Negros Decorated For Saving Life of 39th Pilot
First decorations for gallantry to be awarded to American Negro troops in New Guinea were presented to three enlisted men of the 96th Engineers General Service Regiment at a full-fledged regimental parade Saturday, 13th March. The trio had saved the life of a fighter pilot following a crash in June. (note: this would have been June 1942) Brigadier General Johns pinned the Soldier Medal on the breasts of Cpl. Harvey M. Crandle of Greensville, N.C., Pfc. Julius S. Franklin of Charleston, S.C., and Pvt. James Scott of Montgomery, Ala.
Learning of the proposed ceremony in honor of their buddies the 96th hastily improvised a parade ground at their camp area, and turned out to a man complete with spic-and-span uniforms, colors and a drum and bugle corps. Highlighted by an address by General Johns, the full-dress ceremony was unique for war-time New Guinea.
First in New Guinea - The conduct of the regimental review and the appearance of the troops was all that might be expected of soldiers fresh overseas instead of engineers with a record of 11 months in the tropics. The 96th was the first unit of American troops to arrive in New Guinea. It has constructed airdromes and many roads, and even helped transport tanks to Buna. It has suffered casualties from enemy fire.
Plane set Afire - The action for which the three men were decorated resulted in saving of the live of Lt. Robert G. Rose of the 39th Fighter Squadron. On June 25, 1942, Lt. Rose was taking off to intercept enemy planes then overhead, when his plane struck a log at the end of the runway and went hurtling into a river. Flaming gasoline splashed over the plane, ammunition and the surrounding water. At great personal risk the three Negro engineers plunged into the river, swam to the blazing plane and pulled the unconscious pilot to safety.