|Pilot Lt(jg) Robert Lee Auer, O-130138 (MIA / KIA) Santa Monica, CA
Co-Pilot Ensign Samuel Marsh, Jr. O-314914 (MIA / KIA) Huntington, WV
Crew AMM1c Howard Theodore Held, 6329983 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew Arm1c Aubrey James Borek, 6603487 (MIA / KIA) MT
Crew AOM2c W. R. Howard (survived)
MIA December 29, 1944
Built by Martin. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26C-30-MO Marauder serial number unknown (serial number range 41-35543 to 41-35547) and converted to the AT-23B conversion for use as a target tug. Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN) as a model JM-1 Marauder bureau number 66617.
Assigned to squadron VJ-2. Painted in overall orange color for target tow and training missions. No known nickname or nose art.
On December 29, 1944 took off from the Admiralties piloted by Lt(jg) Robert Lee Auer on a target towing mission. During the flight, this aircraft suffered an engine failure and ditched seven miles off Pityilu Airfield on Pityilu Island. One crew member, AOM2c W. R. Howard survived the crash and was rescued. The other four members of the crew were declared Missing In Action (MIA).
The four missing crew members were officially declared dead the day of the mission. All four are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Marsh also has a memorial marker at Riverview Cemetery in East Liverpool, OH.
Borek also has a memorial marker at Mountain View Cemetery in Columbus, MT.
Mike Auger (son of Robert Lee Auer):
"Thanks so much for maintaining this valuable website which I just discovered. I am Robert Lee (Bud) Auer’s son, Robert Michael Auer. My dad was born in Santa Monica and raised in Glendale. He worked on the school paper, played in a band, and acted in plays. He went to USC and majored in journalism. He was married to Betty Scatchard and had one child, me. I was too young when he died to remember anything about him. I have a few letters he send home, but no squadron docs. I thought that my dad was doing target towing when he went down. Someone said they thought water condensation in the gas tank was probably the culprit. At any rate, an engine went out about 50 miles out, they got within 2 miles of the base, but finally had to ditch in rough seas. The plane broke in two, the tail gunner was saved. That's the story I've got."
Edith Lange (nee Sonnenschein, widow of Marsh):
"I am the widow of the late Ensign Samuel Marsh, Jr. We met in March 1943. I am Jewish and was in Austria when Hitler invaded on March 12, 1938. I was very lucky and left a year later. I managed to escape Europe aboard the Queen Mary at Cherbourg, France. We entered the United States legally, got an affidavit for help. The mayor of Minneapolis had a round table meeting and and gave my letter to the reformed temple in Minneapolis. During the war, my Rabbi told us we should do something, and I volunteered at the USO, and met Samuel Marsh. We got married October 1, 1943. He was supposed to get the next rank after new years. He died December 29th 1944 in a plane crash, he was stationed in Pityilu as copilot to VJ-2. I was never told anything about his loss. I remember at 7pm a young boy delivered the telegram that will all I was ever told. Years later, I attended a reunion of VJ-2 at San Diego and some of the men told me more about his crash. They said water was in the fuel tank due to the hot tropical climate, and caused it to crash. That was the first I had ever been told. I hope to hear from any survivors of this crash. After the war, I remarried. I still do volunteering at Naval medical center at Balboa in San Diego.
Note: The USN Accident report misspells the names of two of the crew "Heid" [Held] and "Boren" [Borek].
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26C-30-MO Marauder 41-35543–41-35547
"35543/35547 to US Navy as JM-1"
Navy Serial Number Search Results - JM-1 Marauder 66617
"66617 lost Dec 29, 1944 on target towing mission, went down 7 mi from Pityilu Island in Admiralty Islands Group. 1 of 4 onboard survived."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List December 1944 JM-1 66617 destroyed December 28, 1944 [sic, Dec 29]
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert L. Auer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Samuel Marsh Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard T. Held
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Aubrey J. Borek
FindAGrave - LtJG Robert L Auer (tablets of the missing photo)
Ens Samuel Marsh, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ens Samuel Marsh, Jr (memorial maker photo)
FIndAGrave - AMM1 Howard T Held (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - ARM1 Aubrey James Borek (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Aubrey James Borek (memorial marker photo)
Thanks to Edith Lange and Mike Auger for additional information
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May 31, 2019