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Robert Mark O'Connor
1 April 1945 | Saipan, Mariana Islands
Robert Mark O'Connor USAAF, 1LT, O-729362
Grafton, Fillmore County, Nebraska.
After attending the University of Nebraska, he enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the Army Air Corps. In April 1942, he underwent primary flight training in a Boeing PT-17 Stearman bi-plane at Rankin Field, California. He graduated with Class 42-H of the Rankin Aeronautical Academy near Tulare, California and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
Underwent Boeing B-29 aircraft transition and combat crew training at Great Bend Army Air Field in Kansas. He deployed to the central Pacific Theatre of Operations and was assigned to 20th Air Force, XXI Bomber Command, 73rd Bomb Wing, 498th Bombardment Group, 873rd Bomb Squadron stationed at Isley Field on Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
On Sunday 1 April 1945, he flew in the right seat as a Pilot aboard a Boeing B-29-40-BW Superfortress, serial #42-24614 nicknamed “Joltin’ Josie, The Pacific Pioneer” (tail code: T-Square-5). It was one of 121 aircraft launched in a multi-group formation on a mission to bombard the Musashino Aircraft Engine Factory (target #357) near Tokyo, Japan.
His aircraft took-off at 2100 hours local with an intended course heading of 339 degrees on the planned 15-hour round-trip mission. Shortly after take-off, fumes in the cockpit were reported. The aircraft burst into flames and crashed with a large explosion about 300 yards offshore into Magicienne Bay on the southeast side of Saipan.
A Coast Guard vessel was dispatched within a few minutes, but upon reaching the burning aircraft, they were unable to find any survivors. All 12 aircrew members were officially listed as Killed-In-Action on 3 April 1945.