|Pilot 2nd Lt. Harold F. Wurtz, Jr., O-814817 (MIA, KIA, BR) Dearborn, MI
Passenger ARC Harriet E. Gowen (MIA, KIA, BR) Stillwater, MN
Crashed May 5, 1945 1:48pm
Harold Wurtz was born September 19, 1923 and nicknamed "Junior". After his death, he was posthumously promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Harriet E. Gowen was born May 11, 1917, and joined the American Red Cross. Gowen was a member of the American Red Cross. She agreed to take a ride with Wurtz, seated on his lap as a passenger.
Built by Republic at the Indiana Division of Republic Aviation in
Evansville, IN. Constructor Number 700. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Service Squadron, 201st Airdrome Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost engine R-2800-21 serial number 42-IZ4111. Weapon serial numbers 971137, 970972, 976631, 971044, 970835, 976194, 970994 and 970724.
On May 5, 1945 took off from Nadzab Airfield (No 1 Runway) at 1:48pm piloted by 2nd Lt. Harold F. Wurtz, Jr. on a local flight. Seated on his lap as a passenger was American Red Cross (ARC) Harriet E. Gowen. This aircraft was last seen by the tower operator, headed on a course of 90° due east. It was never seen after take off. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
On May 12, 1945 and May 13, 1945 aerial searches were unsuccessful.
In fact, this P-47 crashed at high speed nearly vertically into soft soil and the engine came to rest 15' under the surface. During 1996, the crash site of this Thunderbolt was located in the Nadzab area. A woman's shoe was found in the wreckage. Remains were recovered from the site.
Richard Leahy adds:
"It is located about 12 NM west of Nadzab Airport. It went in at high speed almost vertically. The soil is black loam and not hard. The motor ended up about 15' under the ground. Not much left of two occupants. I visited the site on October 16, 1997. I was told that the site was visited by American tourists in 1996 who passed on their finding to either CILHI or the US Embassy in POM. I have no idea who they were."
Daniel Leahy adds:
"RAAF cards on USAAF aircraft appear as if they may have grabbed just the serial, pilot and engine numbers from MACRs. Occasionally they'll have brief details of the loss. I believe this was just in case something was found in the area. If the site was visited, the card usually has details handwritten stating details. This card was blank, I highly doubt the RAAF (or Australian Army) visited the site."
Recovery of Remains
Sometime after 1996, a team from U. S. Army CILHI visited the crash site and recovered the remains of Wurtz and Gowen.
Wurtz was officially declared dead on May 12, 1945. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Gowen also has a memorial marker at Saint Michaels Cemetery in Bayport, MN.
After the recovery of their remains, on on August 6, 1999 Wurtz and Gowen were buried in a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60, grave 7828. Wurtz also has an individual burial at Arlington National Cemetery section 60, grave 7827.
Ernest Peaslee (nephew of Gowen)
Missing Air Crew Report 14435 (MACR 14435)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold F. Wurtz Jr. "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - 1Lt Harold F Wurtz, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
- 1LT Harold F Wurtz, Jr (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Harriet E Gowen (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Harriet E Gowen (memorial marker photo)
Arlington National Cemetery Website - Harold Wurtz
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22949
Thanks to Kenneth D. Wilson for constructor number
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June 29, 2019