U. S. Air Force W.W. IIDonald Spencer Jorgenson
Radio Operator / Gunner B-24J S/N 42-73029
A special thankyou from the Jorgenson family toThe Internet B-24 Veterans Group: http://www.b24.mach3ww.com/
Co-Pilot Alexander J. Miller "Lil Hiawatha"
and the 11th Bombardment Group (H) Association
and to all the members of the
B-24J Liberator, the type of plane that Donald flew.
The black and white photo is the plane that
Donald was in at the time of his death.
This is a picture looking forward to the cock pit.
Initially formed in Hawaii in October of 1940.
Operated primarily in Pacific Theater.
Total of four B-24 groups assigned to
the 7th Air Force at various times.
11th Bombardment Group: (transferred from 13th Air Force)
26th, 42nd, 98th and 431st Bombardment Squadrons
30th Bombardment Group:
27th, 38th, 392nd and 819th Bombardment Squadrons
494th Bombardment Group:
864th, 865th, 866th, 867th Bombardment Squadron,
86th Reconnaissance Squadron
The 11th Bombardment Group(H)
431st Squadron (Donalds Squadron)
Those who gave their lives for us on January 2, 1944 on B-24J 42-73029
Donald is 3rd in from the left in the second row, with his baseball cap on.
The events of January 2, 1944 Uncle Donald's last mission.
Information about Donald and MacArthur are in red highlight.
January 2, 1944
Operations for 1944 opened tragically as two planes were lost over Taroa, Maloelap, in face of the strongest enemy opposition encountered thus far. About 40 aggressive Zekes, Hamps and Tonys intercepted our nine Liberators and carried out a well coordinated attack, inflicting fatal damage to the planes of Lt. MacArthur and Lt. Davis.
Lt. Davis' plane, the entire right wing aflame, was seen to crash into the sea and explode, possibly after having been hit by an aerial bomb. Besides Lt. Davis, the crew included Lieutenants Clarke, Lauer and Meek; Tech Sergeants Robert B. Reese and Frank J. Maxwell; and Staff Sergeants Cyrus D. Wilson, Michael L. Smith, Donald E. Ferguson and Robert F. Duckworth.
Although severely damaged in the left waist, Lt. MacArthur's big bomber managed to get away from the target and seemingly was in good condition when last seen by Lt. Crowell's crew, who followed the lame Liberator until their plane was hit in the controls and fell 3,000 feet. Lt. Crowell's crew reported seeing a fire in the rear of MacArthur's ship and crewmen frantically fighting flames and tossing burning clothing from the plane.
The crew consisted of Lieutenants MacArthur, Busick, Kamen, and Drenan; Tech Sergeants Jack O. House, and Patrick B. Fitzgerald; Staff Sergeants Custus L. Foreman, Donald S. Jorgenson and Gordon W. Boland; and Pvt. Edwin J. Hovey. Also lost in the tragedy was Capt. Howard L. Black, operations officers since reorganization of the squadron almost a year ago.
Further testimony to the intensity and effectiveness of the enemy opposition was the fact that only one of our planes came through unscathed. Lt. Robert M. Cardwell, Lt. John T. Nettles and S/Sgt. Joseph F. Stineback were injured.
Although in no way did it compensate in the slightest for the loss of two of our most valuable crews, the toll of enemy interceptors was heavy. Reports showed five planes shot down, seven probably destroyed and eight damaged. Getting credit for Zekes were Staff Sergeants Jake L. Lewis and William T. Neill, jointly, of Lt. Crowell's crew; S/Sgt. Raymond J. Rivelli, Capt. Hamrin's crew; S/Sgt. Cornelius D. Sullivan, Lt. Darley's crew; T/Sgt. Henry L. Midkiff, Lt. Rowe's crew; and Lt. Julius C. Short and S/Sgt. Robert E. Timmons, also Lt. Rowe's crew.
Making the strike were MacArthur, Darley, Crowell, Risher, Davis, Perry, Hamrin, Rowe and Lundy.
I am forever indebted to Mr. Miller for telling us what happened to
our Uncle and Brother, Staff Sergeant Donald Spencer Jorgenson.
Information about Donald and MacArthur are in red highlite.
Co-Pilot Alexander J. Miller
January 2, 1944
The Jap bodies were not so well treated. They were taken to collection points, loaded into dump trucks and then dumped into large excavations which were then flooded with 8 or 10, 55 gallon drums of Jap aviation gas and ignited by firing a burst of 45 cal. bullets which included incendiaries. They allowed this to burn until dusk, and then brought in fire extinguishers to put out the fires, because this gave the Jap pilots a good aiding point for their nightly Raids.
The jury is still out as to the verdict on which is worse, the smell of rotting bodies as opposed to the smell of burning bodies. To my olfactory senses, it was a draw.
It has been rumored that the Japs had moved a new fighter group from Raboul to Maloelap, and we were to discover this was not just a rumor. We met the Black Dragon fighter group!
As we flew between Jaluit and Hilly, we saw in the distance what were undoubtedly Jap reconnaissance planes monitoring our flight north and most definitely alerting all the bases in tine Marshall Islands. So much for the element of surprise! We climbed to 20,000 feet, though we normally bombed from l0,000 feet, as we neared our target, the bombardier, Red Weinstein remarked, "It's cold up here!" I was looking to the west over the target and saw what appeared to be a swarm of gnats. I told Red, "it may be cold now, but I'm sure it's going to heat up soon!"
We were engaged over the target by an estimated 40 to 50 Jap fighters, (Zekes, Hamps, and Tonys). They followed us out of the target. While some moved ahead dropping phosphorous bombs (air bursts), and others lining up off to our left and right, moving over us and split S-ing out of the sun right through our formation.
The squadron had tightened up in 3 V's
was flying left slot on
Most of the planes had sustained damage from flak but particularly by machine gun and cannon fire. MacArthur had taken a bad hit, probably flak as he was losing gas from a ruptured fuel tank causing a white mist off the trailing edge of his left wing.
I could see the other 2 V's were catching it pretty heavy as I saw two planes with feathered props and one plane with it's right wing on fire, fall out of formation and begin it's three mile fatal plunge into the sea! I learned later it was Lt. Davis' plane.
About then I saw my first combat casualty. Larry was flying the controls and I was flying the throttles, (a system we had worked out to minimize fatigue, and alternated depending on which slot we were flying).
I flew formation by gauging the angle on the waist window in the lead plane, and while I watched, a hole opened up about afoot ahead of the waist window. A 20 mm explosive cannon shell hit the waist gunner in the throat.
It apparently knocked out everyone in the rear of the plane as we moved up and looked through both waist windows and saw no movement!
I called up
him about the casualties in the rear of his plane. Soon we saw someone
throwing out burning pieces of flight suit and a parachute.
As worried as we were about the phosphorous bombs and bullets, we were also fearful of one of the Nips, purposely or accidentally, crashing into us at 300 or 400 miles per hour. The other two formations were getting a similar going over.
About that time MacArthur called up and told us, (Lt. Rudin was flying right slot) that with the gas tank ruptured, we had better back off because if he went, we'd all go! We backed off about 100 yards when there was a tremendous explosion! The blast almost flipped us over and MacArthur's plane (30+ tons and 11 men) ceased to exist! Our men looked for chutes but they reported seeing nothing. No chutes, no debris, they had simply vanished. Just a smudge in the blue sky.
We closed with Rudin for protection and the Japs continued to work us over with renewed vigor, throwing in a few head-on attacks for variety.
We took numerous hits which ruptured our in-board right wing fuel tank. We feathered #3 engine to prevent the leaking fuel from igniting, as it flowed over the white hot turbo-chargers. We also took a hit from a 20 mm cannon shell in the radio compartment, severing all hydraulic lines and taking out all of our radio equipment.
Johnny Nettles, our navigator, was lying in a pool of blood beneath his table with a bullet through his leg. About that time Red Weinstein, the bombardier, who had been using the 30 Cal. bombardier moral boosters called up and said he'd been hit. When asked, "how bad!" he replied, "didn't know, but he was bleeding pretty bad. I told him we couldn't do anything for him right now, and that he would have to tend to it himself. I had my left hand on the throttles (Larry was flying the controls), when someone hit the palm of my hand with a sledge hammer, numbing my arm clear to my shoulder.
A 30 Cal. bullet had hit the shaft on which the throttles pivot, bending it so much as to cause both port engines to lose power, and the out-board starboard engine to accelerate.
We had been flying at a slow speed due
engine. Rubin had reduced his speed also, as to allow the whole
to stay together, which also allowed those planes in trouble to keep
As the power was reduced our plane stalled and fell off on the right
(we were at 11,000 feet having been slowly descending). The plane
to fall right wing down and we were fighting frantically to get the
We fell a mile or so before we realized the plane was not going to respond to the controls alone. As we passed through 5,000 feet I saw the look in Larry's eyes which I am sure he saw in mine, the knowledge that we would both be dead in less than 60 seconds! The realization spurred us to greater efforts and by sheer strength was able to reduce power on the engine that was running away, while at the same time Larry managed to increase power on the port engines.
The combination worked and the nose came down. We pulled the plane out of it's dive at a thousand feet. Later, we figured out that in addition to the uneven power settings, the 1/2 dozen cases of ammo our crew smuggled aboard and stashed in the rear of the plane, had its own affect on our balance. We looked around and no planes were to be seen, not ours, not the Japs.
We had literally fallen out of the fight! Our troubles weren't over, no way, for we didn't know where we were! Our navigator was wounded lying on the deck. Johnny had not kept track of our course and was in no condition, to take a shot, to try to locate us.
Looking around all we saw-was water, water, everywhere and not a speck of land. We were on 3 engines, ruptured fuel tank pouring gas and we had only a vague idea of where our base, Tarawa, was.
We headed south as we figured we were still in Jap territory and Tarawa lay somewhere to the south of us. About then Red Weinstein came up to the flight deck and when asked about his injury, sheepishly he showered his canteen (which he wore on his belt) with a 30 cal. hole dead center. He said he'd felt this strong tug at his waist and felt a flood of warm fluid running down his leg, he thought it was blood and he was afraid to look!
We patched Johnny Nettles up as best we could and after a 1/2 hour flight to the south we spotted an island which appeared deserted. We circled it and asked if anyone wanted to bail out. Knowing the state of our parachutes we had no takers, and so we debated bellying in on the beach. After a council, it was decided to fly south for another 15 minutes and if we did not locate ourselves we would then return and belly in.
At the end of the 15 minutes of flying time we started to turn around when someone spotted a plane in the distance, it was to our southwest and headed away from us. We turned in its direction and tried to follow but with our slow speed it was soon out of sight.
We decided to continue on this course, and when the gas was exhausted, we'd ditch in the sea. Another 10 minutes of flying raised an island on the horizon, and lo and behold it was Tarawa.
At last, Home free. - No way, we were on three engines, spewing 100+ octane gas, the plane reeking with aromatic fuel fumes, and a single spark would turn us into a roman candle! We had no radio, no flaps to slow us down and no brakes! The gear we could shake down, which we did. After firing a red and white flare, which indicates plane in trouble, injured aboard, we prepared for landing.
Larry and I had been through thin problem before when we were in Blythe, California, while we were in training. We know we had a one-shot system in reserve for our brakes. We prepared two parachutes to be popped out the waist windows, and as soon as we touched the ground, we cut all the switches! The runway was 5,000 feet long and we didn't dare run off the end as the beaches were mined to discourage the enemy.
Larry did a superb job of setting Lil Hiawatha down right on the numbers. We both got the wheel back as far as we could and as we neared the end of the runway, we jumped on the right brake. It worked just like the book said! The plane ground looped to the right, the landing gear gave way and the wing tip dug into the coral. We stopped! We were about 150 yards from the mined beach!
Later a bull dozer dragged Lil Hiawatha off to the side and off the runway. There it was cannibalized! Over 400 bullet entry holes were counted in her. Lil Hiawatha died a gallant death.
Later we discovered that we'd had a reprieve, we didn't even know about a 30 caliber bullet that had entered the #2 engine compartment had struck a cooper fuel line, gouged it for 6 inches and then exited, stretched the copper a couple of inches but didn't rupture it. If it had, we would have gone up in a ball of fire, just like MacArthur!
It was a bad day for the 431st! Three planes lost, 21 men dead, 3 men wounded and every plane except for one, needed extensive repairs to patch them up again.
As for the Japs, they paid a heavy price for their victory. They lost 5 planes, 2 of which were shot down and the credit given to Sgt. Jake Lewis and William Neill, both of them on our crew. In addition, seven Jap planes were listed as probables, and eight damaged.
The squadron licked it's wounds and prepared for another day.
To replace Lil Hiawatha, we were given a
B-24-J with more
hours on it than would allow it to take off on a training flight in the
States. No name just the number "029", along with the plane came the
(Nothing is so permanent as a temporary solution). Nine days later we
were ready for another mission, and this time we had a surprise for the
but that's another story.
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