On May 31, 1944, at around 1 p.m. in the afternoon, a US Army Air Force B-24 crashed into the Adriatic Sea, approximately 5 miles from the coast of the island of Vis. This aircraft was enroute to it's home at Torretta Field, Cerignola, Italy, returning from a combat mission over Ploesti, Rumania. There were 10 crew members aboard the aircraft, all members of the 461st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 764th Bomb Squadron (Heavy).
The aircraft had cleared the coast of Yugoslavia. Eyewitness accounts generally agree that the pilot feathered his number 3 engine, but maintained air speed of about 150 knots. The crew was seen throwing guns, ammunition and equipment out of the aircraft in order to maintain altitude. Other planes attempted to contact the crew by radio, but were unsuccessful. At about 5000 to 6000 feet, the crew began to bail out, and 10 chutes were seen to open. All landed in the water but none were recovered alive.
Standing (R-L): Pilot, 1st Lt. George N. Ryder, Jr, husband
of Mary A. Ryder, Decatur, GA; Co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Wayne A. Kretschmar, son
of Otto B. Kretschmar, Venturia, ND; Navigator, 2nd Lt. Billy K. Isbell, son
of Ray E. Isbell, Charleston, IL; Bombadier, 2nd Lt. Easton W. Duval3,
Jr., son of W. E. Duval, Sr., Austin, TX;
Right Waist Gunner, T/Sgt Robert D. McIntire, son of Ella McIntire, St. Louis Park, MN
Kneeling (R-L): Ball Turret Gunner, S/Sgt Bud W. Armstrong, son of Mrs. Ima M. Armstrong, Shattuck, OK; Top Turret Gunner, T/Sgt Charles E. Doane, son of Mrs. Katie Doane, San Diego, CA; Nose Turret Gunner, S/Sgt James H. Williams, son of Mrs. Loretta Williams4, Kingsland, AR; Tail Gunner, S/Sgt Julius J. Bryson, son of Mrs. Eva Marie Bryson, Greensboro, NC; Left Waist Gunner, S/Sgt Raymond H. Bourgeois, son of Mrs. Josephine Bourgeois, Gramercy, LA
1Photo Dec., 1943, Fresno, CA
2Except as noted, no bodies were recovered.
3Buried Memorial Park, Austin, Texas
4Buried Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy, Plot J, Row 10, Grave 70
The following information was received from Claiborne Duval, a 1st cousin of Lt. Easton Duval:
Claiborne Duval [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Wed 1/31/01 10:57 AM
Easton William Duval, Jr. was my first cousin. His body was recovered by a fisherman and, after the war, it was sent to my Aunt Helen and Uncle Easton in Austin, TX. He is buried in Austin. He was their only child. He was single but had a girl friend. His picture is on his tombstone. I will send more information after I look up his genealogy that I worked up about 20 years ago. I had a card from him thanking me for making the gasoline that his plane used. I was a Chemical Engineer working with the Houdry Units at the Mobil [ Magnolia Refinery at that time ] and for six months during the war the Mobil refinery in Beaumont was the only refinery in rhe world making that particular, high rich mixture rating gasoline. Another refinery, Exxon in Baytown Texas, also had the ability to make that gasoline but a hurricaine blew over their main fractionating tower and they were out of service for six months. It was a secret and we at Beaumont did not know it. We knew we frantically sending detailed reports every day to Washington for someone to read on the operation of the four Houdry units. His father, Easton William Duval, Sr., was an observer and or bombadier in World War I, but returned home with only minor health problems caused by freezing of his feet and eyes in the open plane they used on that time. It sounds like they ran out of gasoline on May 31, 1944. It would be interesting to know how far they had to fly on that mission. Thanks for the information in http://jackey.tripod.com/RYDER/b24.html and your email address email@example.com . I was unable to open the picture you sent but I will continue to work on it and let you know if I recognize him. Claiborne A. Duval, Jr., 1230 Nottingham Lane, Beaumont, TX 77706-4316 ; FAX 847-589-6468; telephone 409-866-1217
Claiborne Duval [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Fri 2/2/01 7:48 PM
Jack, I finally opened the picture on the ten men who jumped out of the airplane during WW II. My first cousin, Easton William Duval, is the second man from the left in the back row. He has red hair, which can not be seen in this picture, but I am absolutely sure that is his picture. I wish this information could be printed in the Austin, Texas newspaper. His body was recovered by a fisherman and buried and, after the war, it was sent to my Aunt Helen and Uncle Easton Duval. He is buried in Austin and has his picture on his tombstone. He was not married but had a girl friend in Austin. He was their only child and my only male first cousin. His father worked in the State Highway Department in Austin. His father served in the air force in World War I. Claiborne Duval
Wayne Kretschmar and I were first cousins and we both grew up in the small town of Venturia, North Dakota where I still reside. Both Wayne's and my parents are now deceased, but I do remember my Uncle Otto (Wayne's dad) receiving quite a bit of information after the war about the circumstances of Wayne's loss.
The Air Force suffered heavy losses on the mission of May 31, 1944. They would fly from Italy to bomb the oil fields near Ploesti in Romania to cut off the German Army's supply of fuel.
A former North Dakota legislator with whom I served and who served in that area of the war told me that there was quite a mix up on that particular mission and the US planes flew in too low and were subject to heavy damage by the German guns.
James Williams graduated from high school with my sister, she is not living now, but I called Marvin (Buddy) Hall, also in their class, He came this morning and identified James from the picture. James is kneeling in the center front. Buddy said that he remembered him well.
The following was received Feb. 20, 2001 from Col. Dan E. Duggan, Los Cruces, New Mexico
With out question my cousin S/Sgt Bud Armstrong is the first person keeling on the right of the picture.
S/Sgt Julius J. Bryson, Jr. was my sister's nephew.
And, from Mrs. Verna M. Bryson, sister of Mrs. Kirkman: All of Julius' aunts and uncles have passed on, My husband (Henry) and Buddy's Dad Julius J. Bryson were brothers.
From Fred W. Amos, Greensboro, NC: Julius J. Bryson, Jr. is in the front row, second from left. My brother Jack R. Amos, was a nose gunner on a B-24 and was shot down over land while bombing the same oil fields. He was on a different mission. Jack was brought home and buried in the family plot.
From Glenn H. Campbell, Greensboro: "Buddy" Bryson and I grew up together going to school and visiting with each other in our homes and also having a bicycle shop at my home during high school along with another friend who was killed in the Air Force named Jack Amos. We had the ABC bicycle shop and I was the only one to get back. I was in the Marine Corp from April 1942-Oct 1946. I was on the Peleliu Campaign and the Okinawa Campaign and went into China to accept the surrender to* the Japanese. I got sick in China and spent one year in the hospital.
*Probably meant "of the Japanese."
The following was received Mar 5, 2001 from Jim Isbell, brother of Lt. Isbell:
Billy Kirk Isbell, son of Roy and Emma Isbell, went by "Kirk". Attended Eastern Illinois University when he enlisted in the Air Force, September of '42. Was not married. Never returned on leave because he didn't want to leave again. Age 23 when he went down (born 11/3/20). Still living are sister Joy Keller 84 and brother Jim Isbell 67. Kirk is in the middle top row.