|Pilot Captain William C. Gronemeyer, O-888807 475th FG, 431st FS (MIA / KIA)
Passenger 1st Lt. Charles W. Springer, O-681729 347th FG, 67th FS (MIA / KIA)
MIA December 31, 1944
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Service Group, 301st Airdrome Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines V-1710-89, V-1710-91 serial number 42-93062 and 42-92801.
Gronemeyer was a bomber tail gunner with the 28th Composite Group, 73rd Bombardment Squadron in the Aleutians during September 25, 1940 until October 6, 1942 when he reported to Flight School. Afterwards, he was assigned to the 5th AF, 475th Fighter Group, 431st Fighter Squadron on June 23, 1943. He flew 500 combat hours on 135 missions in New Guinea and Philippines.
On December 31, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 at 13:15 hours with three P-47s. At about 1330, the formation leader climbed to 17,000' to avoid weather in the Tsili Tsili area. At 1335 hours, this aircraft left the formation and headed for a small valley, still climbing. He was called to rejoin the formation, but no reply was received. When last seen, the aircraft was still climbing on a heading of 220 degrees at approximately 1345 hours. It is believed this P-38 was not carrying oxygen during this flight. Lost roughly 17 miles south-southwest from Tsili-Tsili over the Banir River.
On November 2, 1980 this aircraft was located by Richard Leahy and David Pennefather. During early November 1980 a team from US Army CILHI visited the crash site and recovered a small number of bones.
Richard Leahy adds:
"This MIA site is actually the first that I can claim responsibility for locating. Both the pilot and his piggy back passenger were recovered. Located ten miles south west of Marilinan.
He was on his way from Nadzab to Moresby. He had a passenger
as well. This aircraft was being flown by Capt. William
Gronemeyer, an experienced pilot who was on his way out
on R&R at the
time. I have often wondered what happened to him. The flight
from Nadzab to Moresby is not a difficult one at all, especially
in a high powered ship like a P-38. WWII pilots have told
me that the gyro instruments they had in those days were
notoriously unreliable. He also said that pilots were expected
to remain visual, that they received an absolute minimum
of instrument training. I have a set of photographs of this site taken by CILHI at the time they made the recovery staging out of Engati. "
Gronemeyer and Springer are buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in a group burial at section A-14 site 2806.
Mark Gronemeyer (nephew of William Gronemeyer):
"He rose to the rank of Captain and received 7 Air Medals. His plane crashed trying to cross New Guinea on New Years Eve 12-31-44 to attend festivities. The plane was found with the Assistance of Richard Leahy on November 2, 1981. Gronemeyer and Springer are buried at Fort Snelling, MN. I sent extensive information for Possum, Clover & Hades History of the 475th FG in WWII and historian for the P-38 Museum."
Missing Air Crew Report 11680 (MACR 11680)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William C. Gronemeyer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles W. Springer "remains were recovered and identified"
FindAGrave - Capt William C Gronemeyer (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - CPT William C Gronemeyer (Fort Snelling group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Charles W Springer (tablets of the missing photo)
Charles W. Springer (Fort Snelling group burial photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38H Lightning 42-66562
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) lists Gronemeyer and Springer as "remains recovered".
Bruce Hoy Diary 11 November, 1980: "Tuesday, drove out to the airport at 8.00am and met the CIL‑HI team arriving from Lae. I gave them the appropriate export certificates covering the remains collected from P-38H 42-66562, A-20G 43-21416 and C-47 42-24215."
Thanks to Bruce Hoy for additional information
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June 29, 2019