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  TBF-1C Avenger Bureau Number 24264 Plane Number 102
1st MAW
USAAF c1944
Bob Halstead 2011

Rod Pearce April 2015

Pilot  1st Lt. James W. Boyden, O-017011 USMCR (MIA / KIA, BR) Daytona Beach, FL
Radio  Pfc Arthur J. Patrickus, 816591 USMCR (MIA / KIA) Detroit, MI
Gunner  Pfc Bernard C. Pardun, 468686 USMCR (MIA / KIA) Clarion, IN

Crashed  February 14, 1944

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman in Bethpage, New York as a model G-40. Constructors Number 5147. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as TBF-1C Avenger Bureau Number 24264. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 1 (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 11 (MAG-11), Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 233 "Bulldogs/Rainbow" VMTB-233. Plane Number 102. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On February 14, 1944 at 2:30am took off from Piva North Airfield (Piva Uncle) on Bougainville piloted by 1st Lt. James W. Boyden armed with one Mark 12-1 aerial parachute mine on a night mission to drop aerial mines into the northern half of Simpson Harbor near Rabaul.

Thirty TBF Avengers from VMTB-233 (twenty-eight with two spares) were scheduled to participate in the mission, but three did not get off with only twenty-seven proceeding on the mission. The formation was divided into three groups, this aircraft was part of "Group C".

The formation included "Group A" led by Major Coln with nine Avengers, "Group B" led by Captain Milling with eight Avengers with one aborting the mission and "Group C" led by Captain Voyles with ten Avengers. Over the target, diversionary raids were conducted by a PV-1 Ventura over Vunakanau Airfield and B-24s bomb Rabaul.

As the Avengers approached the target area, the Avengers were targeted by searchlights and intense anti-aircraft fire. At 4:15am, "Group C" was the last over the target area, approached at an altitude of 6,000' to 7,000' then dove down to 600' flying from east to west, crossing Crater Peninsula north of Mother Volcano then over the mouth of Sulpher Creek over the eastern edge of Simpson Harbor. Each aircraft was to release their aerial mine at a speed of less than 180 knots / 207 mph at an altitude of roughly 600'.

During the attack, this Avenger was likely hit by anti-aircraft fire and observed to swerve out of formation, and crashed into the eastern side of Simpson Harbor to the northwest of Lakunai Airfield.

In total, sixteen aerial mines were accounted for as dropped, one hung up, six were unaccounted for and two were not dropped. One plane was lost from "Group A" (attacking east to west at 2:00am), two planes were lost from "Group B" (attacking west to east at 3:10am) and three were lost including this aircraft from "Group C" (attacking east to west at 4:15am) the last over the target.

When this Avenger failed to return from the mission, the crew were officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). A total of six Avengers were lost including this aircraft plus TBF 47506 (POW/MIA), TBF 06311 (MIA), TBF 24340 (MIA), TBF 25327 (MIA) and TBF 25316 (MIA).

After the mission, six Avengers were reported as missing. At the time, four were reported lost due to anti-aircraft fire crashing in the following locations: 1) north shore of Simpson Harbor 2) center of Simpson Harbor 3) northwest end of Lakunai Airfield into Simpson Harbor (this aircraft) and 4) center of Blanche Bay east of Vulcan Crater.

This Avenger crashed upside down into the northeast portion of Simpson Harbor near the northwest corner of Lakunai Airfield near the mouth of Sulpher Creek. Today, located to the southwest of the Rabaul Yacht Club (RYC).

In the 1980s, this aircraft was first discovered by Shane Crowley and was fairly intact. After the 1994 volcanic eruption, the aircraft was covered with ash. In the aftermath, many vessels began anchoring nearby, and the wreck was damaged and broken in half by a ship's anchor. The rear turret is missing.

During 2007, the aircraft was rediscovered by Davy Flinn and Rod Pearce and reported to the U. S. Government as as an aircraft associated with Missing In Action (MIA) Americans. While diving the Avenger, they located a Mae West life vest and observed human remains inside the fuselage wreckage.

Rod Pearce adds:
"The TBF was first found back in the 80's by a mate Shane Crowley on my old vessel M/V Barbarian. Covered by silt from the volcanic eruption in 1994 it was re found by myself and Dave Flynn around 2007."

Recover of Remains
During January 2015, USNS Salvor (T-ARS-52) anchored near the site and U. S. Navy divers led by JPAC underwater archaeologist Dr. Andrew Pietruszka surveyed this aircraft and conducted an underwater investigation then lifted the wreckage out of the water to recover remains aboard the vessel. During the lifting, the cockpit drained out. Afterwards, the wreckage was placed back into Simpson Harbor at roughly the same location, west of the Rabaul Yacht Club (RYC).

During January-March 2016 USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50) anchored near the site and U. S. Navy divers led by DPAA underwater archaeologist Rich Wills continued to recover remains from the wreckage. The remains recovered from this recovery were transported to Jackson Airport and were part of a repatriation ceremony on May 13, 2016 and then were flown to DPAA at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPPH).

On March 3, 2017 the Department of Defense (DoD) officially identified pilot Boyden using laboratory analysis and circumstantial evidence.

The entire crew is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Boyden was officially declared dead on April 15, 1945 and posthumously earned the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), and was promoted to Captain, posthumously. Boyden also has a memorial marker at Rose Hills Memorial ParkĀ in Whittier, CA.

Patrickus and Thompson were officially declared dead on February 15, 1945. Both earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Patrickus also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at plot MF grave 50-6.

Navy Serial Number Search Results - TBF-1C Avenger 24264

Daily Press (Riverside, California)"Missing Pilot Awarded DFC" February 8, 1945
"Banning - Mr. and Mrs. B. L. Boyden have been notified that their son, Lt. James Boyden, missing in action for ten months, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Lieutenant Boyden, an honors student at Pomona college and prominent in athletics, enlisted in the air force of the marines and went to the South Pacific as a pilot with a bombardier squd. Scheduled for a furlough home last March, the message from the Navy department stated last March he was missing in action. Later details revealed that the squadron was laying mines above Rabaul with flak flying. Lieutenant Boyden's plane swerved from formation but remained under control. There is a possibility that he is a Japanese prisoner [sic]."
NARA "USMC War Diary VMTB-233 1 February 1944 Through 29 February 1944" pages 53, 80-82
(Page 53) 14 February 1944
(Page 80-81) COMAIRSOLS Strike Command TBF Intelligence Struck 14, February, 1944
(Page 82) "Plane No. 102, Pilot Boyden, Passengers Patrickus, Thompson (did not return)"
1st Lieutenant James W. Boyden Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) citation:
"The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant James W. Boyden (MCSN: 0-17011), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for heroism, conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a Section Leader of a Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron engaged in aerial combat activities in the Solomon Islands and New Britain areas. First Lieutenant Boyden participated in numerous night and daylight attacks upon heavily defended enemy land installations and shipping during the periods from 11 August to 22 September 1943, from 1 November to 10 December 1943, and from 26 January to 14 February 1944. In a night mine laying mission conducted in Simpson Harbor, Rabaul, on 14 February 1944, First Lieutenant Boyden courageously pressed home his attack which required straight and level flight at a slow airspeed and precariously low altitude in the face of numerous enemy searchlights and severe and intense heavy and automatic anti-aircraft fire. Before reaching his objective First Lieutenant Boyden was picked up by many enemy searchlights and was forced to maneuver his aircraft through an intense and accurate barrage of enemy anti-aircraft fire. Despite the enemy fire which repeatedly hit and damaged his aircraft, First Lieutenant Boyden courageously and skillfully drove home his attack and released his mine in its assigned position in the mine field before being shot down by the severe enemy fire. His high courage, superb airmanship, and devotion to duty throughout were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. General Orders: Commander South Pacific: Serial 4271 (October 11, 1944)"
Riverside Daily Press "Missing Pilot Awarded DFC" February 8, 1945, page 10, col. 1
USMC Casualty Card - James W. Boyden
USMC Casualty Card - Arthur J. Patrickus
USMC Casualty Card - Bernard C. Pardun
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James W. Boyden "Status: Recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur J. Patrickus
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Bernard C. Pardun
FindAGrave - Capt James W Boyden (photo, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - CPT James Wentworth Boyden (photos, memorial marker)
FindAGrave - PFC Arthur J Patrickus (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Arthur J Patrickus (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Bernard C Pardun (photos, tablets of the missing)
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - TBF-1C Avenger 24264 pilot Boyden
Target Rabaul pages 311-312
U. S. Embassy Port Moresby "Repatriation Ceremony Honors WWII American Servicemen" May 13, 2016
Dive Training May/June 2016 "WWII Wreck sites in South Pacific" page 13
DPAA Recently Accounted For 2017 - Captain James W. Boyden accounted-for 3/3/2017
DPAA "Marine Missing From World War II Accounted For (Boyden)" News Release March 29, 2017
Thanks to Rod Pearce and Dave Flynn for additional information

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Last Updated
February 14, 2019


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