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My Uncle was in the Snoopers

Discussion in '868th BS - Snoopers' started by John Barr, Dec 4, 2016.

  1. John Barr

    John Barr New Member

    My Uncle was in the Snoopers and flew out of Morotai but died in a crash shortly after take off on 1/14/45 on a bombing mission. His name is 2Lt. William F Plunkett, from Pittsburgh PA.
    Anne Holland likes this.
  2. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the AAF forum, John.

    Some of your uncles details here http://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-24/42-100271.html for benefit of the other members.
    42-100271 "LADY JUNE" photos:
    Edit/Correction: MACR 16011 https://www.fold3.com/image/29431220

    Edit; John, do you have a photo of your Uncle, better than the one found by Jaap in the Greenwood, MS Newspaper?
    2Lt. William F Plunkett.jpg

    Or is he in any of the crew photos above?
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2016
    Airwar likes this.
  3. Airwar

    Airwar Well-Known Member

    John welcome to this forum,here are some articles,


    Attached Files:

    25Kingman49 likes this.
  4. Airwar

    Airwar Well-Known Member

  5. John Barr

    John Barr New Member

    Wow! Thanks "Airwar" for these articles and photos. I've never seen then, even though my mother was mentioned several times, she never talked about what happened to her brother, my uncle in the war. I will cherish these mementos of my family history.
    25Kingman49 likes this.
  6. Airwar

    Airwar Well-Known Member

  7. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Photo and caption added to Lt. Plunkett's findagrave page http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=56768600 I remain hopeful a better picture is available.

    Also, I misread the BBW photo (post #2) showing a MACR for a different aircraft. The correct MACR 16001 for SB-24J-85-CO-42-100271, 4 pages on fold3 https://www.fold3.com/image/29431252 however still little additional information. This is a postwar MACR report not of the standard type, generated in reply to a family inquiry about F/O William E. Schick, T-126240 (MIA / KIA) Stark County, OH. Reading the handwritten note at the bottom of the attached page it becomes obvious why a MACR was not generated for this lose as the plane crashed on take off, as such was never missing. No survivors, with only wreckage recovered no crew remains.

    For the record the MIA/KIA here are as follows for further study:
    Pilot 2nd Lt. William F. Plunkett, O-819160 (MIA / KIA) Allegheny County, PA
    Co-Pilot 2Lt. Marlin B. Bittinger, Jr. O-823795 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lakewood, OH
    Navigator 2nd Lt. John F. Davis, O-712520 (MIA / KIA, BR) Suffolk County, MA
    Bombardier 2Lt. Charles M. MacNulty, O-709941 (MIA / KIA) Middlesex County, MA
    Engineer SSgt. Bernard W. Peters, 12095755 (MIA / KIA) Essex County, NJ
    Radio SSgt. Frank C. Marcus, 36739143 (MIA / KIA) Cook County, IL
    Radar Sgt Norman P. Vacca, 15354502 (MIA / KIA) Cuyahoga County, OH
    Gunner Sgt. Arthur L. McGee, 33739143 (MIA / KIA) Somerset County, MD
    Gunner Sgt. Melvin R. Flanary, 18162107 (MIA / KIA) Okfuskee County, OK
    Gunner Sgt. John M. Ferro, 32996694 (MIA / KIA) Nassau County, NY
    Crew F/O William E. Schick, T-126240 (MIA / KIA) Stark County, OH

    Edit: Gunner Sgt. Carlos J. Frey, 14128280 (KIA) Hillsborough County, FL was removed from the above listing as not a member of the Plunkett crew. Rather KIA same day crash on takeoff at Morotai with the William D Aiken crew, 72nd Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group in aircraft 816. https://www.abmc.gov/search/node/Carlos J. Frey

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 18, 2016
    Airwar likes this.
  8. B-24 Best Web

    B-24 Best Web Member

  9. Anne Holland

    Anne Holland New Member

    Many thanks to all who have posted newspaper articles and photos here! I have been researching Wm. F. Plunkett for many years. My father, Wm Plunkett's brother, also never talked about what happened to his brother during the war. At my father's funeral in 2007, however, his cousin, Leo, who in 2016 turned 100, talked to me about when Bill was lost. Leo was in the Pacific theater at the time, in the Army, and asked around everywhere about his cousin Bill who was initially listed as MIA. He finally found someone who had been at Morotai on 14 Jan 1945. The report from Leo's source was that after "Lady June" took off, there was a huge explosion in the night sky, and she disappeared. My understanding from Leo's description was that there was hostile action in the area and it was unknown as to the cause of the explosion, whether it was from something integral to the plane, or whether it was due to enemy fire, as it was stated by Leo's contact that there were explosions everywhere. Lacking official documented corroboration, I guess it will forever remain a mystery to us.
    25Kingman49 likes this.
  10. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the AAF forum Anne.
    Thank you for sharing this new detail about your Uncle's final mission, and contributing his photo to his fold3 page shown above in post #8.

    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  11. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    I have never cared much for mysteries, however that might be the ultimate fate for Lt. Plunkett and his crew of SB-24J - 42-100271 departing on just another night mission hunting Jap shipping. Just as disturbing to me is a lack of mission records for this small and specialized night fighting heavy bombardment squadron. There are some publications available but these appear to be general in nature (I could be wrong) not offering an accounting mission by mission. This mission history certainly does not appear to be available in any form on the internet that I can find.

    For those interested here is a search of the Air Force History Index of records held at the AFHRA, Maxwell, AFB, GA for the 868BS http://airforcehistoryindex.org/search.php?q=SQUADRON/0868/BOMBARDMENT there are some interesting records here for those with a vested interest to pursue recovery if desired. The AFHRA email request address is AFHRA.NEWS@maxwell.af.mil (The other AF History Index document recovery tutorial is correct). I suspect nothing in these records will be specific to Lt. Plunkett or this final mission, however may offer the squadrons tactical objectives during January 1945 operating from Pitu Air Field, Morotai; if neither Anne or John have explored these AFHRA records previously.

    For now it remains uncertain what the "Mission of the Night" was for this aircraft or squadron but we can look at the SWPA theater in general during this time frame. I like maps, maybe the attached will help visualize what was happening at the time of this lose. As Anne suggested Morotai was most definitely still on the front lines as of 14 January 1945. One major allied campaign during this period was Luzon with landings starting on 9 January in the Lingayen Gulf. This target was about 1,115 miles from Morotai, perhaps out of range for the "J' model being flown by Lt. Plunkett (complain to Joe Baugher http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_bombers/b24_18.html if felt Liberator slighted). I suspect there were much closer targets nearer Morotai for Lt. Plunkett and company this night but no records as yet support any mission possibilities.

    On with the maps:
    Pacific battle lines as of 15 January 1945 (fluid in more ways than one)

    Lt. Wm. F. Plunkett's theater 14 Jan 45
    [2]Theater Overview Pitu & Wama Air Fields, Morotai.jpg

    Morotai Island

    Pitu & Wama Air Fields, south tip of Morotai
    [4]Pitu & Wama Air Fields, south tip of Morotai.jpg

    Pitu Field partially visible on the left, Wama Field clearly seen on the right.

    These images may not help understand why or how these men offered their last full measure in service to their country, however we all now know where in this world they sacrificed their lives in this service. May they rest in peace buried at sea without ceremonial service.

    Nothing suitable was found for taps a the Manila American Cemetery, or even at the National Cemetery of the Pacific "Punchbowl" I hope this Arlington "snowy" variant is acceptable to honor these SWPA aerial warriors (where a little snow might be welcome).
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
    Airwar likes this.
  12. Rich

    Rich New Member

    In the back of Fred Stanley Howel's book "The Snoopers" is a list of pilots that served in the squadron. The entry for William F Plunkett states "Failed to return January 14, 1945, from attack on Sanga oil fields."
    Airwar likes this.
  13. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Rich!
    Your connection to the Sanga oil fields is I believe important. It will not likely solve the full mystery of Wm Plunkett and crews fate just after takeoff but it may offer some speculative sense of what their mission was to be.

    Following your lead, I found this reference to a similar mission two days earlier resulting in the loss of 2nd Lt. Gorden E Brums crew and aircraft 12 Jan 45 here http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=nicklaus&id=I667 note the reference to the Sanga-Sanga oil field, however fails to offer Group or Squadron detail but we know there were few (Heavy radar ship hunters) operating from Morotia.

    This lead to this Pacific Wrecks page http://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-24/44-41078.html regarding the Brums crew loss. I am a huge fan of Pacific Wrecks but here they failed due diligence misidentifying this plane as being assigned to the 867th Bombardment Squadron, when in fact this is another 868BS ship; Joe Baugher http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1944_4.html
    B-24J-195-CO-44-41078 (868th BS) lost Jan 12, 1945, SW Pacific. MACR 12251, 15 page MACR starts here on fold3 https://www.fold3.com/image/46714361 several pages attached including mission description and mission map.

    This is merely conjecture regarding Wm Plunkett and his crews planned mission for 14 Jan 1945. Using the Brums mission as a template, which appears to have been a two aircraft mission with 2nd Lt John Workman's aircraft in the lead. From Lt. Workman's report it seems clear the primary mission was still radar hunting Jap shipping at night along the Celebes north coast with the mission map as evidence. No shipping found they continued on to their secondary target, the Sanga-Sanga oil fields and refinery. For me it is unclear if Sanga-Sanga was a code name for this target or if the name has changed postwar (so often the case). From the MACR map my best guess is this target was actually Balikpapan, on the southeast coast of then Borneo, see http://www.combinedfleet.com/BorneoOil.htm

    I suspect the Plunkett mission had a very similar mission plan, hunting Jap shipping at night with radar as the primary, secondary target being "Sanga-Sanga" oil refinery. From the Brums / Workman example this coast hugging mission was a long one. Very ruff approximate Morotia to Balikpapan 872 miles one way, probably much longer coast hugging.


    MACR_12251_Page_11_44-41078, mission map.jpg
    [2] Sanga-Sanga oil field target.jpg

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
    Airwar likes this.
  14. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Sanga Sanga is about 60 miles north of Balikpapan, close to Samarinda.
  15. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Rolland.

    Still today with many refinery distribution points along the Mahakam River delta tributaries. Hindsight; note the many circles on the MACR target map. This was a target rich environment in this river delta area.

    Corrected map
    Sanga-Sanga,  Borneo.jpg
    Sanga-Sanga,  Mahakam River delta.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  16. Rich

    Rich New Member

    Carlos J Frey was not a member of this crew. He was a member of the William D Aiken crew, 72nd Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group. Their plane crashed on takeoff the same date at Morotai, killing the entire crew. Per the monthly report they were all buried on Morotai.
    Airwar likes this.
  17. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Sorry Rich, please connect the dots here for me - "Carlos J Frey" was not a member of what crew?

    Edit: And now you have logged off. I could be wrong but see no connection here with Carlos J Frey, or the William D Aiken crew, or the 72nd Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group to this 868BS thread.

    Edit2 now I see the connection going back to the loss of 42-100271, i.e. Radio-Gunner Sgt. Carlos J. Frey, 14128280 (MIA / KIA) Hillsborough County, FL as recorded on Pacific Wrecks.

    I would agree with you, verified by the generally less than useful MACR 16011. Crew page attached where Carlos J Frey is NOT included. These are unfortunate inaccurate recordings. Lt. William D Aiken is recorded here http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=17402253 with little memorial to his passing. Even worse is Sgt. Carlos J. Frey here http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=56775653 with misguided aid of a findagrave do-gooder is now assigned to the 868BS for eternity, unless someone wishes to correct this listing with the page creator, or the 868 memorial image do-gooder. I have found that correcting findagrave pages could be a full time job, not in my realm just yet.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  18. Rich

    Rich New Member

    The redacted MACR for the William F Plunkett crew lists 12 crewmen, including Carlos J Frey. There was some kind of mix up when the Plunkett crew list was created, possibly because of the same location and date. Just want to give the family members accurate information about the crew. This clipping is from the 72nd BS January 1945 monthly report.

    Airwar and 25Kingman49 like this.
  19. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Rich. Edits made to post #7 and #17 this thread for crew member corrections.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016

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