11 July 2009

Photograph of Lieutenant Talbot's Crew

This is a photograph of 2nd Lt. Charles N. Talbot, Jr's crew in front of B-24D 42-41152. I received a copy of this photo from Alex MacLeod, the grandson of crew member Sgt. Edward F. Smith. At first we only had a list of who was in the photo (in no particular order) and knew the identities of Alex's grandfather and my uncle Rodney. I made several attempts to gather information and contact people who might be able to help. The first was Allen Neal, brother of Sgt. James E. Neal, who identified James on the photo. I was then put in contact with Keith Kunkel, brother of Sgt. Cloyd R. Kunkel, who also had a copy of the crew photo that his brother had sent home. This photo had the names of all the crew members written on the back along with their positions in the photo. So now we are able to match all the names with faces, and even know the dog's name.

From 404th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

Standing (L to R): Sgt Solomon Pollack, 2nd Lt Verdie E. Smith, 2nd Lt Herman A. Welch, 2nd Lt Kenneth E. Young, 2nd Lt Charles N. Talbot, Jr., Sgt Edward F. Smith.
Kneeling (L to R): Sgt James E. Neal, Sgt Anthony P. Bedell, Sgt Jackson E. Brown, Sgt Thomas A. Moffitt & Sparks (the crew's dog), Sgt Rodney R. Schubring, Sgt Cloyd R. Kunkel.
All the men in this photo were killed in action on 23 Jan 1945 except for Edward F. Smith and Thomas A. Moffit, whose places on the final mission were taken by Sgt. Jack T. Hefley and Cpl. Norris D. Chaney.

19 June 2009

B-24D-135-CO 42-41152

This bomber was built in 1942 by Consolidated Aircraft Corp., San Diego, California. It was assigned construction number 2229 and was part of B-24D production block 135. On 4 Mar 1943 it had it’s greenhouse style glass nose removed and a nose turret added. This work was done at the Fairfield Air Depot in Ohio, or the Middletown Air Depot in Pennsylvania. Later in the year it was further modified as a Ferret aircraft. This entailed the installation of SCR 717B microwave radar equipment. Ferret aircraft made use of their radar to listen and look for enemy radar and radio sites. The aircraft was painted black to help avoid detection by enemy searchlights on night missions.

On 7 Aug 1944 42-41152 was delivered to Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska. It was then assigned to the 404th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 28th Bombardment Group (Composite), 11th Air Force, based on Shemya Island in the Aleutians. 42-41152 was damaged in a mid-air collision with a tow target on 2 Jan 1945 while piloted by Lieutenant Gerald W. Speicher.

From 404th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

42-41152 was flown on at least 11 missions by several different crews. It was the practice in the 404th to frequently switch crews between aircraft. A brief synopsis of each mission follows:

17 Nov 1944: Captain William H. Beal, Jr. – pilot and mission leader.
Six B-24s took off to conduct a formation bombing mission against Suribachi Airfield. Capt. Beal experienced difficulties with the bomb release mechanism and had to jettison his bombs before landing following the mission. Two Japanese fighters attacked the bombers and damaged B-24D 42-40993 which crash landed in Kamchatka.

21 Nov 1944: Lieutenant William A. Salzman – pilot.
Five B-24Ds took off from Shemya in two fights to provide air cover for US Navy Task Force 92. No opposition was encountered and all returned to base safely.

25 Nov 1944: Captain William H. Beal, Jr. – pilot.
Capt. Beal flew a photographic mission against Matsuwa Island in the central Kurils. Capt. Beal also bombed Kurabu Cape Airfield on Paramushiro Island. The bomber received meager and inaccurate fire from Kurabu Cape Airfield.

28 Nov 1944: Lieutenant William A. Salzman – pilot.
Lt. Salzman flew another mission to take photographs of Matsuwa. Bombs were dropped on Tagan Point Airfield. Moderate and inaccurate anti-aircraft fire was encountered.

29 Nov 1944: Lieutenant Robert A. Weiss – pilot.
Three B-24Ds flew a high altitude attack against the Kashiwabara Army Staging Area on Paramushiro. Bombs were dropped on the target by radar. No opposition was encountered and all bombers returned safely.

20 Dec 1944: Captain William H. Beal, Jr. – pilot.
Two B-24Ds flew out to photograph the Kashiwabara Army Staging Area on Paramushiro and the Kataoka Naval Base on Shumushu Island. Due to cloud cover they diverted to Onekotan Island in the central Kurils. The two bombers made strafing runs before returning to Shemya. Opposition was limited to three bursts from a large anti-aircraft gun located at Inokai Cape on Onekotan.

29 Dec 1944: Lieutenant William T. Reynolds – pilot.
Eleventh Air Force and Fleet Air Wing Four flew a joint mission, which called for three B-24 crews from the 404th Bombardment Squadron to take photographs of the Kashiwabara Staging Area and Kataoka Naval Base, while the 77th Bombardment Squadron committed four B-25s and Fleet Air Wing Four three PV-1s from VPB-131 and one PV-1 from VPB-136 on a decoy mission to draw away Japanese fighters. Due to bad weather and instrument failure all aircraft turned back before reaching the target except for 42-41152. Two of the B25s disappeared on their way back to Attu. Lt. Reynolds was able to drop his bombs in the vicinity of Bettobi Airfield located on the central part of Shumushu Island and took the first vertical photographs of the airfield before returning to Shemya.

18 Jan 1945: Lieutenant William T. Reynolds – pilot.
Four B-24s departed Shemya to photograph Kakumabetsu Airfield and bomb Kurabu Cape Airfield on Paramushiro. B24-D 42-40996 developed mechanical problems as it reached the target and had to land at Petropavlovsk where the Russians interned the crew. The remainder of the aircraft completed the mission and returned safely. Anti-aircraft fire was meager and inaccurate and no fighters were encountered.

19 Jan 1945: Lieutenant Corbin U. Terry – pilot.
Two B-24Ds flew on a photographic and bombardment mission against the Tagan Point Airfield on Matsuwa. Lt. Terry dropped his bombs on target and the other bomber dropped its bombs on Onekotan. Both bombers returned safely to Shemya. Lt. Terry received meager but accurate anti-aircraft fire with the burst close enough to be felt and heard. Two, possibly three hits occurred on the bomber.

20 Jan 1945: Lieutenant Gerald W. Speicher – pilot.
Four B-24s flew out to photograph Suribachi and Kakumabetsu Airfields on Paramushiro and the Paramushiro Straits and bomb Kataoka Airfield on Shumushu. Bombs were dropped using the mission leader’s radar to determine the target, all aircraft returned safely. No anti-aircraft fire or fighters were encountered.

23 Jan 1945: Lieutenant Charles N. Talbot, Jr. – pilot.
This was the final mission of 42-41152, see the 12 Jun 2009 post for a description.

Correspondence with Bob Livingstone, who provided data on 42-41152 from his collection of B-24 data.
Cloe, John Haile. Kurile Islands Operations August 1943-December 1945. Unpublished manuscript from the Elmendorf Air Force Base History Office.
All references to Japanese place names have been standardized to the correct modern spelling.

12 June 2009

The Final Mission of 42-41152

On 23 Jan 1945 B-24D 42-41152 departed from the airfield at Shemya, Alaska along with three other B-24s. The other aircraft were B-24L 44-49474 (Lt. Corbin U. Terry), B-24D 42-40998 (Lt. Richard J. Korpanty) and B-24L 44-49807 (Lt. Charles A. Weniger), they left beginning at 1009 in the above order with 42-41152 being second in the formation.
The mission was to photograph Suribachi and Kakumabetsu airfields on Paramushiro Island, and the Paramushiro Straits. They were also to bomb any targets of opportunity. After about 4 and a half hours the flight arrived over Paramushiro. Lt. Talbot and Lt. Weniger were able to drop their bombs near the Kakumabetsu cannery, the other 2 bombers had problems with the bombs hanging up in their shackles. At 1510 the bombers were intercepted by 8 to 10 Japanese fighters, most of the fighters were Navy Mitsubishi A6M "Zeros," with some Army Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscars" and Nakajima Ki-44 "Tojos." One of Lt. Weniger's waist gunners claimed to have shot down a Zero, one of Lt. Terry's waist gunners claimed another Zero and his top turret gunner downed an Oscar. During the attack Lt. Talbot's bomber was shot down, Missing Air Crew Report 11780 provides the following description of the loss of 42-41152.
"While the formation was crossing northern Shumushu, members of Lt. Weniger’s crew reported a silver colored enemy fighter attacking Lt. Talbot’s plane from below at 12 o’clock. A red flash was observed to come from the front of the fighter’s fuselage. The fighter attacked aggressively, pressing home to a near collision range and breaking away from below Lt. Talbot in a chandelle. Immediately a red flash was emitted from Lt. Talbot’s No. 2 Engine [left inboard]. It appeared to be momentarily extinguished but again caught on fire. Flames shot out of the bomb bay and waist window as Lt. Talbot left the formation in a diving left turn, followed shortly by a turn to the right, apparently in an attempt to get to Cape Lopatka. The left waist gunner was observed to be sprawled over his gun. An explosion appeared to tear off the left wing with the B-24 falling into a spin. Approximately 2000 feet lower a second explosion occurred, with the plane disintegrating.This happened about 1532(N), over the Shumushu Straits, just off the northeast coast of Shumushu. It was estimated that the plane had been at about 15,000 feet at the time of the second explosion. Three parachutes were seen to open. Three crew members were evidently blown clear of the wreckage, but it is not known whether they opened the chutes themselves or whether it was the result of the explosion. At the time the stricken plane left the formation, four fighters continued to attack it. When the three chutes were seen to open they were continually circled by three of these fighters until they were last observed close to the water. Returning crew members could not state whether or not the fighters were strafing the descending parachutes. The last observed position of these three parachutes was just about midway between Cape Lopatka and Kokutan-Saki.” The remaining three bombers returned safely to Shemya.

The aircrew for the fateful 23 January 1945 mission were:
2nd Lieutenant Charles Nicoll Talbot, Jr. – Pilot
2nd Lieutenant Verdie Ewen Smith – Co-pilot
2nd Lieutenant Herman Asa Welch – Navigator
2nd Lieutenant Kenneth Edwin Young – Bombardier
Sergeant Rodney Richard Schubring – Flight Engineer/Gunner
Sergeant Jackson E. Brown – Assistant Flight Engineer/Gunner
Sergeant Anthony Pearson Bedell – Radio Operator/Gunner
Sergeant James Edward Neal – Assistant Radio Operator/Gunner
Sergeant Solomon Pollack – Armorer/Gunner
Sergeant Cloyd Roger Kunkel – Gunner
Sergeant Jack Terry Hefley – Photographer
Corporal Norris Dean Chaney – Radar Observer
United States Army Air Forces. Missing Air Crew Report 11780. All references to Japanese place names have been standardized to the correct modern spelling.
Cloe, John Haile. Kurile Islands Operations August 1943-December 1945. Unpublished manuscript from the Elmendorf Air Force Base History Office.