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Lt. Hunter, Jr. Crew (MACR 10461)—November 8, 1944
13th Air Force, 424nd Bombardment Squadron, 307th Bombardment Group (H)


Hunter Crew Member Merle E. Wilson Information
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Information and pictures on this page have been reprinted with permission from Dan B. Odenweller. If you have information about the Hunter Crew, please contact Dan at: DanOdenweller@compuserve.com

Hunter Crew Missing Air Crew Report:

The Last Mission for Lt. Hunter, Jr. (His Crew, and A/C 381)

Lieutenant William R. Hunter, Jr., his aircraft (381), and three members of the crew, were lost on 08 November 1944. The loss occurred on a mission to bomb the Japanese held Alicante Aerodrome, Negros Island, in the Philippines. The crew and aircraft (a B24J, A/C 44-41381) were part of the 13th Army Air Force, 307th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 424th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy).

The official account of the loss is contained in MACR 10461 and other files of the 307th BG (H). The following text is developed from the official records, and from an account in the book "The Long Rangers," by Sam Britt. The book describes the last mission of the crew and aircraft, and it appears on pages 163 and 164 of the book.

Lost on that mission were:

    First Lieutenant William R. Hunter, Jr. (Pilot)
    Second Lieutenant Robert D. Dawkins, Jr. (Co-Pilot)
    Technical Sergeant Charles N. Witham (Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner)
    and Staff Sergeant Merle (Lefty) E. Wilson (Armorer/Nose Turret Gunner)
Seven members of the crew survived the bailout, and were eventually returned to duty, six on 12 December 1944 when they were picked up by a PBY Catalina (Playmate 41), as described elsewhere in this site:
    First Lieutenant Willard W. Magee (Navigator)
    First Lieutenant Patrick H. Mann (Bombardier)
    Staff Sergeant Eugene C. Bosiacki (Assistant Engineer/Aerial Gunner)
    Technical Sergeant David N. L. Beyer (Radio Operator/Aerial Gunner)
    Staff Sergeant Richard E. Beard (Assistant Radio Operator/Aerial Gunner)
    Staff Sergeant Peter Gjertson (Cameraman)

Charles Witham Documents:

The following pictures and documents were shared by the family of Charles Witham

Click on an images below to enlarge


Charles-Witham1

Charles-Witham2

Charles-Witham3

Charles-Witham3

The last crewmember, Staff Sergeant Maximillian C. Augsberger (Aerial Gunner), was returned to duty on 21 January 1945. The delay in his return was associated with treating serious foot infections, in both feet. At one point, his hosts smuggled him into a hospital for treatment.

The Shoot Down

The aircraft was attacked by four Zeros' about 15 miles out from the target. A lone Zero made a long skidding pass from one o'clock, firing continuously with 20mm incendiaries, hitting the nose turret, the co-pilot station, and then first the number one engine, then the number four engine. The wing then broke at the number four engine, and the aircraft went into a spiral dive. Prior to the loss of control, the bailout order resulted in eight of the eleven crewmembers jumping. One of the eight who was able to jump was strafed on the way down (Technical Sergeant Witham).

Three crewmembers went in with the aircraft. Staff Sergeant Wilson and Second Lieutenant Dawkins, Jr. were found in the wreckage, at their respective stations, First Lieutenant Hunter, Jr. was found in the bomb bay, where he was last seen, attempting to bail out.

The Rescue/Recovery

The seven crewmembers that survived the shoot down were picked up by Filipino troops (guerillas), and cared for. They also provided burial services for the four dead men, in two separate graves. The graves were subsequently identified and opened by the Graves Registration teams, and the remains removed for proper identification and processing.

Six of the seven crewmembers were returned to duty on 12 December 1944, when a PBY Catalina was guided to their location and extracted. The last crewman was returned to duty on 21 January 1945, after his foot infections were treated, and he could be safely moved.

Epilog

As with most events, many questions remain to be answered. Lt. Hunter, Jr. usually flew a 424th BS aircraft number 547. But this day they flew 381, and paid a price. One, at least I, cannot help but wonder if it made a difference.

I am told that another crew flew 547 a few days prior to this mission, and that the aircraft and crew were lost, resulting in the change of assignments. We may develop more information as we access later records.

Staff Sergeant Merle (Lefty) E. Wilson, my wife's maternal Uncle, and why I got myself involved in this quest, was flying his 26th mission. His records indicate he had been awarded one Air Medal and one Oak Leaf Cluster (not the four he had earned), and a Purple Heart. The records for the Bombardment Group show a pattern of decorations being awarded once or twice a day, for several consecutive days - just before someone leaves the command. I wonder if the method of departure (or rank) made any difference to those keeping the files current.

I thought the crews got rotated stateside after 25 missions, particularly this late in the conflict - but apparently not. The missions flown by this crew were long, and dangerous, including several to Truk, Yap, and Palau. This was their second mission to the Alicante Aerodrome, one too many apparently.
 

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