|Pilot Ensign Harry N. Warnke, O-315341 USNR (MIA / KIA) Gary, IN
MIA June 15, 1944
Built by Grumman as Model G-50 in Bethpage, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 41525.
Assigned to Fighting Squadron 20 (VF-20). No known nickname or nose art.
On June 15, 1944 took off from NAS Barbers Point piloted by Ensign Harry N. Warnke as one of seven Hellcats on a practice dive-bombing mission over Ohau in Hawaii. During the flight, this Hellcat crashed roughly four miles north in the Ko'olau Range. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Two days later, his squadron located the crash site from the air. A team was sent to the crash site to recover the remains of the pilot.
Recovery of Remains
At the crash site, some remains were recovered and buried at the crash site. On June 19, 1944 U. S. Pacific Fleet report said a "piece of left leg was buried at scene of crash."
Ted Darcy adds:
"Ran across the aircraft accident report in 1990 when I was finishing work on the F6F book. Took six tries to reach the site. We walked in, no helo. Nearest topographical feature is Puu Kawipoo. It was a six hour hike following the Aiea Loop Trail to the summit trail and then down a pig hunter trail in to the Halawa Stream bed then north east until you almost get to the summit of the Koolau's. (Army came in from the helo pad behind the Omega Station in Haiku Valley. Much easier.) As with most mountain aircraft crashes in Hawaii, we followed the debris trail in Halawa Stream to the site. If anyone is thinking about making the trek, make sure you are an advanced hiker. It will test you, to say the least. Warnke was Not the only Naval aviator buried at a crash site during World War II, but he was the only one not recovered after the war ended."
A 1999 search spotted remnants of the aircraft from the air. After addressing cultural and environmental issues, the JPAC stated it would conduct a minimally invasive search and sent a team to survey the crash site in the Ko'olau Range. Major Brian DeSantis, of JPAC said the first load of soil is expected to be removed on Monday, July 24th. A recovery planned for October 2005 was postponed pending an environmental approval.
During late July 2006 a nine member team from JPAC excavated a steep ravine near close to Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) and the H-3 tunnel entrance where this aircraft crashed. During the recovery, approximately 80 tons of soil were excavated from the crash site by helicopter and flown to East Range at Schofield Barracks where it was examined for human remains and evidence of the missing pilot. Afterwards, Warnke was officially identified by the Department of Defense (DoD).
Warnke was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Afterwards, he was memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing, court 2. After his remains were identified, he was permanently buried in Westville Cemetery in Westville, IN. A rosette was placed next to the name on the courts of the missing indicating he was recovered.
Myrtle Tice (sister)
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F6F-3 Hellcat 41525
"41525 (VF-20) crashed into Koolau Mountains 4 miles from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii during practice rocket run Jun 15, 1944. Pilot killed. Two days later the crash site was located and items and remains from the wreckage were collected and buried at the site. Human remains were found in soil recovered from the site Sept 2006."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry Warnke
"Ens. Warnke's remains were identified in 2007. He is buried in a private cemetery in Indiana."
Ens Harry Warnke (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Ens Harry J. Warnke (photo, grave photo)
JPAC New Release No. 06-39 September 21, 2006
Associated Press (AP) "WW II airman to be buried in Indiana"
April 1, 2007
Thanks to Ted Darcy for additional information
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February 14, 2020