LESTER CYRIL SIMKINS
men of VMD-154
Aboard PB4Y-1 BUNO 31958
Lost At Sea
7 February 1943
Aircraft PB4Y-l, Bureau # 31958, crashed into the sea immediately
after takeoff, one-half mile off the coast of Espiritu Santo
Island, New Hebrides (Vanuatu).
The plane sank in 95 fathoms (over 500 feet) of water
The crash occurred during a major Allied offensive: the struggle
for Guadalcanal. The heavy bomber was outfitted for photo
reconnaissance and was on a mission to photograph activity at the
island of Truk.
Squadron member, Emil F. Naschinski, relates the following account
of the crew's last days:
The squadron left Camp Miramar, CA about 11 October 1942 and flew
to San Francisco. The next night they flew to Jones' Corner and
returned near San Anselmo, CA where a new fuel pump was installed.
The next night, they took off again from San Anselmo and flew abut
15 hours to the Marine air station at Ewa, Hawaii. They spent about
two weeks there while radar was being
installed in the two planes.
After leaving Hawaii, they hopped to several islands for overnight
stops and refueling. One stop was Palmyra Island. The men went
swimming there, and Mr. Naschinski relates getting the worst
sunburn of his life!
Next, was Christmas Island. When they arrived, the tide was in and
a large part of the island was about 2 inches under water. The men
took salt-water showers, which Mr. Naschinski says made them feel
Next day, they flew to Souva, Fiji, a British possession; from
there the flight continued to New Caledonia Island, arriving
approximately 9 November. On 11 November, they flew on to Espiritu
Santo Island. There, the men unloaded their gear and settled into
Naval quarters; i.e.
one big tent about 20 feet x 20 feet.
When they arrived, Bomber 1 airstrip was nearly finished, and the
construction of Bomber 2 underway. Tonkanese people helped build
the airstrips. Workers were well fed
and paid 6 cents a day. Not much by any means,
but the workers were glad to get it.
The senior plane took off and flew to Guadalcanal to get the feel
of the territory. Every other day, one crew stayed back while the
other one flew. On the day of the crash, witnesses say my
uncle's plane did not appear to have the flaps in the proper
position, and the plane went straight into the water
shortly after takeoff.
No trace of the crew was ever found.
PFC SIMKINS' NAME IS INSCRIBED IN
COURT 4, COURTS OF THE MISSING,
NATIONAL CEMETERY OF THE PACIFIC,
HE WAS ONLY 19 YEARS OLD,
AND HE WAS MY FATHER'S BROTHER