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|Pilot Major William
C. Hayter (MIA / KIA) CA
Crashed April 7, 1943
(Note: There also were three Navy bomber squadrons from Henderson on this mission. Some completed the mission, some turned back, and a few went down in the storm.
One is an Intelligence Report that is not dated, but must be a day or two later, as it closes with "seaches are still being made at this writing." The second is a declassified Action Report which covers the April 8 mission. Both reports are quite detailed, including pilot and crewmen of each TBF, individual plane numbers, fate of each plane (i.e., crashed in water, missing, returned to base, etc.). I also have a detailed history of the squadron, which covers this mission in great detail.
I asked one of the VMSB-131 veterans, George Bobb, whether a flight like this would have flown directly over the Russell Islands. He said they did not typically fly over islands; the mission to Bougainville would probably have flown up the Slot just west of the Russells. In the summary of the April 8, 1943 mission it is stated that the flight leader (Hayter) finally signaled a return to base - a right turn. When I read about the right turn, it started me thinking about the possibility of some of the planes actually flying over the Russells and going down in the islands - however REMOTE that circumstance would be.
One of the official reports lists 12 men from 131 as Missing. I assume this was later changed to KIA. The plane numbers listed are not bureau numbers, but the single or double digit numbers carried on the planes' cowlings and sides."
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