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  TBF-1 Avenger Bureau Number 47545  
USN
MAG 11
VMSB-131

Pilot  Major William C. Hayter (MIA / KIA) CA
Crashed  April 7, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman. Assigned to Marine Air Group 11, VMSB-131. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
Took off from Henderson Field at 2:00am, on a a bombing run against Kahili. One plane turned back after getting separated from the formation. After hitting a storm, one crashed into the water, and one may have collided with another plane. The three survivors from these two planes all ditched in the water and made it to the Russell Island and were rescued there the next day or two. The fate of the other three planes is unknown. Five of six planes from VMSB-131 went down on this mission.

(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.

Memorials
Hayter was declared dead on April 9, 1945. Memorialized on the tablet of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Relatives
William Turner adds:
"Hayter was not married and had no children. His two brothers are both still living, in Long Beach, California. Both brothers were also in the Marines (one was an SBD pilot). I met them several months ago. Besides me, Hayter has another namesake, a nephew.

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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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

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