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|Pilot F/O Robert M. Showalter, T-1852 (KIA, BR) Highland Park, MI
Engineer/Gunner Cpl Frank M. Higgins, 37481079 (KIA, BR) Alpena, SD
Gunner Cpl Earl C. Rucker, 33535464 (KIA, BR) Roanoke, VA
Crashed November 8, 1944 at 9:10am
MACR none / DoD Air Loss Incident 2525
Built by Douglas. Constructors Number 21285. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-20G-40-DO Havoc serial number 43-21638. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), Far East Air Force - Combat Replacement and Training Center (FEAF-CRTC), 360th Air Service Group (360th SrG) at Nadzab No. 4 Airfield (APO 713-1). No known nickname or nose art.
On November 8, 1944 took off from Nadzab No. 4 Airfield (APO 713-1) piloted by F/O Robert M. Showalter with gunner Frank M. Higgins plus a third gunner (identity unknown) as part of formation of A-20s on a combat mission against Wewak. At 9:10am, this aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Boram Airfield and crashed. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Letter from Colonel John P. Henebry (C. O. FEAF - CRTC) to Mrs. Audrey B. Higgins, April 3, 1945:
"Frank [Higgins] was a crew member on an A-20 type aircraft on a strike over Wewak, New Guinea, one of the few Japanese military installations left in New Guinea. The cause of the crash is unknown. The flight leader has stated that the plane, in which Frank was a crew members, was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, exploded and crashed over the target. As the flight leader passed over the place of the crash, there was nothing left but burning pieces of the airplane.
From all the facts related to us, it is rather doubtful if Frank's remains were recovered. We will have to wait until Wewak is take from the Japs [the Wewak was captured in May 1945] before we can determine if Frank's body was recovered. If your son's remains are recovered they will be interred in the nearest United States Military Cemetery. We want you to know that when your son was reported killed, memorial services were held at appropriate religious services were conducted with full military honors. Frank’s parents, a sister, and an uncle are buried together in local plot in Saint Wilfrid Cemetery in Woonsocket, South Dakota."
This A-20 crashed at Kreer Hill (Kreer). After the crash, Japanese forces investigated the crash site and recovered items including the leather pocketbook (billfold) that belonged to Cpl Frank M. Higgins and likely other items. After the official surrender of Japan, this personal effect was recovered by the Australian Army from a Japanese Prisoner Of War (POW) at Wewak and forwarded to U. S. forces and later returned to Higgins' wife. During the colonial era, this aircraft was a known crash site listed in the Port Moresby Tower Log (POM Log).
The fate of this wreckage today is unknown. The Department of Defense (DoD) lists this site as Air Loss Incident 2525.
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, the remains of the crew were recovered from the crash site by either the Australian Army or American Graves Registration Service (AGRS).
The recovered remains were transported to Finschafen and buried at American Cemetery at Finschafen in Fischaffen #5 (Fischaffen No. 5) as four individual burials designated as unknowns (X-Files): X-219 plot 2, grave 52, X-221 plot 2, grave 53 and X-222 at plot 2, grave 54 and X-223 plot 2, grave 55.
Later, the graves were exhumed and transported to Manila to the AGRS Mausoleum. By September 1950, although individual identification could not be established, Showalter, Higgins and an unknown then the casketed remains were transported to the United States for permanent burial.
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-219 (Finschhafen No. 5) was identified as Cpl Earl C. Rucker.
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-221 (Finschhafen No. 5) was identified as Cpl Frank M. Higgins and F/O Robert M. Showalter and an unidentified crew member or passenger.
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-222 (Finschhafen No. 5) was identified as Cpl Frank M. Higgins and F/O Robert M. Showalter and an unidentified crew member or passenger.
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-223 (Finschhafen No. 5) was identified as Cpl Frank M. Higgins and F/O Robert M. Showalter and an unidentified crew member or passenger.
The crew were officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the loss, memorial services were held by FEAF-CRTC at Nadzab No. 4 Airfield.
On December 6, 1950 the remains of Showalter, Higgins and an unknown individual were buried in a group burial marked with a single headstone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery at section C, site 8640, 8641 and 8642. The single headstone marking the group burial is at site 8640.
Rucker has a memorial marker at Evergreen Burial Park in Roanoke, VA at Section 15, Lot 105CP. The memorial marker reads: "In Memory Cpl Earl C. Rucker Sept. 29, 1922 Nov. 8, 1944". On December 2, 1950 he was buried at this same location.
Grace Showalter (mother of Showalter)
Are you a relative of Robert M. Showalter? to share information.
Asta Higgins (mother of Higgins)
Audrey B. (née Lillehaug) Higgins (wife of Frank M. Higgins, married brother Raymond Higgins March 1, 1949)
Oscar Higgins (brother of Higgins)
Leo Higgins (brother of Higgins)
Gertrude M. Higgins (sister of Higgins)
Raymond Higgins (brother of Higgins)
Gerald Higgins (brother of Higgins)
? Higgins (sister of Higgins)
Gerald Higgins, Jr. (nephew of Higgins)
"My father is Gerald Higgins. My uncle is Frank M. Higgins who was a turret gunner on an A-20 Havoc and was reported shot down over Wewak, New Guinea on 8Nov1944. Frank and Robert are buried in a common grave along with an unknown at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Frank was station at FEAF CRTC 360th Service in New Guinea with APO 713-1. His A-20 Havoc was shot down on 08Nov1944 over Wewak. I am in possession of the following wet ink original documents: Explanation of how he died in a letter to his mother from Colonel John P. Henebry, Commanding; Notice of death to his wife from J. A. Ulio Major General, The Adjutant General; All training Individual Flight Records (with Showalter as his Flight Officer); and all in country Individual Flight Records."
John Rucker (father of Rucker)
Lillie Rucker (mother of Rucker)
Rickie R. Rossiter (sister of Rucker)
Penny Ingram (niece of Rucker)
Allan Roop (relative of Rucker)
Are you a relative of Earl C. Rucker? to share information.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert M Showalter
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Earl C. Rucker
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20G-40-DO Havoc 43-21638
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) Frank M. Higgins
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-219 (Finsch #5)
(Pages 227-229) "Ident. as Rucker, Earl C. 33535464
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-221 (Finsch #5)
(Pages 230-223) "Identified as a group burial:
Higgins, Frank M., Cpl., 37481079 Showalter, Robert M., F/O T-001852 and an unidentified crew member or passenger."
293 File Unknown New Guinea (Misc.) Finschhafen #5 (X-Files)
Pages 181, 186, 187, 193 correspondence related to requests for dental records for Earl C. Rucker 33535464 (Page 193) September 30, 1947 request for dental records for for Earl C. Rucker (Page 187) October 6, 1947 dental exam chart for Earl C. Rucker (Page 186) October 6, 1947 dental form for Earl C. Rucker (Page 181) January 19, 1948 medical forms for Earl C. Rucker
Letter from Major General Ulio to Mrs. Audrey B. Higgins, November 26, 1944
Letter War Department Report of Death - Frank M. Higgins - date of death 8 Nov 44 report date November 29, 1944
Letter from Colonel John P. Henebry to Asta Higgins (mother Frank M. Higgins), April 3, 1945
Detroit Free Press "The Big Parade... Lt. Robert Showalter" November 27, 1944 page 14
(Page 14) "Mrs. Robert Showalter, of 26 North St., Highland Park, has been notified that her son, Pfc [sic F/O] Robert Showalter, 32, has been killed in action in the South Pacific."
Detroit Free Press "The Big Parade... Lt. Robert Showalter" November 30, 1944 page 5 (photo)
(Page 5) "Lt. Robert Showalter, 22 [sic 32], son of Mrs. Grace Showalter, of 26 North, Highland Park, has been killed in New Guinea. Lt. Showalter graduated from the Highland Park High School and received his wings Nov. 8, 1943. He was a Thunderbolt pilot. 'It's kill or be killed out here.' he said in his last letter to his mother, and he described how he exterminated a boatload of Japs with his machine guns."
Wessington Springs Republican "Killed In Pacific War - Cpl. Frank M. Higgins" November 30, 1944 (photo)
"Telegraphic word from the War Department came to Mrs. Frank Higgins, Friday [November 24], informing her husband, Cpl. Frank M. Higgins was killed in action, November 8, over Wewak New Guinea...
Monday [November 27], the wife of the other gunner on the plane, called Mrs. Higgins from North Carolina, and she had received word of her husband's death, and also the death of the pilot [Showalter] who came from Michigan. The A-20 is manned by three men only, being a small and very fast plane.
When further information is received concerning Frank's work and the circumstances of his death, the Journal hopes to have permission to publish it."
The Times Dispatch “Richmond and Virginia Casualties” page 5, February 6, 1945
"Killed In Action... Southwest Pacific Area... Cpl. Earl C. Rucker, whose wife lives in Roanoke"
Letter from Col. James B. Clearwater , QMC to Mr. Raymond Higgins, September 11, 1950
"The American Graves Registration Service in their search for deceased American personnel recovered certain remains form the area in which your brother and his comrade met their death. As individual identifications could not be established at the time of the recovery, unknown designations were assigned pending further investigation, and temporary interments were made in a United States Military Cemetery overseas.
The investigation has no been completed and it has been impossible to individually identify your brother's remains. It has been established, however, that the remains recovered are the only recoverable remains of your brother and the comrade with who he lost his life. This group of remains are now casketed, and being held overseas, pending return to the United States for interment in Ft. Snelling National Cemetery, located at Minneapolis 9, Minnesota."
Port Moresby Tower Log (POM Log) - A-20G 43-21638 | 3.34 143.38 | crashed Kreer Hill
FindAGrave - Robert M Showalter (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Frank M Higgins (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Corp Earl Clyde Rucker (memorial marker photo)
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