|Pilot 1st Lt. Billy Ray Ramsey, O-014608 (MIA / KIA) Austin, TX
Gunner Sgt Charlie J. Sciara, 503505 (POW, died January 14, 1944, missing) Brooklyn, NY
Crashed January 14, 1944
Built by Douglas at El Segundo, California. Constructors Number 4610. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as SBD-5 Dauntless Bureau Number 35971.
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 236 "Black Panthers" VMSB-236. No known nickname or nose art.
On January 14, 1944 took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia piloted by 1st Lt. Billy Ray Ramsey with gunner Sgt Charlie J. Sciara on a dive bombing mission led by Major McDaniel against
Japanese shipping off Rabaul.
The formation included 36 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, 18 TBF Avengers escorted by 73 fighters. This was the first full scale attack by land based light bombers against Japanese shipping in the vicinity of Rabaul.
Over the target,
the dive bombers were credited with 9 direct hits on 7 transports and a direct hit on a possible light cruiser and possible destroyer. Also, 20 near misses that likely caused damage.
The U. S. aircraft encountered anti-aircraft fire and fighter interception. This SBD had the tail shot off by either anti-aircraft
fire or intercepting enemy fighters. When the tail broke off, this SBD was last seen in
a flat spin over the Saint Georges Channel northeast of Rabaul. When this aircraft failed to return, this aircraft was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Also lost was SBD 36230 (pilot MIA / gunner POW, died).
Afterwards, a PBY Catalina unsucessfully searched for the air crews lost on this mission.
Fates of the Crew
Pilot 1st Lt. Billy Ray Ramsey likely died in crash and he remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
After the tail broke off, gunner Sgt Charlie J. Sciara managed to bail out of the damaged aircraft and landed safely. He was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) detained at Tunnel Hill POW Camp. He was officially declared dead on February 22, 1944 due to neglect, malaria or beri-beri. His remains were never recovered and he remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Ramey was officially declared dead on January 15, 1945. He was promoted to Captain and earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Sciara was officially declared dead on February 22, 1944. He are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. Sciara also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at section H.
John Sciara (brother of Charles Sciara)
"My family was told, both were classified as MIA,
both died the day of the crash. After the war my parents received a
letter from the Marine Corps stating Sgt Charles Sciara did not die on
January 14, 1944. He somehow survived the crash and was taken prisoner by
the Japanese and died in an unknown prison camp. They say he might have
died February 22, 1944 from Malaria and beri-beri. He probably
was murdered by the Japanese. My family was very upset after the war and was not
sure what to believe. My brother was under age and my Mom had to sign
him in. He was 20 when he died. Mom said at least he died the way he
wanted. I was only 10 months old and never seen him alive. They and many others gave up their tomorrows for
our todays. I believe their plane lies somewhere in Rabaul's Harbor. Mother had a
poem she liked:
I'll never be "First Lady" Nor grace a magazine,
I never will be famous. Nor will I be a queen.
But I would never change my lot with any that I've seen
For you see - I am the mother of a United States Marine!"
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File Charles J Sciara date of report January 14, 1944
Navy Serial Number Search Results - SBD-5 Dauntless 35971
"35971 shot down at Rabaul Jan 14, 1944."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List January 1944 - SBD-5 35971 Ramsey
NARA "Marine Scout Bombing Squadron Two Thirty Six War Diary January 1944" page 3
(Page 3) "14 January ... Lt. Billy R. Ramsey of this squadron had his tail shot off by anti-aircraft fire while the flight was approaching the target area. When last seen Ramsey was in a flat spin over St. George's Channel, N. E. of Rabaul. With Ramsey was his gunner, Sgt. Charles J. Sciara, (503505), both USMCR [sic]. Shortly before Ramsey was shot down Lt. Tuck (VMSB-341) [SBD Dauntless 36230] lost his tail and spun in. At first it was believed that Tuck had been involved in a mid-air collision. However no other plane in the flight was involved in any collision so far as it is possible to determine. It is believed that Tuck may have been hit by one of the belly tanks which the F6Fs dropped through the formation of SBDs. With Tuck was his gunner, Pfc P. E. Mc Cleaf."
NARA "Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 341 War Diary January 1944" pages 5
"[14 January 1944] Another plane in the formation was seen to cut his plane's tail off, but the other plane was never identified [this aircraft, due to enemy action]. One other plane did not return from the strike [this aircraft]. A Dumbo made searches in the area with negative results. Lt. Tuck's plane was No. 27, BuNo. 36230 and his gunner was PFC Paul F. McCleaft, USMCR, Ser. No. 486913."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Billy Ray Ramsey
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles John Sciara
FindAGrave - Capt Billy Ray Ramsey (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Charles John Sciara (photo, memorial marker photo) date of death January 14, 1944
Charles John Sciara (photo)
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
January 26, 2019