VMB-413 May 5, 1944
Justin Taylan 2000
|Pilot 1st Lt. Glenn Willard
Smith "Smitty", O-21855 (MIA / KIA) Inglewood, CA
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Ralph Milton
Jones Jr., O-25395 (MIA / KIA) Griffin, GA
Navigator Sgt. John Slingluff Little, 452483 (MIA / KIA) Norristown, PA
Radio Sgt. George Dewey
Herbst, Jr., 489222 (MIA / KIA) Pottstown, PA
Gunner Cpl. Michael F.
Mazepa, 425132 (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Gunner Cpl. Ferris Robert
Gillen, 421734 (MIA / KIA) Muncie, IL
Passenger Cpl. Robert S.
Bleir (MIA / KIA)
Crashed May 5, 1944
Smith was a graduate of Chaffey College and was VMB-413's commander of the guard during August 1943 until his death on May 5, 1944. Jones was a graduate of North Georgia Military College.
Built by North American as a B-25D Mitchell,
U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) serial number 42-33291. Assigned to the U. S. Navy PBJ-1D Mitchell bureau
number 35143. Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to s squadron VMB-413. No known nickname or nose art. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to the South Pacific.
On May 5, 1944 took off from Green
Island Airfield (Nissan) on a bombing mission against Tobera Airfield near Rabaul. That day, a passenger was aboard: a photographer and unit
historian from the 2nd Amphibious Corps.
Over Tobera on the bomb run from medium altitude, this B-25 was hit by anti-aircraft
fire in the port engine. This hit partially dislodged the engine from its mount,
and caused it to crash three miles west of the runway in a Japanese encampment area. The plane impacted at high speed, killing the entire crew in the impact.
It appears the Japanese buried the remains of the crew in the impact crater, placing a piece of armor plating and bent machine gun atop. The crash site included several areas of wreckage including the tail section, engines, crater area and debris field.
During the late 1990s plantation owner Rick
Ray discovered human remains were discovered under armor plate and machine gun wreckage.
Rick Ray adds:
"The remains were placed in a shallow pit and the piece of armour plating from the cockpit was thrown on top of the remains and the 50 cal. was thrown on top of the armour plating, then covered over. That's how I found the remains in that order."
During March 2001 portions of the wreckage were reportedly scrapped
by a local.
Recovery of Remains
During 1999, this crash site was investigated by CILHI led by recovery leader Dr. Bill Belcher.
In 2000, CILHI continued investigations, led by recovery leader Dennis Danielson, and excavated the area with the engines and tail wreckage.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. There is a memorial marker for the crew at Arlington National Cemetery, section 34 site 4900. According to Arlington Cemetery, they do not have a record recording when this stone was place (sometime postwar) nor can they confirm if any remains are buried there, or if it is a memorial marker.
Little also has a memorial marker at Saint John Episcopal Church Cemetery, Norristown PA with the inscription: "He Gave His Life for His Country May 5, 1944 Over Rabaul New Britain S.W.P. Requiescat in Pace". Gillen also has a memorial marker at Allhands Cemetery in Danville, IL.
Gleen Golay (nephew of Smith)
Ghosts in the Forest: Discovery of a USMC PBJ-1D" Ghost Wings
Magazine, Issue #6
Thanks to Dr. Bill Belcher, Rick Ray and Brian Bennett for additional information
FindAGrave - Lt. Glenn Willard Smith (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Lt. Ralph M. Jones (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Sgt John S. Little (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Sgt John S. Little (memorial marker photo St, John Episcopal Church Cemetery)
FindAGrave - Sgt George D. Herbst, Jr (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Cpl Ferris R. Gillen (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Cpl Ferris R. Gillen (memorial marker photo Allhands Cemetery )
FindAGrave - Cpl Michael Frank Mazepa (memorial marker photo Arlington)
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May 3, 2016