|Pilot MTSgt Howard Harvey Hicks, 266771 (KIA / BNR) CO
Gunner Cpl James M. Lasseigne (rescued)
Crashed June 2, 1943
Built by Douglas at the El Segundo Plant, California. Constructors Number 1867. Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Assigned to VMSB-132. No known nose art or nickname.
One of twenty SBDs that took off from Bomber 1 Airfield (Palikulo Field, Fighter 1) on Espiritu Santo on a search mission for SBD 10338 piloted by Dieffenbach that ditched.
This aircraft was led by SBD 06962 piloted by Gordon on a sector search for the missing aircraft. Neither heard the message to return to base when the aircraft was found. Both searched until their fuel became low, then returned to Espiritu Santo.
Blown off course by a tropical storm, the pair attempted to determine their location and radioing their position to base. They were approximately 35 miles northwest of Fighter 1 on a heading of 135 degrees, near Piapouria. SBD 06962 piloted by Gordon began to circle to the right to loose altitude while this aircraft made a circle
to the left and crashed into a hill.
Hicks circled to the left over the sea, leveled off too
soon and stalled. This SBD nosed into the ocean off Point Cumberland and pilot Hicks died in the crash and his body never surfaced.
Fates of the Crew
managed to get out of the plane and swam to shore.
Officially declared dead on June 3, 1944. Hicks is memorialized at the courts of the missing at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl).
Tom Rod Hicks (son of MTSGT Howard H. Hicks)
"VMSB-132 was engrossed in 'radio problems' doing
practice navigation over the open ocean off of Espiritu Santo. One aircraft,
SBD 10338 piloted by Dieffenbach became lost. When it was determined that
he was well beyond his maximum fuel time, a search mission of twenty SBD's was
launched. Dieffenbacj and his radioman-gunner were found sitting atop a coral
reef where they had been forced to ditch. My father MTSGT Howard H. Hicks, assigned a sector along with
MGUN Ken Gordon and his radio gunner Sgt. H. M. Falton. They failed to here
the recall when Dieffenbach was found and continued the search until they
reached their maximum search time. They turned back towards Espiritu to find
that they had been blown off course by a tropical storm."
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May 3, 2016