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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 100118
Last updated: 28 November 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic B24 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Consolidated B-24D Liberator
Owner/operator:307th BGp USAAF
Registration: 41-23901
Fatalities:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 8
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Kawailoa, Oahu, Hawaii -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Wheeler, Hawaii
Destination airport:Wheeler, Hawaii
1st Lt James H. McClendon of 371st BS, 307th BG, and his crew of seven set out on a routine sea patrol from their home base at Wheeler, Hawaii on the morning of 16 December 1942. After less than two hours, the number two engine of their B-24D 41-23901 began missing and running rough. Lt. McClendon decided to abort the mission and return to base.

An hour and a half later, while approaching Oahu, after ordering fuel transfer from the bomb bay tanks to the main tanks, an apparent overflow of fuel in the bomb bay led to an explosion, which engulfed the aircraft in flames. Three of the crew members managed to bail out of the stricken craft and survived with minor or no wounds. The other five perished in the ensuing crash. The wreckage was strewn over a fairly large area near Kawailoa, Oahu, indicating a breakup in flight prior to impact. HAPS will plan a memorial to be placed at Wheeler Field rather than near the crash site because of the remoteness of the site.

1st Lt James H. McClendon (pilot) KIFA
2nd Lt Charles H Miller (copilot) KIFA
2nd Lt James G Main (student copilot) WIFA
2nd Lt Wendell A Steele (bombardier) WIFA
2nd Lt William A Stickle (navigator) KIFA
Sgt Robert W Vaughn (flight engineer) unhurt
S/Sgt Harold D Dillon (assistant flight engineer) KIFA
S/Sgt Charles C Hatton (radio operator) KIFA

Sgt Vaughn reported that while he was monitoring the No 2 engine, Sgt Dillon was ordered to transfer fiel but came back a few minutes later with gas all over his body, and apparently in his eyes too. Vaughn looked down in the bomb bay and saw that the bomb bay tank was flowing over there. He issued order to crack the bomb bay doors just a little to let fumes out in the open, but an explosion occured a few seconds after and the bomb bay started burning. Sgt Hatton was the closest man to the handle and was last seen by Vaughn reaching for the handle just about the time the explosion came. Vaughn was the first to bail out, being apparently kicked out by anotehr survivor, 2nd Lt Steele.

Lt Main was on the flight deack at the time of the explosion and it apparently blew out part of the side of the aircraft. He relaetd that he seized a parchute in his arms and dove oout directly through the hole in the side of the airplane. He puleld the rip-cord on his parachute while still clutching it to his chest. The opening of the parachute and resultant tug broke his ribs, but he landed safely otherwise.

At the time of the explosion, 2nd Lt Steele had smelled gas and had come to the bomb bay area. He was blown away by the explosion and the next thing he remembered he was back by the escape hatch. He bailed out second after Vaughn. At the time he jumped he figured his chute was on fire, since there were flames all around and back by the tail gun. The only injuries he received were a few minor burns around his right ear and his wrist, and a few scratches on the right side of his face.


Revision history:

16-Dec-2015 16:34 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
27-Jan-2021 16:21 Anon. Updated [Operator, Operator]

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