Geraldine Stier (widow) and Kathleen Rockweiler
(daughter) in a tricycle
San Jose, Mindoro Airport
Col. de Ocampo and the Stier family at his Manila VFP Hqs office
Another Pilot who helped us, Robert "Mully" Mullenberg
John Murtha helped us by providing the 5th AF's airfields
(R to L) Geraldine Stier & Mary Beth Kustra with and Filippino
WWII veterans Sgt. Valverde, and veterans in thier lodge uniforms.
Possible wreckage from Stier's P-38 in Mangarin
The lady in the center of the photo is the same age as Geraldine
Stier, and attested to the fact that a P-38 crasged in July 1945.
We believe from the evidence from witnesses that this is probabl
where Lt. Henderson crashed and died.
Family and Fillipinos gathered at Stier's P-38 crash site on
FS. Pilots are said to be sitting on the wing and the ground crew
and others are on the ground. According to one letter home, Stier
advised that his Crew Chief had been instructed to shine his plane
as it was going to be used in a Squadron group photo. Perhaps this
is the plane he died in.
Dinner party in San Jose. Seating (l to r): Post Commander Valverde,
Herminio Guinto, Mary
Beth, Mrs. Pepe Castillo. Standing (l to r): Reuben Guinto, Pepe
Castillo, Former Guerilla Jose
Ancheta, and Reuben Guinto's wife's brother.
Two Planes Lost
On July 13, 1945 Lt. Henderson and Lt. Stier never pulled out of this
dive. The reason for this is unknown. After checking official
records at Maxwell AFB's Historical Agency, the National Archives,
and other official records sites, various reasons have been cited,
including the possibility of vertigo by the deceased pilots, the
wing compressibility problem inherent to P-38's during dives,
and the possibility that Henderson and Stier collided when in
P-38L Lightning Serial
Geraldine Stier (the pilot's widow) and his two
daughters Kathleen Rockweiler and Mary Beth Kustra and her husband
set out for a trip to Mindoro in 2001 with the express wish of
visiting the former air fields from which Lt. Stier and his comrades
flew. On the day of that fateful orientation mission, Lt. Stier's
group was flying out of an airstrip called "Murtha Strip,"about
six miles northeast of McGuire Drome. The records of the above
historical services have some inconsistencies, but there the following
salient facts persist:
The crashes occurred about one
or two miles east of what was then called "McGuire Drome," a bomber
base that was at the same location of the current airport of San
Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
A body part suspected to be
one of the pilots who crashed was found about three miles out
at sea off the southwest coast of Mindoro on 14 July, a day after
Lt. Henderson's body was found
by Filipinos and returned to the US military in late 1945.
In the late 1940's by the
process of elimination, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) in Manila
assessed that the (then MIA) body part found on 14 July was probably
part of Lt. Stier's remains.
In the early 1950's, this body part was
repatriated and buried in the Holy Cross Cemetary in Stier's
home town, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Trip to Revist Airfields & Locate Crashsite
Besides visiting old air fields, our family group planned
to make an attempt to see if we could locate the actual crash
sites. Records keeping by SWAPA USAAF units were skimpy, but
we did have the above oft repeated facts that provided us with
a general area in which these accidents occurred. He was unsure
of the cause of the crash or the actual location. In early January
2001 we requested the Deceased Personnel File for Lt. Henderson,
but it still has not been provided.
For months before the trip, we had sought via
the internet and other means to find knowledgeable contacts
in Mindoro who might be able to help us with our quests. Just
before our departure, we very fortunately made contact with
the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, a group of WWII
"guerrillas" who fought with the US during the three years between
General McArthur's departure to Australia and his "return" to
the islands. Through the Federation's spokesman, Jerry Adevoso
(a son of heroic guerrilla leader), we met the VFP Director,
Emmanuel V. De Ocampo, himself a legendary WWII guerrilla. After
briefing former Colonel De Ocampo of our plans, he requested
that San Jose Mindoro Post Commander Apolinar A. Velverde assist
Commander Velverde and other local post members
served as our escorts, interpreters, and friends, we accomplished
more than we had ever dreamed possible. After briefing the local
Post members, they immediately took us to various villages in
an area that was one to three miles east of the former Mcquire
Drome (currently the San Jose city airport).
Crash Site of Lt. Henderson
At an early stop in Mangarin village,
we immediately learned about a P-38 crash which appeared to
be that of Lt. Henderson, i.e., this
pilot's remains were eventually turned over to U.S. military
authorities. Encouraged that this first site was found, the
hoped Lt. Stier's crash site could also be located. Later that
after returning to the hotel, our VFP contacts continued to
scour their neighborhoods and found a person who knew of another
crash site in the area, namely Filipe "Pepe" Castillo,
who as a young boy had played in that 1940's wreckage site.
Potential Lead to Crash Site of Lt.
This man's elder brother and a neighbor
boy had been killed when a "bomb" (20mm shell) they retrieved
from this crash site that exploded. This eye witness provided
us with a tubular frame part of a plane he had recovered many
years ago from this wreckage site. According to his testimony,
his uncle had seen this plane explode when it crashed into a
swamp near the uncle's home at the end of the war. (Unfortunately,
the uncle is dead.)
According to this witness,
the only parts left after the explosion were the nose, tail
and one wing of the plane. Even though this witness believed
the plane was a C-47, he immediately said the nose of the plane
at the crash site was identical to the nose of a P-38 in a picture
we showed him. He also said he had once used the wheel of what
looked like the P-38 nose wheel for a sort of make shift wheel
barrow he and his friends used to give each others rides in
when he was a boy. In the early 1950's when this witness was
about nine years old, he noticed a skull in the mud near the
wreckage. He immediately became frightened and ran to his uncle's
nearby farm home to tell him about this discovery. The uncle
just told him not to play anymore in the wreckage site.
We visited the crash site which is now developed
from a swamp into a fish farm and salt farm complex. During
our visit, workers advised they are afraid to work in the swamp
crash site area because of the many shells in the mud. From
discussion with villagers it appeared the plane was traveling
extremely fast when it hit.
We of course were very hopeful this is the
site of Lt. Stier's P-38 crash, but even if it were not, we
believe the eye witness report about the skull in the mud near
the wreckage site necessitates that this site be further investigated.
. Initial assessments indicate that the tubular frame our witness
provided may well be the internal engine mount of a P-38 aircraft.
We are presently waiting for full confirmation of this fact.
Publicity & CILHI
While we were in the Philippines,
we were fortunate enough to get some publicity via the auspices
of the VFP and this has led to contact with two other sources
who claim to have knowledge of at least five other airplane
crash sites and the burial site of one pilot. We currently have
documentary and historical reporting/evidence as well as annotated
maps and still and video photography of our activities in Mindoro.
According to a CILHI briefing we attended at last Fall's American
War Orphans Network conference in San Diego CILHI will act if there is enough evidence to merit their participation.