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Stan Gajda 2001
Steven Druzak 2005
|Pilot 1st Lt. William J. Love (MIA / KIA, BR)
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Thomas W. Stone (MIA / KIA, BR)
Navigator SSgt John R. Schwaller (MIA / KIA, BR)
Radio/Gunner Sgt Leland E. Baumbach (MIA / KIA, BR)
Radio/Gunner Sgt John A. Becker (MIA / KIA, BR)
Photographer Sgt David Snider (MIA / KIA, BR)
Crashed February 6, 1945
Built by North American. Constructors Number 98-21711. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25H-5 Mitchell serial number 43-4698. Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PBJ-1H Mitchell bureau number 35275.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Bombing Squadron 613 (VMB-613). This aircraft was assigned to brothers: 1st Lt. Robert E. Love and 1st Lt. William J. Love. Crew #1 was Robert Love and Crew #2 was assigned to 1st Lt. William J. Love. Squadron number MB-6 was painted on the tail, later changed to simply a 6. Nicknamed "Love Bug" painted on the left side of the nose in block letters curving around the 75mm cannon port.
Robert Yanacek, VMB-613 veteran adds:
"Here is an interesting story, told to me by one of Bob Love's radio-gunners, Lloyd McDaniel. Bill Love and his crew were not scheduled for the fateful raid. Bob Love and his crew were supposed to have been on the raid. Lloyd told me that at about dusk on February 5th, a Japanese sub was sighted. VMB-613 dispatched one aircraft to investigate. That aircraft was the "Love Bug" flown by Bob Love and his crew. The patrolled the area for a number of hours but couldn't locate anything. The headed back to Eniwetok and did not land until after midnight. Because the arrived back so late, it was decided that they would not fly the strike on Ponape. Bill Love and his crew were then assigned to the mission. Bill Love and his crew left Eniwetok at 9AM in the "Love Bug" never to return. As Bob Love and his crew awoke on Eniwetok about noon, word came over the radio that there had been some problems. Here are the two crews:
Sergeant Dave Snider was a member of Love's regular crew. Snider was an aerial photographer who was flying in the tail to photograph the results of the strike. Regular Crew #2 members Pfc Frank Haddix and Cpl Theodore H. Pyrch were not aboard the day the crash.
On February 6, 1945 at 9:00am took off from Enewetak Airfield (Stickell Field) piloted by 1st Lt. William J. Love with Crew #2 armed with four 500 pound bombs. on a strike mission against Palikir Airfield (Airfield No. 2) on Ponape Island. This formation included six PBJ Mitchells flying in three sections in pairs at an altitude of 8,000'. This PBJ was flying as the lead plane in the third section.
Over Ponape Island were thunderstorms and the PBJs had to change their planned attack. The first section found a hole in the weather and made a voilent turn to get over the target but the second aircraft was not able to release its bombs. The second section was able to make a better approach and flew the length of the target and claimed several bomb hits but the second plane had three bombs hang up.
When the third section attacked, it swung wide to the left then circled to the right to attack Palikir Airfield (Airfield No. 2) from another angle. Over the target, medium and light anti-aircraft fire was intense. During the bombing run, this PBJ was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the bottom of the fusealge that entered the nose section fire from "a small gun atop Dolen Pahniepw" (Dolen Palikir) and crashed and burned on impact at Palikir. Soon after the crash one of the bombs still aboard exploded.
Recovery of Remains
Soon afterwards, Japanese forces reached the crash site. Popope Islander Mr. Aldis also reached the crash but was chased away by the Japanese. He observed them recovering the bodies of the crew burying them in a group burial at the crash site. Afterwards, a grave marker with a sign that read: "to the brave American fliers". At the time, the Japanese did not locate the body of Snider.
Postwar, a War Crimes Tribunal arrived on Ponape to conduct an inquiry about Americans killed on the island included a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) to recover U. S. remains. One member of the tribunal was 1st Lieutenant Donald C. McCune, Assistant Intelligence Officer of Marine Bombing Squadron 613, (VMB-613) inquired about this air crew.
With the help of ilsanders including Mr. Aldis, the AGRS team located the group burial and exhumed the graves of the crew and transported them to Kolonia (Colonia) where they were temporarily buried. They also located the remains of Snider. Later, these remains were transported to the United States for permanent burial.
Dick Williams adds:
"When I visited Ponape, some one told me, following the war, the brother of the missing crewman Dave Snider traveled to Ponape to search for him but was unable to locate his remains." On that strike [aboard another PBJ Mitchell in the formation] one other Marine was killed Pvt William M. Farley. His aircraft attacked the airfield right before Love's aircraft and a fragment from a 500 pound bomb hit him, killing him instantly."
The remains of Sgt Snider were located later and identified during 1948 and transported to the United States.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, the crew (with the exception of Snider) were buried June 10, 1949 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at section 82, site 180.
In 1949, the remains of Sgt Snider were buried at Riverside Cemetery in Rochelle Park, NJ.
At the National Museum of Marine Corps & Heritage Center (USMC Museum) is a memorial brick in the Semper Fidelis Memorial Park engraved "VMB 613 In Memory Of The Ponape Mission" dedicated the mission this crew was lost.
Only a few large pieces of the aircraft remain including the port engine and propeller, the port landing gear and wheel, three defused general purpose bombs, and a section of the port vertical and horizontal stabilizer. The location of the vertical stabilizer proved an important find since it was the only piece of aircraft with recognizable markings, a large white "5" (last digit of Bureau Number) on a blue background.
Dick Williams and Stan Gajda conducted an excavation at the crash site and revealed a "burnt area" of ground and further pieces of the aircraft including a bomb rail, and the shattered remains of a radar receiver. Smaller fragments included a buckle, a lens, pieces of switches, metal forgings, cloth fabric, and great deal of .50 caliber ammunition, shell casings, and projectiles. They also searched the area around the Japanese gun atop Dolen Pahniepw and recovered a number of 127mm anti-aircraft gun shell casings that had been fired.
On February 6, 2005, on the 60th anniversary of this loss, a memorial service was conducted at the crash site, conducted by U. S. Ambassador Suzanne K. Hale and FSM Speaker of the Congress, Peter Christian conducted a memorial service at the crash site.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25H-5 Mitchell 43-4698
Navy Serial Number Search Results - PBJ-1H Mitchell 35275
"35275 (VMB-613) shot down by flak in raid on Ponape Feb 6, 1945. All aboard KIA"
FindAGrave - 1LT William John Love (photos, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT Thomas William Stone (photos, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT John Richard Schwaller (photos, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Leland Edward Baumbach (photos, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SGT John Anthony Becker (photos, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt David Snider (dog tag photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Pvt William M Farley (KIA aboard the other PBJ in the third section)
VMB-613 Association Ponape Crash Site - Page 1 (photos)
VMB-613 Association Ponape Crash Site - Page 2 (photos)
VMB-613 Association Ponape Crash Site - Page 3 (photos)
Thanks to Stan Gajda, Dick Williams and VBM-613 Association for additional information
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