GOCHNAUER, TONEY WILLIAM, Second Lieutenant # 0-749229, USAAF


Toney W. Gochnauer was born 29 May 1919 in Amarillo, Potter County, Texas, to William Franklin Gochnauer (1874-1945) and Mary Florence (Murphree) Gochnauer (1893-1985); his family lived at 301 North Polk, Amarillo. He married Willa Dean (Saylar) Baskin nee Gochnauer (1923-2007) and after he was reported missing, his wife had a son on 6 Feb., 1944, in Northwest Texas Hospital. Siblings included Barney F. Gochnauer (below), Dorothy G. “Fay” Gochnauer (1922-2010), another brother and three sisters. The 1943 directory for Amarillo, Texas, reflects Barney Franklin Gochnauer (1920-1950), USAAF, Florence Gochnauer, optician with American Optical Co., Toney W. Gochnauer, USAAF, and William Franklin (oil well driller) (1874-1945) and Florence (Murphee) Gochnauer (1893-1985), residing at 1406 West 20th Avenue. Sergeant Barney Gochnauer, USAAF, (B-17 Flying Fortress “Fickle Finger” engineer and top turret gunner) (1920-1950) was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Barney F. Gochnauer enlisted 19 March 1942 in Los Angeles, California. He died 25 November 1950 in San Diego, California.


He was reported missing 23 December 1943 but was found safe when he walked into base 15 days later. On 25 January 1944, a B-24D, # 42-73242, “Haley’s Comet” (named after Lt Roger F. Haley) (converted to ferry passengers and cargo), departed Chabua, India, at 7:40 a.m., to fly to Kunming, China. It was assigned to the 425th Bomb Squadron of the 308th Bomb Group. At 10:45 a.m., over the Himalayas, the formation of five B-24Ds “was forced to break up due to extreme instrument weather conditions.” All five aircraft crashed; B-24D, # 41-23889, near Jorhat, India. Crews parachuted from two and a third, which crashed, had two survivors. The fourth and fifth, “Hot as Hell” and “Haley’s Comet,” disappeared, the crews presumed dead (Tara Copp, Stars & Stripes, 8 Apr 2016). Haley’s Comet was found eventually. The bomber was mentioned in China Up and Down by John T. Foster. Earlier, he was reported missing Dec. 22, 1943, but was found well. He wrote a letter home (Amarillo Globe; 11 Jan., 1944). He was awarded the Air Medal.