The purpose of my company, Tactical Civil Defense, and this 22-year old civil defense blog, www.poetslife.blogspot.com is to help American children and grandchildren by educating their parents and grandparents about how civil defense strategies, knowledge, templates, plans, services and supplies can protect them all from manmade and natural disasters.


1st Lt. Frank J. Curley, MIA, USAAF In Memoriam

This is the story of Frank Joseph Curley who died on February 10, 1945 (but is still listed as MIA) on his 40th and last mission on the B-24, Hit Parade in WWII, in the Pacific Theater.
Brief Mission Story Here.
B-24 Liberator 1st Lt. Frank CurleyB-24L Liberator Serial Number 44-41465, 7th AF, 11th BG, 26th BS
Additional information at: Pacific Wrecks and the 11th Bombardment Group Websites.
To see what these Pacific Theater air crews went through in WWII, see the Story of 666 here.
For the history of the 7th AF, 11th BG, see: Grey Geese Calling: A History of the 11th Bombardment Group Heavy (H) in the Pacific, 1940-45, W.M. Cleveland, Editor. 
For a quick overview, see here
Abstract: This post seeks to answer the question: "Who was Frank Joseph Curley and what happened on 10 February 1945 on his fatal 40th mission in WWIII in the Pacific over Ha Ha Jima that meant that I would never know him?"
His death had a HUGE impact on my Dad and his brothers and sisters, and therefore on us, the next generation. The effect of any military service, death or disability cascades through a family and generations, but especially that of an MIA because the questions never end.
The photo to the right shows Frank looked as a child with his father and brothers.
Above is how he looked as a newly minted Lieutenant (Frank Curley head shot photo: First Lieutenant Frank Joseph Curley, Army-Air Forces Navigation School, Selman Field, Monroe, Louisiana, graduation photo (courtesy of Tony Bartoletti "44-01").
This is the story of my 35-year search to find answers to the mystery of how he died. I hope it helps others who are looking for ways to find out about a loved one who has been categorized by the U.S. Government as Missing in Action (MIA).
Note: My thanks to the 11th Bomb Group Association for contacts that helped me to create this memoriam (Phil Gudenschwager - Secretary, 4116 N 66th Place, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 11bga@cox.net, 480 945 9119).
For quick results on an MIA search, check out the American Battle Field Monuments Commission and here. Here is the result when I entered Frank Curley in the search engine.
More information on Together We Served.
Here is Frank's listing on The Honor Wall. Please add your family member or friend here. Too many MIA's have never been listed.

American Battle Monuments Commision
Frank J. Curley, First Lieutenant,U. S. Army Air Forces Service # 0-707235, 26th Bomber Squadron, 11th Bomber Group, Heavy Entered the Service from: Pennsylvania. Died: 10-Feb-4 Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Had I had these simple data points (service number, bomber group, date of death) when I began my research 35 years ago, all the false starts would not have happened. I encourage you if you are looking for an MIA to use this incredible, if unknown, resource.
(My thanks to Michael A. Norbury, Jr, Engineering/Chief Information Officer, American Battle Monuments Commission, norburym@abmc.gov who told me about this resource. He is the husband of the woman who provided child care for my younger son, Eamon. I met him at a picnic for the parents. Once again, serendipity...as here... is so much a part of the search for information on a MIA. Expect many blind leads...and occasional blinding light discoveries and breakthroughs when you search for an MIA loved one.)
Frank's listing with the ABMC.
Photo of Frank Curley in his USAAF uniform: Courtesy of Agnes Curley.
There were two brothers, Harry and Billy, who left the farm in Perkisie, PA to work for the Reading Railroad. Billy settled in Landsdale, PA and had 11 children. She is from that family. Harry settled in Mount Airy, Philadelphia, PA and had 9 children. Francis "Frank" Curley is his oldest son.]
She is an 88-year old who showed up at my sister Sue's house. She said, "Are you the Curley who has the brother doing a Web page on Francis Curley?"
Sue said, "Yes."
Agnes reached into her pocketbook and said, "I've been keeping these for 65 years. He should have these."
Agnes handed Sue the picture you see here of Frank in his USAAF uniform as well as the obituary below. Serendipity.
Childhood Memories: I heard the name Frank Curley, older brother of my father Harry Leo Curley, only rarely and briefly as a child. Usually, there was a reference to the fact that he died in the Pacific in a plane, that he was an MIA and that my grandmother, Margaret D'Arcy Curley never recovered from the loss. When I tried to get more information on him from my mother and father, I got vague references to the Pacific War and that, again, he was Missing in Action (MIA). That was it.
Breakthrough: Frank's MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) Some 28 years into my research (mostly wasted hours at the National Archives) I would obtain his MARC that stated that he was a navigator/bombardier with the 7th Air Force (AF), 11th Bomber Group (BG), 26th Bomber Squadron (BS) in 1944 and 1945 in the Pacific.
By talking to the pilot (Harry Gibbons) who was behind Frank when his plane was hit, I got details of that mission. By talking to Richard Chandler, the sole survivor of the crew with Frank that day, I was able to get a photo of Frank's crew (as well as Richard Chandler's own incredible survival and rescue story).
According to the MACR, members of this crew flew missions over Iowo Jima, Truk, Marcus, ChiChi Jima, Ha Ha Jima, and Wake and many other pacific island the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army had invaded. I got the photo of Frank's B-24 going down in the Pacific from MACR 12052 - 10 Feb 1945.
For a quick summary of Frank J. Curley's timeline and awards, see Together We Served

The Fatal 10 February 1945 Ha Ha Jima Mission
According to the sole survivor of the Ha Ha Jima mission, Richard Chandler, Frank and his crew were shot down bombing a Japanese airfield on HaHa Jima so the Marines and Navy would have an easier time invading Iowa Jima. Here is a photo Mr. Chandler sent of the Braesher crew, of which he and Frank were members. He also told me that Frank came running to the plane before he left that day because he was assigned to it at the last minute. Such is war.
United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) First Lieutenant Frank Curley's B-24L Liberator (Serial Number 44-41465) and crew sometime before the 10 February 1945 mission to Ha Ha Jima in the Pacific Theater. Not shown is Major Robert W. Holland (0350 194) who joined them for that mission as a passenger (and got them all killed by making them slow down and fly back over anti-aircraft batteries - something they did not do in prior missions).

Crew (Left to Right - Top Row): Pilot - lst Lt Edwin E. Brashear (0758 298), Co-Pilot - 2nd lt Theodore Robinson (0765 320), Bombadeir- lst lt Albert C. Reynolds (0762 869), Navigator - 1st Lt. Frank Curley (SN 0-707 235)Crew (Left to Right - Bottom Row): Radio - T Sgt Vincent Foti (12 134 909), Engineer - T. Sgt William F. Caldwell (11 094 945), Gunner - S Sgt John J. Kerexki (6 996 217), Asst Engr - S Sgt James T. McGee (37 505 526)
As today, crews were mixed and matched according to available members and the mission. In the photo above, Cecil K Decker and Robert M. Stites are to the right in the place of John Kerexki. This was Frank's 34th (Chandler) or 39th (Gibbons) mission, or some other number. I have not been able to get a definitive(government record) number.
1st Lt. Albert C. Reynolds  Carlsbad Army Air Field bombardier graduate,  class 43-18

Breakthrough: First Witness Harry Gibbon's 1999 Letter and Diary
Harry Gibbon's for me was a real break through that answered a number of questions about what happened. He was the pilot directly behind Frank's plane that day.
Harry, who was flying in the plane behind Frank's when it was hit and exploded, was kind enough to send me a hand-written, four-page letter in March of 1999 that gave details about the mission and Frank. Here it is. Pacific Wrecks

There is so much to be said about any war.
Historians say 60,000,000 people died in WWII, about 250,000 Americans. We were relatively lucky. But try to tell that to the parents of the deceased, including my parents who lost a Lt. navigator over Germany.
As to Lt. Frank Curley, I knew him and I remember him. This part is strange because after 54 years you remember so few of your fellow flyer's.
I was a 21 year old pilot flying in the right seat for the McCullam Crew. We were together with the Brasher and Bienwith Crew. There were older crews ahead of us and younger crews behind, but we always seemed to be together. We flew sub search out of Oahu. We moved up to Kwajalein and bombed Watje, Truk, etc
We moved up to Guam in the 26th squadron, 11th bomb group. We flew 9, 10, 11 plane raids. Brasher was generally the lead plane. He was good.
We bombed Iwo Jima on February 8, 1945. A Jap kamikaze fighter rammed Bienbwith's plane and created an instant ball of flame. No one could have possibly gotten out.
The reason I tell you this is because Major Holland (see photo) enters the picture. He was considered a very popular officer when he flew. He was returning to Guam from his rest leave after flying 30 missions. He did not impress the war weary young kids who had seen tougher action that he ever saw. He seemed arrogant and autocratic, i.e. I'll show you guys how we did it in the old days. He took over. He set up a mission for the 10th, two days after Bienwith went down.

Major Holland (I always felt he had been promoted to Lt. Colonel about that time) then set up what we called a milk run, an easy mission where there would be no fighters and light ack-ack, certainly not Iwo 9 days before the invasion.
Holland picked Ha-Ha Jima, a couple hundred miles north of Iwo. Therefore, we needed monstrous rubber tanks for gasoline carried in the bomb bays. If he were Laurel and Hardy he couldn't have fouled up the mission any worse. We flew from the West about 15,600 feet up. We had a tail wind.
We always flew at 165 MPH indicated. However, at that altitude with a strong wind we were probably doing close to 400 MPH. Holland, flying the ship, turned off the target for reasons unknown.
He did a shallow 180 degree turn. He had to with other planes in the formation. He turned and approached the target from the other direction. We are now flying up wind and probably doing 160 MPH. After flying in view of the island for possibly 5 minutes the Japs had good time to figure our altitude. It was when we released our bombs that his plane took a direct hit in the bomb bays...remember the gas-filled auxiliary tanks?
It was an inferno. Brasher's plane turned out of control and headed back into the formation. From a distance it seemed two or three flyers got out (the tail gunner was rescued). The others had to be the waist window gunners. No one could have gotten out of the cabin.
What a tragedy! Here was a crew that had shown enough leadership to be the lead crew and then have the ship taken over by an... "I'll show you guys how to fly combat" kind of guy. It's sick.
As to Frank himself, we were a reasonably close squadron. We lived in 16 x 16 pyramidal tents, dirt floors, outdoor latrines, 50 gallon overhead tanks for showers, indigestible food, warm beer (2 cans per day, perhaps).
We played softball together, but I don't ever remember him drinking with us or playing poker with us. There were about 12 crews in our squadron, some coming, some going.
We lived in a circular area, that is, the tents were in a circle. Frank was of good height, well conditioned and extremely good looking. I remember that he had gone to LaSalle College High School about the class of 1942. I went to North Catholic, class of 1940. Later I graduated from LaSalle College, class of 1948.
Enclosed is a map of the area to give you an idea of the war that "we" had, but it was going on all over the world.
Harry J. Gibbons
Co-pilot of the 11th BG3/15/1999"

Below are notes Harry J. Gibbons kept of this mission:
That's two ships in two missions...not so good. Had some very good friends on it, too...a 10 plane formation hit HA HA at 15,600...bomb hits (unreadable). I sweated this mission out but bad, and then to see that plane peel off in front of us aflame sure put the finishing touches to it. I sometimes wonder if we'll ever get home. These extra missions are sure rough. Last crew was on No. 34. We lead B flight again."

"Another rough one. I feel a little uneasy. No appetite. Stomach upset a little. We were supposed to have an easy mission to-day, but the lead ship (A-1) picked up some ACK-ACK in the bomb bay tank and caught fire right after bombs away. It was just a flying torch. A few fellows got out but some of them didn't have chutes on.
Against orders (in case he was shot down and captured), Harry kept a diary. He sent me the two pages concerning this mission that he wrote on the 3' x 5" homework pad that every parochial school child keeps. Here is his introduction to me and the diary entry for this mission--Dangerous Critter.

"Bruce...From my diary that I kept and recorded on the flight back home from every target. It was against all rules to keep such a diary, just in case that you were captured by the Japs. But you know us wild Irishmen. Tell us not to do something and..." Harry 3/16/99

Second Witness Bill Tarczy

A second witness, Bill Tarczy, who was in a B-24 in the formation with Frank Curley sent me a letter with the following account.

"Bruce Curley,

My name is Bill Tarczy. I was a tail gunner on the last B-24 over the target flying the Diamond on the mission over Ha-Ha Jima. Major Holland (our Group Commander) was in the lead plane with Lt. Brashear's crew. 
During briefing on weather on the mission, we were told Ha-Ha was overcast. We took off around 4:00 to 4:30 A.M. and arrived over target at about 10:00 A.M. The trip to Ha-Ha was overcast. The trip to Ha-Ha usually took 11 to 12 hours over and back to Guam. 
Due to the distance, we had to carry a 500 gallon tank of gas in the left forward bomb bay. The tank was full over the target.
When we arrived at Ha-Ha, it was overcast and we were making our bomb run by radar from about 26,000 feet.
Once we started the run, the clouds opened and the target was visible, we got orders from lead plane to close bomb doors to make a visual run. As we left the target flack was also around us and it was phosphorus. They knew we carried extra gas so that was what they used instead of regular flack.
We circled and made a visual run. As soon as bombs were dropped, Brashear's plane was hit in the bomb bay and it caught fire and started losing altitude and went down.
It was hard to tell how far we got from the target because the formation all moved away from Brashear's plane.
Richard Chandler, who was the gunner did bail out and was picked up by a Navy B-24 (PBM) that can land on water. The B-24 that they flew that day was a B-24L. The plane was a new model. 
The waist windows and tail gun positions were encased on plexiglass. From what we were told, Chandler wore his parachute and had his goggles on. When they got hit, he ran to the rear hatch in waist and bailed out. 
According to him, the waist gunners got flash burn and could not see what they were doing. 
We never wore parachutes on missions. They were always on racks in the waist. 

The reason Chandler wore it that day was because on February 2nd a Kamikaze Jap Zero rammed into one o four B-24 destroying it in mid-air. The tail section broke off in one piece and a couple of parachutes opened from impact. 
That crew was flying their 40th mission (last one) as was your uncle and rest of crew. 
I personally did not know your uncle other than riding out to the airfield on our missions. 
I did know the enlisted crew members since our tents were next to each other. The officers slept in another area.
I hope this information will enlighten you.
Bill Tarczy"

In January, 2011, I received an email from Tom Loper, of Austin, Texas, whose mother was married to Frank's crew's pilot, Lt. Edwin Brashear. Tom's birth father had died recently and his mother was asking him to conduct some research on Lt. Brashear. 
Tom's birth father fought with the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima, Guam, at the same time that Lt. Brashear's crew was operating in the area, small world (war). (Iwo Jima, Ha Ha Jima, and Ti-Ti Jima are all part of the Bonin Island's and the first part of territorial Imperial Japan.)Tom's dad planned ahead for his mother, knowing that after his death, she would be eligible to receive a death benefit from having once been married to Lt. Brashear, now an MIA, which she had previously never received.
In his research on Edwin Brashear he discovered this blog. We exchanged a few emails and he sent me these photos of the Edwin, Frank and and the crew as they lived in those years. The photo's are from his mother's photo/wedding album. In turn, I sent him a packet with the sources I have discovered over the years.

After reading the intel report on how the plane, carrying 500 pounds sacks of fuel and bombs was hit by Jap ack ack and blew up and all reports from pilots behind them only saw one survivor parachute out, I'm amazed he was listed as an MIA, but the government even then was not known for having a high regard for the truth.

USAAF bombardiers
 took an exacting oath: "Mindful of the secret trust about to be placed in me by my Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, by whose direction I have been chosen for bombardier training...and mindful of the fact that I am to become guardian of one of my country's most priceless military assets, the American bomb sight...I do here, in the presence of Almighty God, swear by the Bombardier's Code of Honor to keep inviolate the secrecy of any and all confidential information revealed to me, and further to uphold the honor and integrity of the Army Air Forces, if need be, with my life itself."
(Photo: Frank Curley, LaSalle College High School, Philadelphia, PA, 1942. Photo courtesy of Christopher M. Carabello '82 Director of Communications and Public Relations La Salle College High School 8605 Cheltenham Avenue Wyndmoor, PA 19038 (215) 402-4810 direct (215) 836-4502 fax, carabello@lschs.org, carabello@lschs.org, www.lschs.org

Bruce McClelland posted Frank's information on Air Force Together We Served 
Frank's page is here under Fallen. Bruce sent me this link July 25, 2013. Unfortunately, I did not see his Facebook message until October 10, 2018 because I never used messenger until that day.
The same day I opened another Facebook message from October 16, 2015 from Adam Khlor:
"Mr. Curley, I came across your post (poetslife) about your uncle's service in WWII. My grandfather was in the 26th from mid 1943-1944. I was wondering when your uncle was there? My grandfather was a photographer by civilian trade and took lots of pictures. Unfortunately he didn't write names on most of them. I do have a few of Maj. Holland (I'm guessing it's the same one), but most I have no idea who they are. If their dates of service crossed, I'll be glad to e-mail them to you to see if you can identify anyone. The only person I've talked with from the officer group was Robert Madonheimer. He was the original co-pilot of GunSite (my grandfather was tail gunner) and later Mr. Masonheimer became the captain of Smokey Stover. My grandfather's 30th and final mission was in May of 1944, but I don't know when he was sent out of the theater. Adam"

Mobile WWII Wood Memorial
This is a mobile WWII wood memorial that was created after WWII for those from Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Germantown, Philadelphia of those who died in the war. My dad, his mother, and Joe and Nancy Curley, Frank's youngest brother and sister, are pictured here.

Zero Zero
During World War II, the Army Air Corps, later known as the Army Air Forces, operated a navigation training school in Monroe at Selman Field, Louisiana.
On June 15, 1942, Selman Field was activated and Colonel Norris B. Harbold, a pioneer in the navigation training program, was named commanding officer. Within three months, the field was a full-fledged military establishment consisting of the Pre-Flight School (Bombardier-Navigator) and the Advanced Navigation School. Selman Field continued to grow in size and stature and became, the nation's largest navigation training school during World War II.
The curriculum consisted teaching selected young men how to "Get `em There and Get 'em Back."
"Zero Zero" was the navigator's ultimate objective. It means navigating through hundreds of thousands of miles of space, cloud rack, wind, and weather and hitting a dime-sized objective "on the nose" at the precise second you said you would hit it on the nose. 
The first is pilotage, or navigating by landmarks, using maps and charts. The second is dead reckoning, which consists of keeping track of how far you have gone and in what direction since you started, using instruments which measure various aspects of the plane in motion, such as speed, deviation, wind drift, and-so on. The third method is radio navigation which consists of "riding the beam" from one station to another until you progress to where you want to go. The final way to navigate is by celestial navigation — by the stars and other celestial bodies. These are immutable, but you must be able to identify them in their different configurations in all quarters of the heavens at all times of night and day. Armed with the best knowledge and training possible, the navigation cadets graduated and became members of combat crews.
One inch off i's not Zero Zero. It means right on the button, right on time — perfection.  Selman Field met the challenge and provided 15,349 navigators during WWII.
For an oral history of their deeds, see here.
More information on the history of Selman Field is here.
The Chennault Aviation Museum is located in the last remaining WWII building.

I wrote "Screaming Like a Banshee" based on memories of my Uncle Frank, his mother, and my youngest Eamon when he was a baby. It was most recently published in Feile-Festa Literary Arts Journal, NY, NY, Spring 2010, p. 46.

Screaming Like a Banshee

My wife screams like a banshee
to cover wailing with neutral sound
when my toddler Eamon fights her
and refuses to take a nap.
I hear Grandmom Curley screamed
like a banshee when the telegram arrived
from the War Department in 1945
to tell her the oldest, Frank, the one
who was supposed to be the Jesuit,
instead had been killed in action
when the Japanese ack-ack
turned his B-24 into a fireball
on his 39th mission over Haha Jima
in an ocean grave in the South Pacific.
Grandmom Curley screamed

like a banshee for weeks
until they hooked her up
and shot electricity through her brain
to cover wailing with neutral sound.
She never screamed like a banshee again.
Instead, she wailed so deep down for 20 years
because the hole in her heart was so vast
laughter was no longer a planet in her galaxy
and the only way people would describe her was,
“She was never the same after Frank died in the Pacific.”

This is Harry Leo Curley on his wedding day to my mother Phyllis Mary Watson Curley. My father was Frank's younger brother. My Dad tried to enlist in WWII, but was too young to go in without his parents, Harry Leo Curley and Margaret D'Arcy Curley, signing for him. As Frank kept sending letters home saying, "War is hell. Don't let Harry join up" and due to his age my Dad was never able to go in.
 This is my uncle, Joe (Joseph) Frank Curley. Notice his name is Frank's name reversed. He was conceived and born shortly after my grandparents received the telegram from the War Department saying that Frank was an MIA and presumed dead. Joe was named for Frank.
After Frank was killed, the War Department sent Frank's parents an Inventory of Effects that list everything Frank owned on this earth when he was killed. It is a remarkable document. It is almost about what a monk would own. 
The rosary and holy cards are of particular interest. My Grandmother was a very religious woman and no doubt sent them to him or gave them to him before he left. What is interesting is that after all his mission he still had them back in his tent when he died.

How to...and How Not To...Find Out About Your Family MIA

This is a photo of my great grandparents, Frank's grandparents, on their farm in Perkisie, PA. From solid stock like this did we defeat the Nazi and Bushido threat. These two brothers, Bill and Harry Curley, left the farm in Perkisie and worked for the Reading Railroad. Bill settled in Landsdale, PA and had 11 children. Harry settled in Mount Airy, Philadelphia, and had 9 children.
Here is the chronology of my search for Frank's story. I offer it in hopes it may help another American MIA family to find out about what happened to their loved one. There were many dead ends, false leads, and rude and lazy bureaucrats over the years, but there were also some extremely helpful veterans and veteran's associations, along with numerous individuals who love this country and understand the sacrifice military families make for this country, who were especially helpful.
My main suggestion would be for the U.S. government to declassify these missions while living family members can discover what happened to their loved ones. 
In Frank's case, they kept the mission classified far longer than it needed to be. As anyone who has an MIA in their family knows, the U.S. Government is not a great deal of help (although it has gotten better due to the diligence of the Vietnam-era MIA families). 
I recommend private researcher to really find out the truth.
Matt Holly (matthollymarshalls@yahoo.com) POB 319, Majuro, MH 96962 has done extensive research on the Marshall Island's Campaign. As he said in a recent 11th Bomb Group (H) Association, Inc. (Progression Sine Tirmore aut Praejudicio) mailing: "Believe it or not, the US Government does not have a current listing of all USA losses in WWII. There are some, all in different formats. Some on big index cards...front for your life, back for your death. 500,000 deaths, 50,000 MIA...yes, 50,000 still listed, with 18.000 in the Pacific. And no way to correct or update them, and no current list of remains that can possibly be recovered or identified by modern forensic technology. Do you realize how many Peal Harbor remains are not identified?"
Mr. Holly is right.
If I ever fall into the big money, my one goal would be to dive off HaHa Jima and find Frank's B-24 off Ha-Ha Jima.
If by the grace of God I could also locate his remains, I would bring his and any others from his crew to the surface and back to the U.S. for a Christian burial.
After four decades of research, I have half-solved the mystery (why Major Holland was there that day and got them all killed is part of the unsolved half) of what happened to First Lieutenant Frank Curley on 10 February 1945 off Ha Ha Jima.
Many helped me in this search. Special thanks to all (and especially Richard Chandler, Harry Gibbons, Richard Mansfield, Jack Lopez, Bill Tarczy, and the woman from Selman Field, and Bill Curley) who helped me solve the mystery of this mission. 

Here are a few suggestions for what was helpful and what was not in this search.

1955- 1977 - Once in a great while I would hear a vague reference to Frank, that he died in the Pacific, and that he won some medals but not what those medals meant or what for.
I heard that my grandmother Margaret D'Arcy Curley was a beauty with jet-black hair that Frank also had, and that she was a happy woman before but "she was never the same after Frank died in the Pacific."
To the day she died, she never accepted that he was an MIA and instead believed that he was captured by the Russian's and ended up in Siberia in the Gulag.
(Photo: My father, Harry Leo Curley with his first daughter Lynn in Cape May, NJ a few years after Frank's death.) 
When I asked at one point if there were any pictures of Frank, I remember being told that his mother had destroyed them all after he died because they were too painful for her to see.
As a child, for a few weeks each summer, I stayed at a huge Victorian mansion in Cape May, New Jersey...back when it was affordable.
I was told that it was purchased with the survivor's check the government sent after Frank died, that Grandmom Margaret D'Arcy Curley used to put it in the collection basket every Sunday at Holy Child Catholic Church in Mount Airy, Philadelphia for two years and the priest would return it each Monday until they bought the Cape May Victorian to rent out.

As with so much of our military and other history, this was relayed to me by a woman, my mother, Phyllis Mary Watson Curley. My father never really talked about Frank, his older brother by two years. It was just too painful.

1977 - After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I took a job in Washington, D.C. Curious about Frank's mission, I went to the National Archives and looked in the military records and talked to staff at the National Archives. I found nothing, but continued off and on for 20 years on a free Saturday. This is long before Internet search engines were free and widely available.

1999 - Breakthrough - After entering "B-24" in a search engine, I find the Selman Field Memorial website. A very kind woman there put me in touch with Richard Mansfield 44-10, VP, SFHA. Then, while surfing the Web under USAAF and B-24 and MIA I found Aviation Archives, a research firm that specializes in cutting through the red tape of the U.S. government. I research their website, discover it is only $35.00 for them to get Frank's MARC, and send the check. Two weeks later, Frank's Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) arrives with the declassified file and intelligence, details of the mission, including the photo of his plane going down. I encourage anyone who has an MIA to contact Jack Lopez of Aviation Archives.
Aviation Archives
12624 Orchard Brook Terrace
Potomac, MD 20854-2326
Telephone: (240) 432-0038
E-mail: aviationarchive@comcast.net
Contact Person: Jack R. Lopez
(The 1945 Bombers Chapel programs (above) and the nose art (below) courtesy of Mr. Donald MacLaine who lived in the tent next to Frank's on Guam.)

- Harry Gibbons contact initiated (courtesy of Richard Mansfield 44-10, VP, SFHA) - by phone, he reveals the mission verbally and follows up with a four-page, hand written letter (above). He told me that he went to a reunion at the Punch Bowl in Hawaii and overheard Major Holland's widow bragging about the Major's accomplishments. He said it was all he could do to bite his tongue and not ask her if the major's accomplishments included getting all those good, young flyer's killed over Ha Ha Jima on 10 February 1945 due to his fatal incompetence.

2005 - A contact of a contact of a contact puts me in touch with Phil Gudenschwager, 11th Bomber Group Association Secretary, Treasurer, and Historian. He encourages me to call Richard Chandler.

2007 -  At a WWII Reenactment in Frederick, MD, I met the Pacific Wrecks founder, Justin Taylan and told him about Frank's mission. He adds the story to his Pacific Wrecks website. This adds one more link in the chain to identify American MIA's from the Pacific Theatre.
In December, after six years of waiting (tip: call any good contact like this that you find from whatever source and don't wait as I did), I finally got the courage to call the sole survivor of the flight, Richard Chandler . He was gracious and kind and sent me the "DUMBO" article. He relayed to me over the phone that had had been rescued under Japanese fire as dolphins tried to push his dinghy toward the shore fire. There are many, many stories of downed American pilots in WWII being helped by dolphin. Unfortunately for Mr. Chandler, he had to smack them away as they were pushing him right into Imperial Japanese machine gun fire.
Richard Chandler's full story is on my blog here. He also sent a Christmas card, letter and official crew photo with the aluminum skin B-24 above. I immediately sent it to my seven brothers and sisters as a Christmas present.

- Bill Tarczy was kind enough to write his letter about the same events that day from a different view.

- I attended the funeral of Ray Curley who is given full military honors at Arlington. I meet up with Bill Curley, my cousin, whom I met briefly at his father Billy Curley's military funeral (see below) at Arlington three years before. He had mentioned at his Dad's funeral that he had a Curley family history that mentioned that the Curley who came from Ireland was in the IRA and fleeing the British. I laughed and said that made as much sense as my Mom's statement once that we all had American Indian blood in us (Just look at your noses!" was her only proof).
I asked Bill for some proof and he mentioned that he had a genealogy report that showed it. 
At Ray's funeral I brought it up and he said he would dig through some boxes in the garage and get it to me. 

What is more important is that Bill dug up some old Curley family photos his father kept in his "Shadow Box." The photo next to my "Screaming Like a Banshee" poem of my grandmother Margaret D'Arcy Curley and my Dad at the Honor Roll where Frank Curley was placed is one. 
Younger grandad Harry Leo Curley with his tow-head sons on the stone staircase is another. He also sent me a short list of Curley's who still serve the country. They are listed below at the end of this blog.

2017 Tom Loper, whose mother was the widow of Lt. Edwin Braesher, provides an update of his, Frank, and the crew's service on The 11th Bombardment Group webpage.

The poem by Irish poet W.B. Yeats,
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, has always reminded me of Frank's mission. I post it for that reason.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor;
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

Note: One Damned Island After Another: The Saga of the Seventh by Clive Howard and Joe Whitley is a very clearly written account about the USAAF 7th from Pearl Harbor to the end of WWII. The realistic illustrations and photos alone are worth the read. 

James Bradley's book Flyboys provides great background on these missions.
Especially powerful, but unknown to most, is that the Imperial Japanese officer's were eating the body parts of American flyers (see pages 222 -236). I kid you not. The U.S. Government at the time and until today has kept it quiet. 
They knew that if the American public knew of these WWII Japanese atrocities, it would inflame them, so they buried it.

The Next Generation...and the next...

My brothers and I are the next generation...and we are the fathers of the next generation after us. And now I have to add cousins to that. All of us have children. What does such sacrifice mean if it is not conveyed to the next generation who then conveys it to the next? For Christmas years ago, I  received this drawing "Flying Glory" from my then 9-year old Eamon. You will notice that in the drawing...one plane is going down...but another is completing the mission. The story continues...

This February 22, 1945 obituary from the Evening Bulletin, Philadelphia is courtesy of Agnes Curley, Landsdale, PA.
 I don't know her, but she's apparently a second cousin. She showed up one day at my sister Sue Curley (Gillen's) front door and said:
"Are you the Curley who's brother is writing the story about Francis?"
"Yes I am." Sue answered.
Agnes opened a large pocket book and pulled out two things. One, is Frank's obituary to the left. The second was a photo of Frank in uniform before a lattice fence.
"Here. These are for him. I've carried these around for 65 years. By the grace of God you make sure your brother gets these. Can I count on you to do that?"
"Yes. Will you please come in?"
"No.  I've done what I came her to do. You just get those pieces about Francis to your brother."
And she turned to go.
Sue asked her "Can I at least help you down the stairs?"
Sue said Agnes was very old and very frail.
"No. I got up them and I can get back down them. Just keep your word."
With that, Agnes was gone.
Sue relayed to me that Agnes was the sister of an elderly nun in Landsdale at St. Stanislaus who is a Curley.
Sue does the Eucharist Adoration program there and discovered that she was a cousin of the Curley nun. They would talk, and the nun relayed the story of my blog about Frank to her.
Now, when Bill Curley sent me the photos from his dad Billy Curley, my uncle, his dad had kept the same photo with him all his life of Frank in uniform before a lattice fence. Unreal. Serendipity.  

The Curley Legacy of U.S. Military Service Continues:

On August 11, 2008 I gathered at Arlington with my cousins to bury their father, one of Frank's younger brothers, William "Billy" Curley (notice the bronze star). 

Bill served 25 years in Korea, Vietnam, Okinawa, England, Germany and other countries serving the American people in the U.S. Air Force. The tradition of selfless service, patriotism, and love of country continues...as Billy's sons and many other Curley's continue to serve....

Charles Curley US Army 1970-1992 (22 years)
Tom Curley Air National Guard 1979 present (assigned to the 101st Air Refueling Wing Bangor, Maine)
Dave Curley Air Force 1983-2005 (22 years) Bill Curley IV Air Force 1980-2000 (20 years Desert Shield/Storm vet).  Stationed in Arizona, England, Singapore, Dover AFB, DE, Columbia, Middle East.  Member of the Ground Launched Cruise Missile program instructor for 4 years.  On the missionScathe Mean” in 1991. 

The Distinguished Flying Cross

For his service in the Pacific with the USAAF in the 26th Bomber Squadron, 11th Bomber Group in WWII, Frank Curley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, an air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Purple Heart. The Distinguished Flying Cross medal is awarded to any officer or enlisted man or woman of the Armed Forces of the United States who shall have distinguished himself in actual combat in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918."
The decoration may also be given for an act performed prior to November 11, 1918, when the individual has been recommended for, but has not received the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Distinguished Service Medal.
The Distinguished Flying Cross, authorized by an Act of Congress of July 2, 1926 (amended by Executive Order 7786 on January 8, 1938), was awarded first to Captain Charles A. Lindbergh, of the U.S. Army Corps Reserve, for his solo flight of 3600 miles across the Atlantic in 1927, a feat which electrified the world and made "Lindy" one of America's most popular heroes.
The first D.F.C. to be awarded to a Navy man was to Commander Richard E. Byrd, of the U.S. Navy Air Corps, on May 9, 1926, for his exciting flight to and from the North Pole. Both these famous aviators also received the Medal of Honor with the Distinguished Flyin
g Cross. The Aviatrix Amelia Earhart also received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Hers was the only such award, as an executive order on March 1, 1927, ruled that D.F.C. should not be conferred on civilians. For more information on the Distinguished Flying Cross, contact: DFCS/Editor/4442 Vandever Avenue/San Diego, CA 92120.

To honor your sacrifice, Frank, I spent decades on a free night or weekend trying to wake up Americans to the Imperial Japanese threat of our day, in my novel, The President is Hostage: Payback's a Bitch. There are lessons there for those who are willing to learn them. Here is a link: The President Hostage: Payback's a Bitch

MIA Research Resources

Photos of Frank and his crew may be found at: 
11th Bombardment Group Heavy (H) "The Grey Geese" 

Pacific Wrecks does a great job of providing detailing of USAAF Pacific plane wrecks, especially MIA sites.
Here is Frank's Pacific Wrecks MIA page

The American Battle Monuments Commission is a great way to find basic dates that will help you begin your research for your MIA family member.
Here is Frank's American Battle Monuments Commission page.

The Find a Grave website has a good search engine to locate your family service members gravesite. 
Here is Frank's Find a Grave page.

The National Archives has a database with basic information on 9 million WWII service members.
Here is Frank's National Archives page.