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  PBJ-1D Mitchell Bureau Number 35143  
USMC
VMB-413

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VMB-413 c1944

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VMB-413 May 5, 1944

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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


Crew History
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.

Aircraft History
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.

Mission History
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.

Wreckage
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.

Memorials
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.

Relatives
Gleen Golay (nephew of Smith)

References
"The 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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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

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