Last Known Activity
Benjamin Rees Whiteker was born in Sunrise, Kentucky on August 15, 1920, the son of Joseph Desha and Annie (Arnold) Whiteker. He graduated from Sunrise High School as valedictorian. He entered Georgetown College in 1937. After college, he took courses in air-conditioning and refrigeration, and began working for General Electric in Dayton, Ohio.
He was inducted inti the Aviation Cadet program in January, 1943 at Ft Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. (His memorial at American Battlefield Commission states he entered from New Jersey.)
In 1993, his sister, Joella died, and her estate contained 26 letters from Whiteker relating to his military experience and gives a view of that life. Most of the life experiences here are from those letters.
On February 11, 1943, Whiteker wrote from Sheppard Field, Texas where he was a private in the 404TSS. He was assigned to the University of Wichita for a five-month term that included studying math, physics, geography, English, and others. His address there he gave as Air Crew Detachment, University of Wichita.
On June 9, 1943, he was made Flight Lieutenant and sent to San Antonio, Texas for flight training. In September, he was in Vernon, Texas; then to Tonopah, Nevada. By November, 1944, he was a second lieutenant and assigned to the 5th Bomb Group in New Guinea.
On February 8, 1945 he stated he was assigned to the 394th Bomb Squadron, and that he had completed 25 missions. On April 30, 1945, he was alerted on a mission to bomb Japanese targets in the Philippines. The crew took-off from Guiuau Air Strip on Samor Island in the southern Philippines. Whiteker and crew successfully bombed their target, and set course for Morotai Island to land. Approximately 30 miles out, Whiteker's aircraft collided with another B-24 in the formation. Both aircraft crashed into the sea. Two bodies were recovered, but only one, a Flight Officer from the second B-24, was ever identified.
Benjamin R. Whiteker and the names of his crew are memorialized on The Tablets of the Missing in Manila American Cemetery. His name also appears on a memorial in Cynthia (Harrison County) Kentucky.
Lt. Benjamin R. Whiteker was flying B-24M #44-41869, no name, when the mid-air collision occurred.
The 349th Bomb Squadron loading list for this mission gives Whiteker's crew as:
1 Lt Benjamin R. Whiteker p
2 Lt Robert L. Nelson
F/O James E. Shallenberger bomb
F/O August A. Stasio
SSgt Richard L. Strickland gunner
SSgt Edwin C. Austin
SSgt Leo R. Bender gunner
SSgt Howard S. Brownman
SSgt Rocco Piligro gunner
SSgt Edmund R. Servano
All crew members received the Air Medal and Purple Heart posthumously.
The other aircraft was B-24J #44-41541, unnamed, flown by Lt. Benjamin B. Smith.
Curiously, neither of these aircraft appear in the USAAC-USAAF Aircraft Inventory, and there is not a USAAF Accident Report or a Missing Air Crew Report on either aircraft.
Service photo source:
www.findagrave.com (crew photo)