It’s highly recommended that anyone who travels to Oahu take a day out of their schedule of fun in the sun to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and Pearl Harbor Historic Sites. These incredible exhibits and memorials detail one of the most catastrophic events in American history, covering the immense loss of life during the two-hour attack on December 7th, 1941.
Though Pearl Harbor was the greatest tragedy felt in the Hawaiian Islands during World War II, the attack wasn’t only the loss felt during the course of the war. As you plan your trip through history at the iconic Pearl Harbor memorials, consider adding another stop on your World War II itinerary.
The Wreck of B-24J-155-CO
Serving as a kind of complement to the exhibits and memorials at Pearl Harbor is another World War II-era disaster site. While it may not hold the same weight as the devastating loss of the USS Arizona and 1,177 of her crew, the story of B-24J-155-CO is an interesting look at other tragedies that befell the United States during the war it had tried so hard to avoid entering.
Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States mobilized its air forces, which included the B-24 Liberator, a heavy bomber that first took flight a year before Pearl Harbor. During the course of World War II, the B-24 was used in all branches of the American military, as well as by other Allied forces.
In May of 1944, only two months after its construction, the B-24 bomber designated B-24J-155-CO left Hickam Field on a flight heading to Australia to join the 5th Air Force. Only six miles away from Hickam, the plane crashed into Puu Nau near the town of Aiea, Hawaii. The cause for the crash has been debated with some sources claiming Pilot Wayne R. Kimble failed to make a turn, but regardless of the cause, the entire crew was killed.
The crew of 10 included six gunners: Ssgt. Jack Dowd, Ssgt. Marion Norman, Sgt. James Means, Cpl. Manual Campos, Cpl. Gerald Weiss, and Cpl. Joseph Carlucci; engineer Lt. Morris Righthand; navigator Charles Mueller; and Kimble’s co-pilot William Somsel Jr. Four of the crewmen were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater, one at Arlington National Cemetery, and the remainder of the crew were interred at locations closer to their hometowns.
On May 5th, 2008, exactly 64 years after the crash of B-24J-155-CO, a memorial plaque was dedicated to the lost crew atop the Aiea Loop Trail near Hickam Field. The memorial serves as a reminder of not just the loss suffered on May 5th, 1944 but, like the memorials at Pearl Harbor, of all the immense losses felt during World War II.