Wreckage of a Consolidated B-24D "Liberator" off Jab'u, Arno Atoll
by Dirk HR Spennemann

The wreckage of a B-24D "Liberator", a Consolidated San Diego-built B-24D, block 145 (B-24D-145-CO), Serial number #42-41205) (nickname "St. Quentin Quail") rests on the lagoonside of Jab'u, Arno Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. The plane, part of the of the 98th Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group, flying under the command of Capt. Morse, crashed on 2 January 1944, as a result of damage incurred during an attack on the Japanese airbase of Taroa on Maloelap Atoll. Another B-24 of the same squadron, the Homesick Angel, also returning from Taroa reported the landing, took photos (see below) and dropped emergency rations. Apparently the bomber crews had been briefed that Arno Atoll was a safe place to land in case of an emergency, but when a "Dumbo" plane, a Navy PBY flying boat went into the lagoon early next morning at dawn and reported that there was no trace of the crew. It was believed that were captured and taken away.

Above: Photographs of the B-24 wreck at Jab'u, taken immediately after crash by officers on board of the B-24 Homesick Angel (Photos courtsey G.Kurz).

Right: Photograph of the Arno B-24 wreck taken on 28 January 1944 by a PBY (Courtesy Bishop Museum, Honolulu).
Two of the crew members died during or as a result of the crash and were buried on Arno. Eight of the crew members survived and were housed and fed by the Marshallese on Arno Atoll from January 3 to January 16, 1944, on which date a Japanese patrol boat arrived from Taroa and captured them. The airmen were taken to Maloelap Atoll where they remained until January 20, 1944.

Left: Arno B-24 wreck. The starboard wing. Photograph: Dirk H.R. Spennemann.
The last we know of the airmen is that they were on a Japanese vessel entering Kwajalein lagoon on January 22, 1944, when the vessel was attacked by U.S. bombers. One airman was killed during this attack. The remaining seven perished without a trace on Kwajalein between then and the U.S. conquest of that atoll on February 3rd.

The perished crew comprised of: Lt. Roger W.Morse, Pilot; Lt. Herbert S. Evans, Co-Pilot; Lt. Robert H. Wirostek, Navigator; Lt. William F. Carpen, Bombardier; Sgt. Marion L. Farmer, Flight Engineer; TSgt. John W. Horman, Radio-operator; SSgt. I.L.Stowe, Gunner; SSgt. Paul H. VanBuskin, Gunner; SSgt. Henry R. Wyka, Gunner; and Pvt. Robert T. McTwigan, Gunner.

The two crew members buried on Arno (Henry R. Wyka and Marion L. Farmer) were exhumed after the U.S. landings on Majuro on 31 January 1944 and re-interred at the war cemetery on Garra Island ("Demon Island"). After the war they were removed and interred at their final resting places in the U.S.A.

Right: Plan view of the Consolidated B-24 D "Liberator" bomber resting at a beachrock spur on the lagoon side of Jab'u Island, Arno Atoll, showing the parts of the plane still preserved.
The plane wreck rests in the intertidal zone off a beachrock spur off Jab'u Island in 1 to 1.5m of water at low tide, some 30-40m from the present high-tide mark. Extant are the port wing, a large part of the starboard wing, the central fuselage section between the wings, and all four engines. Only one propeller was seen, although the others may well rest buried in the sand, somewhere to the rear of the plane, ripped off duirng the crash landing. The tip section of the port wing from the port No.2 engine onwards is snapped off and twisted backwards. The bottom of the lagoon shows a few isolated pieces of aluminum, among them the ring of the central Martin turret. No pieces of the pilots cockpit or the entire rear fuselage including rear ailerons could be located.

From the pattern of the wreckage and debris it is clear that the plane landed at the beach in an eastward direction, against the prevailing tradewinds, and that it came to an abrupt halt at the beachrock spur, which may well have been partialy submerged at the time.

The aluminum is on the whole in good condition and it can be expected that as long as no untoward actions happen, the plane will be around for some time. The plane, resting on the reef has been utilized by the Arno people in the 1940s and 1950s as a resource for aluminum to manufacture coconut-grater blades, husking-stick points and other artifacts for daily use.

The plane wreck is a significant cultural resource at it is tangible evidence of the US long range bombing mission against the Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1994) The last flight of the 'St. Quentin Quail'. Investigations of the wreckage and history of Consolidated B-24 'Liberator' aircraft #42-41205 off Jab'u Island, Arno Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Johnstone Centre for Parks, Recreation and Heritage Report No 17. The Johnstone Centre for Parks, Recreation and Heritage, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW., 1994.

Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1995) Wreckage of a Consolidated B-24D "Liberator" off Jab'u, Arno Atoll.
URL: http:/marshall.csu.edu.au/Marshalls/html/B24/B24_Arno.html

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: dspennemann@csu.edu.au

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