|Pilot Ensign James A. Warren, O-156661 (POW, died June 5, 1944, BNR) MI
MIA December 23, 1943 at 1315
Warren was credited with the first official Hellcat victory in the South Pacific, shooting down an enemy fighter on September 6, 1943 near the Shortlands. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart (posthumously).
Grumman. Assigned to VF-33.
On of fifteen Hellcats that took off from Ondonga Airfield and landed at Torokina Airfield at 0730 to refuel. Took off again to escort B-24s on a mission against Rabaul, in addition to other fighter escorts from VF-40 and VMF-222.
Warren led the second element of three Hellcats over the target. In a dogfight over Simpson Harbor, Warren became separated and was never seen again at roughly 1315. In fact, he was shot down over Kanga Bay and captured as a prisoner.
Prisoner of War
Warren was taken to Rabaul as a prisoner at the Tunnel Hill POW Camp and died from neglect and starvation during June 1944, possibly June 5, 1944.
Officially, Warren was listed as deceased on June 5, 1944. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Recovery of Remains
Warren's remains were claimed to be discovered postwar and assigned unknown number X-144. But, the file states that the grave believed to have been Warren, when exhumed produced skeletal remains of a "kanaka" (native person) based on beetel nut juice staining of the teeth and the lack of any dental work.
Henry Sakaida adds:
"I had followed this sets of remains to the Punchbowl to grave P1004. I worked for five years to locate his remains. The Central Identification Lab plus the US Army Mortuary Affairs led me astray for five years. I followed the paper trail to the Hawaii Cemetery (Punchbowl) in Hawaii and through my research, documented the fact that the remains buried in the US soldiers' grave is that of a [New Britain] native! I'm in touch with Warrren's sister, Rose Mary Robbins in Texas. She was very appreciative of my search. Military policy stated that only American military personnel could be buried there. I provided proof that they had buried a native. No response. They don't want to deal with it!"
Rose Mary Robbins (Sister)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James A. Warren
Aircraft Action Report VF-33 December 23, 1943
Thanks to Henry Sakaida for additional information.
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January 5, 2018