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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 192682
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:320th BSqn /90th BGp USAAF
Registration: 41-23772
Fatalities:Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 9
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Huon Gulf -   Papua New Guinea
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:
Destination airport:
Reviewing the progress of the Battle of Guadalcanal and the Battle of Buna-Gona in December 1942, the Japanese faced the prospect that neither could be held. Accordingly, Imperial General Headquarters decided to take steps to strengthen the Japanese position in the South West Pacific by sending Lieutenant General Jusei Aoki’s 20th Division from Korea to Guadalcanal and Lieutenant General Heisuke Abe’s 41st Division from China to Rabaul. Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, the commander of the Japanese Eighth Area Army at Rabaul, ordered Lieutenant General Hatazō Adachi’s XVIII Army to secure Madang, Wewak and Tuluvu in New Guinea. On 29 December, Adachi ordered the 102nd Infantry Regiment and other units under the command of Major General Toru Okabe, the commander of the infantry group of the 51st Division, to move from Rabaul to Lae and advance inland to capture Wau. Following the decision to evacuate Guadalcanal on 4 January, the Japanese switched priorities from the Solomon Islands to New Guinea, and it was decided to send both the 20th and 41st Divisions to Wewak.

On 5 January 1943, the Operation 18 convoy carrying Okabe’s force set out for Lae from Rabaul with five transports (Brazil Maru, Nichiryu Maru, Clyde Maru, Chifuku Maru and Myoko Maru) escorted by Desdiv 17 (Urakaze, Tanikaze, Isokaze and Hamakaze), reinforced with the destroyer Maikaze. . Forewarned by Ultra, USAAF and RAAF aircraft spotted, shadowed and attacked the convoy, which was shielded by low clouds and Japanese fighters, and attacked it from 6 to 9 January 1943. On 7th, the army cargo ship Nichiryu Maru was sunk at 0430 hrs by bombs dropped by a Catalina of 11 Sqn RAAF off Arawe, 06°30’S, 149°00’E. Although destroyers rescued 739 of the 1,100 troops of 3rd batallion, 102nd Infantry Regiment on board, the ship took with it all of Okabe’s medical supplies. There were 456 dead and 85 wounded. The same day the army cargo ship Myoko Maru was so badly damaged at Lae by USAAF B-25 that she was forced aground at Malahang, 06°49’S, 147°04’E, and was destroyed by bombs the next day. Nonetheless, the convoy succeeded in reaching Lae on 7 January and landing the troops. In four days of attacks on this convoy, two transport were sunk, several vessels were damaged and Allied airmen claimed to have shot down 69 Japanese aircraft for the loss of 10 of their own.

On 9 January 1943 the B-24D-5-CO 41-23772 "Little Eva" of 320th BS, 90th BG, took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a bombing mission against this convoy that left Lae this day. This B-24 was given the convoy’s position via radio and flew to the target at 7,000’ though broken clouds and did not spot the convoy until they overflew it.

As the B-24 made its bomb run, it was attacked by eight escorting fighters (identified as Zeros) attacking in pairs, making seven or eight passes head on. The nose gun ceased firing and a shell severely wounded the pilot, 2nd Lt Altman, in the head and also hurt the radio operator, T/Sgt Brigham.

Taking the controls, the co-pilot, Lt Smith, dove down to 2,000’ and tried to evade the Zeros in clouds, but they continued to damage the bomber, setting the no. 3 engine on fire, but was extinguished using the the fire extinguisher, but the no. 2 engine also caught fire and was extinguished, but the propeller would no feather. Smith called for the crew to prepare to ditch, but none responded.

Smith and wounded Altman tried to make a smooth water landing, but suffered a violent impact, submerging the nose section. Smith was able to escape through the cockpit window and shouted for others, but none responded. Swimming to a floating life raft, the plane sank presumably with the rest of the crew aboard. Alone, Smith rowed to shore.

Crew (temporary MACR R-764):
2nd Lt. Dayton S. Altman, Jr., O-659626 (pilot, SC) MIA
Lt. Norman D. Smith (co-pilot) survived
2nd Lt. William H. Hoyt, Jr., O-660493 (navigator, from TN) MIA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Herbert H. Gardner, O-727630 (bombardier, from GA) MIA
T/Sgt Freddie K. Affeld, 15082101 (flight engineer, from IN) MIA
T/Sgt Francis M. Brigham, 11010936 (radio, from CT) MIA
S/Sgt Vincent H. Calise, 32199356 (air gunner, from NY) MIA
S/Sgt John F. Ratliff, 13035569 (air gunner, from VA) MIA
S/Sgt Francis H. Bogucki, 11010977 (air gunner, from CT) MIA

The dead crew members was officially declared dead the day of the mission and are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated. Assigned to the 90th Bombardment Group, 320th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Little Eva". Pilot Crosson of B-24D "Little Eva" 41-23762 requested exclusive rights to this nickname, but this bomber crashed before it could be removed or renamed.


8.The Battle for Wau: New Guinea’s Frontline 1942-1943", by Phillip Bradley. ISBN 978-0-521-89681-8


Revision history:

09-Jan-2017 13:46 Laurent Rizzotti Added
19-Mar-2020 09:16 DG333 Updated [Operator, Source, Operator]

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