A Cost of Liberation over Bataan, 12 April 1945

This web log can sometimes be of assistance to those seeking information with a Bataan connection. One such opportunity to possibly be of help emerged on 13 September 2015 when another web log writer on WordPress linked their writing to a Bataan Campaign posting from 20 January 2015 titled “Triumph and Tragedy over the Abucay Line.” They wrote:

“Our oldest son, Wayne (Wayne A. Walton), was a pilot in World War II. He was piloting an A-20 Attack Bomber when his squadron was making a low-flying attack over Bataan at the time he was apparently shot down. It was first reported that his plane was seen to hit the ocean and explode. This report was later denied, and we never learned what really happened to him.”
https://bigreunion.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/autobiography-of-arthur-walton-may-1971/

The air action over the Abucay Line in January, 1942, has little to do with what turns out to the loss of an A-20 aircraft over Bataan in February 1945, but since it happened over Bataan, it is worth a brief exploration.

In the case of Wayne A. Walton, from Murray, Utah, on 12 February 1945 he was a Second Lieutenant assigned to the 8th Bombardment Squadron of the 3rd Bombardment Group (often referred to as the 3rd Attack Group), a veteran outfit in Fifth Air Force. He was stationed at an airfield at San Jose on Mindoro Island, participating in the liberation of the Philippine Islands from Imperial Japan.

Douglas A-20G Havoc light bomber/attack aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force painted to represent "Little Joe" of the Fifth Air Force’s 389th Bomb Squadron, 312th Bomb Group, with 150 missions.  The aircraft is very similar to the A-20H, which had uprated engines.  (US Air Force photo)

Douglas A-20G Havoc light bomber/attack aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force painted to represent “Little Joe” of the Fifth Air Force’s 389th Bomb Squadron, 312th Bomb Group, with 150 missions. The aircraft is very similar to the A-20H, which had uprated engines. (US Air Force photo)

On that day, Walton was the pilot of a Douglas A-20H-10-DO Havoc light bomber/attack plane, serial number 44-506, along with radioman/gunner S/Sgt Joseph C. Thomas from New Jersey. His aircraft was one of ten the squadron sent out in the morning to attack Japanese positions in the Cabcaben area on the Bataan peninsula.

The aircraft were led by the group commanding officer, Lt Col Ellis, and the aircraft attacked in three-plane elements. From the squadron’s official history (page 9): “The entire coastal area was thoroughly strafed and bombs struck along the road in the Cabcaben area and in Lokanin. Slight, light and accurate A/A fire was encountered. 2 planes were holed. Propaganda leaflets were dropped. One plane of the original 10 failed to return from the target and 2 planes were sent to look for it. These two planes landed safely at base 45 minutes after the first 7, after an unsuccessful search. A 90th Squadron sighting reported one 8th Squadron airplane was seen to crash in the water and burn 600 yards north of Limay village. No crew was seen to get out.”
The incident occurred at 0910 local time, according to the squadron casualty report filed on it showing Lt. Walton as a battle casualty killed in action (page 29 of the Feb 45 history).

According to the mission summary in the history (page 9), the formation expended 36 500-lb bombs and 18 250-lb bombs, which equates to nine A-20 aircraft, each carrying a typical bomb load for an A-20 of four 500-lb bombs in the bomb bay and a single bomb carried under each wing. Perhaps Lt. Walton’s aircraft did not bomb before it was struck and was reportedly seen to crash.

A USAAF A-20 Havoc of the 13th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group, strafes a much battered Japanese Maru offshore at Tadji, New Guinea, in 1943.  (Courtesy Warbird Information Exchange.org)

A USAAF A-20 Havoc of the 13th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group, strafes a much battered Japanese Maru offshore at Tadji, New Guinea, in 1943.  Note the aircraft bomb bay doors are opened and it is carrying a bomb beneath each wing.  (Courtesy Warbird Information Exchange.org)

There is no posted history for the 90th Bomb Squadron or the 3rd Bomb Group that might disclose more information on this apparent combat loss. A check of the group’s 13th Bomb Squadron history for February 1945 revealed this squadron sent 10 x A-20H against Cabcaben on 12 February, but makes no mention of any aircraft losses. The 89th Bomb Squadron also made attacks against the Cabcaben area on that day and the squadron history makes no mention of aircraft losses.

A check of the Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research database listing for Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) for February, 1945 only shows an A-20 Havoc loss for the 417th Bomb Group on 12 February 1945, serial number 43-22249, although the absence of an individual aircraft serial number lost in action in this database is not necessarily an indication of an anomaly – there are other aircraft losses in action from other units that do not show up in this MACR database, according to this web log writer’s experience.

A check of the AAIR database for overseas accidents in February 1945 came up negative as well, no mention of 44-506 in the entire month.

Based on these reports, it appears that Lt. Walton and S/Sgt Thomas were hit by antiaircraft fire and crashed into Manila Bay just off Limay. An aircraft hitting the sea at speed like this evokes memory of that well-known A-20 crash off the New Guinea coast, with little left to show after impact, as seen in this case:
http://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/douglas-a-20-havoc/

Although perhaps there is no new information to share on the loss of Lt. Walton and his A-20 Havoc on 12 February 1945, hopefully this information and the sources listed below will be helpful to anyone wishing to further explore this matter.

Both 2nd Lt. Walton and S/Sgt Thomas are remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines. Both were awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal for their service and sacrifice. Seventy years after the liberation of the Philippines, we salute their valor and sacrifice at Bataan.

Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.  (Courtesy Lost-at-sea-memorials.com)

Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. (Courtesy Lost-at-sea-memorials.com)

References:

American Battle Monument Commission, casualty database entry for Wayne A. Walton, at: https://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/WWII_139337#.VfZRL5dOS70

American Battle Monument Commission, casualty database entry for Joseph C. Thomas, at: https://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/WWII_137010#.VfZeQpdOS70

A-20 Havoc, Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_A-20_Havoc

Joe Baugher USAAF aircraft serial numbers for 1944, at: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1944_1.html

3rd Attack Group website, 8th Bomb Squadron page, at: http://8thattacksquadron.yolasite.com/

8th Bomb Squadron honored list of squadron killed and missing: http://8thattacksquadron.yolasite.com/resources/Documents/MIA%20-%20KIA%20%201917%20-%201991%20%208th%20Squadron.pdf

8th Bomb Squadron history for February, 1945, at: http://8thattacksquadron.yolasite.com/resources/Documents/1945/February%201945%20%208th%20Squadron.pdf

13th Bomb Squadron history for February 1945, at: http://13thattacksquadron.yolasite.com/resources/Documents/1945/February%201945%20%2013th%20Squadron.pdf

89th Bomb Squadron history for February 1945, at: http://89thattacksquadron.yolasite.com/resources/DOCUMENTS/History_1945/February%201945%20%2089th%20Squadron.pdf

Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research (AAIR) MACR database for February 1945, at: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/MACRmonthly/45FebMACR.htm

Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research (AAIR) accident database, overseas list for February, 1945, at: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Feb1945O.htm
Images:

A-20G at AF Museum, picture at: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/MuseumExhibits/FactSheets/Display/tabid/509/Article/196256/douglas-a-20g-havoc.aspx

A-20 with bombs beneath wing, at: http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=52066

Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery, at: http://lost-at-sea-memorials.com/?p=1986

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