|Pilot Lt(jg) Stephen A. Nyarady,121489 (POW, survived) Bronx, NY
Gunner AOM2C Harlan J. Burrus, 6103156 USNR (POW, executed November 24, 1943, MIA) Buchanan, MI
Radio ARM3C Jerry L. O'Hagen, 3830952 (MIA / KIA) CA
Crashed November 11, 1943
Built by Grumman as a model G-40. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as TBF-1 Avenger bureau number 23973. Assigned to USS Saratoga (CV-3) to squadron VT-12. No known nickname or nose art.
On November 11, 1943 took off from the USS Saratoga (CV-3) piloted by Lt(jg) Stephen A. Nyarady armed with an aerial torpedo on a strike against Japanese shipping in Simpson Harbor near Rabaul. Over the target, this Avenger was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed. O'Hagen failed to exit the aircraft and died in the crash and likely went down with the aircraft. Both Nyarady and Burrus survived.
Fates of the Crew
Nyarady and Burrus were both captured by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) 81st Guards Unit and both became Prisoners Of War (POWs) at the Rabaul POW Prison at Rabaul.
On December 20, 1943 Nyarady was transported aboard an aircraft from Rabaul to Japan along with Sqn Ldr Noel Thomas Quinn pilot of Beaufort A9-262 and Ensign William T. Welles pilot of F6F Hellcat 08884. Nyarady was
interred at Ofuna Camp. He was liberated at the end of the war from Tokyo Dispatch Camp #5-Kawaski Tokyo Bay Area and returned to the United States. He passed away on October 5, 1987.
According to Catholic Father Joseph Lamarre, Burrus was one of twelve prisoners taken away from the camp on November 24, 1943. The Japanese guards told the civilian prisoners that the twelve were being taken to Japan. Lamarre wrote in his statement dated April 12, 1946, "About two weeks later Indian prisoners of war told me that twelve American airmen had been beheaded on the outskirts of Rabaul."
Burrus and O'Hagen were officially declared dead on January 11, 1946. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
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Monsignor Jon F Majarucon adds:
"Stefan A Nyarady was a dear friend of mine. His son Peter was my best friend in High School. Stefan was my wrestling coach from 1972 - 1975. Coach Nyarady did NOT die in June of 1973 as is recorded on your website. He was born on December 15 1919 and died on October 5, 1987. I assisted at his funeral mass in St. Mary Magdalene Chapel, Camarillo California. He was a strong man and I still have his flight scarf and knee board from the late 1940s and early 50's. (given to me as a gift when I received my flying license) God bless Stephen Nyarady and all of our Veterans."
Navy Serial Number Search Results - TBF Avenger 23973
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List November 1943 - TBF Avenger 23873 pilot Nyarady crashed November 11, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) Harlan J. Burrus
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jerry L. O'Hagen
FindAGrave - AOM2 Harlan J Burrus (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - ARM3 Jerry L O'Hagen (tablets of the missing photo)
Harlan J. Burrus| Harlan J. Burrus Tribute Page
Testimony of Paul J. Cascio, Jr. includes a reference to Nyarady
Father Joseph Lamarre statement April 12, 1946: "About two weeks later Indian prisoners of war told me that twelve American airmen had been beheaded on the outskirts of Rabaul."
Thanks to Edward Rogers, Jim Sawruk, David Forrester and Monsignor Jon F Majarucon for additional information.
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June 29, 2019