31 July 1944, famed French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger comte de Saint Exupéry), flying for the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres (the Free French Air Force), departed Borgo Airfield on the island of Corsica. He was on a reconnaissance mission of the Rhône Valley. His aircraft was a Lockheed F-5B-1-LO Lightning, serial number 42-68223, an unarmed photo reconnaissance variant of the P-38J Lighting twin-engine fighter.
Saint-Exupéry was never seen again.
In 1998 a fisherman found his silver identity bracelet on the sea floor south of Marseilles. Parts of the aircraft were recovered in 2003.
“Saint-Ex” wrote Night Flight, Flight to Arras, Wind, Sand and Stars and The Little Prince, as well as many other works. He was a gifted writer.
4 April 1943: A brand-new crew with a brand-new airplane, assigned to the 514th Bombardment Squadron, 376th Bombardment Group, Ninth Air Force, departed Soluch Field (now, Benina International Airport) on their first combat mission, a night attack on Naples, Italy. First Lieutenant William J. Hatton, U.S. Army Air Corps, and his crew of eight men were flying Lady Be Good, a Consolidated B-24D-25-CO Liberator long-range heavy bomber, serial number 41-24301. They would never be seen alive again.
High winds and poor visibility broke up the 25-plane formation, and eventually only two made it all the way to Naples, arriving over the city at about 7:50 p.m. Bad weather made bombing difficult, so the B-24s dropped their bombs into the Mediterranean Sea and started home. By this time, Lieutenant Hatton and his men were alone.
The flight crew became lost on the return flight and overflew their home base. They continued south into the darkness of the desert night. Eventually, the bomber began to run out of fuel. When two of the four engines stopped, the nine men bailed out into the darkness. The pilots had trimmed the bomber to fly with just two engines operating before abandoning their airplane. The B-24 continued south on its own.
Fifteen years later, an oil exploration team discovered the wreckage of 41-24301 in the Calanscio Sand Sea (سرير كلنسيو الرملي الكبير, Kalanshiyū ar Ramlī al Kabīr, Sarīr) of the Libyan Sahara Desert. The Lady Be Good had come to earth 440 miles (708 kilometers) south of its base at Soluch.
The wreckage of Lady Be Good is stored at Gamal Abdul El Nasser Air Base, Libya.
The Consolidated B-24D Liberator was a four-engine long-range heavy bomber. It had a high “shoulder-mounted” wing, twin vertical fin/rudders, and retractable landing gear. The bomber was operated by a flight crew of two pilots, bombardier, navigator, radio operator, flight engineer and four gunners. It was 66 feet, 4 inches (20.218 meters) long, with a wingspan of 110 feet, 0 inches (33.528 meters), and overall height of 17 feet, 11 inches (5.461 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 32,605 pounds (14,789 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 64,000 pounds (29,030 kilograms).
The B-24D was powered by four air-cooled, turbosupercharged, 1,829.389-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liters) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp TSC4-G (R-1830-43) two-row, fourteen-cylinder radial engines. The R-1830-43 had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 100-octane aviation gasoline. The turbocharger was limited to 21,300 r.p.m. The engine’s Normal Power rating was 1,040 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,100 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. from 6,200 to 25,000 feet (1,890 –7,620 meters). Takeoff Power was 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. This was also its Military Power rating, which it could maintain to 23,400 feet (7,132 meters). The R-1830-43 drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed, full-feathering propellers through a 16:9 gear reduction. The engine was 3 feet, 10.56 inches (1.183 meters) in diameter, 5 feet, 2.59 inches (1.590 meters) long and weighed 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms).
The B-24D had a maximum true airspeed of 307 miles per hour (494 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) with Military Power. The service ceiling was 34,000 feet (10,363 meters) when lightly loaded, and it could reach that altitude in 40 minutes, 6 seconds. Its maximum range was 2,380 miles (3,830 kilometers) at 210 miles per hour (338 kilometers per hour).
Various combinations of Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns were installed for defense. The standard arrangement was 1 in the nose, 2 in a power-operated dorsal turret, two at the waist, 1 in a ventral position and 2 in the tail turret. (In later models, a ball turret similar to that of the B-17, replaced the ventral gun.)
The B-24D could carry eight 1,100 pound (499 kilogram) bombs in the bomb bay, or one 4,000 pound (1,814 kilogram) bomb in an external rack under each wing.
The B-24 was the most produced bomber in history, with a total of 18,482 airplanes built by Consolidated at San Diego, California, and Fort Worth, Texas; North American at Dallas, Texas; Douglas at Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Ford at Willow Run, Michigan. 2,378 of these were B-24Ds. Ford built 6,972 B-24s, and produced kits for another 1,893 to be assembled by the other manufacturers.
Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Army Air Corps, Commander of V Bomber Command.
Place and date: Rabaul, New Britain, 5 January 1943.
Entered service at: Colorado.
Birth: Cerrillos, New Mexico
G.O. No.: 13, 11 March 1943.
For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. As commander of the 5th Bomber Command during the period from 5 September 1942, to 5 January 1943, Brig. Gen. Walker repeatedly accompanied his units on bombing missions deep into enemy-held territory. From the lessons personally gained under combat conditions, he developed a highly efficient technique for bombing when opposed by enemy fighter airplanes and by antiaircraft fire. On 5 January 1943, in the face of extremely heavy antiaircraft fire and determined opposition by enemy fighters, he led an effective daylight bombing attack against shipping in the harbor at Rabaul, New Britain, which resulted in direct hits on 9 enemy vessels. During this action his airplane was disabled and forced down by the attack of an overwhelming number of enemy fighters.
On the morning of 5 January 1943, six Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and six Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers departed 7 Mile Drome, an airfield near Port Moresby at the eastern end of the island of New Guinea. Their mission was to attack an enemy shipping convoy believed to be approaching the Japanese military base at Rabaul on the neighboring island of New Britain.
Leading the attack force was B-17 41-24458, San Antonio Rose, flown by Major Allen Lindberg, commanding officer, 64th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) and Captain Benton Hayes Daniel, Jr. Also on board as observers were Lieutenant Colonel Jack Bleasdale, the executive officer of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), and Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker, commanding general, V Bomber Command, Fifth Air Force. There were a total of 11 airmen on board.¹
The bombers arrived over Rabaul at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) at 12:00 p.m., local time, and the formation broke up to make individual attacks against the ships in the harbor. Anti-aircraft artillery fire was light and ineffective. The bomber crews claimed several ships sunk and damaged.²
As the bombing force left the target, it was attacked by enemy fighter aircraft, which were described as Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 (Allied reporting name, “Zeke,” but best known as the “Zero”) or Nakajima Ki-43 Army Type 1 Fighters (the Hayabusa, Allied reporting name, “Oscar”).
One of the B-24s had been badly damaged and diverted to Milne Bay. Four of the five B-17s which returned to Port Moreseby were damaged.
San Antonio Rose, the B-17 carrying General Walker, was seen trailing smoke and diving through clouds. A Fifth Air Force message stated, “Later B-17 was observed heading south just east of Vunakanau [10 miles (16 kilometers) south-southwest of Rabaul] at about 5,000 feet, left outboard engine smoking but later appeared alright, was being closely pursued by four to five Zekes and last seen going into clouds.” A Japanese fighter pilot wrote that the B-17 was seen flying to the south, about 25 miles south of Rabaul. It was not seen again.
San Antonio Rose and its crew never returned from the mission. Searches over the next several days were unsuccessful. The 11 airmen were listed as Missing in Action.³
On 12 December 1945, the crew of San Antonio Rose were reclassified as Killed in Action.
An 8 minute, 34 second, film of the 5 January 1943 mission from the National Archives and Records Administration is available on YouTube:
Kenneth Newton Walker was born 17 July 1898 at Los Cerrillos, a tiny community along the “Turquoise Trail” in the Territory of New Mexico. He was the son of Wallace Walker and Emma Helen Overturf Walker. His father abandoned them when he was very young. Mrs Walker took Kenneth to Denver, Colorado, and later to Kansas City, where he attended Central High School. He graduated from the Omaha High School of Commerce in Omaha, Nebraska in 1915. Ken Walker studied business through a college extension course.
The United States entered World War I on 6 April, 1917. Ten months later, 10 December 1917, Kenneth Newton Walker enlisted in the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, United States Army, at Denver, Colorado. Walker was 5 feet, 8 inches (1.73 meters) tall, with a high forehead and ruddy complexion. He had brown hair and green eyes.
Walker was promoted to private first class, Aviation Section, Sig. E.R.C., 7 March 1918. Pfc. Walker was then assigned to the University of California School of Military Aeronautics, and in June 1918, he began flight training at the Air Service Flying School, Mather Field, near Sacramento, California. On completion of his flight training, Pfc. Walker was discharged from his enlistment, effective 1 November 1918, to accept a commission as a second lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, the following day.
2nd Lieutenant Walker was sent to Brooks Field at San Antonio, Texas, where he trained as a flight instructor. He was then assigned to Barron Field, south of Fort Worth, Texas. In 1919, Walker was reassigned to Post Field at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Under the National Defense Act of 1920, the Aviation Section became the Air Service, a distinct combatant branch of the Army, and was no longer a part of the Signal Corps. This resulted in changes in officers’ commissions.
2nd Lieutenant Walker’s commission was vacated on 15 September 1920. Retroactively, he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920, and was promoted to 1st lieutenant with the same date of effect. The new commission was accepted 15 September 1920. His rank as 1st lieutenant was accepted 13 April 1921.
2nd Lieutenant Walker married Miss Marguerite Potter, 28 September 1922. The ceremony was performed by Rev. H. Leach Hoover at St. Andrew’s Church, Lawton, Nebraska. The Walkers would have two sons: Kenneth Newton Walker, Jr., born in 1927, and Douglas Potter Walker, born in 1933.
Also in 1922, Lieutenant Walker graduated from the Air Service Observation School, as a qualified aerial observer. On 15 December 1922, Walker was discharged as a 1st lieutenant, A.S., U.S.A., and appointed a 2nd lieutenant.
Lieutenant Walker was assigned to Nichols Field, south of Manila on the island of Luzon, in the Philippine Islands. He was once again promoted to 1st lieutenant, 24 July 1924.
1929, Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, 1929; faculty, senior instructor
On 18 August 1934, Lieutenant Walker married Ms. Juliet G. Wimberly in Madison County, Alabama. This was the second marriage for both. A second wedding ceremony took place in Franklin County, Tennessee, 8 September 1934, officiated by L.J. Sisk, Justice of the Peace. They would have one son, John W. Walker. This marriage ended in divorce at Reno, Nevada, in February 1940.
Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1935. Promoted to captain, 1 August 1935, then less than three months later, 20 October 1935, to the rank of major (temporary).
On 23 December 1937, Captain Walker was piloting one of three Douglas B-18 twin-engine bombers which had picked up recent graduates from the Air Corps Technical School at Rantoul, Illinois, and were returning them to Hamilton Field, Novato, California. After a stop at Denver Municipal Airport (now Stapleton International Airport, DEN), Captain Walker’s airplane was the second to takeoff. Just after becoming airborne, the B-18 crashed.
Captain Walker said,
“We were about 20 feet off the ground and going about 80 miles an hour when the ship just seemed to lose power,” he said. “I kicked hard on the left rudder and we swung around at right angles after sliding across that little gully,” indicating a ravine at the roadside.
The B-18 hit the runway, slid about 200 feet (61 meters) then cut through a fence and came to rest on a roadway between a ravine and railroad tracks. None of the nine men on board ⁴ were injured but the B-18 was seriously damaged. It had flown just 49 hours since new. (49:00 TTSN)
Major Walker commanded the 18th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), Wheeler Field, Territory of Hawaii.
Attended the General Staff School from 10 March 1942 to 1 July 1942. Walker was promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier General, Army of the United States, on 17 June 1942.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart.
General Walker’s remains have not been recovered. There is a cenotaph in his memory is at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. His name, along with the other airmen of San Antonio Rose, appears on the Walls of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Taguig City, Philippines. In 1948, Roswell Army Air Field was renamed Walker Air Force Base in his honor.
San Antonio Rose was a Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, c/n 3143, Army Air Corps serial number 41-24458. The bomber was built during the summer of 1942, in the same production block with another famous B-17, Memphis Belle (41-24485). It was delivered to the United States Army Air Corps 8 July 1942.
Deep within my heart lies a melody A song of old San Antone Where in dreams I live with a memory Beneath the stars all alone
It was there I found beside the Alamo Enchantment strange as the blue, up above A moonlit path that only she would know Still hears my broken song of love
Moon in all your splendor knows only my heart Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone Lips so sweet and tender like petals fallin’ apart Speak once again of my love, my own
Broken song, empty words I know Still live in my heart all alone For that moonlit pass by the Alamo And Rose, my Rose of San Antone
—”New San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills, 1941
¹ Major Allen Lindberg, Pilot, Aircraft Commander; Captain Benton H. Daniel, Jr., co-pilot; 1st Lieutenant John W. Hanson, Navigator; 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Hand, Bombardier; Technical Sergeant Dennis T. Craig, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner; Staff Sergeant Quentin W. Blakeley, Radio Operator/Top Gunner; Sergeant Leslie A. Stewart, Gunner; Private 1st Class William G. Fraser, Jr., Gunner; and Private Leland W. Stone, Gunner.
² Postwar analysis found that one ship, the transport Keifuku Maru, 5,833 tones, had been bracketed by two bombs and sank. Another freighter, Kagu Maru, and the Minikaze-class destroyer Tachikaze, were damaged. (Tachikaze had been damaged in an earlier air attack, 27 December 1942, and its commanding officer killed.) On 5 January 1943, the destroyer was alongside Yamabiko Maru, a passenger-cargo steamer which had been converted to a repair ship for the Imperial Japanese Navy.
³ It is possible that two airmen, Lieutenant Colonel Bleasdale and Lieutenant Daniel, bailed out of the bomber and were later captured and held as prisoners of war. Neither survived the war, however.
⁴ Captain Walker, pilot; Lieutenant William Capp, co-pilot; Staff Sergeant William J. Oglesby, crew chief; Corporal Burton Vanderwerhen, gunner; with J.D. Rhodes, H.E. Perkins, G.J. Ambrose, J.S. Doherty, and J.S. Chamberlain.
26 November 1943: At sunset, Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry O’Hare, United States Navy, Commander Air Group 6, took of from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) as part of an experimental three-plane night fighter team. The U.S. Navy task force was operating in the waters northeast of Tarawa, supporting Operation Galvanic.
Two Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighters of Fighting Squadron TWO (VF-2), piloted by O’Hare and Ensign Warren Andrew Skon, flew formation with a radar-equipped Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber, call sign “Tare 97,” flown by Lieutenant Commander John C. (“Phil”) Phillips, commander, Torpedo Squadron 6 (VT-6).
Butch O’Hare was flying his personal airplane, Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Bu. No. 66168. The Hellcat was marked with “00” in white on both sides of its fuselage, the traditional identification of an air group commander’s (“CAG”) airplane.
The Avenger’s radar operator would guide the two fighters to intercept the groups of Japanese Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” torpedo bombers that had been making nightly attacks against the ships of Task Force 50.2.
The night fighter team engaged several enemy bombers, with the TBF’s pilot, Phillips, credited with shooting down two G4Ms with his Avenger’s two forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns. O’Hare and Skon both fired on other enemy bombers with their Hellcats’ six machine guns.
At about 7:30 p.m., the TBF was flying at about 1,200 feet (365 meters), staying below the cloud bases, while the two F6Fs rejoined the formation. The TBF’s gunner, Al Kernan, saw both Hellcats approaching to join on the the Avenger’s right wing. When O’Hare was about 400 feet (120 meters) away, the gunner saw a third airplane appear above and behind the two fighters.
A Japanese Mitsubishi G4M twin-engine bomber opened fire on O’Hare’s fighter with it’s 7.7 mm (.303-caliber) nose-mounted machine gun. Kernan returned fire with the TBF’s turret-mounted .50-caliber machine gun. The G4M quickly disappeared into the darkness.
Butch O’Hare’s F6F was seen to turn out of the formation, passing to the left underneath Skon’s fighter. Skon called O’Hare by radio but there was no response. The CAG’s Hellcat went into a dive then disappeared in the darkness. Skon tried to follow O’Hare, but had to pull out at about 300 feet (90 meters) to avoid crashing into the ocean.
Neither O’Hare or his airplane were ever seen again. He is believed to have gone into the water at 7:34 p.m., 26 miles (42 kilometers) north-northwest of the carrier Enterprise.
Lieutenant Commander Edward H. O’Hare was listed as Missing in Action. One year after his disappearance, the status was officially changed to Killed in Action.
Edward Henry O’Hare was born at St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America, 13 March 1914. He was one of three children of Edward Joseph O’Hare and Selma Anna Lauth O’Hare. He attended the Western Military Academy, Alton, Illinois, along with his friend, Paul Warfield Tibbetts (who would later command the Army Air Forces’ 509th Composite Group, and fly the B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay). O’Hare graduated in 1932.
Butch O’Hare was appointed a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and entered 24 July 1933. He graduated 3 June 1937 and was commissioned as an ensign, United States Navy. He was then assigned to sea duty aboard the class-leading battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40).
In 1939, Ensign O’Hare was ordered to NAS Pensacola, Florida, for primary flight training. On 3 June 1940, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Junior Grade). He completed flight training 2 May 1940.
Lieutenant (j.g.) O’Hare was next assigned to Fighting Squadron THREE (VF-3), a fighter squadron based at San Diego, California, and assigned as part of the air group of the Lexington-class aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga (CV-3).
USS Saratoga was damaged by a torpedo southwest of the Hawaiian Islands, 11 January 1942. While the carrier was under repair, VF-3 was transferred to USS Lexington.
During the early months of World War II, a task force centered around the United States aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) was intruding into Japanese-held waters north of New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago. In the afternoon of 20 February 1942, she came under attack by several flights of enemy Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers.
Her fighters, Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats, were launched in defense and an air battle ensued. Another flight of nine Bettys approached from the undefended side, and Lieutenant (junior grade) Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, U.S.N. and his wingman were the only fighter pilots available to intercept.
At 1700 hours, O’Hare arrived over the nine incoming bombers and attacked. His wingman’s guns failed, so O’Hare fought on alone. In the air battle, he is credited with having shot down five of the Japanese bombers and damaging a sixth.
For his bravery, Butch O’Hare was promoted to lieutenant commander and awarded the Medal of Honor.
Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O’Hare married Miss Rita Grace Wooster, a nurse at DePaul Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri, 6 September 1941. The marriage was performed by Rev. Patrick Joseph Murphy at the Church of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s Church) in Phoenix, Arizona. They would have a daughter, Kathleen.
In a ceremony at the White House, Washington, D.C., at 10:45 a.m., 21 April 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Commander O’Hare. Lieutenant (j.g.) O’Hare was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander (temporary) with date of rank 8 April 1942.
One of the best known fighter pilots in the United States Navy, Butch O’Hare was a hero to the people of America. He had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat during the early months of the war, nominated for a second Medal of Honor, and awarded the Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart.