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121st Field Artillery
32nd Infantry Division
|Pilot 2nd Lt Francis J. Piotrowski, O-1173035 (MIA / KIA) Dowagiac, MI
Observer Major Earl R. Kindig, O-22640 C.O. 121st FAB (MIA / KIA) IA
Crashed February 7, 1944
Built by Piper as model J3C-65D. Constructors Number 10362. Delivered to the U. S. Army as L-4A Grasshopper serial number 43-29071. with a Continental 0-170-3 engine, serial number 156781 Disassembled and shipped across the Pacific to New Guinea.
Assigned to the U. S. Army, 32nd Infantry Division, 121st Field Artillery Battalion (121st FAB). No known nickname or nose art. Disassembled and transported aboard USS LST-454 as cargo with the wings removed. On January 2, 1944 unloaded at Saidor and assembled on the beach.
On February 7, 1944 took off at 1:00pm piloted by 2nd Lt Francis J. Piotrowski with observer Major Earl R. Kindig (C.O. of the 121st Field Artillery Battalion) from a location approximately eighteen miles southeast of Saidor on an artillery spotting mission.
On the ground, his unit the 121st Field Artillery Battalion were firing 75mm howitzers at a range of hills near Gabutamon. Unsatisfied with previous forward air observers, Major Kindig elected to fly himself to observe his unit's artillery fire and radio corrections.
Low on fuel and out of radio contact, this L-4 was last seen, turning to the west flying up the Yaut River Valley below cloud level near Gabutamon to a point approximately 2,000 yards directly west of Gabutamon where a few artillery rounds were landing. This L-4 disappeared from sight around a range of hills near Kepoiak village. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
In fact, this L-4 crashed near Gabutamon near the Saidor Gap in the Finisterre Mountains.
During November 1997, a team from U. S. Army CILHI wreck survey in the area gathered information on two aircraft crashes in the area. These later proved to be P-47D 42-22896 and this aircraft.
On July 28, 1998 the wreckage was visited by Alfred Hagen.
Recovery of Remains
During January 2000, the crash site was first investigated by a team from U. S. Army CILHI and coded "PNG 104". On March 8, 2000 CILHI made a second visit to the site to perform a full recovery. At the crash site, the team located human remain and personal effects of the crew. Later, these remains were positively identified and returned to the families for burial.
Both crew members were officially declared dead on February 8, 1945. Piotrowski earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Kindig earned the Legion of Merit and Purple Heart, posthumously. Both were memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Kindig also has a memorial marker at Elm Grove Cemetery in Washington, ID. Piotrowski also has a memorial marker on the family's headstone at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kalamazoo, MI at lot 73, block R.
2 Missing Resolved
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