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Henry Sakaida 1997
Justin Taylan April 18, 2012
|Pilot 1st Lt. Moszek "Mike / Murray" Zanger (POW, died July 1945, BR) Grodzisk, Poland
Crashed December 5, 1944 at 2:30pm
Moszek Zanger was born in 1920 in Grodzisk, Poland. As an infant, his family immigrated to Bronx, New York where he grew up and attended college. In America, he was known to his family and friends as "Mike" or "Murray". His surname was Zanger but he was also referred to as "Sanger" incorrectly in some wartime documents and sources.
Built by Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in Akron, Ohio as model V-166B with fixed wings. Contract Number C99529. Constructors Number 99529. On June 16, 1944 delivered to the U.S. Navy (USN) as FG-1A Corsair bureau number 14417. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific (SOPAC). Unloaded on Espiritu Santo and reassembled.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and flown to Guadalcanal. By August 31, 1944 this aircraft was assigned to the aircraft pool awaiting assignment. By October 25, 1944 assigned to 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 14 (MAG-14), Marine Fighting Squadron 222 (VMF-222) "Flying Deuces". When lost, engine serial number unknown. Armed with six .50 caliber machine guns makers and serial numbers unknown. This aircraft had no known nickname, nose art or squadron number.
On December 5, 1944 took off from Green Island Airfield (Nissan) piloted by 1st Lt. Moszek "Mike / Murray" Zanger on a patrol mission over Rabaul and the Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain. Over the target at 2:30pm, the formation made a left turn over the southern coastline of Ataliklikun Bay, During the turn, Zanger and Paulis suffered a mid-air collision. Paulis was able to regained control of his Corsair and returned to base safely.
Zanger's plane went into a violent spin causing one half of left wing tearing off. He bailed out from about 4,000' and was seen to land apparently uninjured, about 300' east of the Vudal River; and about three miles inland from Ataliklikun Bay. Officially, this aircraft was stricken fro the record on December 31, 1944.
Fate of the Pilot
Zanger landed and made his way to the edge of Ataliklikun Bay and deployed his life raft and attempted to paddle northward away from land. Spotted by the Japanese Navy, he was captured and became a Prisoner Of War (POW).
For reasons unknown, he was not interred with other Allied prisoners at the Tunnel Hill POW Camp or other camps with the prisoner population. Instead, he was detained at Tobera Airfield for roughly 6-7 months alone and was confined in a hut and restrained in chains. During his captivity, the airfield was still being bombed and strafed by Allied aircraft.
Hearing about the new American prisoner, at least three Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Zero pilots still based at Rabaul went to Tobera to see him, including Masajiro Kawato, Ikeda and Miyagoshi who were curious to meet one of the enemy pilots and to rough him up. When the three met Zanger, all three interacted with him and were impressed by his candor, good looks and did not harm him.
During late June 1945, Flight Sergeant Ronald C. Warren pilot of F4U Corsair NZ5402 was also captured was detained at Tobera Airfield nearby or with Zanger. Possibly, the two managed to speak or communicate about the progress of the war and were aware of each other. Afterwards, he was relocated with the other Allied prisoners.
In late June or July 1945, Zanger died at Tobera Airfield. The Japanese buried his body near the Komoriyama detachment of the Military Police (MP).
Zanger's U.S. Marine Corps casualty card states he was "shot trying to escape in June or July 1945 and was buried near the Komoriyama detachment of the MPs." Zanger's Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) states that his remains had "multiple fractures and breaks", not a gun shot wound, indicating he was more likely executed or beaten to death.
The claim that he was "shot trying to escape" was likely a cover story for his death or execution. At the time, Zanger's health would have deteriorated from 6-8 months in captivity, due to poor diet and no medical treatment. Also, he would have known that escape was virtually impossible due to the airfield's inland location surrounded by thick jungle. The nearest Allied ground forces were far away and assistance from any local people was unlikely.
Henry Sakaida adds:
"I have his Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) and his remains were recovered. It was noted that he had several fractures and broken bones. Under the circumstances, he would not have been in any physical shape to escape! So what happened? He attacked two guards and they beat him to death. After the war, the cover story was that he was shot while trying to escape."
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, his remains were recovered and transported to the United States for permanent burial.
Zanger was officially declared dead in June 1945. He was permanently buried with a grave marker at Home of Peace Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
After Zanger bailed out, his Corsair crashed into swampy ground near the Vudal River several miles inland from Ataliklikun Bay. Postwar, the crash site of an aircraft was known to be at this location but was not specifically identified or associated with any specific pilot or incident.
During 2009, after Zanger's sister Grace "Goldie" passed away, his three nieces were searching the internet for information on their uncle who they knew died in World War II, but did not know any more details about his service or how he died. Searching the internet, they read "My Ten Year Search For Zanger" by Henry Sakaida
During April 2012, Zanger's three nieces: Andrea Jacobs Talbutt, Susan Nishihira and Marcy Hanigan accompanied historians Henry Sakaida and Justin Taylan on an expedition to Rabaul. Together, the group located and identified the crash site of an FG Corsair at the location where Zanger bailed out. The aircraft was identified as a Goodyear built Corsair based on maker marks, manufacture numbers and part numbers observed on the wreckage. Afterwards, the group retraced Zanger's route as he attempted to evade the Japanese by following the Vudal River then using his life raft in Ataliklikun Bay where he was instead captured. Afterwards, the group visited Tobera Airfield to see where he was detained as a Prisoner Of War (POW) and died in captivity. Finally, the group also held a memorial service for Zanger at the crash site with the local community and at Tobera Airfield where he died.
Alice Zanger (sister)
Grace "Goldie" (née Zanger) Jean Hofmann (sister)
Andrea Jacobs Talbutt (niece of Zanger)
"My two sisters and I are the nieces of 1st Lt. Moszek (Mike Sanger) Zanger. I'm writing to you from all of us to thank you for the information you posted on your web site and to also thank Henry Sakaida for the work you both have done. Regarding my uncle Moszek Murray Zanger: I noted that Jose Holguin mentioned that he thought my uncle was related to Margaret Sanger. We're not related at all. I also mentioned that to Henry Sakaida. My sister Marcy and I went to visit Uncle Mike's grave today because Henry was so generous with his information. He gave us the name of the cemetery, location, row and plot number. We knew that our mother's brother was lost over the Pacific somewhere and that he died as a prisoner of war but little else. Although the information was painful to find out we are so grateful to know nevertheless. After awhile the pain will fade but the knowledge about our uncle will remain with us always."
Susan Nishihira (niece of Zanger)
Marcy Hanigan (niece of Zanger)
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Moszek Murray Zanger
USMC Casualty Card - Moszek Murray Zanger
Mike Zanger - United States Marine Corps Fighter Pilot
Aircraft History Card – FG 1 Corsair 14417
Navy Serial Number Search Results - FG-1A Corsair 14417
Prisoner of War: Rabaul, New Britain by Jose Holguin
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 69, 71 (footnote 3), 72 (footnote 4), 96 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Zanger)
Banzai "My Ten Year Search For Zanger" (1997) by Henry Sakaida
"In early May , three new Marine airmen joined us. They were to be the last except for a New Zealand pilot by the name of Ronnie Warran [sic, Ronald C. Warren pilot of F4U Corsair NZ5402] who in late July, 1945 [sic June 21, 1945], flew too low wile strafing a truck and hit the palm trees... During that time he brought us up to date on how the war had progressed up until he had gone down and also told us about an American prisoner by the name of Sanger [sic Zanger pilot of FG-1 Corsair 14417] who had been held at the same place with him, but who had been killed trying to escape."
FindAGrave - Murray Zanger (grave photos) date of death listed as June 1945 in profile, 1946 on grave marker.
AP "Sisters plan Pacific trip to honor WWII hero uncle" by Chris Carola, April 6, 2012
LA Times " World War II hobbyist solves a family's decades-old mystery" May 29, 2012
NBC LA "Nieces' Search for Their Uncle's WWII Wreckage Takes Them Around the World" May 28, 2012
CBS LA "Sisters Will Embark On Search For Where Uncle Was Taken As Prisoner Of War" April 11, 2012
For The Life of Me "The 30 Year Search for Mike Zanger Few Jews were Marine Corps pilots in WWII – Mike Zanger was…!" (2015) by Peter Vanlaw
Thanks to Henry Sakaida, Andrea Jacobs Talbutt, Susan Nishihira and Marcy Hanigan for additional information
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May 8, 2023
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