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  L-4A Grasshopper Serial Number 43-29071  
US Army
121st Field Artillery
32nd Infantry Division

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US Army January 2, 1944

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Michael Kindig 1945
Pilot  2nd Lt Francis J. Piotrowski, O-1173035 (MIA / KIA) Dowagiac, MI
Observer  Major Earl R. Kindig, O-22640 C.O. 121st FAB (MIA / KIA) IA
Crashed  February 7, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Piper Aircraft as model J3C-65D. Constructors Number 10362. Delivered to the U. S. Army as L-4A Grasshopper serial number 43-29071. with a Continental 0-170-3 engine, serial number 156781 Disassembled and shipped across the Pacific to New Guinea.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Army, 32nd Infantry Division, 121st Field Artillery Battalion (121st FAB). No known nickname or nose art. Disassembled and transported aboard USS LST-454 as cargo with the wings removed. On January 2, 1944 unloaded at Saidor and assembled on the beach.

Mission History
On February 7, 1944 took off at 1:00pm piloted by 2nd Lt Francis J. Piotrowski with observer Major Earl R. Kindig (C.O. of the 121st Field Artillery Battalion) from a location approximately eighteen miles southeast of Saidor on an artillery spotting mission.

On the ground, his unit the 121st Field Artillery Battalion were firing 75mm howitzers at a range of hills near Gabutamon. Unsatisfied with previous forward air observers, Major Kindig elected to fly himself to observe his unit's artillery fire and radio corrections.

Low on fuel and out of radio contact, this L-4 was last seen, turning to the west flying up the Yaut River Valley below cloud level near Gabutamon to a point approximately 2,000 yards directly west of Gabutamon where a few artillery rounds were landing. This L-4 disappeared from sight around a range of hills near Kepoiak village. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

In fact, this L-4 crashed near Gabutamon near the Saidor Gap in the Finisterre Mountains.

During November 1997, a team from U. S. Army CILHI wreck survey in the area gathered information on two aircraft crashes in the area. These later proved to be P-47D 42-22896 and this aircraft.

On July 28, 1998 the wreckage was visited by Alfred Hagen.

Recovery of Remains
During January 2000, the crash site was first investigated by a team from U. S. Army CILHI and coded "PNG 104". On March 8, 2000 CILHI made a second visit to the site to perform a full recovery. At the crash site, the team located human remain and personal effects of the crew. Later, these remains were positively identified and returned to the families for burial.

Both crew members were officially declared dead on February 8, 1945. Piotrowski earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Kindig earned the Legion of Merit and Purple Heart, posthumously. Both were memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Kindig also has a memorial marker at Elm Grove Cemetery in Washington, ID. Piotrowski also has a memorial marker on the family's headstone at  Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kalamazoo, MI at lot 73, block R.

After the identification of their remains, Kindig and Piotrowski were buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at at Section 60 Site 8022. After Kindig's identification, an individual marker was added on October 30, 2001 at 9:00am.

Leonard F. Rzepczynski (nephew of Piotrowski)
Ora I. Kindig (wife of Kindig)
Michael Kindig (son of Kindig)
Patricia Gaffney (daughter in law of Kindig)

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Francis J. Piotrowski

USAF Serial Number Search Results - L-4A Grasshopper 43-29071
AWM - Saidor landing cine footage of this aircraft being unloaded from LST on the beach at Saidor at clip timecode: 1:41 - 1:50 (on screen time code 05:03:11 - 05:03:20) and 2:20 - 2:44 (on screen timecode 05:03:51 - 05:04:14)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Francis J. Piotrowski "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl R. Kindig "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - Lieut Francis J. Piotrowski (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave - Maj Earl Robert Kindig (tablets of the missing photo, memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Maj Earl Robert Kindig (Arlington grave photos)
FindAGrave - Earl R Kindig (memorial marker photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - L-5 Stinson Sentinel 43-29071 [sic, L-4A Grasshopper]
Scripps Howard News Service "Man buries dad lost in WWII Lakewood resident receives comfort from military ritual" by Katy Marquardt October 31, 2001
Colorado Labor Advocate "Editor's father's remains found" August 31, 2000
geneologyKris "In Memory of “Bud”" by Kris Rzepczynski May 29, 2012
Thanks to Michael Kindig and Patricia Gaffney for additional information

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Last Updated
April 29, 2020


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