Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Hall, Earl Oxford
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Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
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Dates of existence
Earl Oxford Hall, Class of 1934, was a native of Crawford Texas. He attended Texas A&M College from 1930 to 1934, graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He was employed by Texas Power and Light until he volunteered for service in the Army Air Force. After training in California, he was stationed at Hickam Field in Hawaii, and was on station during the attack on 7 December 1941. His unit participated in the Battle of Midway. The 42nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) was transferred to Plaines de Gaiacs, on New Caledonia, and flew missions from there, Espiritu Santo, Efate, and Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. He and his crew were shot down on 1 February 1943, off the coast of Choiseul Island in the Solomons.
The Earl Oxford Hall collection is the result of a quest for knowledge by his family. The quest started, as many did in World War II, with the receipt of that dreaded telegram: “The Secretary of War desired me to express my deep regret…”
The stories of the time after the telegram – the days, weeks, months of anguish, refusal to accept, of hope however fragile, are lost in the mist of time. The letters to the Air Force, asking for details – details the Air Force did not have, or would not send. Letters to the families of other crew members, hoping they had learned something. Letters from squadron mates, offering a detail here, a story there, sometime conflicting. As time marched on, both hope and contacts dwindled, leaving only the faintest residual dream of someday knowing what had happened to the lost serviceman. Mothers and fathers died, never knowing what had happened. Living with fading hope and uncertainty is another, hidden, casualty of war.
Earl’s father, H. T. Hall, wrote letters to the Army Air Corps, the Secretary of War, and his congressman, always pleading for any information on the fate of his missing son. His letters most often returned no information. Sometimes a scrap of information would come in. A letter would say “They were bombing Munda Point,” or “We didn’t know where they were going.” Letters from squadron members, from air corps acquaintances, from, family members in the Air Corps, from Earl’s fiancé, Mary Tabitha Johnson, and from the families of other members of the bomber crew gradually built a story of what happened, until the Hall family believed that Earl Hall was shot down on a mission to Munda Point, and was last seen going down with only one engine left, 200 miles from the nearest land, the last plane lost on the mission. The story seemed true, and became part of the family oral history.
The Hall family, especially his father, H. T. Hall, never gave up hope. He had reason. In December 1942, the family had received another telegram reporting Earl Hall missing in action, followed within days by a letter correcting the mistake.
The families of the crew members wrote back and forth among themselves, and to anyone they knew who might know something. They hoped that a contact might have knowledge of the mission, they shared stories they had heard, and they clung to hope that the crew were prisoners of war on a Japanese-held island.
The letters gradually ceased to be exchanged. The war ended. Finally, as of January 11, 1946, the Army Air Corps notified the families that the crew had been declared lost and presumed dead. With no reasonable hope, with no new information from the Air Corps, the families withdrew into their daily lives, and searched no more.
There were many families who shared some version of this story. World War II resulted in some 80,000 servicemen who remain “missing in action” to this day.
In the Hall family, Earl’s effects were shared with family members, leaving a packet of letters and papers, and a few artifacts, packed away and rarely examined.
In the late 1990s, Veal Hall Evans, Earl’s sister, asked her younger brother, Weldon, if he could find out where Earl died, and what had happened on 1 February 1943. So the quest, after a pause of over four decades, resumed.
The first order of research was to obtain the service record of Earl Hall. The official form was completed, and mailed to the Air Force Records Center. A reply arrived in due time. “We regret to inform you that the records for Earl O. Hall were destroyed in a fire in St. Louis in 1973. A key source was no longer in existence.
Concurrently, a search for published histories of the war in the South Pacific started to yield results. A book, Grey Geese Calling, was a history of the Eleventh Bombardment Group, with a chapter on the 42nd Bombardment Squadron, Earl’s squadron. The Military History Collection of the Cushing Library at Texas A&M had a copy of the book; Grey Geese Calling had a good history of the unit, from the duty station at Hickam Field in Hawaii, through the move to the Pacific, and on to the end of the war. It included a short description of the fate of the planes on the bombing mission of 1 February 1943. The description was detailed, but, as it turned out, not very accurate.
Other books and publications revealed details about the Army Air Force in the South Pacific, about conditions on the islands, and details about the war. Histories of the Seventh and Thirteenth Air Forces provided some details.
In 2003, a new book, Fortress Against the Sun, appeared, detailing the role of the B-17 Flying Fortress in the air war against Japan. An excellent history of the air war, it also carried another version of the loss of the Hall bomber and crew. It offered specific details, but is different from the story discovered later.
Research continued, tracking down unit histories, checking sources that might be helpful, but rarely were, and recording bits of information and cryptic citations to air force documents. Searching for Air Force documents led, via the World-Wide Web, to the Air Force Historical Unit at Maxwell Air Force Base. Queries and searches of their catalog resulted in a list of possible resources.
One of the first was a Missing Air Crew Report (MARC), detailing the 1 February 1943 mission, with the target listed as Munda Point. This document was the source of most of the information provided to the families, but, as we shall see, it was incorrect in naming the target.
The World-Wide Web had come into its own by this time. Every search seemed to turn up some new information source, or some new detail not previously known. An informative source was the “World War II Air Force Chronologies” detailing missions flown in the various theaters of war. The “Pacific Wrecks Database” was discovered, detailing the locations had details of WWII artifacts and crash sites. It ultimately yielded reports on the three aircraft lost on 1 February 1943.
In the meantime, the Air Force Historical Association (AFHA) personnel located a “History of the 11th Bombardment Unit, which confirmed two details: Earl Hall had been promoted to Major in January 1943, and he had been named Commander of 42nd Bombardment Squadron.
Soon after that, the AFHA located a microfilm of the looseleaf daily mission report of the 42nd Bombardment Squadron (H), giving a detailed chronology of actions from 18 June 1942 through 1943. A photocopy of the document (AFHA IRIS No. 44028) was obtained from the AFHA, and is in the collection.
Among the other searches, efforts to find the families of other crew members had been made, but no contact had been made. In September 2006, a phone call came. “Are you the Hall that sent e-mails about the 42nd Bombardment Squadron? My great-uncle was the Co-Pilot on your brother’s plane.” Arnold Guerrero was searching for the same bit of history as I was. He had the remaining papers of his great-uncle, including his Journal, and his flight log, from Hickam Field through 27 January 1943, and a number of photographs of members of the 42nd. The flight log was particularly interesting to correlate with the mission notebook of the 42nd. Each contained information lacking in the other, allowing us to see a more complete record of the South Pacific war for this unit.
Finally, in July 2007, I sent a final query to the AFHA at Maxwell Air Force Base. I had seen a cryptic reference to “A-2 Intelligence Reports” and one footnote that seemed to indicate they might be informative. The request went in for the “A-2 Report of 1 February 1943.” In August, an envelope arrived from Maxwell. On the same day, a random web search of Buin, a Japanese base, turned up many hits. One, on the first page, was a United States Navy Action Report. “The Navy” – skip it! Well, why not it - is for February. There was a brief report of an Army Air Force mission to Shortland Harbor – noting the loss of three of the four bombers. Then to the envelope. The AFHA had located the “A-2 Report.” As I read through it, a note referred to the mission, referring to “Appendix E.” There, finally, was the document that described the mission and air battle, with details of the mission, the flight path, and the approximate areas where each of the three planes were shot down. The report was two and one-half pages in length, as reported by the one surviving bomber pilot and crew.
The quest for what happened on 1 February 1943 was ended, and the final resting place of our relatives was known as accurately as it possible.