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.

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