Commander John Prehm (WIA)
Driver T/4 Otto Hesselbarth, 31303372 (KIA) MA
Assistant Driver Pfc George Lopes, 31302941 (KIA) MA
Gunner Pfc Howard Dahms (WIA / KIA)
Loader Cpl Michael Valentino (KIA)
Passenger Captain Henry Will Jones (KIA) GA
Destroyed October 18, 1944
Composite hull Sherman tank. Assigned to A Company, 710th Tank Battalion, A Company, 1st Platoon. This tank was possibly nicknamed "Flying Home" after the song. Transported overseas with the 710th Tank Battalion.
This tank landed at Anguar Island with the U. S. Army 81st Division. Then, loaded onto LCT and landed on Peleliu Island to assist the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC).
On October 18, 1944 this tank was ordered forward by Lt. Gilbert Lindoff (C. O. 710th Tank Battalion commander) to support U. S. Marines by 710th Tank Battalion commander, Lt. Gilbert Lindof. Regular crew member, assistant driver Charles Erazmus 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 incase they needed a second tank to be dispatched
Riding on the back as a guide was USMC Captain Henry W. Jones to guide the tank. Returning, this tank ran over a Japanese mine (buried aerial bomb) that exploded, puncturing the bottom of the tank.
Fates of the Crew
Dahms was wounded and taken to a field hospital where he later died of extensive burns. Commander Prehm was wounded and blown clear of the tank. The rest of the crew were killed in the explosion.
After the explosion, the tank burned for hours. Afterwards, the tank was placed on its side, and the tred removed, because they were in short supply. The rest of the tank was abandoned. The coaxial machine gun was not removed because it was bent by the force of the explosion. The tank remains on the island to this day.
Eric Mailander adds:
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."
The crew members killed were later buried 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. Buried at Marietta National Cemetery is Henry W. Jones at section Q site 22-B.
At the tank, a plaque was placed at the tank by veterans of the 710th Tank Battalion, dedicated October 18, 1997.
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 incase they needed a second tank to be dispatched. Minutes later the tank was destroyed."
The Devil's Anvil: The Assault on Peleliu pages 251-252
Thanks to Charles Erazmus, Seth Erazmus and Eric Mailander for additional information.
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August 12, 2018