B-24J-45-CO Liberator Serial Number 42-73453 Nose 453

Pacific Wrecks

B-24J-45-CO Liberator Serial Number 42-73453 Nose 453

13th AF
307th BG
424th BSClick For Enlargement
USAAF c1944

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USAAF May 15, 1944

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307th BG c1944

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307th BG c1944

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BentStar 2004

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BentStar 2005

Pilot  2nd Lt. Jack S. M. Arnett, O-809803 (MIA / KIA, BR) Friendly, WV
Co-Pilot  F/O William B. Simpson, T-002389 (MIA / KIA, BR) Winston Salem, NC
Navigator  2nd Lt. Frank J. Arhar, O-709240 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lloydell, PA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. Arthur J. Schumacher, O-762989 (POW / MIA) MN
Engineer  T/Sgt Robert J. Stinson, 39167263 (MIA / KIA, BR) San Bernardino, CA
Asst Engineer / Nose Gunner  S/Sgt Jimmie Doyle, 38346235 (MIA / KIA, BR) McKinney, TX
Radio  T/Sgt Charles T. Goulding, 32626618 (MIA / KIA, BR) Marlboro, NY
Assistant Radio  S/Sgt John Moore, 38512637 (POW / MIA) AR
Gunner  S/Sgt Earl E. Yoh, 35558843 (MIA / KIA, BR) OH

Tail Gunner  S/Sgt Leland D. Price, 15080991 (MIA / KIA, BR) OH

Photographer  Sgt Alexander R. Vick, 6553144 (POW / MIA) Campbell, CA
Crashed  September 1, 1944 at 11:06
MACR  8641

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army painted in olive drab paint. This B-24 was equipped with SCR521 sea search radar. Ferried overseas via Hawaii then across the Pacific to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 307th Bombardment Group, 424th Bombardment Squadron. Nose number 453. No known nickname. The left side of the nose had the nose art of a seated Vargas girl wearing a night gown and high heels and one leg folded was painted on the left side of the nose.

When lost, this B-24 had engine serial numbers R-1830-65A serial number HP437702, HP437793, HP436468 and 42-40966. Aboard were 50 caliber machine guns serial numbers: 935616, 935614 (tail) 935179, 935727 (ball turret), 936039, 765025 (top turret), 935952 (left waist), 935577 (right waist). Usually, the crew of this B-24 flew with pilot Lt. Norman Coorssen. Prior to this mission, Coorssen, his co-pilot, and their photographer were replaced by Arnett, Simpson and Vick on the September 1, 1944 mission when lost.

Mission History
On September 1, 1944 took off from Wakde Airfield (APO 719) on a bombing mission against Koror in the Palau Islands. Weather was unlimited visibility and weather excellent and reached the target area at 17,000′. Hit by two bursts of Japanese anti-aircraft fire in the left wing, causing the No. 2 engine to catch fire and the bombs were immediately salvoed and slid out of formation descending. One person was observed to parachute out and landed on a coral reef approximately 1 1/4 miles south east of the southern tip of Babeldaub. The bomber appeared to be under control making a steep turn to the right in an effort to extinguish the fire. Another person was observed to bail out, their parachute did not open until near the sea.

Suddenly, the left wing folded up and broke off the bomber, causing it to go into an uncontrolled spin that broke the fuselage into two pieces. The wreckage crashed into the sea between Koror and Babeldaub. At least two of the crew were observed to successfully bail out and deploy their parachutes. The other crew members went down with the bomber.

Roughly an hour later, three B-24s piloted by Lewis, Hunter and Randolph circled Babeldaub and the vicinity of the crash at an altitude of 4,000′ and searched for any surviving crew members. No trace of the crew was seen, although a small launch was observed in the area bound for Koror.

Fates of the Crew
In fact, three of the crew bailed out and reached a village where they were captured by the Japanese and became prisoners of war. Later, all three were executed.

On January 26, 2004 this bomber was located due to the efforts of Bent Prop and Pat Scannon on a coral head approximately two miles west of Babeldaub Island. The rear fuselage was also located, separated from the rest of the bomber. Also found was the nose section and starboard wing.

The bomber was officially investigated by JPAC on four occasions over a four year period spanning 2004-2008.

1) During February 2004, Bent Prop took JPAC to this B-24, while they were in Palau working on a recovery of remains from FG-1 Corsair 76471.

2) During April-May 2005 JPAC returned and recovered remains from the bomber
Reference: Bent Prop P-MAN VII (2005) report

3) During January-February 2007 JPAC augmented by US Navy divers from the Mobile Underwater Diving Salvage Unit 1, deployed to Palau to conduct an underwater excavation for sixty days and recovered remains. References: JPAC News Release 07-01 January 23, 2007 and Bent Prop P-MAN IX Final Report.

4) During January-February 2008 the wreckage was again visited by JPAC and remains were recovered. During the operation, US Navy Admiral Keating and his wife visited this site. References JPAC News Release “JPAC to conclude mission, found remains, February 25, 2008” and Bent Prop P-MAN X Update #13.

On February 12, 2009 eight members of the crew: Arnett, Arhar, Simpson, Goulding, Stinson, Doyle, Price and Yoh were positively identified and announced in a Department of Defense / DPMO news release dated April 30, 2010.

Three other members of the crew are still listed as missing: Schumacher, Moore and Vick). During 2009, BentProp continued to search for them. Reference: JPAC as part of the PMAN XI (2009) report.

Eight of the crew: Arnett, Simpson, Arhar, Stinson, Price, Goulding, Yoh and Doyle were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Three of the crew: Moore, Schumacher and Vick were officially declared dead on March 15, 1946. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Following their identification, on April 29, 2010 eight members of the crew: Arnett, Arhar, Simpson, Goulding, Stinson, Doyle, Price and Yoh were buried at Arlington National Cemetery in group burial at section 60 G 9440-9441.

Arnett has a memorial plaque at Emmanuel Episcopal Church Memorial Garden in Orlando, FL. After the recovery of remains, he was buried at Friendly Cemetery in Friendly, WV.

Arhar has a memorial marker at Saint Joseph Cemetery in Beaverdale, PA.

Stinson was buried on October 30, 2009 at Riverside National Cemetery at section 49A, site 74 after his remains were recovered.

Doyle had a memorial marker at Lamesa Memorial Park in Lamesa, TX. After the recovery of his remains, he was buried alongside his wife, Myrle Dean.

Moore has a memorial marker at Lakeside Cemetery in Des Arc, AR.
Yoh has a memorial marker at Mohr Cemetery in Van Wert, OH.
Price has a memorial marker and grave at Riverside Cemetery in Defiance, OH.

Nancy Doyle (daughter in law of S/Sgt Jimmie Doyle)
“Doyle was born born Oct. 29, 1918. My husband, Tommy, and I traveled to Palau where my husband dove on the plane. He had learned to scuba dive and had been certified only 2 weeks before the dive.”

Tommy Doyle (son of S/Sgt Jimmie Doyle)
With the help of Bent Prop, Tommy Doyle (son of SSgt Jimmie Doyle) SCUBA dived the wreck during March 2005. His visit is documented in the Last Flight documentary. Reference: P-MAN VII Attachment 2.

Janet Potts (niece of Earl Yoh):
“Earl Yoh was my Uncle and this is the first photo I’ve seen of him with the crew.”

Bob Kay adds:
“My wife’s uncle was 2nd Lt. Arthur Schumacher bombardier on the airplane when it went down in Palau. She’s going to be a member of the BentProp P-MAN XVI mission this spring to Palau”

Missing Air Crew Report 8641 (MACR 8641)
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File – Arthur J Schumacher
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File – John Moore
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File – Alex R Vick
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Jack S. M. Arnett “recovered and identified on Feb 12, 2009”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – William B. Simpson “recovered and identified on Feb 12, 2009”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Frank J. Arhar “recovered and identified on Feb 12, 2009”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Arthur J. Schumacher
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Robert J. Stinson “his remains were recovered”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Jimmie Doyle “remains have been recovered”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Charles T. Goulding “recovered and identified on Feb 12, 2009”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – John Moore
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Earl E. Yoh “recovered and identified on Feb 12, 2009”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Leland D. Price “recovered and identified on Feb 12, 2009”
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) – Alexander R. Vick
FindAGrave – Jack S M Arnett (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – Jack S. M. Arnett (Emmanuel Episcopal Church Memorial Garden plaque)
FindAGrave – Lieut Jack Sterling Arnett (airport arrival photo)
FindAGrave – William B Simpson (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – Frank J “Big Stoop” Arhar (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – Frank Arhar (memorial marker)
FindAGrave – Robert J Stinson (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – Sgt Robert J Stinson (Riverside grave photo)
FindAGrave – Jimmie Doyle (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – Sgt Jimmie Doyle (Lamesa grave, memorial marker)
FindAGrave – Charles T Goulding (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – John Moore, Jr.
FindAGrave – Earl Ellsworth Yoh (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – Sgt Earl Ellsworth Yoh (Mohr grave photo)
FindAGrave – Leland D Price (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave – Leland D Price (Riverside Cemetery grave)
Tia Belau “Search comes up blank” October 27, 2000 “one or possibly two B-24s that the Japanese anti-aircraft guns on 25 August [B-24J 44-40596] and a second on 1 September 1944 [B-24J 42-73453]”
BentProp P-MAN VI Final Report, 2004 reporting initial discovery of B-24
JPAC continues recovery mission February 4, 2008
JPAC to conclude mission, found remains February 25, 2008
Orlando Sentinel “At long last, pilot returns from World War II” December 8, 2009
The Bent Star Project – MIA Updates
DoD News Release “U.S. Airmen MIA From WWII Are Identified (Arnett, Arhar, Simpson, Goulding, Stinson, Doyle, Price, Yoh)” 10-003 April 28, 2010
DPMO – Recently Accounted For – April 30, 2010
Philadelphia Inquirer “The lost, now found, laid to rest at Arlington” by April 30, 2010
NBC Nightly News “World War II Airmen Laid to Rest, 65 Years Later” April 30, 2010
Last Flight Home interviews Doyle’s relatives & footage of the B-24
Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton details the story of this B-24’s discovery, recovery and identification of the crew
Painting “Mission Palau” by Mark Pestana depicts 42-73452 in formation
Thanks to Pat Scannon / Dan O’Brien of Bent Prop / BentStarProject and Pete Johnson for additional information


Courtesy of https://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-24/42-73453.html.


Meet Dr. Patrick Scannon

Dr. Patrick Scannon is the founder, current team leader and President of The BentProp Project. Dr. Scannon originally started the team in 1993, and formalized the mission structure in 2000. In 2015 he became a Co-Principal Investigator of Project Recover. Project Recover is a partnership among researchers at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, and The BentProp Project.

The Deepest End

The Deepest End

What happened to Flight 447?

Baltimore writer Wil Hylton goes deep to solve a decades-old mystery

On a military barge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, half a world away from his home in Baltimore, Wil S. Hylton felt ghosts.

“I got on this barge thinking I was going to do a magazine piece,” says Hylton, who was on an assignment from GQ. “And I spent this time on the barge just feeling the presence of death and unanswered questions all around me. I’m not a religious person, I’m not even a spiritual person, I’m a born-again atheist, but the sense of ghosts in that place-whatever ghosts may be in your mind-were there.”

Hylton’s first book, Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II (Riverhead), released this week, was born out of these ghosts. At the time, he had no idea that they would consume the next several years of his life. In fact, he really didn’t even know what he was feeling, or why. Because nobody aboard the barge would tell him anything.

He was working on a story about JPAC (Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command), the military unit in charge of recovering lost soldiers from previous wars, or their remains. Given the nature of the missions, the secrecy was understandable-JPAC did not want to give false hope to families who have been waiting over half a century.

“At a fundamental level, it was the unit’s job not just to bring home remains, but to provide each family with answers, in the hope that truth would allow life, finally, to go on,” Hylton writes in Vanished. But if truth would allow life finally to go on, falsehood would jam up the cogs again. They had to be certain.

At first, this didn’t bother Hylton. Initially, he thought of it as a procedural adventure story and planned to follow various JPAC team members from the barge off the coast of the tiny archipelago of Palau to the jungle of Peleliu and then all the way to Cambodia and Thailand.

But then everything changed.

“I got on the barge and I didn’t want to leave, man,” Hylton says. “There was something under the barge. All these incredibly talented disparate service members had come on this barge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and they were down there exploring, and it was some kind of plane, and they were reading these moving emails, and I thought, I’m not leaving this story, this is the story right here. I’ve got to see this thing through.”

Hylton, now a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, had reason to trust his gut. He’s been a reporter virtually all his life. “I can clearly remember being a student at Roland Park Elementary, thinking it would be cool to get to high school because they would have a newspaper I could work on,” he says. And when he started City College, he immediately found the editor of the paper, who asked him what he wanted to do. “I eventually want to do your job,” Hylton told him.

By his junior year, he was doing the editor’s job and, along with it, had an internship at The Evening Sun, which happened to fold when he was there, which was also the same time that The Sun faced its first round of buyouts. “All of a sudden there was no one around,” he says. “There was this tiny community that were the leftover feature writers from the Accent section and the Today section, the two feature sections. And those of us who had been at The Evening Sun moved over to the Morning Sun and set up desks.”

As a result of the vacuum, Hylton, though he was a high school student, was treated like a reporter and, he says, he essentially quit going to school. When it came time for college, he hated Kenyon-the small liberal arts college his father had attended-partly because “there was no newspaper. I loved being a reporter in Baltimore,” he says. He eventually ended up in Albuquerque, N.M., where he still hated school but was able to write for the Albuquerque Tribune, which hired him on the strength of his Sun pieces. An avid outdoorsman, he spent a great deal of time in the wilderness, married his high school sweetheart, whom he became reacquainted with out West, had children, and began to write for magazines like Rolling Stone, Harper’s, and GQ, the magazine that had sent him to the small Pacific archipelago of Palau.

And everything he’d learned in a lifetime of reporting told him the story was here. Eric Emery, the “rumpled archaeologist . . . with deep lines etched around his eyes, his beard at least a week grown in, his hair an unruly explosion of wire” who was in charge of the mission, had made it clear to Hylton that he was tolerated but not exactly welcome, answering questions with as few words as possible.

So Hylton got on a satellite phone with JPAC’s public affairs officer and started raising hell. “I told them, ‘I need to just focus on one of these. I’m not going to Peleliu, the jungle; I’m not going to Cambodia and Laos and all these other places,'” Hylton recalls. “‘That’s not the way I see story. I’m not going to do some round up. I want to dig down someplace. All these guys are going underwater and doing something and I don’t even know what it is.’ So I was kind of pissed they wouldn’t let me go see it.”

After his loud phone calls, everyone on the boat sensed the frustration that was eating at Hylton, who is a certified scuba diver and was insistent that he could dive down with Navy divers to see what was under the water there. “Maybe I was being a little bit of a prima donna,” he admits. “But I felt like it was my responsibility as a reporter to push. And I lost. They said ‘no,’ and I had nowhere else to go. I had no other recourse to get down there. The coordinates aren’t even publicly available, so I couldn’t wait until there was a day off and go find it.”

At this point, Hylton was resigned to returning home, writing his procedural story, and allowing all that he didn’t know about what was under the barge to serve as a metaphor for what we didn’t know about the many men lost in the Pacific during World War II, which, as it turns out, is 47,000 men-about the same number as the total combat casualties in Vietnam.

But the story would not let him go. His first breakthrough came from the most unexpected source. One of the medical doctors aboard the ship had appeared the previous year on the reality television show The Bachelor, which had initially caused Hylton to shy away from him. But it quickly became apparent that “Doc” Andy Baldwin was more than just a pretty face.

“If he had a down minute, he would grab a broom and sweep up,” Hylton says of Baldwin. “He ended up spending as much time underwater, doing the grunt work and suctioning sand off the bottom in these huge suits and hard hats. He was always down there, didn’t have to be. And in the evening, he’d go out for these epic runs through the islands, and then on days off, he would go and treat island children. He was just this absurd good samaritan-type personality, and I grew to really like him and completely forgot about the chips I had against him for being a reality star.”

Recognizing Hylton’s frustration, Baldwin approached him and said that even though JPAC would not let them scuba dive in the area, they couldn’t-or weren’t going to-keep them from swimming. Doc said he would take Hylton free diving, or, as Baldwin put it “breath-hold diving.” So Hylton borrowed a mask and flippers and stripped down to his underwear and went out into the water with the Bachelor.

“We jumped in the water, man, and I was scared out of my wits,” recalls Hylton. “I have done plenty of snorkeling, but the most shallow part [of the wreck] was 30 or 40 feet and the deepest part was about 70 feet, so getting down to that depth involves holding your breath for a minute or something.”

To make it worse, Baldwin told him about something called “shallow-water blackout,” which can happen if you don’t allow a little bit of air to escape from your lungs as you move. Hylton, an athletic guy with a compact, wiry frame and a bald head, kept trying to go down, feeling like he was out of breath and then racing to the surface, terrified and gasping for air. “Finally I made this decision, I’m willing to black out if I have to,” Hylton says. “The sensation is really terrifying. You go down 30 or 40 feet, and after 33 feet, you’re feeling twice the weight of the atmosphere. At 66 feet, you’re at three times the atmosphere’s pressure, so what happens is your lungs just collapse. They might still have a fair amount of oxygen molecules left in there to sustain you for a while, but it’s the sensation of having exhaled as fully as possible. So your brain is telling you, ‘breathe, breathe, breathe,’ but your body can actually get by on that amount of oxygen that’s compressed like it would be in a tank. It’s a mental game at that point. You have to tell yourself you’re willing to have a medical calamity.”

He told himself he was willing to have such a calamity. (It helped to know that Baldwin, as a doctor and a triathlete, was the best possible person to have around.)

And then Hylton saw it. “It was like the ocean parted,” he says. “It was all this muddy, hazy shit where you can’t see anything, and then whoom! There’s this huge piece of airplane and it’s a World War II bomber, and there’s a hole right there where the waist guns are, and there are still the guns, and it’s just there under the water. Crazy. Crazy.”

Hylton knew he had to find out more, but once again, he was flummoxed. He was only able to see the plane for seconds and could make out no markings. At the time, he knew little about the U.S. air campaign in the Pacific and knew next to nothing about World War II bombers so he couldn’t continue to research it on his own. He also didn’t have any idea that this was JPAC’s first underwater retrieval mission and that tight-lipped Eric Emery had been preparing for such a mission for years and, in some senses, for his entire life.

Though Emery had not been particularly welcoming, he approached Hylton in the hotel hallway the night before he was leaving and gave him what he needed. “He said, ‘You have to promise me that you won’t write this article until you’ve spoken to Pat Scannon.’ And he was speaking in this hushed voice because he wasn’t supposed to be saying anything about Pat Scannon to me.”

Eric Emery turned out to be one of the key figures in Vanished, and Pat Scannon another. Fifteen years earlier, Scannon had come across a crashed bomber while scuba diving in Palau and it had changed his life. “He had come to the islands to escape the pressure of daily life, yet he found himself overcome by an even greater sense of purpose,” Hylton writes in Vanished. “Later when Scannon tried to explain the feeling that came over him that day, the sense of duty and responsibility that would consume the next two decades of his life, that would bring him back, year after year, to swim and dive and hike and climb and fly small aircraft over islands; when he tried to describe the sensation that gripped him as he gazed upon the wing, words would always fail.”

Hylton could have been describing the effect the plane had on him. By the time he found Scannon, he sensed the parallel in their trajectories, but he was on deadline and was able to squeeze in only a brief section about Scannon and BentProp, the organization Scannon founded to try and find as many of the lost men as possible.

As powerful as the experience was, Hylton may have forgotten it and moved on after he wrote his initial story, as he had so many times before, had it not been for one more crucial piece that fell into place just before his deadline.

JPAC found a dog tag from the plane, which was a B-24 Liberator bomber that had been flown by a crew called the Big Stoop crew. It had belonged to a man named Jimmy Doyle, and so Hylton called the JPAC public affairs officer again and said he wanted to meet the Doyles. He was amazed that they agreed to let him-“I think they just got tired of telling me no,” he says-and soon he was in Snyder, Texas to talk with Tommy Doyle, the son of one of the missing men.

“I was just talking to Tommy about what [the possibility of finding out what happened to his father] meant to him and finding out that it meant everything to him, finding out that it always had,” Hylton says. “His father was not someone he had ever known. He was 2 when he left. He knew his father as a ghost and the worst kind of ghost, because his father was somebody he longed for, and yet even as he longed for him, his father was the source of the great pain in his life.”

Everything was worse for Tommy Doyle because, all his life, stories had circulated that said his father was still alive, in California, with a new family. “The stories that he told me about his father maybe still being alive were very convincing,” Hylton says. “I couldn’t explain how those stories could be so vivid coming from close family members who are absolutely convinced and seemed to have strong personal experience, having basically encountered [Jimmy]. He called them and asked questions about the family, and when they challenged the caller and said they knew it was Jimmy, he hung up. Or they went out to see him in California and he took off, but they were able to confirm with neighbors that he lived there.” Neither Hylton nor, more importantly, the Doyles had any explanation for the stories. For them, it was far from an academic question.

As they spoke, Tommy Doyle wept. “He’s this big powerful figure,” Hylton says. “When I say powerful, I mean not just physically, though he is that. But his role in the community is like a shaper of men. He is the old football coach in that part of West Texas. He’s the guy who was a football star himself, and [he] takes these young men and teaches them discipline and courage and integrity and what it is to be strong.”

It was shocking for Hylton to see such a man crying about the loss of someone he had never known and who had been dead for 70 years. “By the time I left the Doyles’ house, I was aware that this ambiguous loss existed, though I didn’t know a name for it,” he said. “I had just seen this emotional phenomenon, this suspended grief.”

Hylton returned home from West Texas and wrote the story and filed it. But he never quit reporting. He just kept making calls: to the Doyles, to Pat Scannon, and to JPAC. He says he was on fire, that he couldn’t quit thinking about it. He had never wanted to do a book before, finding the long magazine story the perfect length. But this was different.

“I told my agent I wanted to do a book because I just wanted to find out what the hell did happen with Tommy’s dad,” he says. If this West Texas football coach who had broken down crying was representative of any significant portion of the families of 47,000 men lost in the Pacific, then “there was something big, some big epidemic of this particular kind of grief that I’d never heard about.”

The book-which is part mystery, part history, part CSI procedural, and part adventure-is, according to Hylton, “just a drug-delivery system to deliver the story about the legacy of grief. I wanted to tell the story of the grief. I wanted to explore that feeling, because it’s a feeling that has sort of consumed me and it’s a specific kind of grief that’s so much about narrative, and it’s obviously better to tell the story as a story, and you can have all of these adventures and mystery and the character, but underneath all that is the story that really matters to me.”

As such, the book is a deeply ethical study of what war really means and its long-lasting effects.

Hylton took a leave of absence from the Times and devoted himself fully to the project. He never even paused to write a book proposal but told his agent that if someone wanted the book, they would just have to trust him as he reconstructed the lives of the Big Stoop crew (especially Jimmy Doyle, Tommy’s father), interviewed family members, researched what psychologists call “ambiguous loss,” learned all he could about the Pacific campaign, about World War II bombers-especially the B24-and about the operations of JPAC and BentProp.

In so many ways, Hylton’s own story became a parallel to that of characters like Scannon and Emery, about whom he was writing. And as he reported, he began to play some role in the story himself. “I ended up being an intermediary a lot of times between different sources of information who either were not supposed to talk to one another or hadn’t thought to communicate,” Hylton says. “The story that I don’t tell in the book is the story of my entering into this narrative thrall in which I-like Scannon, like Emery, like all of the 11 families [of the crew members]-had ideas about what really happened and didn’t know what to believe because there were so many things that didn’t add up and there was so much emotional freight attached to this thing that it felt impossible to let it go, and as I found bits and pieces of information, I started to convey it to people because I thought they needed to know.”

He also went back to Palau with Scannon’s BentProp crew, which included another local man, Mark Swank, who worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and owns the Crofton Cantina in Crofton, Md., and who had spent hundreds of hours looking for information about the Big Stoop plane and the Pacific campaign in the National Archives in College Park. Whether he is in the bar or traveling to Afghanistan for his day job, Swank always has a laptop filled with material detailing what he had learned at the archives.

When Swank and Hylton recently met up at the Crofton Cantina to talk about the book, Swank opened the laptop and spent nearly an hour scrolling through hand-drawn maps and testimonies of Japanese prisoners of war. Swank had spent so much time researching in the archives that it was as if he was on a first-name basis with all of the actors in the battles that raged around Palau. In 2008, the pieces came together and Swank thought he had figured out what had happened to the men aboard the plane.

Numerous pictures on his laptop show BentProp’s efforts to prove him right, to bring peace to the families of the crew aboard the plane that Hylton had seen beneath the sea. And in the same way Swank pieced together the various accounts from the war in order to figure out what actually happened-to the extent we can know-Hylton has taken his story, the stories of the men aboard the plane, and the stories of everyone else who, like himself, has been fascinated, obsessed even, with making right something that happened 70 years ago, and he has put them together in a story. It is a story that we really need, ensuring today’s soldiers that they will not be lost and forgotten. The grief that consumed the Doyle family and so many others, the grief that propelled Pat Scannon and Eric Emery and Mark Swank and Wil Hylton comes, as Hylton puts it in the book, from facing “a story with no ending,” where “their inconsolable grief had as much to do with narrative as with death.”

Vanished, and the people it chronicles, provides this sense of narrative, and in the process, Hylton proves himself a major American writer. He has done what every war story since The Iliad has attempted: In telling the story of the ghosts he first felt on the barge in the cerulean-blue Pacific, he has brought some small bit of peace to the long aftermath of war.

Courtesy of http://www.citypaper.com/bcp-cms-1-1576734-migrated-story-cp-20131030-featu-20131030-story.html.

Scientist’s Scuba Trip Sparks Search For ‘Vanished’ WWII Plane

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On Sept. 1, 1944, a massive B-24 bomber carrying a crew of 11 people went down in the South Pacific. Its wreckage remained undiscovered, and the fate of its airmen unknown for decades. Then an American scientist, Dr. Pat Scannon, became obsessed with the mystery of these missing GIs.

Wil Hylton’s new book, Vanished: The 60-Year Search for the Missing Men of WWII, is the tale of the men who crashed and the long quest to discover the truth. Hylton joins NPR’s Rachel Martin to talk about the “Big Stoop Crew,” the challenge of competing stories, and what one airman’s son found when he dove down to the wreckage.

Interview Highlights

On how Pat Scannon became involved with the mystery

He took a much-needed vacation and went out to this tiny little island cluster in the South Pacific called Palau. And while there, just on a scuba-diving vacation of sorts, he happened upon a huge airplane wing, and as he got closer to it he was able to discern lettering indicating that it was an American bomber. And he was instantly struck by this sensation that he described to me as coldness creeping up from his feet to his scalp, and in that moment he knew that he would not be able to stop until he understood what had happened to the rest of the plane, how many men had been on it, and whether their families knew what had happened.

On the group of airmen known as the “Big Stoop Crew”

The crew of a B-24 bomber came from all different parts of the country to fill the different positions on the aircraft, but after only a brief period of knowing each other they all deployed together to the Pacific Islands to fight in the air campaign against Japan, which is a part of World War II that has been greatly overlooked in most history. So it’s just these 11 men aboard an aircraft over hostile territory, taking anti-aircraft fire and trying to survive and hopefully contribute something to the war effort.

On how Scannon went about trying to figure out what happened

Wil S. Hylton is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. Chris Hartlove/Courtesy of Riverhead Books

He started at the Air Force’s historical records agency down in Alabama, but the search ballooned wildly from there, into the National Archives, and then into interviews with surviving airmen from the unit. And then it continued onto these missions that he began making at least once a year to Palau, with a backpack full of gear, which over time became increasingly complex technology that he would use to try to find the airplane, including magnetometers and infrared film that he believed he might be able to use to see through the water in the channels of the islands. So he would strap himself into the open doorway of a Cessna and have a pilot fly him over these channels and he’d be hanging out, you know, almost parallel to the surface of the water.

But the problem was all of the accounts of what happened to this airplane were different. The stories that family members heard were different from the official story that they heard, which (was) also different from the stories that Palauan tribal elders who had observed the crash heard, and so none of it added up, and it was very hard to even have a sense of where he should be looking.

On the moment when, after a decade of searching, Scannon and his team found what they believed to be the rest of the plane

It was a moment of great joy and also great sorrow … I’ve seen footage of the day that that plane was found, and you can see both those emotions so clearly on the faces. There’s this sort of ashen-faced horror at having found the wreckage of at least part of this aircraft. And yet there was also this sense that after having spent the first decade of this process searching and searching, wondering, that they had finally come to a point of some clarity about at least where most of the plane and many of the men wound up.

On why the son of one of the airmen traveled to Palau to dive down and see the plane himself

He told me that when he went down to the plane he still wasn’t sure whether his father was on it. Like so many families, he had grown up wondering if his father had perhaps found some way to get off the plane and survive. So he got to the dive site and he made his dive down and he saw the waist-gun door — this huge yawning opening where the 50-caliber machine gun sticks out. And he reached out and he touched the plane, and he held on, and he had a conversation with his father for the first time ever, feeling that perhaps his father was there — although he still had no way to know for sure.

Interview from The John Batchelor Show

Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton. PART 1 of 2.

In the fall of 1944, a massive American bomber carrying eleven men vanished over the Pacific islands of Palau, leaving a trail of mysteries. According to mission reports from the Army Air Forces, the plane crashed in shallow water—but when investigators went to find it, the wreckage wasn’t there. Witnesses saw the crew parachute to safety, yet the airmen were never seen again. Some of their relatives whispered that they had returned to the United States in secret and lived in hiding. But they never explained why.

For sixty years, the U.S. government, the children of the missing airmen, and a maverick team of scientists and scuba divers searched the islands for clues. With every clue they found, the mystery only deepened.

Now, in a spellbinding narrative, Wil S. Hylton weaves together the true story of the missing men, their final mission, the families they left behind, and the real reason their disappearance remained shrouded in secrecy for so long. This is a story of love, loss, sacrifice, and faith—of the undying hope among the families of the missing, and the relentless determination of scientists, explorers, archaeologists, and deep-sea divers to solve one of the enduring mysteries of World War II.

Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton. PART 2 of 2.

Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II

Wil S. Hylton on grief, narrative, and the difficulty of recovering a sunken past

Wil Hylton © Chris Hartlove

Wil Hylton © Chris Hartlove

The tragedy of a story often emerges at its conclusion, but perhaps most tragic is the story that lacks an ending entirely. In his new book, Vanished (Riverhead), Baltimore author and Harper’s Magazine contributor Wil S. Hylton describes the grieving process of families with loved ones who were deemed “missing in action” in the Pacific theater of World War II, and the extraordinary efforts they and others have made to bring that process to closure. California wreck detective Pat Scannon, the book’s hero, has made it his life’s work to locate American planes considered lost more than fifty years after they went down in the seas around the Pacific archipelago of Palau. As a result of Scannon’s findings, uncertain families have finally been able to piece together the stories of their missing relatives. I interviewed Hylton about grief, narrative, and the difficulty of recovering a sunken past:

1. One of the main stories you follow in Vanished concerns Tommy Doyle, a Texas man whose father’s plane was lost near Palau. Doyle grew up thinking that his father might still be alive, even that he might have started another family elsewhere in the United States. What about his story compelled you, among the others you researched? And in what ways did it speak to the larger pool of families whose loved ones were lost in mysterious circumstances during World War II?

Tommy’s story is a powerful example of the special contours of MIA grief. Of course, every family with a missing person suffers a unique tragedy. The loss and agony are as specific as the missing person. But certain issues are common among MIA families, having to do not just with death but uncertainty. You often find that these families have held on for decades to hope that the person has survived. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that sometimes this turns out to be true. Japanese troops continued to return from the South Pacific into the 1970s; in 1994 an American MIA returned from North Korea after thirty years; and this year has seen a couple of cases where it looked as though soldiers from Vietnam had finally stepped out of the jungle.

For most of us, these are small items at the margin of news and history. But for MIA families, they provide a central and sometimes corrosive thread of hope. In Tommy’s case, it was clear from a young age that his family had substantive reason to believe his father was still alive. His mother refused to discuss it with him, but Tommy heard his uncles whispering: they said his dad was living in another state and didn’t want to come home, but that he called the family to check in, and that they’d driven out to see him. So Tommy spent sixty years living with this uncertainty, which I think is really the defining element of the MIA experience — that you never know what to believe because you’re facing a story with no certain ending. It’s a form of grief that has as much to do with narrative as with death.

2. You do an excellent job of examining the challenges that a researcher like Pat Scannon faces in recovering a sunken plane and figuring out the events that led it to crash. What were some of the major obstacles you faced in your own research of the airmen and their families?

I guess the biggest challenge was the Pacific Ocean itself. I’m only partly kidding. I mean, the Pacific is just unfathomably vast, and its scale resonated in both the story and the experience of writing it. I keep this old globe on my desk and one day as I was turning it, I reached a point where almost all I could see was the Pacific. It’s that big. In fact, I think it’s larger than all of the continents combined. So when you look at the number of U.S. troops who vanished in the Pacific war, it’s about the same number as the total combat casualties in Vietnam — and most went down in the water. This makes the search-and-recovery effort spectacularly complex. It also complicates the reporting. I think I crossed about 60,000 miles getting to and from the islands, and while there, I spent a lot of time just trying to get to the bottom of the ocean.

The vastness of the Pacific also meant that the war strategy was enormously complex, crossing hundreds of tiny islands scattered thousands of miles apart. As a reporter, I pored through probably 200 books on the Pacific campaign — all to get a better sense of the landscape around this one plane and the eleven men at the center of my story.

3. The book focuses specifically on plane-recovery operations in and around the islands of Palau. How does recovery work there compare with work on other Pacific islands?

That’s a great question because I think most of us don’t appreciate how much variety there is among the central Pacific islands. We tend to picture the region as a series of idyllic atolls basking in natural wonder, which some of them are. Palau certainly is. During the war, it was home to more than 25,000 Japanese troops and some of the most vicious combat. The Marines still call the Battle of Peleliu “the bitterest battle of the war.” But Palau today has become a pristine natural treasure of verdant hills surrounded by cerulean sea. By contrast, the Tarawa Atoll east of Palau is an absolute nightmare for recovery operations. Like Peleliu Island, a legendary battle took place there, but in the years since, Tarawa has become one of the most impoverished and overpopulated places I’ve ever been. The main island of Betio has about 16,000 people crammed onto half a square mile, which is comparable to the population density of Hong Kong. That puts enormous pressure on the environment, and the islanders have a long tradition of using the beach as a toilet, which only exacerbates the trouble. Fecal pollution permeates the aquifer and the sea. Life for the residents is unrelievedly grim, and recovery work is exhausting.

4. You describe how the process of dredging up these planes was deferred for decades by many different developments: wars in the South Pacific, logistical difficulties, etc. What effect, if any, have the efforts of Pat Scannon had on similar research in recent years? Is there more interest amongst archaeologists, the military, and families in reopening the files of MIA airmen now that Scannon has shown that it’s both feasible and productive to pull up these long-lost aircraft?

Scannon has definitely become a model within this community. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many of the other folks who work on MIA recovery, and I’ll say with love that they can be a fractious bunch. The hard work of finding human remains is not done by easy people. It’s often accomplished by stubborn, prickly personalities who disagree with each other on everything from history to politics to methodology. Within this group, Scannon is almost uniformly admired. He is an anomaly in that way. I think it’s true for a number of reasons. One is that Scannon been doing this longer than almost anyone else. He’s been at it for twenty years — not just twenty years of caring about the MIA issue and studying it, but twenty years of going back to the field, over and over again, on his own dime, to do the exhaustive work of searching. Very few people have been that committed for that long, even within the military. Another reason is that Scannon is closely focused on Palau and hasn’t tried to expand into areas where others are working. A third reason is that he’s extremely open to new ideas and methods. As an MD/Ph.D. who works in biotech, he’s endlessly curious about the ways that new technology can break through old conundra. And finally, but perhaps most importantly, the guy is immune to grandiosity. It makes no difference to Scannon whether the official military recovery unit gives him credit for his contribution. He just keeps showing up to do the work, year after year, and hands over his results. That goes a long way toward engendering trust with military archaeologists like Eric Emery, who can be sure that Scannon’s only interest is getting the job done.

5. Vanished portrays the act of reconstructing a lost past as a useful, even cathartic process for people who have lost loved ones under mysterious circumstances. This understanding motivates Scannon, who tirelessly pursues sunken planes. As a historian and a journalist, how were you influenced or inspired by this notion in the book?

I guess I too was swallowed up in the quest for answers. Over time, my effort to tell the story began to merge with the story itself. I found myself seeking, and occasionally finding, little pieces of the story that answered lingering questions. I often found myself conveying this information to the various people in the story, or serving as an intermediary between them. And of course the story was still unfolding while I reported. When I began working on this, the final scenes in the book were more than two years away from happening. So it became an unusual situation, in which everyone in the story was trying to understand the story, and my role as a storyteller was part of that process.

Vanished6. In the past, how have families sought answers about lost relatives? Do you think the stories you present might provide for others an invitation to ask questions?

I hope this story gives MIA families a sense of how the process can work. Unfortunately, there have been a number of news articles in recent weeks that criticize the government’s MIA recovery program for all sorts of minor issues, like what name they give to the ritualized ceremony that marks the end of a successful mission. To most people inside this community, it has been enormously frustrating to see reporters get sucked into these petty disputes at the behest of disgruntled former employees, some of whom have never actually gone into the field to recover anyone. But this gets to one of the actual problems facing the MIA community, which is that their work is so opaque. Most members of the public couldn’t tell you the name of any of the eight organizations involved in this process, let alone what they all do. So the program becomes vulnerable to distortion, and one hopes the distortion doesn’t take away from the actual work.

That’s not to say that the recovery program doesn’t have significant shortcomings. There are all sorts of logistical and management problems that should be sorted out. But harping on the name of a symbolic ceremony, or getting sucked into the petty back-biting reports between various parts of the system, doesn’t improve the process. I hope that in some small way, Vanished can. There are tens of thousands of MIA families out there, and many of them feel alone in dealing with this distinctive form of grief. I hope the book will offer them a reminder that they’re not alone, and that like the islands of an archipelago, they are joined beneath the surface.

Courtesy of https://harpers.org/blog/2013/11/vanished-the-sixty-year-search-for-the-missing-men-of-world-war-ii/