|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".
Built by Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in Akron, Ohio as model V-166B. Constructors Number 99529. Contract Number C99529. On June 16, 1944 delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as FG-1A Corsair bureau number 14417. Disassembled and shipped overseas across the Pacific and was unloaded at Espiritu Santo.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC). By August 31, 1944 this aircraft was assigned to the aircraft pool until October 25, 1944. Flown northward to Guadalcanal and assigned to the aircraft pool as of October 26, 1944. Soon afterwards assigned to 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 14 (MAG-14) to Marine Fighting Squadron 222 (VMF-222) "Flying Deuces". This aircraft had no known nickname, nose art or squadron number.
On December 5, 1944 took off from Green Island Airfield (Nissan) on a patrol mission over Rabaul. 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. Instead, he was detained alone at Tobera Airfield for roughly 6-7 months confinement in chains in a hut at the airfield, which was still being bombed and strafed by Allied aircraft.
Hearing about the new American prisoner, at least three Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Zero pilots including Masajiro Kawato, Ikeda and Miyagoshi went to Tobera to see him, curious about their enemy and to rough him up. Meeting Zanger, all three interacted with him and were impressed by his candor and did not harm him.
During late June 1945, Flight Sergeant Ronald C. Warren pilot of F4U NZ5402 who 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.
During late June or July 1945, Zanger died at Tobera Airfield. The Japanese buried his body near the Komoriyama detachment of the MPs (Military Police).
Zanger's US 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.
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, his remains were recovered and transported to the United States.
Zanger was officially declared dead during June 1945. Zanger was buried at the Home of Peace Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
Henry Sakaida adds:
"I have his Individual Deceased Personnel File 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."
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)
Mike Zanger - United States Marine Corps Fighter Pilot
Aircraft History Card – FG 1 Corsair 14417
Navy Serial Number Search Results - FG-1A Corsair 14417
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) Moszek Murray Zanger
USMC Casualty Card - Moszek Murray Zanger
Banzai "My Ten Year Search For Zanger" by Henry Sakaida, 1997
Prisoner of War: Rabaul, New Britain by Jose Holguin
"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."
The Siege of Rabaul by Henry Sakaida page 69, 71 (footnote 3), 72 (footnote 4), 96 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners, Zanger)
FindAGrave - Murray Zanger (grave photos)
Seattle Times "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
Thanks to Henry Sakaida and Andrea Jacobs Talbutt, Susan Nishihira and Marcy Hanigan for additional information
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January 9, 2019