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  JM-1 Marauder Bureau Number 66617  

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USN 1944

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Mike Auer 2016
Pilot  Lt(jg) Robert Lee Auer, O-130138 (MIA / KIA) Santa Monica, CA
Co-Pilot  Ensign Samuel Marsh, Jr., O-314914 (MIA / KIA) Huntington, WV
Crew  AMM1c Howard Theodore Held, 6329983 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crew  Arm1c Aubrey James Borek, 6603487 (MIA / KIA) Twin Bridges, MT
Crew  AOM2c(T) Wallace Richard Howard, 3826958 (rescued)
Ditched  December 29, 1944

Aircraft History
Built by Martin in Baltimore, Maryland. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-26C-30-MO Marauder serial number 41-355?? (last two digits unknown in the range of 41-35543 to 41-35547 either 43, 44, 45, 46 or 47). Converted into an AT-23B for use as a target tug. Assigned to the U.S. Navy (USN) as JM-1 Marauder bureau number 66617.

Wartime History
During 1944 assigned to Utility Squadron 2 (VJ-2). Painted in overall orange color for target tow training missions. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On December 29, 1944 took off from Pityilu Airfield piloted by Lt(jg) Robert Lee Auer on a target towing mission for the 7th Fleet. During the flight, this aircraft suffered an engine failure and ditched seven miles off Pityilu Airfield on Pityilu Island. One crew member, AOM2c W. R. Howard survived the crash and was rescued. The other four members of the crew were declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Immediately, the force landing was reported by the other JM-1 and a PBY-5A Catalina from VJ-2 began searching for the crash site. Within minutes, J2F-6 Duck from VJ-2 took off from Pityilu Airfield and landed at the crash site nine minutes later but only found one member of the crew AOM2c(T) Wallace R. Howard and rescued him.

Afterwards, a destroyer, minesweeper and three crash boats searched the crash site for three hours without results other than finding some debris floating on the surface. No trace of the other four crew members were found and were listed as missing.

The four missing crew members were officially declared dead the day of the mission. As the mission was deemed non-combat, none of the missing crew members earned the Purple Heart.

All four missing crew members are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Marsh also has a memorial marker at Riverview Cemetery in East Liverpool, OH.

Borek also has a memorial marker at Mountain View Cemetery in Columbus, MT.

Howard passed away on April 28, 1982 at age 53. He is buried at Maryland Veterans Cemetery-Crownsville, Crownsville, MD.

Mike Auer (son of Robert Lee Auer):
"Thanks so much for maintaining this valuable website which I just discovered. I am Robert Lee (Bud) Auer’s son, Robert Michael Auer. My dad was born in Santa Monica and raised in Glendale. He worked on the school paper, played in a band, and acted in plays. He went to USC and majored in journalism. He was married to Betty Scatchard and had one child, me. I was too young when he died to remember anything about him. I have a few letters he send home, but no squadron docs. I thought that my dad was doing target towing when he went down. Someone said they thought water condensation in the gas tank was probably the culprit. At any rate, an engine went out about 50 miles out, they got within 2 miles of the base, but finally had to ditch in rough seas. The plane broke in two, the tail gunner was saved. That's the story I've got."

Edith Lange (née Sonnenschein, widow of Marsh):
"I am the widow of the late  Ensign Samuel Marsh, Jr. We met in March 1943. I am Jewish and was in Austria when Hitler invaded on March 12, 1938. I was very lucky and left a year later. I managed to escape Europe aboard the Queen Mary at Cherbourg, France. We entered the United States legally, got an affidavit for help. The mayor of Minneapolis had a round table meeting and and gave my letter to the reformed temple in Minneapolis. During the war, my Rabbi told us we should do something, and I volunteered at the USO, and met Samuel Marsh. We got married October 1, 1943. He was supposed to get the next rank after new years. He died  December 29th 1944 in a plane crash, he was stationed in Pityilu as  copilot  to VJ-2. I was never told anything about his loss. I remember at 7pm a young boy delivered the telegram that will all I was ever told. Years later, I attended a reunion of VJ-2 at San Diego and some of the men told me more about his crash. They said water was in the fuel tank due to the hot tropical climate, and caused it to crash. That was the first I had ever been told. I hope to hear from any survivors of this crash. After the war, I remarried. I  still do volunteering  at Naval medical center  at Balboa in San Diego.

Note: The USN Accident report misspells the names of two of the crew "Heid" [Held] and "Boren" [Borek].
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-26C-30-MO Marauder 41-35543–41-35547
"35543/35547 to US Navy as JM-1"
Navy Serial Number Search Results - JM-1 Marauder 66617
"66617 lost Dec 29, 1944 on target towing mission, went down 7 mi from Pityilu Island in Admiralty Islands Group. 1 of 4 onboard survived."
NARA "Utility Squadron Two War Diary December 1944" page 4
"On December 29, JM-1 aircraft bureau number 66617, crashed at sea. The plane, in company with another JM-1 had been engaged in rendering towing services for a fleet unit when one engine failed. While proceeding toward base on one engine, the pilot was unable to maintain his altitude and finally made a forced landing at seas seven (7) miles bearing 050° true from Pityliu Island; cause for the accident is unknown. Of a crew of five persons, one man Wallace Richard Howard, 382 69 58, AO2c(T), U.S. Navy, was rescued. The other four occupants, Lieutenant (jg) R. L. Auer, (A1)L, USNR, (130138), first pilot: Ensign Samuel Marsh, Jr. (A1)L, USNR, (314914), second pilot: Howard Theodore Held, 632 99 83, AMM1c (V-6), USNR, plane captain; Aubrey James Borek, 660 34 87, ARM1c, (V-6), USNR, radioman, were not rescued J2F-6 landed at the crash scene nine minutes after the crash, but only one survivor [Howard] and some debris were still afloat. A thorough search of the vicinity was conducted by one destroyer, one YMS and three crash boats for three hours with negative results."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List December 1944 JM-1 66617 destroyed December 28, 1944 [sic, Dec 29]
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert L. Auer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Samuel Marsh Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard T. Held
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Aubrey J. Borek
FindAGrave - LtJG Robert L Auer (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Ens Samuel Marsh, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ens Samuel Marsh, Jr (memorial maker photo)
FIndAGrave - AMM1 Howard T Held (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - ARM1 Aubrey James Borek (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Aubrey James Borek (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Wallace R. Howard (grave photo)
Thanks to Edith Lange and Mike Auer for additional information

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Last Updated
June 16, 2023

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