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B-24 Liberator Bomber
42-40918 "Shack Rat"
Laid to Rest after 67 years


MIA 27 October 1943
5th Army Air Force
90th Bomb Group "Jolly Rogers"
320th Bomb Squadron "Moby Dick"

The Purple Heart

Click thumbnails to see Full-size images 

Crew of the Shack Rat B-24 42-40918


SSgt. Berthold A. Chastain



Claude "Bud" Ray, Tail Gunner

Claude G. Tyler, Photographer
Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Image by Al Swilling


The last mission
for the "Shack Rat" and its 12 crew members was an aerial reconnaissance mission on 27 October 1943. During the mission, the plane vanished from the radar scope and was never seen again. No trace of plane or crew was ever found.

Port Moresby & Dobadura, Papua, New Guinea.
Click Map for a larger view.

Port Moresby Air Base, WWII, Papua, New Guinea


The Pilot and Crew of the "Shack Rat" at the time of its disappearance were:

Pilot:  1st Lt. Jack E. Volz, O-735707; Indiana
Co-pilot: 2nd Lt. Martin P. Murray, O-797914; Massachusetts
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Regis E. Dietz, O-798766; Pennsylvania
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. William J. Shryock, O-739001; Indiana
Observer: 2nd Lt. Edward J. Lake, O-669326; New York
Engineer: TSgt. Hollis R. Smith, 18136424; Arkansas
Radio: TSgt. Robert S. Wren, 9114505; Washington
Gunner: SSgt. Fredrick E. Harris, 31133505; Massachusetts
Gunner: SSgt. Berthold A. Chastain, 34266040; Georgia
Gunner: SSgt. Clyde L. Green, 33296638; Pennsylvania
Tail Gunner: SSgt. Claude A. Ray, 18085253; Kansas
Photographer: SSgt. Claude G. Tyler, 33200253; Maryland


04 AUGUST 2011  

Shack Rat Crew At Last Laid to Rest on Home Soil
Services Held at Arlington National Cemetery on 03 & 04 August 2011

for Recovered Pilot and Crew of B-24 Bomber
42-40918, the "Shack Rat"—With Photo Gallery

by Al Swilling
14 August 2011

Photo gallery link at the end of this article

NOTE: Anyone who has photos, documents, or links to sites concerning anyone in the crew of the Shack Rat that you wish to share on this Web site, please contact Al Swilling at al@senaa.org The goal is to make this a comprehensive site for information about the Shack Rat, its pilot Jack Volz, and its crew. Help is very much appreciated.

During the week of 01-05 August 2011, families of the pilot and crew of the B-24 Liberator Bomber 42-40918, "Shack Rat", convened at Arlington, Virginia, to finally lay to rest their lost loved ones on American soil. All 12 of the airmen have now been brought home and laid to rest on their home soil and were given full military honors by the nation that they served and gave their lives to defend.

The United States Army provided accommodations at the Arlington Court Suites Hotel, 1200 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington, Virginia 22201, for attending family members of the pilot and crew. The hotel consists entirely of suites and was very clean and comfortable.

Each family who arrived at Arlington was met by a Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO), who helped get the family settled into the hotel, briefed the family on the scheduled events, and assisted the family with any needs that anyone might have. Every CAO was professional, friendly, courteous, and made the family in his or her charge feel at ease throughout the stay and the ceremonies.

Pilot Jack E. Volz and all of the crewmen were represented at the event by family members who had the opportunity to get acquainted with each other and share insights into the characters and personalities of their loved ones. To say that it was an emotional week is an understatement. There was a renewed sense of sadness and loss for each family, especially for the families of the three individual crew members who were buried at Arlington National Cemetery that week. At the same time, there was the sense of relief and peace that came from knowing that our loved ones, missing for so many decades, were finally being laid to rest on home soil--the soil that they bought for us with their lives.

My uncle, Clifford Chastain, my grandfather SSgt. Berthold Allen Chastain's brother, said that he thought they should have left the remains on the mountain side where they could rest in peace. While I certainly understand and respect his opinion, I must respectfully disagree with him. If he had been able to attend the memorial service, the funeral, and the graveside military honors, he would have felt the presence and benevolence of the spirits of those fallen soldiers we were gathered to honor and remember. It is my belief that those soldiers were finally able to rest in peace only after their remains were interred on the American soil they fought to defend, in the American tradition that they died to preserve.

The Viewing

On the evening of Wednesday, 03 August, families of the fallen warriors gathered at Murphy Funeral Home in Arlington for viewing of the group casket and those of 2nd Lt. William J. Shryock; SSgt Frederick E. Harris; and SSgt. Clyde L. Green.

Each of the crewmen was represented by members of his family at the viewing. After a local pastor offered his words of respect for the fallen warriors and assurances to the families, everyone who so desired was given the opportunity to speak and give the rest of the families insight into the character and home life of his or her fallen loved one and how his life and his death had affected the family.

There were guest books for each of the 12 heroes. Upon leaving the funeral home, each family received a guest book signed by all who attended.

Military Honors

The next morning, 04 August, beginning with breakfast, the CAOs met with and prepared the families for the funeral and burial services that would take place that day. At around 10:00, the limousines were assembled outside the hotel entrance, one limousine per family; and the CAOs ushered each family to its assigned limousine. The limousines, accompanied by the CAOs in separate vehicles, then delivered the families to the chapel, where the group and individual funerals were held. The speakers were Catholic Chaplain, Gabriel and Protestant Chaplain Croom.

Following the funeral services, a black caisson drawn by six white horses bore the group casket to the cemetery where the three individual caskets were waiting in the staging area. After the flyover of a B-52 bomber, the group casket was removed from the caisson by military pallbearers and placed with the other three. Then there were four flag draped caskets in a row:  2nd Lt. Shryock, SSgt. Harris, SSgt. Green, and the group casket.

The deceased were then given full graveside military honors, and the families of the fallen airmen were each presented with cards of condolence by the Arlington Lady, who was on that day Janet Southley, Col. US Army, Retired.

It was an impressive ceremony from start to finish.

The day's events culminated with the families being driven back to the hotel by limousine, comforted by the knowledge that, finally, their fallen loved one was home and could rest in piece.


Clicking the "PHOTO GALLERY" link at the bottom of this page will open a gallery of photos of the viewing, the funeral, and the graveside military honors. Clicking each thumbnail will open a larger image with captions for each photo. Hopefully your browser will automatically resize the image to fit your browser window.

Closing thoughts

I would be remiss not to mention and express gratitude to the fine Military Escorts who escorted the remains of each airman home; the Casualty Assistance Officers (CAOs) assigned to each family; the Casualty Assistance Officer and Mortuary Affairs officer that were assigned to the Chastain-Swilling family during both the funeral at home and the Arlington ceremonies; the hotel staff where we stayed; and last but certainly not least, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), without whom our loved ones would still be lost and their fate and location still unknown.

Military Escort - The young man who escorted my grandfather, SSgt. Berthold Allen Chastain's, remains from Hawaii to Cleveland, Tennessee, epitomized what an escort should be. He remained with the casket from the time it left Hawaii until it was safely in the hands of the funeral home, and again from the funeral home to the cemetery. Not only did he escort the remains, he actually watched the casket go into the ground and the grave being filled in.

The escort's name was SSgt. Cherenfant Pierre-Louis, and he is stationed in Hawaii. The night before he had to return home, our family treated SSgt Pierre-Louis and SFC John Lee to dinner; but it was only a small token of our gratitude for their service.

CAOs - I observed, during my stay at the hotel that each CAO spent time with the family to whom he or she was assigned, in the lobby as they arrived or bringing them to the hotel from the airport, putting them at ease, answering questions, asking if there was anything they needed and offering their assistance to the families should any need arise. It was clear from their demeanor that the families really appreciated the assistance of their CAOs. Mine was no exception. SFC Darryl Alexander was assigned to me; and I deeply appreciated his being there. SFC Alexander is excellent at his job and sincere with the families in his charge.

To all of the CAOs who comforted and helped the families of the fallen airmen, thank you for your service to the families; but thank you even more for your service in protecting and defending the freedom and justice that our forefathers fought and died to secure.

MAO - If every Mortuary Affairs Officer is as thorough and attentive to the families that he or she is assigned to as SFC John Lee was with my family, then I know that the family of each fallen crew member was treated with respect and TLC.

In addition to the CAO assigned to me during the Arlington ceremonies, the Chastain/Swilling family was assigned an MAO when we were notified that my mother's father--our grandfather--and the rest of the Shack Rat  crew had been found and positively identified. A representative of JPAC visited in the company of SFC John Lee, who was our MAO from that day until the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. It was SFC John Lee who negotiated and worked with the local funeral home to ensure that everything was perfectly timed and executed, from the length of the funeral service and the flyover that followed to the full military honors that were bestowed upon SSgt. Berthold Allen Chastain at the burial site. Without SFC John Lee's taking care of the details, we would have been lost. It's one thing to witness a military funeral. It's quite another feat to coordinate everything with such precision. SFC John Lee took charge and got the job done.

In addition to his excellent work coordinating everything, SFC John Lee was always in touch and never more than a phone call away. He took his job seriously and did it to perfection. When I arrived in Arlington for the ceremonies, SFC John Lee and his beautiful wife Angie were there. I was grateful for their presence. With them there, I didn't feel quite so alone in my representation of SSgt. Chastain's family.  Our family will never forget the patience, help, and friendship of SFC John Lee. I will always remember and be grateful for his friendship and presence during a time when the family and I needed someone the most.

The Hotel - The Arlington Court Suites Hotel has only suites, and they are very comfortable and immaculately clean. It isn't often that the housekeeping staff of a hotel gets any mention whatsoever. It's a job that guests take for granted. To give credit where credit is due, the housekeeping staff of the Arlington Court Suites Hotel deserve to be mentioned. They did their jobs perfectly and quickly. Doing the job quickly is less important than doing the job well, but the housekeeping personnel at the Arlington Court Suites Hotel do both quality and quick work. My hat is off to them.

JPAC - Without JPAC and JMAC (Joint Mortuary Affairs Center), there would have been no recovery of the Shack Rat's pilot and crew, no notification of relatives, no return home for those fallen warriors, and no funeral and military honors to honor their service and sacrifice. It is an extension of the "No soldier left behind" credo that the Army and Marine Corps live by. Several earlier attempts to find the wreckage and crew were unsuccessful, but that did not dissuade JPAC. They followed every lead until they finally found the Shack Rat and its crew. Then, after wading through bureaucratic red tape, JPAC recovered them by repelling down a treacherous mountain slope and constructing rope riggings from which to work. It was a slow and difficult process, but JPAC succeeded. Using DNA taken from family members, JPAC's forensics team was able to positively identify the remains of the crew members and inform the crew's families of the recovery.

JPAC continues to labor on, finding, recovering, and repatriating with honor the MIAs of all our wars and conflicts; bringing to their families knowledge of what happened and the relief and sense of closure that come with that knowledge. JPAC deserves our deep respect, gratitude, and support. It has the thanks of the families of the once missing crew of the Shack Rat for finding them and bringing them full circle.

Thank you to everyone who had a part in the discovery, rescue, identification, transport back to home soil, notification of the families, and the proper and respectful burial of the fallen crew of the B-24 Liberator Bomber 42-40918 "Shack Rat" and all the other soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that have been recovered from all the wars fought on foreign soil.

Please visit the photo gallery of the Arlington ceremonies by clicking the link below.



Patriot Guard Riders - Standing For Those Who Stood For US
High Tech Redneck Dixie Region PGR Photos



B-24D-115-CO "Shack Rat" Serial Number 42-40918

"Shack Rat"
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
90th Bomb Group "The Jolly Rogers"
90th Bomb Group: "The Jolly Rogers"
New Guinea Airfields  
Military Airfields in Australia and W. Pacific During World War 2
Pacific Wreck Database

The Pin Ups

That Went to War



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© 2001 by Al Swilling
Cleveland, TN 37311
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