Remembering the Coleman Crew on Memorial Day. Sixty-six years ago on June 25, 1944 the Coleman B-24 crew (ten men including my uncle) took off in the early morning hours from a small airbase in the SW Pacific to bomb the tiny island of Yap. Most of the men had never heard of Yap until a few days before the mission. The mission covered some of the longest distances flown by any bomb group thus far during the war. Moreover, the B-24's of the 307th Bomb Group had to fly over endless stretches of open water that were held by the Japanese and shark invested. Few men survived ditching a B-24 in the sea. The planes did not fly in large formation's like the planes in Europe rather they flew most of the mission alone to make sure one plane did not get an entire group lost at sea. The planes that successfully navigated the open water formed up at an initial point a few hundred miles from Yap to make the bomb run into the target. The Coleman crew were flying a brand new B-24J plane that the ground crew had not had time to paint. They're plane was shiny silver while most of the other planes were painted various shades of green and brown. The Coleman crew and six other planes for their 372nd squadron were the last of four squadrons to approach and bomb the Yap airfield. As the planes approached the island heavy fire burst among the planes as waves of Japanese fighters descended on the bombers. The experienced Japanese fighters had arrived the night before from Palau to wait for the American attack. As the Coleman crew prepared to drop their bombs and make a 90 degree turn south a Japanese fighter saw the shiny new B-24 and made a pass at the plane from the front. 20 mm cannon shells from the Japanese Zero hit the cockpit and engines on one wing. The pilots and other crew members were likely killed as the plane pulled straight up and stalled. As the plane nosed over it went into a flat spin trapping other crew members trying to escape the crippled ship. The plane spun in tight circles as it went through the clouds and hit the water. Emergency rafts popped automatically from the wings as the Japanese planes dived low to strafe the sinking plane. The plane floated on the surface for a few minutes and then sunk in the waters off the SE coast of Yap. We have spent the last six years traveling to Yap to search for the Coleman crew. I have spent numerous days off the SW coast diving for the plane and feeling the presence of the men nearby. My quest to find the plane will come to a head this summer when we are joined by two members of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. We will be using sonar, a mag and ROV's to locate the missing plane and crew. With a lot of help and a little luck we will find the plane this summer. Please watch for daily updates from Yap from July 18-28, 2010. More information about the Coleman crew can be viewed at the following link:
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