The Missing Photos: Photographic Images in Missing Aircrew Reports

We live in a visual world.

In terms of photographs pertaining to the WW II United States Army Air Force, sources of pictures include the U.S. Air Force Still Photography Collection (accessible at the National Archives by directly researching original photographic images, or digitally via Fold3.com), foreign archives (the National Archives of Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, as well as the archival holdings of most any nation which was involved in the war) regional and local newspapers (often only accessible as 35mm microfilm), and – perhaps the best source for “one-of-a-kind” images – the private collections of veterans, their families, and descendants. 

Images from these sources have long been featured in publications about the Army Air Force, or World War Two (in general), and the Internet as well, and will certainly continue to do so for the future.

However, there is one small but interesting source of images has long been (ironically!) missing: Photographs in Army Air Force Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of World War Two.

MACRs – referred to in previous blog posts – will doubtless need little introduction for many visitors of this website.  However, for those unfamiliar with these records, NARA publication M1380, Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-1947, will give you a great start.

The overwhelming majority of the 16,605 MACRs are by nature comprised of documents, and, maps.  However, a very small but notable group of MACRs – 58 to be precise – include something else:  Photographs…of the aircraft (and in an unusual case, a solitary parachuting airman) covered by these documents.

Of these 58 MACRs, most – 43 – include one photograph, while the bulk of the remaining 15 include 2, 3, or 4 images.  Two contain 9 photographs, and one includes 15 photographs.  The total number of photographs among all these 58 MACRs is 101.

The MACR photographs appear to have been taken by either 1) automatic, down- or rear-facing cameras, on low-level bomb-runs, or, high altitude bombing missions, or, 2) hand-held cameras, in “air-to-air”, “air-to-ground”, and “ground to ground” situations.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of this set of 58 MACRs – 56, to be specific – pertain to bomber or transport aircraft.  One covers an F-5A reconnaissance Lightning, and another a P-40K Warhawk.

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The quality of the MACR photographs is highly variable. 

The main aspect of these images is that many – especially the air-to-air and air-to-ground images – were captured by happenstance.  Some were taken fortuitously, by a crewman seeing, sensing, and and quickly “snapping” a photograph through the nearest available window – without much time for composition or centering! – in combat conditions.  As such, the relative sized of the subject (the aircraft in question) occupying the image is relatively small.

Images of shot-down aircraft “on the ground” unsurprisingly tend to be of much better quality, at least in terms of subject size and framing. 

Overall, what these images may lack in resolution and detail is outweighed by their importance as the last reminders – both historically and symbolically – of a conflict and era that is receding into the past.  As such, these pictures don’t manifest the photographic composition, lighting, and focus of the stereotypical “official” publicity photo of an aircrew patiently posing beneath the nose-art of their bomber. 

But by nature, they do show an aspect of the nature of WW II that cannot be depicted in posed photographs.

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The table below, based on and extracted from a much larger spreadsheet covering WW II USAAF aircraft losses (based on data in MACRs, and, a variety of other sources) presents nominal information about the 58 “photographic” MACRs.  Information in the table comprises the number of the relevant MACR, the name and rank of the aircraft’s pilot, the date the aircraft was lost, the aircraft’s serial number, the type and sub-type of aircraft, the total number of photographs contained within “that” MACR, and the manner of photography of the photograph(s) therein.

The information shown “here” is limited in order to simplify and streamline the appearance of “this” blog post.  A presentation of this and other relevant information about the 58 MACRs is available in a PDF file here.

Once you open the above PDF, you’ll see the information therein arranged as listed below, with three lines of “data” per MACR:

Line 1
MACR Number

Pilot’s name and rank
Date of incident
Squadron
Group
Air Force

Fate of Crew: “Total number of crew and / or passengers (Total survivors, Total Fatalities)”
Line 2
Aircraft type and sub-type
Aircraft serial number
Squadron Designation (alphabetical, numerical, or alpha-numerical) (if any; if known; in italics)
Nickname (if any; if known; in italics)
General location where aircraft was lost or last seen (with German KU or ME Report number, if relevant)
Line 3
Total number of photographic images in MACR

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A note, and more than a note…

An acknowledgement, and more than an acknowledgement…

It is my understanding that upon their declassification in the early 1980s, MACRs were made available to the public as the “original” documents, but, with the realization of the importance and heavy use of the documents, this policy was rescinded, with the records then being made available in microfiche format – at some time in the mid-1980s – by which they could be purchased from, or directly viewed at NARA.  Fiche format MACRs are presently available at NARA, digitally through Fold3.com, and in many and varied websites in PDF, word (transcribed or summarized), or JPG formats. 

It was through a review (albeit a lengthy and intermittent review; conducted over some years!) of MACRs in fiche and digital formats that I discovered the 58 particular Reports that are the subject of this post.  That review focused on the approximately 14,900 wartime MACRs, and a smaller number of the post-war, “fill-in” MACRs which were created for gaps in wartime coverage, and, pre-mid-1943 aircraft losses.   

After I identified this set of MACRs, the National Archives very kindly granted me access to the “original” documents in order to scan photographic images within them. 

As a result of their generosity – for which I’m deeply appreciative – I’m now able to bring you this post.

And, I hope to bring you a few of the better images in the future. 

– Michael G. Moskow

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Here are a few examples…

MACR 1087.  (Refer to this account at Justin Taylan’s Pacific Wrecks Database.)

MACR 5032.  (Refer to this account at the 416th Bomb Group website (maintained by Wayne G. Sayles, Rick Prucha, Chris Adams and Carl Sgamboti).

 

MACR 8440.  (Refer to this account at the 303rd Bomb Group website.)

 

MACR Pilot Date Aircraft Serial   Type of Camera
64 Perkins, John H. 1 Lt. 7/14/43 B-17F 42-3049 1 Automatic
150 Flavelle, Brian F. 1 Lt. 8/1/43 B-24D 42-40563 1 Hand-Held
304 Miller, Ralph R. 1 Lt. 8/19/43 B-17F 42-29807 1 Automatic
394 Moore, Don W. 1 Lt. 8/27/43 B-17F 42-29530 1 Hand-Held
489 McDonald, Harry L. 1 Lt. 8/30/43 B-24D 42-40217 3 Hand-Held
614 Boren, William T. Major 9/21/43 B-26B 41-31721 1 Automatic
935 Stookey, Donald L. 1 Lt. 10/16/43 B-25D 41-30561 1 Automatic
1057 Manley, Daniel 1 Lt. 10/9/43 B-25D 41-30363 1 Hand-Held
1087 Smith, Richard F/O 11/3/43 B-25G 42-64850 1 Hand-Held
1146 Gullette, Frank E. 1 Lt. 11/20/43 B-25D 41-30572 1 Hand-Held
1170 Paschal, James M. 1 Lt. 10/19/43 B-25C 41-12631 4 Hand-Held
1416 Meister, Robert A. 1 Lt. 12/17/43 B-25D 41-30661 2 Hand-Held
1423 Smith, George W. 1 Lt. 12/21/43 B-24D 41-24214 2 Hand-Held
1544 Besley, Charles E. 1 Lt. 12/21/43 B-25D 41-30771 1 Automatic?
1620 Unruh, Marion D. Col. 12/30/43 B-24D 41-24186 3 Hand-Held
1629 Morse, Roger W. 1 Lt. 1/3/44 B-24D 42-41205 1 Hand-Held?
2450 Sutphen, Harry S. Capt. 2/22/44 B-25G 42-64779 1 Hand-Held
2578 Ecklund, Robert D. 1 Lt. 12/27/43 F-5A 42-13068 2 Recon & Hand-Held
2761 Fletcher, William H. 1 Lt. 2/21/44 B-17G 42-37796 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
3680 Rauh, Theodore A. 1 Lt. 4/2/44 B-24J 42-73150 1 Hand-Held
3971 Rogers, Robert J., Jr. 2 Lt. 4/2/44 B-24H 41-28698 1 Hand-Held
5032 Gullion, Allen W. 1 Lt. 5/27/44 A-20G 43-10206 1 Automatic
5033 Siracusa, Lucian J. 1 Lt. 5/27/44 A-20G 43-10203 1 Automatic
5303 Moran, Bart 2 Lt. 5/29/44 B-17G 42-107052 9 Hand-Held (Ground)
5536 Randolph, Benjamin D. 1 Lt. 6/3/44 A-20G 43-9959 1 Automatic
5628 Jackson, Loren E. 2 Lt. 6/12/44 B-17G 42-31762 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
5982 Burch, Richard W. Capt. 6/20/44 B-17G 42-97892 1 Automatic
6070 Casey, Thomas V. 2 Lt. 6/22/44 B-25J 43-27656 1 Hand-Held
6455 Dunn, Lamar J. 1 Lt. 6/26/44 B-24H 42-50401 1 Hand-Held
6456 Carter, Thomas J. Major 6/26/44 B-24H 42-95451 1 Automatic
6996 Jones, Ellsoworth D. 2 Lt. 7/28/44 B-24H 41-29275 1 Automatic
7419 DeMatio, Donald H. 2 Lt. 7/19/44 B-24H 42-94893 2 Hand-Held
7685 Hoschar, John P. 1 Lt. 8/15/44 B-25J 43-27783 1 Automatic?
8187 Carpenter, Floyd B. 2 Lt. 9/2/44 P-40K 42-9860 15 Automatic
8440 Litman, Arnold S. Capt. 8/15/44 B-17G 43-37838 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
9750 Barnsley, Daniel V. 2 Lt. 10/21/44 B-24J 44-40557 3 Hand-Held
9906 Yaeger, William C. 1 Lt. 9/17/44 C-47A 42-100648 1 Hand-Held
10154 Levitoff, Julius 2 Lt. 11/6/44 B-17G 42-97330 1 Hand-Held
10156 Campbell, Robert G. 1 Lt. 11/2/44 B-17G 43-38670 1 Automatic?
10303 Alleman, James E. 2 Lt. 11/5/44 B-17G 43-38363 1 Hand-Held
11392 McKanna, Ellis J. Capt. 1/18/45 B-25J 43-27649 2 ?
11555 Smith, Edmund G. 1 Lt. 1/27/45 B-29 42-24769 1 Automatic
11574 Eisenhart, Oliver T. 2 Lt. 1/13/45 B-17G 43-38689 1 Automatic
11576 Statton, Roy F. 1 Lt. 1/10/45 B-17G 42-97861 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
11577 McGinnis, Martin S. Capt. 1/13/45 B-17G 42-107099 1 Hand-Held
11713 Murchland, Robert K. 1 Lt. 1/18/45 B-25J 43-4069 2 Hand-Held
12050 Bierwirth, Herman L. 1 Lt. 2/8/45 B-24L 44-41470 1 ?
12092 Figler, Roman H. 1 Lt. 2/13/45 B-25J 43-27670 1 Hand-Held
12130 Ross, Charles D. 1 Lt. 2/5/45 B-25J 43-36098 1 Hand-Held
12680 Smith, Jay B. Lt. Col. 2/22/45 B-26C 42-107745 3 Hand-Held (Ground)
13419 Kreiser, Joseph R. Capt. 3/24/45 C-46D 44-77582 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
13421 Phillips, Moorhead 1 Lt. 3/24/45 C-46D 44-77595 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
13422 Hamilton, Gerard E. 2 Lt. 3/24/45 C-46D 44-77512 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
13431 Barton, Junior R. 1 Lt. 3/24/45 C-46D 44-77474 1 Hand-Held (Ground)
13515 Bauer, Christian C., Jr. 2 Lt. 3/6/45 B-25J 43-36150 2 Hand-Held
14351 Custer, Glenn R. 2 Lt. 5/4/45 B-24M 44-42058 1 Automatic
14408 Larsen, Leonard G. 1 Lt. 5/10/45 B-25J 43-36149 1 Hand-Held
15098 Norton, Charles E. Capt. 9/24/42 B-17E 41-2420 4 Hand-Held (Ground)

References

NARA Publication M 1380: Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-1947, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington. D.C., 2005

“B-25G-5 Mitchell Serial Number 42-64850″, at http://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-25/42-64850.html.

B-17G Fearless Fosdick, at http://www.303rdbg.com/pp-fearlessfosdick-crash.html. (Website copyright by Gary L. Moncur.)

“416th Bomb Group Mission # 58”, at http://www.416th.com/missions/mission58.html.  (Website copyright by Wayne G. Sayles.)

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