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  TBF-1 Avenger Bureau Number 06452  
USMC
1st MAW
MAG-11
VMTB-233

Pilot  1st Lt. Edward Albert Croker, O-14785 (POW executed February 21, 1944 / MIA) Eagle River, WI
Gunner
 Cpl William Lloyd Casper, 383805 (MIA / KIA) Garfield. ID
Radio
 Pfc Henry W. Schroeder, 447659 (MIA / KIA) Chicago, IL

Crashed  September 16, 1943


Aircraft History
Built by Grumman in Bethpage, New York as a model G-40. Constructors Number 4578. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as TBF-1 Avenger Bureau Number 06452. Shipped overseas to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Delivered to the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Assigned to 1st Marine Air Wing (1st MAW), Marine Air Group 11 (MAG-11) to squadron VMTB-233 "Bulldogs/Rainbow". No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On September 16, 1943 one of twelve Avengers from VMTB-233 that took off from Fighter One on Guadalcanal at 12:28pm piloted by 1st Lt. Edward Albert Croker on a bombing mission over Ballale Island. The weather was reported as good.

The formation of twenty-four Avengers also included six Avengers from U. S. Navy (USN) squadron VC-30 and six from VC-40. Each Avenger was armed with either four 500 pound bombs with an instantaneous fuse or a single 2,000 pound bomb with an instantaneous fuse.

Over the target, the formation experienced moderate, heavy and light and accurate anti-aircraft fire. This Avenger was last seen on the bomb run over the target. Damaged, Croker successfully bailed out. The other two crew members Casper and Schroeder did not make it out of the aircraft. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was TBF Avenger 23909 (MIA).

Fates of the Crew
Croker was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and transported aboard the Kokai Maru to Rabaul. Detained by the Japanese Navy Keibitai 81st Navy Guards Unit (81st Naval Garrison Unit). During January 1944, Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington and Croker were cell mates. On February 21, 1944 Croker was executed and his remains never recovered.

Memorials
Croker was officially declared dead on February 21, 1944. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Casper and Schroeder were officially declared dead on January 10, 1946. Both earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. All three are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Croker also has a memorial marker at Saint Peters Catholic Cemetery in Eagle River, WI at block 1, lot 25.
Casper also has a memorial marker at Rigby Pioneer Cemetery in Rigby, ID.

Relatives
Kurt Casper (nephew of Casper) adds:
"My uncle, USMC William Lloyd Casper, was the plane's gunner. My uncle and the radio man did not make it out of the plane. The pilot, Lt. E A Croker, was able to bailout but was captured by the Japanese and later died in a prison camp."

References
Fold3 NARA TBF Operations Guadalcanal Intelligence Report - September 16, 1943 pages 105-107
(Page 105-106) "September 16, 1943 Strike Ballale... Another TBF, piloted by Lt. E. A. Croker of VMTB-233, is unaccounted for. No one saw this plane after the dive, and its fate is undetermined."
(Page 107) "VMTB-233 - 06452 pilot Croker, radioman Schroeder, turret Casper, take off 1238, land ---"
Fold3 NARA "War Diary Strike Command July 26, 1943 - November 19, 1943 page 15
(Page 15) "September 16 [1943] - 30 SBDs and 24 TBF, proceeding via the Russells and picking up a fighter over of 73 F6Fs, F4Us and P40s at Munda, were over Ballale at 1450... Two TBFs are missing [including this aircraft]. Fighter cover shot down 7 Zekes and 4 Hamps, with 8 more probables. One F4U and four F6Fs were lost, but 3 of the pilots have been saved."
USMC Casualty Card - Edward Albert Croker
USMC Casualty Card - William Lloyd Casper
USMC Casualty Card - Henry W. Schroeder
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Edward A Croker
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward Albert Croker
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William Lloyd Casper
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry W. Schroeder
FindAGrave - 1Lt Edward Albert Croker (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Edward Albert Croker (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Corp William Lloyd Casper (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - CPL William Lloyd Casper (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Henry William Schroeder (photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Henry William Schroeder (photo)
Navy Serial Number Search Results TBF-1 Avenger 06452
Black Sheep One page 314 [Crocker sic]
Fold3 Edward Albert Croker (photo, documents)
Fold3 William Casper (photos, documents)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

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