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  PBJ-1D Mitchell Bureau Number 35143  
USMC
VMB-413

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VMB-413 c1944

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VMB-413 May 5, 1944

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Justin Taylan 2000

Pilot  1st Lt. Glenn Willard Smith "Smitty", O-21855 (MIA / KIA) Inglewood, CA
Co-Pilot
 1st Lt. Ralph Milton Jones Jr., O-25395 (MIA / KIA) Griffin, GA
Navigator 
Sgt. John Slingluff Little, 452483 (MIA / KIA) Norristown, PA
Radio 
Sgt. George Dewey Herbst, Jr., 489222 (MIA / KIA) Pottstown, PA
Gunner  
Cpl. Michael F. Mazepa, 425132 (MIA / KIA) New York, NY
Gunner  
Cpl. Ferris Robert Gillen, 421734 (MIA / KIA) Muncie, IL
Passenger  
Cpl. Robert S. Bleir (MIA / KIA)
Crashed  May 5, 1944


Crew History
Glenn Willard Smith nicknamed "Smitty" was a graduate of Chaffey College and enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps. During August 1943 he served as VMB-413's commander of the guard until his death on May 5, 1944. Ralph Milton Jones Jr. was a graduate of North Georgia Military College.

Aircraft History
Built by North American. Constructors Number 100-20720. Delivered U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) B-25D-25 Mitchell serial number 42-87227. Assigned U. S. Navy (USN) as PBJ-1D Mitchell bureau number 35143.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Bombing Squadron 413 (VMB-413). No known nickname or nose art. Ferried overseas via Hawaii then across the Pacific to the South Pacific.

Mission History
On May 5, 1944 took off from Green Island Airfield (Nissan) piloted by 1st Lt. Glenn Willard Smith "Smitty" on a bombing mission against Tobera Airfield near Rabaul. That day, a passenger was aboard: a photographer and unit historian from the 2nd Amphibious Corps.

Flying at medium altitude over Tobera Airfield, this B-25 was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the left engine that damaged the engine and partially dislodged it from the mount. Another bomber in the formation photographed the damaged PBJ Mitchell while still in flight. Moments later, it crashed three miles west of the runway into a Japanese camp area. This bomber impacted at high speed, killing the entire crew in the impact.

Wreckage
It appears the Japanese buried the remains of the crew in the impact crater, placing a piece of armor plating and bent machine gun atop. The crash site included several areas of wreckage including the tail section, engines, crater area and debris field.

During the late 1990s plantation owner Rick Ray discovered buried human remains were discovered at the crash site under a piece of armor plate and .50 caliber machine guns.

Rick Ray adds:
"The remains were placed in a shallow pit and the piece of armor plating from the cockpit was thrown on top of the remains and the 50 cal. was thrown on top of the armor plating, then covered over. That's how I found the remains in that order."

In March 2001 portions of the wreckage were reportedly scrapped by a local.

Recovery of Remains
During 1999, this crash site was investigated by CILHI led by recovery leader Dr. Bill Belcher.

In 2000, CILHI continued investigations, led by recovery leader Dennis Danielson, and excavated the area with the engines and tail wreckage.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission.

There is a memorial marker for the crew at Arlington National Cemetery, section 34 site 4900. According to Arlington Cemetery, they do not have a record recording when this stone was place (sometime postwar).

Little also has a memorial marker at Saint John Episcopal Church Cemetery, Norristown PA with the inscription: "He Gave His Life for His Country May 5, 1944 Over Rabaul New Britain S.W.P. Requiescat in Pace".

Gillen also has a memorial marker at Allhands Cemetery in Danville, IL.

Bleir has an unknown burial likely in his hometown in the United States.

Relatives
Gleen Golay (nephew of Smith)

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results B-25D-25 Mitchell 42-87227

Navy Serial Number Search Results PBJ-1D Mitchell 35143
"The Ghosts in the Forest: Discovery of a USMC PBJ-1D" Ghost Wings Magazine, Issue #6
FindAGrave - Lt. Glenn Willard Smith (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Lt. Ralph M. Jones (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Sgt John S. Little (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Sgt John S. Little (memorial marker photo St, John Episcopal Church Cemetery)
FindAGrave - Sgt George D. Herbst, Jr (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Cpl Michael Frank Mazepa (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Cpl Ferris R. Gillen (memorial marker photo Arlington)
FindAGrave - Cpl Ferris R. Gillen (memorial marker photo Allhands Cemetery)
Thanks to Dr. Bill Belcher, Rick Ray and Brian Bennett for additional information

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
May 5, 2019

 

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