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  PB4Y-2 Privateer Bureau Number 59563  
USN
VPB-106
"Wolverators"

Click For Enlargement
USN June 1, 1945

Click For Enlargement
USN June 1, 1945
Pilot  Commander Howard F. Mears, O-146555 (MIA / KIA) Norfolk, VA
Co-Pilot  Ensign Robert H. Decker, O-363688 USNR (MIA / KIA) Rochester, NY
Crew  Ensign Vernon H. Carlson, O-363909 USNR (MIA / KIA) Irene, SD
Crew  AMM1c Raymond B. McCabe, 2240862 USNR (MIA / KIA) NJ
Crew  AMM1c Joseph J. Reiter, 2440210 (MIA / KIA) PA
Crew  AR2c Paul Davis Jr., 6192215 USNR (MIA / KIA) CO
Crew  AMM2c Arthur J. George, 8323093 USNR (MIA / KIA) GA
Crew  AO2c Ernest L. Kitchen, 8747745 USNR (MIA / KIA) IN
Crew  AR3c Harold E. Capen Jr., 6097157 (MIA / KIA) Buffalo, NY
Crew  Doyle T. Morgan, 8445270 USNR (MIA / KIA) AR
Crew  FC1c Roy H. Blanton Jr., 5568651 USNR (MIA / KIA) Clearwater, FL
Tail Gunner  S1c Beauran R. O'Kane, 5657451 USNR (MIA / KIA) CA
Crashed  June 1, 1945 at 10:10am


Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation at San Diego as a model 32. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PB4Y-2 Privateer bureau number 59563.

Wartime History
Assigned to Patrol Bombing Squadron 106 "Wolverators" (VPB-106). No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On June 1, 1945 took off at 2:37am from Puerto Princesa Airfield on Palawan Island piloted by Commander Howard F. Mears with "crew no. 3 (crew III)" on a routine patrol, photographic reconnaissance mission with PB4Y-1 Liberator piloted by Lt(jg) Heyler over Singapore to photograph any of any Japanese Naval vessels in Singapore Harbor. This was to be Commander "Pappy" Mears last combat mission.

The formation was led by this Privateer plus PB4Y-1 Liberator piloted by Lt(jg) Heyler with crew no. 104 from VPB-111 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 the no. 3 engine of this Privateer. 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. The PB4Y-1 Liberator descended escorting the damaged Privateer 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 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 at roughly Lat 1.11' N Long 103.39 E at 10:10am. After the crash, there was no fire or explosion and debris was seen on the surface of the sea. When this aircraft failed to return, the entire crew was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

In total, the air combat lasted an hour and five minutes starting at 11,000' and continuing down to 1,000'. The Japanese fighters claimed this 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.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead on June 2, 1946. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Mears earned the Navy Cross (posthumously), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with Gold Star, Air Medal with two Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at lmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, VA at plot ext 16-L14.

Commander Howard F. Mears Navy Cross Citation:
"The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Howard Foster Mears (NSN: 0-146555), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Commander of a Navy Patrol Bomber Airplane in Patrol-Bombing Squadron ONE HUNDRED SIX (VPB-106), and as Leader of a two-plane section of Navy Search Bombers during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Singapore area, on 1 June 1945. Undertaking a vital observation and photographic mission to secure intelligence concerning hostile shipping, airfields and ground installations with particular regard to the location and condition of enemy heavy cruisers known to be at Singapore, Lieutenant Commander Mears coolly persisted in his mission until the desired information was obtained despite intense and continuous opposition from the enemy's powerful ship and shore batteries and impending attack from a vastly superior and rapidly increasing number of Japanese fighter planes. By skillfully coordinating the maneuvers of his two planes, he avoided damage from the concentrated anti-aircraft barrage and enabled both planes to continue their observation and photography until a hostile fighter scored a hit from extreme range, causing his number three engine to burst into flames and the plane to lose altitude. Undaunted by incessant attacks upon his crippled plane, Lieutenant Commander Mears successfully repulsed the enemy onslaught by skillfully directing the combined fire of his two bombers and, although losing altitude constantly, continued to hold his course until flames from the temporarily feathered engine fanned out again and the starboard wing broke off, forcing him into the water from the perilously low altitude of three hundred feet. By his brilliant combat tactics and superb airmanship, Lieutenant Commander Mears made possible the collection of information which was of inestimable value to the Allied forces and his inspiring leadership and unwavering devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Decker earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with Gold Star, Air Medal with three Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Carlson earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with Gold Star, Air Medal with three Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD.

McCabe earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Reiter earned no awards (entitled to the Purple Heart, posthumously).

Davis earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

George earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, GA.

Kitchen earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Gold Stars (entitled to the Purple Heart, posthumously). He also has a memorial marker at Decatur Cemetery in Decatur, IN.

Capen earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Morgan earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Pine Log Cemetery in Barber, AR.

Blanton earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with four Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously.

O'Kane earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Gold Stars and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at section MK, site 119.

Relatives
Jeff O'Kane (great nephew of O'Kane):
"My entire family just submitted DNA to DPAA, hoping our family members remains from WW2 will someday be found. I am so happy for these families."

References
Navy Serial Number Search Results - PB4Y-2 Privateer 59563

"59563 (VPB-106) shot down by fighters over Singapore June 11, 1945. All crew KIA."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List June 1945 PB4Y-2 59563 VPB-106 CDR H.F. MEARS
VPB-106 Aircraft Action Report No. 36 (AAR No. 36) June 1, 1945
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
Privateer in the Coconut Navy page 74 (photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard F. Mears
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert H. Decker

American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Vernon H. Carlson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Raymond B. McCabe

American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph J. Reiter
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul Davis Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur J. George
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ernest L. Kitchen
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold E. Capen Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Doyle T. Morgan
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Roy H. Blanton Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Beauran R. O'Kane
FindAGrave - LtCdr Howard Foster Mears (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - LCDR Howard Foster Mears (memorial marker photo, Navy Cross Citation)
FindAGrave - Ens Robert Harry Decker (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ens Vernon H Carlson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ens Vernon Holt Carlson (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - AMM1 Raymond B McCabe (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM1 Joseph J Reiter (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - ARM2 Paul Davis, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM2 Arthur J George (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Arthur Jackson George (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - AOM2 Ernest L Kitchen (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ernest L. Kitchen (photo, memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - ARM3 Harold E Capen, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM3 Doyle T Morgan (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Doyle Truman Morgan (photo, memorial marker)
FindAGrave - FC1 Roy H Blanton, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - S1 Beauran R O'Kane (obituary, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Beauran Roy O'Kane (photos, memorial marker photo)
Briefing "Photo Reconnaissance of Singapore, 1 June 1945" by Harvey Roscoe Spring 1988 page 15-17
VPNavy "VPB-106 Memorial - VPB-106 Crew-3 In Memorium"
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 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)
Facebook "Beauran O’Kane, History of A Privateer from Vpb-106."
Above an Angry Sea Men and Missions of the United States Navy’s PB4Y-1 Liberator and PB4Y-2 Privateer Squadrons Pacific Theater: October 1944–September 1945 by Alan C. Carey mentions this loss
KBAK "Family Searches For WWII Crash Site - O'Kane Family Relative Shot Down Over Pacific" May 30, 2018
VPNavy VPB-106 Memorial - VPB-106 Crew-3 - In Memorium - VPB-106 Crew-3
DPAA - Personnel Profile - SEA1 Beauran R OKane (photo)
Thanks to Jeff O'Kane for additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019

 

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