|Pilot Ensign James A. Warren, O-156661 (POW, died June 5, 1944, BNR) MI
MIA December 23, 1943 at 1:15pm
Warren was credited with the first official Hellcat aerial victory in the South Pacific, shooting down an enemy fighter on September 6, 1943 near the Shortland Islands.
Built by Grumman as Model G-50 in Bethpage, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 25801. Disassembled and shipped oversea to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to squadron VF-33. No known nickname or nose art.
On December 23, 1943 took off from Ondonga Airfield piloted by Ensign James A. Warren and landed at Torokina Airfield on Bougainville at 7:30am to refuel then took off again as one of fifteen Hellcats on a mission to escort B-24s on a bombing mission against Rabaul. Warren was leading the second element of three Hellcats over the target. Also escorting were Hellcats from VF-40 plus Corsairs from VMF-222. In a dogfight over Simpson Harbor, Warren became separated and was never seen again at roughly 1:15pm. In fact, he was shot down over Kanga Bay [sic?] and was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW).
Prisoner of War
Warren was transported to Rabaul as a prisoner at the Tunnel Hill POW Camp and died from neglect and starvation during June 1944, possibly June 5, 1944.
Officially, Warren was listed as deceased on June 5, 1944. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Recovery of Remains
Warren's remains were claimed to be discovered postwar and assigned unknown number X-144. But, the file states that the grave believed to have been Warren, when exhumed produced skeletal remains of a "kanaka" (native person) based on beetel nut juice staining of the teeth and the lack of any dental work.
Henry Sakaida adds:
"I had followed this sets of remains to the Punchbowl to grave P1004. I worked for five years to locate his remains. The Central Identification Lab plus the US Army Mortuary Affairs led me astray for five years. I followed the paper trail to the Hawaii Cemetery (Punchbowl) in Hawaii and through my research, documented the fact that the remains buried in the US soldiers' grave is that of a [New Britain] native! I'm in touch with Warrren's sister, Rose Mary Robbins in Texas. She was very appreciative of my search. Military policy stated that only American military personnel could be buried there. I provided proof that they had buried a native. No response. They don't want to deal with it!"
Rose Mary Robbins (Sister)
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F6F-3 Hellcat 25801
AAIR - USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List December 1943 lists Warren as lost 12/24/43 incorrectly
Aircraft Action Report VF-33 December 23, 1943
NARA Records of World War II Prisoners of War - James Arthur Warren
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James A. Warren
FindAGrave - Ens James A Warren (tablets of the missing)
Thanks to Henry Sakaida for additional information.
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February 14, 2020