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  TBF-1 Avenger Bureau Number 23909  
USN
VC-40

Pilot  Lt(jg) Roland D. Hahn, O-121709 (MIA / KIA) WI
Gunner  AMM2c William M. Ellis Jr., 2240025 (MIA / KIA) Metuchen, NJ
Radio  ARM2c Richard T. Dunn, 6142032 USMCR (MIA / KIA) OH
Observer
  AMM1c Charles E. Wells, 3423028 (MIA / KIA) MO

Crashed  September 16, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) to squadron VC-40. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On September 16, 1943 took off from Fighter One on Guadalcanal at 12:32pm piloted by Lt(jg) Rowland D. Hahn on a bombing mission over Ballale Island. Also aboard was observer AMM1C Charles E. Wells.

Over the target at 2,000' this aircraft released its bomb which exploded prematurely under the plane, blowing off one of the wings. The Avenger was observed to crash into the sea off the southeastern shore of the island. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was TBF 06452 (MIA).

Dr. J. Donald Zollinhofer, ADRC adds:
"I am Mark Zollinhofer, eldest son of Don/Chief/Zolly, whose records contain this information. His wife, my mother, is Ruth Anne Lowe Zollinhofer. My father, Joseph Donald Zollinhofer, was a turret gunner of TBFs in san VC-40, based in September 1943 on Guadalcanal out of Henderson Field (Cactus). His flight with Pilot Lecklider and Radioman Art DeMott were the lead plane of that flight. My dad saw 23909 drop into a bombing run and then the plane was hit, lost a wing, rolled over, and exploded, hitting the water about 1/4 mile off the island of Ballale. The men were declared MIA. My dad wrote letters to Melvin Ellis' family and girl friend, and 3 1/2 years later married her after exchanging many, many letters, which I'm reading now. I'm going through my dad's papers and uncovered a note in his handwriting (he died 2010/9/1 at 95 yrs) indicating the personnel on that flight. They were listed as: Hahn, pilot, M. Ellis, gunner (Dad's good friend - on their second sortie) full name William Melvin Ellis, Jr. of Metuchen, NJ, Wells, observer and R. T. Dunn, radioman."

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead on September 17, 1944. All earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. All four are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

References
Fold3 NARA TBF Operations Guadalcanal Intelligence Report - September 16, 1943 pages 105-107
(Page 105-106) "September 16, 1943 Strike Ballale... One TBF was flying at a low altitude across the island [Ballale] when an explosion, apparently from two bombs which it had just dropped, blew off its right wing, flipped it over on its back and sent it crashing into the water at which time it burst into flames. The pilot was Lt. (jg) Rowland [sic] D. Hahn, AV(N), USMCR. The crew consisted of W. M. Ellis, AMM2/c, turret gunner, R. T. Dunn, ARM2/c, radioman and C. E. Wells, AMM1/c who was riding as a passenger. This plane, pilot and crew were attacked to VC-40."
(Page 107) "VC-40 - 23909 pilot Hahn, radioman Dunn, turret Ellis, take off 1232, land ---"
USN loss list notes the pilot's first name as "Rowland" incorrectly
Donald Zollinhofer logbook, September 16, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Roland D. Hahn

American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - William M. Ellis Jr.

American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Richard T. Dunn
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - Charles E. Wells
FindAGrave - LtJG Roland D Hahn (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - AMM2 William M Ellis (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - ARM2 Richard T Dunn (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - AMM1 Charles E Wells (tablets of the missing)
Navy Serial Number Search Results TBF-1 Avenger 23909
Thanks to J. Donald Zollinhofer, ADRC for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
Avenger

MIA
MIA
4 Missing

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