi over the sea of Muantan on the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula and also claimed a "B-24" (PB4Y-1) shot down, erroneously.
In total, the air combat lasted an hour and five minutes starting at 11,000' and continuing down to 1,000'. During the combat, the gunners aboard this PB4Y-1 fired 4,000 rounds of ammunition. Setting a course back for base 1025 nautical miles away. This bomber jettisoned extra weight and released the bomb bay fuel tanks and had only 1165 gallons of fuel aboard.
Returning, this Liberator was low on fuel and leaned the fuel mixture to conserve as much gasoline as possible. Pilot Heyler radioed another PB4Y-2 Privateer piloted by Lt. Commander Gordon R. Egbert from VPB-111 that was to fly an afternoon reconnaissance over Singapore and advised him to abort his mission due to the presence of fighters, but he elected to continue his mission until they experienced bad weather and were unable to patrol beyond the Singapore Strait.
Returning alone, this PB4Y-1 landed back at Puerto Princesa Airfield at 4:49pm. The total flight duration was 14.2 hours. This PB4Y-1 returned without any injuries to the crew or damage aside from a missing trailing antenna hat the crew believed was shot off during the combat. The photographs taken by photographer SSgt George D. Hayball were immediately developed.
Afterwards, Lt(jg) Romayn Fred Heyler commended his crew stating:
"I want everyone to know that had it not been for the wonderful work of the crew we would have been able to make it. They fought and fought. Their work was outstanding. I particularly want to express my admiration for Norbert James O'Rourke, the top turret gunner. All of his ammunition was exhausted but extra rounds were available. While he fired one of his guns with one hand, he loaded it with the other. It was a wonderful example of quick and decisive thinking. If he had stopped firing to load both guns I am sure one of the Oscars would have gotten in to us."
Afterwards, at an award ceremony at Palawan Island two of the crew: Lt(jg) Romayn Heyler earned the Navy Cross and Ensign Harvey H. Roscoe earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
The ultimate fate of this PB4Y-1 is unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.
Heyler passed away January 12, 1999. He is buried at Salem Lutheran Cemetery in Liberty, PA.
Roscoe passed away January 8, 2008. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 8-GG, row 8, site 4.
Lund passed away January 31, 2005. He is buried at Eagle Point National Cemetery in Eagle Point, OR.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George D. Hayball
VPB-111 Aircraft Action Report June 1, 1945
VPB-111 War Diary June 1945 page 3-4
The Syonan Shimbun [The Singapore Newspaper] "Two enemy B-24s, One PB4Y2 Shot Down in Waters Off Malai Coast" No. 782 June 1, 1945
VPNavy "VP Shipmate Directory" Lund, George H. AOM3
"...LUND, AOM3 Gordon H... I am sorry to report that my uncle Gordon Hugo Lund (VPB-111) passed away this morning in Klamath Falls, Oregon, January 31, 2005. He served with LTjg R. Fred Heyler on Palawon [sic] and was on the Liberator search plane piloted by Heyler when the Privateer piloted by Lieutenant Commander "Pappy" Mears went down in the South China Seas. Stewart Hedges [01FEB2005]"
VPNavy "The Navy Cross is presented to Romayn F. Heyler, Lieutenant" (photos)
VPNavy "The Story of One Eleven by Robert Wolport"
FindAGrave - Romayne Frederick Heyler (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harvey Henry Roscoe
FindAGrave - Gordon Hugo Lund, Sr (grave photo)
Thanks to Jeff O'Kane for additional information
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