Roger Hugh Brindos was born on August 24, 1921 in Dulth, St. Louis County, Minnesota. He graduated from Duluth Denfeld High School class of 1939 and attended Duluth junior college. He married Patricia Sullivan.
On February 25, 1942 he enlisted in the U. S. Navy and was part of flight class 42-C(C) and was one of seven trainees selected for U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) aviation. Commissioned in the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve (USMCR) as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-020325. Assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 321 "Hell’s Angels" VMF-321 (VMF-321) and promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
On January 20, 1944 at 11:25am took off from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville piloting F4U Corsair 17914 as one of eleven F4U Corsairs on a mission to escort B-25s attacking Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul.
This aircraft was part of Lt. See's Division flying top cover at an altitude of 4,000'. Approaching the target area to the south of Cape St. George, the formation scissored once, then Lt. See lost sight of the other sections. He also lost sight of Lt. Brindos and Lt. Marshall.
Over the target, intercepted by Japanese fighters including forty A6M Zeros and seven Ki-61 Tonys. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was F4U Corsair 02402 pilot Captain Marion R. McCown, Jr. (MIA) and F4U Corsair 55835 pilot 1st Lt. Robert W. Marshall (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
In fact, Brindos bailed out and landed safely. On January 22, 1944 he was captured by the Japanese and transported to Rabaul and detained as a Prisoner Of War (POW). In late January 1944, he was detained at the Rabaul Prisoner Compound in a adjoining cell to Colonel Marion D. Unruh.
In early March 1944, Brindos and the other Allied POWs were moved to Tunnel Hill POW Camp.
Statement made by Col. Marion D. Unruh is as follows:
"The latter part of Jan 44 another prisoner was placed in the cell next to him. He gave his name as Brindos while no guard was watching them. He told he had been shot down by Zeros while flying a Vought F4U. His plane caught fire and he managed to bail out. They got to see each other in a bomb shelter during air raids. One of his eyes appeared very bloodshot and he had several cuts and scratches but was not seriously wounded. He gave Unruh his wife’s address which he in return memorized and promised to write her at his first opportunity. The middle of February, on or about, Brindos was removed from his cell and Unruh never saw him again.”
On March 4, 1944 a group of fifteen prisoners were removed from Tunnel Hill POW Camp and walked to Tanoura at the edge of Talili Bay and executed. On March 5, 1944 a second group of sixteen prisoners were removed from Tunnel Hill POW Camp and walked to Tanoura at the edge of Talili Bay and executed. Afterwards, the victims were buried at Tanoura. These executions became known as the Talili Bay Massacre / Tunnel Hill Massacre / Tunnel Hill Incident. All three names refer to the same execution event.
Recovery of Remains
Towards the end of the Pacific War, fearing war crimes prosecution and to destroy the evidence of these executions, the Japanese exhumed and cremated all the bodies buried at Tanoura and placed them in a small box.
To cover up the executions and war crimes, the Japanese rehearsed a story that all forty of these prisoners were killed when an Allied bomb scored a direct hit on their shelter at Talili Bay. This was a lie to cover up the murders.
In early September 1945 when the Australian military occupied Rabaul, they interrogated personnel from the 6th Kempei Tai who claimed the Allied prisoners who died during the Tunnell Hill Massacre (Talili Bay Massacre) were killed by an Allied bomb and turned over the boxes with their cremated remains.
These remains were turned over to the Australian Army 18th Australian War Graves Unit and determined to contain the remains of both Australians and Americans and were divided proportionally. The American portions and two individual boxes were turned over to American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) at Finschafen.
Brindos was designated unknown X-172 (X-File 172) and placed into a crypt at the American Cemetery at Finschafen. After being identified as Brindos, accordance with his wife's wishes, his remains were transported to the Philippines and stored at USAF Cemetery Manila #2 for temporarily storage before permanent burial.
Brindos was officially declared dead on January 16, 1946. He earned the Purple Heart and a gold star, posthumously. He was permanently buried at Manila American Cemetery at at plot D row 4 grave 259.
Mrs. Eleanor R. Brindos (mother)
Mrs. Patricia M. Brindos (wife)
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) Roger Hugh Brindos
(PDF Page 37) Case History Report For Search Teams For Missing Unidentified 12 October 1945
Statement made by Col. Marion D. Unruh is as follows: On 15 Jan 44 Unruh as taken prisoner and taken to Rabaul, New Britain. The latter part of Jan 44 another prisoner was placed in the cell next to him. He gave his name as Brindos while no guard was watching them. He told he had been shot down by Zeros while flying a Vought F4U. His plane caught fire and he managed to bail out. They got to see each other in a bomb shelter during air raids. One of his eyes appeared very bloodshot and he had several cuts and scratches but was not seriously wounded. He gave Unruh his wife’s address which he in return memorized and promised to write her at his first opportunity. The middle of February, on or about, Brindos was removed from his cell and Unruh never saw him again. On 17 February 44 Unruh was removed to Omari POW Camp [sic Omori POW Camp] at Tokyo and has never been able to learn anything of the fate of the prisoners at Rabaul.”
(PDF Page 45) "Subject: Unidentified Cremated Remains 24 January 1947"
"2. A total of 28 U. S. and Australian personnel were cremated and the ashes placed in one small box. A suggestion by Australian Headquarters, Rabaul was agreeable with this office to accept three-fourths of the total quantity to represent the list of twenty-one U. S. personnel created as a group. Two U. S. airmen were reported to have been cremated separately and an individual box was received for. A total of twenty-three cremated remains were received by the search party.
a. The two individual boxes are lettered with Japanese characters which state only that one remains is of a higher rank than the other. No names were given."
(PDF Page 47) "X-172 Roger Hugh Brindos"
(PDF Page 62) USMC Casualty Card
Roger Hugh Brindos
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 17914
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List January 1944 - F4U-1A Corsair 17914
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Roger H. Brindos
NARA "Marine Fighter Squadron 321 (VMF-321) War Diary January 1944" pages 2, 3, 27-29
(Page 2) "Roster of Flight Echelon - Brindos, Roger H. 1st Lt. USMCR"
(Page 3) "Brindos, Roger H. 1st Lt. Missing In Action 20 Jan 44"
(Page 27) "Forces Engaged: Wardle, Harmon, See, Whiting, Hames, Mc Cown, Griffith, Adam, Brindos, Samuelson, Marshall / Losses: VMF-321, Capt. Mc Cown, Lts. Brindos and Marshall Missing"
(Page 28) "Narrative Account: ...After scissoring once, Lt. See lost sight of Lts. Brindos, and Marshall, the other section... Capt. Mc Cown, and Lts. Brindos and Marshall failed to return from the mission."
(Page 29) "Approximately 40 Zekes and 7 Tonys were seen over the area."
NARA "Aircraft Action Report (AAR) VMF-321 January 20 1944 Report No. 13" pages 88-91
(Page 89) "1st Lt. R. H. Brindos / Cause: Unknown / Missing In Action"
Duluth Herald "Lt. R. Brindos Is Missing" February 8, 1944
Duluth News Tribune "Death is confirmed" March 27, 1946
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Roger H. Brindos
1Lt Roger Hugh Brindos
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 93 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners: Brindos executed March 5, 1944 by 6th Field Kempei Tai at Talili)
Fight For Survival! (2003) by James A. McMurria incorrectly lists Brindos as "Brendoz" [sic]
Thanks to Henry Sakaida, Edward Rogers and Alvin Grady for additional information