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  M4 Sherman Medium Tank "Fly'in Home"   
U. S. Army
710th Tank Battalion
A Company
1st Platoon

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USMC Oct 7, 1944

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Lindloff Oct 18, 1944

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Allan Kelly 1994

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Mark Noah 2007

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Seth Erazmus 2012
Commander  Sgt John Prehm (WIA) Ames, IA
Driver  T/4 Otto F. X. Hesselbarth, 31303372 (KIA, BR) Suffolk County, MA
Assistant Driver  Pfc George Lopes, 31302941 (KIA, BR) Bristol County, MA
Gunner  Pfc Howard Dahms, 33594266 (WIA / KIA, BR) Philadelphia, PA
Loader  Cpl Michael A. Valentino, 32870968 (KIA, BR) Richmond County, NY
Passenger  Captain Henry Will Jones (KIA, BR) GA
Destroyed  October 18, 1944

Wartime History
Built as a M4 "Large-Hatch" composite hull Sherman. Delivered to the U. S. Army as M4 Sherman Medium Tank hull number unknown. Assigned to the 710th Tank Battalion, A Company, 1st Platoon. Nicknamed "Fly'in Home" after the song of the same name. On the side of the hull and turret was a U. S. star and on the rear side was "U. S. Army" stenciled in white. Loaded as cargo and transported across the Pacific with the 710th Tank Battalion.

Eric Mailander adds:
"The nickname 'Honeysuckle Rose' was the name of Lt. Gilbert Lindoff's command tank. The name of this tank sent in to assist the pinned down Marine company was "Flyin Home". Seth and I visited NARA and were able to get some archival photos of that same tank entering the confines of the Horseshoe during the October 7, 1944 battle."

On September 17, 1944 this tank along with the rest of the A Company, 1st Platoon landed on the left flank of Blue Beach on Anguar Island with the 2nd Platoon and 3rd Platoon landing at the center and right flanks support the U. S. Army 81st Division. After landing, A Company with infantry cleared the southern end of the island and met little resistance. Afterwards, A Company tanks were held in reserve.

On September 23, 1944 this tank was loaded aboard an LST and transported with the 81st Infantry Division, 321st Regimental Combat Team (321st RCT) on Peleliu Island to support the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC), 1st Marine Division.

On October 7, 1944 this tank supported the attack against "The Horseshoe" as part of a diversionary attack from the East Road. During the attack, the tanks fired on all identifiable targets on the western face of Hill 100 and the Five Sisters. After their ammunition was expended, the tanks withdrew, rearmed and returned with an LVT flamethrower tank and were support by infantry during the attack that was credited with killing many Japanese in caves and silencing heavy weapons emplaced inside caves.

Mission History
On October 18, 1944 this tank was ordered forward by Lt. Gilbert Lindoff (C. O. 710th Tank Battalion) to support U. S. Marines on Peleliu Island. Before advancing, regular assistant driver Charles Erazmus was pulled out of the tank by Lt. Lindloff because he was one of the few men that was not sick and was held in reserve in case they needed a second tank to be dispatched.

Minutes later, this tank began advancing near Hill 210 on Bloody Nose Ridge with USMC Captain Henry Will Jones riding on the back as a guide to point out Japanese positions in caves. While advancing, this tank ran over a buried Japanese aerial bomb used as an improvised mine that detonated and punctured the bottom of the tank, set it on fire and killed everyone aboard with the exception of the commander who was blown clear. The explosion penetrated the bottom of the tank but did not flip it onto its side. Afterwards, the tank burned for hours.

Eric Mailander adds:
"Gil Lindloff, who's crew died in the tank, mentioned the souvenir hunter account.  He of course, was not there but his memory was very sharp.  My only explanation to his account (nothing is mentioned in any of the official reports of souvenir hunters) is that a few Navy personnel were fired upon, perhaps looking for souvenirs, by Japanese snipers who infiltrated the area.  The official reports noted that an aid station was being fired on, and that action sparked the deployment of a Marine Company to deal with them. Interestingly enough, I Company was the first to route the Japanese snipers but pulled out the next morning and L Company replaced them (or the survivors).  You will recall that L Co, 7th Marines were ambushed Oct 4th and nearly wiped out by the Japanese near or on Hill 120.

This battle was a full-out battle with over a 50 Japanese and Capt Jones of L Company, 7th Marines requested the tank to extricate his pinned down company that were being hammered by machine gun fire. The tank's initial role was to assist, as a shield of sorts, so wounded Marines could be evacuated, not Navy souvenir hunters. I interviewed one of the wounded Marines.  As a matter of fact, I conducted extensive interviews with about eight Marines from Company L who were involved in the tank event.  Everyone of them was 25 to 50 yards away when the tank struck the aerial bomb.  All agreed that the tank did not overturn during the blast.  This is confirmed with an aerial picture I have taken shortly after the event showing the tank right side up.  Since there are no treads or tracks on the tank, I assumed the salvage tank turned 'Flyin Home' over to remove the badly needed steel tracks.  I also interviewed the stretcher bearer who carried Howard Dahm's out of the draw."

Seth Erazmus adds:
"This story of 'Two Naval Airmen Hunting Souvenirs Story' is story told to tourists by the historical tours on Peleliu today. This story seems to originate with men of Gilbert Lindloff's 1st Platoon/A Co.. Both my grandfather (Lindloff's assistant driver) and Lindloff recounted this story over the years. Neither were there when the tank was destroyed on 10/18 as they stayed behind at the motor pool area just north of Peleliu Airfield. There are several books, reports, field reports of various USMC and Army units that corroborate the version of the story."

Fates of the Crew
Commander Prehm was wounded and blown clear of the tank and survived. Dahms suffered extensive burns and was taken to a field hospital where he later died of his wounds. The rest of the crew died in the explosion.

Recovery of Remains
After the fire subsided, the bodies of the crew killed in the explosion were recovered and buried on Peleliu Island. Postwar, they were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Wreckage
After the battle, the tank was pushed over onto the left side, likely by a salvage tank or other heavy equipment to allow both treads, some of the road wheels and other parts to be salvaged for use as a badly needed spare parts due to shortages.

Following the salvage, the hull of the tank was abandoned laying on the left side. The coaxial machine gun was not removed because it was bent by the force of the explosion. Today, the tank remains where it was abandoned on Peleliu Island.

Eric Mailander adds:
"After extensive research, I was able to track the history behind that tank and locate the only survivor. The former tank commander accompanied me back to Peleliu in 1999 and visited the tank site. Now the complete story can be told. Today a plaque is mounted near the site honoring the six crew members killed in the tank."

Memorials
The crew members killed were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Each crew member and Jones earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Two of the crew are buried at Manila American Cemetery. Hesselbarth at Plot D Row 1 Grave 12. Lopes at Plot L Row 13 Grave 91.

Valentino was buried at Saint Peters Cemetery in West New Brighton on Staten Island in NY.

Jones is buried at Marietta National Cemetery at section Q  site 22-B.

On October 18, 1997 bronze plaque was placed at the tank by veterans of the 710th Tank Battalion. The plaque reads: "In Memory T/4 Otto Hesselbarth, Cpl Michael Valentino, Pfc George Lopes, Pfc Howard Dahms, Men of the 1st Platoon Co. A 710th TK dead here 18 Oct. 1944 after hitting a land mine. Having saved two navy airmen, the tank, upon returning to fire into the Jap held caves, was hit. Capt. H. W. Jones 1st Marine Div was also killed. Erected by Veterans of the 710 Tank TK. Dedicated 18 Oct. 1997"

Relatives
Seth Erazmus (grandson of Charles Erazmus)
"Charles Erazmus is still alive and doing well. He was the assistant driver on the lead tank in A-Company of the 710th tank battalion. Shortly before the tank left on the morning of October 18th 1944, Charles was pulled out of the tank by Lt. Lindloff. This was because he was one of the few other men in camp that was not sick. He was to be held in reserve in case they needed a second tank to be dispatched. Minutes later the tank was destroyed."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John Prehm Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Otto F. X. Hesselbarth
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George Lopes
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Howard Dahms
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Michael A. Valentino
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Charles F. Erazmus
FindAGrave - Tec4 Otto F X Hesselbarth (grave photo)
FindAGrave - PFC George P Lopes (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt Howard Dahms (photos)
FindAGrave - Corp Michael A Valentino (grave photo)
FindAGrave - CPT Henry Will Jones (grave photos)
Bloody Beaches: The Marines at Peleliu Marines In World War II Commemorative Series page 38-39, 42
The Devil's Anvil: The Assault on Peleliu (1994) by James H. Hallas pages 251-252
Thanks to Charles Erazmus, Seth Erazmus and Eric Mailander for additional information

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Last Updated
October 18, 2019

 

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