308th Bomb Group's Stories
from the collections of our
Veterans

"Preserving the memory of their sacrifices!"





"The Goon"

the Goon, B-24D, 374th Bm Sqdn
Click on the image to view a larger version.


Benko sits in the top turret, while Sam Skousen, pilot, leans from the cockpit.
l. to r., kneeling around the '500 pounder';
Robert Burnett, Daniel J. Palmer, Malcolm Sanders, Caspar Chereleisen, James Lichtanfels,
l. to r., standing;
Robert Kirk, Ralph Bower (copilot), Archey Flaharty and William Novak.
( from 1989 14th AF Assoc. 'Pictorial' by Malcolm Rosholt, courtesy of Glenn A. Roberts - 373rd Bomb Squadron )




      "The GOON" was probably the most publicized B-24 in the CBI, getting photos of her nose art in the January 1944 issue of 'National Geographic Magazine'.   Among the twelve color photos of noseart which were in that issue, the 14th Air Force made it into the magazine with a picture of the 'The GOON'. The nose art shows the "Goon" holding a torpedo.

      The name came from a noted comic strip artist, E. C. Segar, however, her real fame related to her top turret gunner, T/Sgt Arthur Benko.   He was written up in the 18 Oct 43 issue of 'Time' magazine after setting the record for an enlisted gunner in China.  Officially Benko was finally credited with 18 Japaneses aircraft shot down.   The crew's aircraft victories (flags) shown on the fuselage below the upper turret indicate sixteen for the 'GOON' at the time the photo was taken.   Most of these were claimed by Benko, several during the raid on Hankow docks in August 1943.

      Benko sits in the top turret, while Sam Skousen, pilot, leans from the cockpit.

l. to r., kneeling around the '500 pounder';
Robert Burnett, Daniel J. Palmer, Malcolm Sanders, Caspar Chereleisen, James Lichtanfels,
l. to r., standing;
Robert Kirk, Ralph Bower (copilot), Archey Flaharty and William Novak.
( from 1989 14th AF Assoc. 'Pictorial' by Malcolm Rosholt, courtesy of Glenn A. Roberts - 373rd Bomb Squadron )

      The name "Sandy", under the logo, refers to Sanders the waist gunner, while "Sambo" is pilot Skousen's nickname.   The torpedos (bombs?) ust below represent the missions flown.

      In early December 1943, not long after this picture was taken, the Goon lost two engines returning from a night attack on the Kowloon docks.   The crew jettisoned all non-essentials and all except the pilot bailed out over the West River allowing Sam Skousen to keep the airplane up and return to a friendly base.   Benko and Sanders were lost in the bailout.

      In 'Chennault's Forgotten Warriors', Carrol V. Glines quotes Robert E. Cook, another engineer and top turret gunner of the 374th Bomb squadron;

    "An item of pride for the 308th was having the top gunner in all the air forces during World War II.   He was T/Sgt Arthur J. Benko of Bisbee, Arizona.   A full-blooded Indian, he was Arizona skeet and rifle champion in 1939-40.   He was a top turret gunner on the Goon."

    "Art belted his own ammunition, removing all tracers.   He did this for two reasons; (1) He didn't want the enemy to know he was being shot at; (2) tracer fire gave a false trajectory by losing weight as it burns in flight."

    "There was some skepticism at group headquarters as Benko's score mounted so they sent an intelligence officer on one mission.   Art sent seven Japs down that day and made a believer out of the officer."

    "Art's record stood at 16 confirmed victories.   Then homeward bound from a Hong Kong mission with one engine out and one faltering, the pilot, Sam Skousen, hit the bailout button so that maybe the plane could clear a mountain range.   Benko and Lt. Malcolm S. Sanders landed on the Jap side of the river and were captured.   Later, a Catholic missionary sent the Air Force photographs of their crucifixion."





      Thanks to Arthur Lathrop, whose father, William Lathrop, was a 374th Bm Sq mechanic who worked on it.   He informed us that 'The Goon' shown in the picture is BuNo. 41-24183, a B-24D.





Another picture of crew of 'The GOON'




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308th Bombardment Group Tribute
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      This web site is provided as a public service.   It is intended to provide factual, historical information to the public, to commemorate the contributions and to preserve the memory of the sacrifices of our World War II veterans serving with U.S. Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India theater.   Permission is required for any commercial use or mass distribution purposes of the copyrighted material.