B-24 A/C 44-40716, 494th Bombardment Group, 866th Bomb Squadron, 7th US Army Air Force

Joseph Dubinsky's veteran crew flew the Taloa on the Haruna mission, Group Mission #138. In this copy of the crew photo from the Co-pilot’s great-nephew, Michael Flanagin, the men of Crew #49 are posed in front of the nose art of the Lonesome Lady. (left to right)

Standing: 1st Lt. Joseph Dubinsky (Pilot); 2nd Lt. Rudolph C. Flanagin (Co-pilot); 2nd Lt. Lawrence A. Falls, Jr. (Navigator); 2nd Lt. Robert C. Johnston (Bombardier); T/Sgt Walter Piskor (Engineer)

Kneeling: David. A Bushfield (Radio operator); Camilous P. Kirkpatrick (Waist Gunner); Charles C. Baumgartner (Lower Ball Turret Gunner); Charles C. Allison (Upper Turret Gunner); Not pictured: Julius Molnar (Tail Gunner). Not pictured here was Capt. Donald Marvin, an observer on his 40th combat mission who piloted most of the Taloa missions.

 

Pilot Joe Dubinsky

 

For mission #138 of the 494th Bombardment Group, the Taloa was piloted by Joseph Dubinsky. The strike against the fast battleship Haruna was this crew's 39th combat mission; their 40th would allow them to return to a tour of duty in the United States, but that was not to be. The fate of these men was researched and reported by historian Shigeaki Mori. The Taloa was assigned to pilot Donald Marvin before or early in his assignment to the 494th BG. The 494th Group History states that he made a remarkable decision to volunteer to fly as an observer on the Haruna mission, as told below.  

Combat Missions

November, 1944 – May, 1945 Combat Missions from Agaur

Like Emil Turek and Don Marvin, Joe Dubinsky was a pilot of one of the original crews of the 866th Squadron of the 494th Bombardment Group. Dubinsky's crew named their B-24J #44-40731 'Til Then. The men experienced several notable events during and between their combat missions. They were among the first 494th BG crews to fly a combat mission in November, 1944. They flew numerous bombing missions through the next February when the men were granted "10-day leave" in Sydney, Australia. When Marvin's crew returned to Anguar from Australia, Dubinsky (along with Turek) left for Sydney, and did not return until 25 March, a leave of 34 days, extended ~5 days due to "transportation problems". Rolf Slen reported that it was 30 day assigned leave. Perhaps as a result of the transportation problems, later crews were granted R&R leave to Hawaii rather than Sydney. In May, recorded as one of the worst accidents on Angaur, the Co-pilot undershot the runway and crashed, likely as a result of mechanical failure. Although none of the men were seriously injured,  'Til Then was destroyed. The Squadron reported that the aircraft landed short of the runway without stating the reason. Rolf Slen chuckled over the incident, and recalls being told that sparks flew all the way down the runway and that the story was that the Marines onboard for a joyride were so eager to disembark that they jumped out before the plane came to a stop.  All the pilots involved continued to fly missions immediately after the incident, so it is unlikely that the crash was attributed to pilot error.

Omura, 5 July, 1945 – 494th Bombardment Group Mission #117 

In Secret Operations Orders #138 from Maj. General Woods,  Dubinsky, Marvin and Turek crews were chosen to fly for the 866th on the first B-24 mission to bomb Japan from Yontan Airfield in Okinawa. The 494th Bombardment Group had arrived at the captured Yomitan (Yontan) Airfield in Okinawa in strength less than 24 hours earlier. The Omura mission was flown on 5 July, 1945, just 6 weeks before the war ended. Lt. Turek was Dubinsky's Squadron Leader, flying Lonesome Lady. It was Turek's 30th combat mission, and the first B-24 raid on Japan from Okinawa on the main islands of Japan. The Group History notes that within 24 hours of landing on Okinawa in full force, the men were proud to have launched 48 planes in just 48 minutes. Turek was concerned when Dubinsky, flying S/N #980, aborted that mission due to a mechanical problem. Dubinsky was forced by a fuel leak to abort while on the way to Omura to instead bomb an alternate target, Kakeroma Shima (from 8400 feet). If bombs were uselessly salvoed into the ocean then the men were not given full credit for a combat mission and it took longer to be reassigned back to the United States Turek recorded the mechanical problem with #980 on his Formation Sheet that day simply by marking Dubinsky's name out.  

Shanghai, 17 July, 1945 – 494th Bombardment Group Mission #123

As participants in another first for the 494th Bombardment Group, Dubinsky, Marvin, and Tom Cartwright were among the 12 crews that made up the two 866th Squadrons to bomb China from Okinawa. Weather conditions were poor for bombing missions to Japan so Japanese military infrastructure and airfields where kamakazi missions could be launched were targeted. One such target was the Chiang Wan aerodrome, where revetments housed war planes near Shanghai. Two B-24's were struck down by a prematurely detonated bomb on that mission and the survivors relayed dramatic stories of ditching then rescue by Chinese guerrillas, a tragic gunfight, and capture. Flight crews were briefed that 1030 Allied and 900 U.S. POWs worked and were housed in the immediate bomb target area. They were given instructions to evade capture if possible, given "blood chits" on which a request for assistance was written in several languages and identified the men as American, and given Chinese currency. It was the first combat mission for 21-year-old Tom Cartwright and his crew. Once again, Dubinsky had a mechanical failure en route and returned to base without reaching the primary target.

Battleship Haruna, Kure (Etajima) 28 July, 1945 – 494th Bombardment Group Mission #138

The Haruna mission was the final mission for the Dubinsky and Cartwright crews, and only two of those men returned home after the war. Their fates are told by Historian Shigeaki Mori in his book The Secret History of the American Soldiers Killed by the Atomic Bomb

The original crew of the 494th BG usually assigned to Taloa was Donald Marvin's Crew #46. However, for the Haruna mission on 28 July, 1945, Marvin boarded with Dubinsky’s crew on the Taloa.

taloa_macr_map.jpg

This map purports to indicate the position of the Taloa when last seen. The crash site, however, was to the west of Hiroshima (viz. Shigeaki Mori) in a location that is today a golf course.

Chiang Wan Aerodrome near Shanghai, China.

The Missing Air Crew Report for Taloa included this list of next-of-kin.

Note: the marker at Jefferson Barracks also uses "O" for the middle initial for Baumgartner. "Flanagin" is elsewhere incorrectly spelled “Flanagan” and his mother's first name should have been spelled "Verdea". Johnston has been confused with another POW.


Julius Molnar is shown here, standing at far left.  The online newspaper photo caption states that Baumgartner is 4th from left but misidentified in the photo.

Standing: S. Sgt. Julius Molnar, S. Sgt. Camillious Kirkpatrick, S. Sgt. Charles Allison, S. Sgt. Charles Baumgartner, T. Sgt. David Bushfield, T. Sgt. Walter Piskor

Kneeling: 1st Lt. Rudolph (“Rudy”) Flanagin, 1st Lt. Robert C. Johnston?, 1st Lt. Joesph Dubinsky, 1st Lt. Lawrence Falls?, Photo source: Cleveland newspaper 

Crew #49 with presumed names. Not labeled is Walter Piskor.

 

Staff Sgt. Charles C. Baumgartner

b. 9 October, 1915, d. 6 August, 1945

Born in Sebring, Mahoning County, Ohio, Sgt. Baugartner was last seen by Lt. Tom Cartwright in the Kempetai Military Police Chugoku Headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan, on 30 August, 1945. He died in Hiroshima very soon after the atomic bomb was detonated over the city on 6 August, along with ~9 other American POWs; 2 other American POWs died days later in nearby Ujina. His remains were returned along with other Americans’ and were buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Lemay, Missouri.

 
 

 

Technical Sgt. David A. Bushfield

b. 29 July, 1921,  Drafted 25 July, 1942,  d. 28 July, 1945

Before the war, Sgt. Bushfield resided in Monroe County, New York. He died in the crash of the Taloa a day short of his 24th birthday. His mother, Agnes Bushfield resided in Rochester, New York. 

Image courtesy of Michael and Serena Flanagin.

1st Lt. Rudolph Flanagin s/n O-821250

b. 22 November, 1924, d. 28 July, 1945

Rudolph “Rudy” Flanagin was the Co-Pilot and youngest crew member of Dubinsky’s Crew #49. Born in Texas (Denton?), his father, David, Sr., was a barber, his mother, Virdia, was a homemaker, and his brother David, Jr., served as a non-commissioned officer.  

Rudy Flanagin is buried today at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, located in Punchbowl Crater, Oahu, Hawaii, Plot P, grave one-thousand one-hundred thirteen. Virdia Flanagin learned that fact from a letter from the US Army dated 20 July, 1954. Still, she could never accept that her son was identified as dead.

 

Technical Sgt. Walter Piskor

b. 11 Aug, 1918, d. 28 July, 1945

From Willimantic, Windham, CT, Piskor served as the Engineer on the Taloa.

Sophia and Stanley Piskor were born in Poland, and immigrated to the United States and bore two children, Walter, and Ethel. In 1940, the Piskor parents lived in the third ward of Willimantic City, Connecticut, United States. The Piskors were both laborers in a cotton and silk mill; Walter was an aircraft machinist, born 11 August, 1918. Just at the end of the war, the bereaved Piskor family learned that B-24 Flight Engineer Technical Staff Sergeant Walter and his Taloa Co-pilot Lieutenant Rudy Flanagin were “missing in action in Japan”. The mothers shared letters of concern and hope for their sons’ survival. Later, they must have known that Walter and Rudy might be found together. Mrs. Piskor sent a photograph of their B-24 crew with Walter’s name written on the back.

Walter Piskor was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in Willimantic.

 

 


Capt. Donald F. Marvin

b. 9 September, 1917, d. 28 July, 1945

In 1940, The U.S. Census listed Marvin as a Shearman at a Sheetmetal company near Cleveland, Ohio. His father, Charles, was born in Pennsylvania and resided in Cleveland, working as a taxi driver; his (remarried) mother, Laura Walsh, resided in the Geauga Lake area, today a suburb of Cleveland. 

The cheerful, buoyant, Don Marvin, one of the original pilots in the 494th Bombardment Group was the usual pilot of Taloa. One version of the story of his demise is that by late July, 1945, his crew was credited with 40 combat missions and were eligible to rotate back to the U.S. mainland. However, Marvin missed a mission that was assigned to his crew back in Angaur after he was injured playing (officiating) volleyball. Despite being told that he was cleared to return with his crew to the United States without completing any additional combat missions, Marvin insisted on participating in all of his credited 40 missions.  He chose the 28 July mission to fly aboard "his" Taloa as an observer. Lead Navigator for the 866th on that mission, Rolf Slen, wrote how surprised his squadron flight crew was when Marvin pitched his gear into the truck that would carry Joe Dubinsky's crew to Taloa early that morning––for the Haruna mission. It was a fateful decision. Capt. Marvin was one of the men who was unable to parachute from the Taloa before she crashed in Honshu, Japan, just west of Hiroshima.

A long-told back-story is that Marvin was unassigned but flew the Haruna mission so that he would complete 40 combat missions. It was an honorable, but fateful, and unfortunate decision, since none of the men aboard Taloa returned from the mission. Although he missed one of his crew’s previous missions due to an injury while officiating a volleyball game back on Palau, Marvin knew that he was not required to fly another combat mission and was cleared to return stateside for furlough or reassignment with the rest of his crew. This widely told story that explains why Marvin was aboard Taloa conflicts with an account provided by Dubinsky’s (half-)brother, Branko Stupar to 494th Bombardment Group historian, Dave Rogers. Stupar was a US Navy Officer who was given permission to fly with on Taloa as an observer. According to Stupar, he showed up to the briefing for the Haruna mission, but was bumped off by Marvin. Marvin was asked by a flight surgeon to fly as a relief pilot to Dubinsky, because Dubinsky had been diagnoses with a heart defect. There is some circumstantial evidence to support this account: subsequent 866th Formation Sheets show that Marvin’s crew did, in fact, fly subsequent combat missions. The Missing Air Crew Report that was filed for Taloa records Marvin’s role was “Observer”. That may have been a designation carried over from Stupar’s designation that day, or perhaps it indicated that Marvin was observing Dubinsky.

The B-24 crew that completed 40 combat missions led by Don Marvin is shown here in front of Lonesome Lady. Emil Turek identified this 494th Group History Vol. 1 photograph in his correspondence, and Rolf Slen confirmed that Don Marvin is standing in the position sometimes reserved for the pilot, far left in the back row.

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