Claude Hawkins of VB-104 Crew 12 kindly shared these photos from his WWII collection via email. He also shared some recollections, some of which might be posted later. If you can provide more information about any of these photos, please leave a Comment or get in touch with us via the Contact page.
Commander Lt John F. Humphrey 104758
First Pilot Lt(jg) Walter H. Heider 125247
Co-pilot Ensign August M. Lodato 156375
Bombardier Robert M. Weston 372-60-30
Plane Captain John E. Ready 371-97-09
Radioman Donald L. Robinson 393-49-75
Bow Gunner Claude W. Hawkins 300-75-72
Top Gunner Jack Laming 632-58-69
Waist Gunner Orvil L. Owens 382-47-28
Waist Gunner Billy Lofton 645-01-76
Belly Gunner Clinton E. Hunt 622-47-19
Tail Gunner Joseph P. Devine 642-11-65
US Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator (modified Army B-24), Bureau Number 32076 was assigned to Crew 12 of VB-104, Nose Number 76, nicknamed “You Got It”. Nose art was a standing female in bikini bottom with left knee bent forward and covering her bare top with right arm (art reversed on other side of aircraft nose). This aircraft was destroyed on the ground with no crew injuries during a September 20, 1943 Japanese night raid on Carney Airfield. Disposition unknown.
Crew formed in VP-71 flying PBY amphibious aircraft, including cited May 22, 1943 repair mission for PB2Y down at sea. Joined VB-104 and assigned PB4Y-1 aircraft 32076, flown starting July 2, 1943 with trans-Pac three days later from San Diego, CA to Kaneohe, HI. After aircraft 32076 was destroyed, this crew flew assorted other PB4Y-1 bombers as they were available. On a mission November 4, 1943 they took off in aircraft 32080 from Carney Airfield on a bombing mission against Kapingamarangi Lagoon, located and destroyed an enemy AVP (seaplane tender)*, strafed installations, were engaged by 8 Rufes (Japanese Zero on floats), and landed badly damaged at Munda with Owens and Hunt wounded. They continued flying combat missions until April 1944 when most or all returned to the U.S. for rest and recuperation. Lt. Humphrey served the duration of the war as a test and training pilot in various aircraft. The crew earned several medals and citations including the Air Medal for their actions.
“The Buccaneers of Harry Sears” by H.J. Thompson, Lt. John F. Humphrey pilot log, memories and photos of Claude W. Hawkins.
*Note: Researcher Minoru Kamada has kindly supplied this additional information from Japanese archives:
Two ships damaged were HOSHO MARU and No.5 aux. mine sweeper. Pilots of Rufes from 902 Kokutai defending Kapingamarangi during the cited raid included: Lt.YAMAZAKI, Keizo; PO1 HAYASE, Satoyuki; PO1 SOEJIMA, Ryozo; Lt(jg) SHIMAMOTO, Shigeji; CPO SUNAMI, Keiji; CPO SUZUKI, Yoshio; and PO1 NARITA, Hachiro. A total of six Rufes were destroyed at the island within a period of three days beginning with this attack.
Below is a photo (click to enlarge) of the Action Report taken from the book “VB-104 April 1943 – April 1944” being sought for publication in full here as of this writing.
Here’s a snippet of a photo (click to enlarge) from Lt. Humphrey’s actual Pilot Logbook for this action: