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  TBF-1 Avenger Bureau Number 06239  

Pilot  Lt(jg) Frederic Burton Sleyster, O-116372 USN (MIA / KIA) Perry, MO
Radio  ARM2c Harry Hampton Johnson, 6382500 (MIA / KIA) MN
Gunner  ARM3c Manuel Paiva, 2044712 (MIA / KIA) RI
MIA  May 19, 1943

Pilot History
Frederic Burton Sleyster was born in Perry, Missouri. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy (USN) and became an aviation cadet on October 2, 1941. He married Dorothy Woodworth, living in Coronado, CA and the could did not have any children. Afterwards assigned to USS Enterprise CV-6. Next, attached to the USAAF, 7th BG, 493rd BS and flew B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. Afterwards, attached to Torpedo Squadron 21 (VT-21) on Guadalcanal and then temporarily attached to U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 143 (VMSB-143). Sleyster went Missing In Action (MIA) on May 19, 1943. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He was officially declared dead January 4, 1946.

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman as model G-40. Constructors Number 4287. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as TBF-1 Avenger bureau number 06239.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Air Wing 1 (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12), Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 143 (VMSB-143) "Rocket Raiders". No known nickname, nose art or markings.

Mission History
On May 17, 1943 took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal piloted by Lt(jg) Frederic Burton Sleyster on an aerial mine laying mission against southern Bougainville. One pilot stated that numerous searchlights and anti-aircraft fire were encountered over the target area. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

The entire crew was officially declared dead on January 4, 1946. Sleyster earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Johnson and Paiva earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. All three are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Jill DeGraeve-Cruse (Sleyster great uncle in law)
"Fredric Burton Sleyster is my husband’s great uncle."

Unknown (nephew Sleyster via FindAGrave - LtJG Frederic B Sleyster)
"Frederic Sleyster was a Lt. Junior Grade in the US Navy Reserve. He was 22 years of age when he was made Aviation Cadet on 2 Oct 1941.I have been told that he flew a B-17 bomber and that he was on the USS Enterprise for a time. He was attached to the 493rd Bomber Squadron, 7th Bomber Group Heavy in the US Navy. He was attached to the Torpedo Squadron 21 and temporarily attached to a Marine unit, VMSB 143 (Marine Scout Bomber Squadron.)Uncle Freddie flew a TBF Avenger (plane no. 06239) in this division. On 19 May 1943, Freddie, and his crew, Aviation Radioman Second Class, Harry Hampton Johnson from Minnesota and Aviation Radioman Third Class, Manuel Paiva from Rhode Island, took off on a mine laying mission in the Bougainville area and failed to return to the base. One pilot stated that there were numerous searchlights and anti-aircraft in this area. Six years later on January 21, 1949, a search team departed for Torokina, Bougainville in search of information on the downed plane and questioned a local police commissioner, two Catholic Priests, who ran a Catholic Missions Hospital in the area but they could not give any additional information. Three days later they departed the Mission and with local guides, made a search of local swamps and rivers but found nothing. The river was swelled by a recent rain. On January 24, 1949, they departed from the Torokina River area for Kaiaris Beach and River area. They questioned a native chief and tribesmen but they could give no further information as they had been pushed back deeper into bush during the war. They also stated that in their frequent trips about the area since the war, they had not come across any graves or aircraft crashes. The next day on January 25, 1949, the team departed Kaiaris Beach for Piva village. A Pastor who ran the Mission there was questioned and had stated that during the hostilities, he was unable to secure information in view restrictions that were placed upon them by the Japanese military. The area surrounding the Piva village was searched and the natives were questioned but found no evidence of aircraft wreckage or remains. In a letter dated 25 October 1949 states that the remains of Frederic Sleyster and those of his crew have been declared non-recoverable and his status is MIA/KIA. God Bless You Uncle Freddie and those of your crew. We will never forget!"

Note, other sources list the date of loss as May 17, 1943 or May 20, 1943.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - TBF-1 Avenger 06239
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List May 1943 - TBF 06239
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frederic B. Sleyster
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry H. Johnson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Manuel Paiva
FindAGrave - LtJG Frederic B Sleyster (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - ARM2 Harry H Johnson (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Harry Hampton Johnson (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - ARM3 Manuel Paiva (tablets of the missing)
Thanks to Jill DeGraeve for additional information

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Last Updated
April 19, 2020

Tech Info

3 Missing
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