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Richard P. Stier - Missing P-38L Lightning crash site on Mindoro
by Mary Beth Kustra (daughter of Stier) and Dick Kustra (son-in-law of Stier)

During 2001, his widow Geraldine "Gerry" Stier and two daughters: Kathleen Rockweiler and Mary Beth Kustra took a trip to the Philippines to locate the crash site of 1st Richard P. Stier, who crashed July 13, 1945 on Mindoro. Widow Gerry Stier was 78 at the time she made the trip to and that she had never remarried. This trip was the highlight of her life. With the assistance of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP).

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Geraldine Stier (widow) and Kathleen Rockweiler (daughter) in a tricycle

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San Jose, Mindoro Airport

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Col. de Ocampo and the Stier family at his Manila VFP Hqs office

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Another Pilot who helped us, Robert "Mully" Mullenberg

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John Murtha helped us by providing the 5th AF's airfields

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(R to L) Geraldine Stier & Mary Beth Kustra with and Filippino WWII veterans Sgt. Valverde, and veterans in thier lodge uniforms.

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Possible wreckage from Stier's P-38 in Mangarin

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The lady in the center of the photo is the same age as Geraldine Stier, and attested to the fact that a P-38 crasged in July 1945. We believe from the evidence from witnesses that this is probabl where Lt. Henderson crashed and died.

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Family and Fillipinos gathered at Stier's P-38 crash site on Mindoro.

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36th FS. Pilots are said to be sitting on the wing and the ground crew and others are on the ground. According to one letter home, Stier advised that his Crew Chief had been instructed to shine his plane as it was going to be used in a Squadron group photo. Perhaps this is the plane he died in.

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Dinner party in San Jose. Seating (l to r): Post Commander Valverde, Herminio Guinto, Mary
Beth, Mrs. Pepe Castillo. Standing (l to r): Reuben Guinto, Pepe Castillo, Former Guerilla Jose
Ancheta, and Reuben Guinto's wife's brother.

Two Planes Lost
On July 13, 1945 Lt. Henderson and Lt. Stier never pulled out of this dive. The reason for this is unknown. After checking official records at Maxwell AFB's Historical Agency, the National Archives, and other official records sites, various reasons have been cited, including the possibility of vertigo by the deceased pilots, the wing compressibility problem inherent to P-38's during dives, and the possibility that Henderson and Stier collided when in the clouds.

P-38L Lightning Serial Number 44-26538

Geraldine Stier (the pilot's widow) and his two daughters Kathleen Rockweiler and Mary Beth Kustra and her husband set out for a trip to Mindoro in 2001 with the express wish of visiting the former air fields from which Lt. Stier and his comrades flew. On the day of that fateful orientation mission, Lt. Stier's group was flying out of an airstrip called "Murtha Strip,"about six miles northeast of McGuire Drome. The records of the above historical services have some inconsistencies, but there the following salient facts persist:

The crashes occurred about one or two miles east of what was then called "McGuire Drome," a bomber base that was at the same location of the current airport of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

A body part suspected to be one of the pilots who crashed was found about three miles out at sea off the southwest coast of Mindoro on 14 July, a day after this accident.

Lt. Henderson's body was found by Filipinos and returned to the US military in late 1945.

In the late 1940's by the process of elimination, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) in Manila assessed that the (then MIA) body part found on 14 July was probably part of Lt. Stier's remains.

In the early 1950's, this body part was repatriated and buried in the Holy Cross Cemetary in Stier's home town, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Trip to Revist Airfields & Locate Crashsite
Besides visiting old air fields, our family group planned to make an attempt to see if we could locate the actual crash sites. Records keeping by SWAPA USAAF units were skimpy, but we did have the above oft repeated facts that provided us with a general area in which these accidents occurred. He was unsure of the cause of the crash or the actual location. In early January 2001 we requested the Deceased Personnel File for Lt. Henderson, but it still has not been provided.

For months before the trip, we had sought via the internet and other means to find knowledgeable contacts in Mindoro who might be able to help us with our quests. Just before our departure, we very fortunately made contact with the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, a group of WWII "guerrillas" who fought with the US during the three years between General McArthur's departure to Australia and his "return" to the islands. Through the Federation's spokesman, Jerry Adevoso (a son of heroic guerrilla leader), we met the VFP Director, Emmanuel V. De Ocampo, himself a legendary WWII guerrilla. After briefing former Colonel De Ocampo of our plans, he requested that San Jose Mindoro Post Commander Apolinar A. Velverde assist us.

Commander Velverde and other local post members served as our escorts, interpreters, and friends, we accomplished more than we had ever dreamed possible. After briefing the local Post members, they immediately took us to various villages in an area that was one to three miles east of the former Mcquire Drome (currently the San Jose city airport).

Crash Site of Lt. Henderson
At an early stop in Mangarin village, we immediately learned about a P-38 crash which appeared to be that of Lt. Henderson, i.e., this
pilot's remains were eventually turned over to U.S. military
authorities. Encouraged that this first site was found, the family
hoped Lt. Stier's crash site could also be located. Later that evening
after returning to the hotel, our VFP contacts continued to scour their neighborhoods and found a person who knew of another crash site in the area, namely Filipe "Pepe" Castillo, who as a young boy had played in that 1940's wreckage site.

Potential Lead to Crash Site of Lt. Stier
This man's elder brother and a neighbor boy had been killed when a "bomb" (20mm shell) they retrieved from this crash site that exploded. This eye witness provided us with a tubular frame part of a plane he had recovered many years ago from this wreckage site. According to his testimony, his uncle had seen this plane explode when it crashed into a swamp near the uncle's home at the end of the war. (Unfortunately, the uncle is dead.)

According to this witness, the only parts left after the explosion were the nose, tail and one wing of the plane. Even though this witness believed the plane was a C-47, he immediately said the nose of the plane at the crash site was identical to the nose of a P-38 in a picture we showed him. He also said he had once used the wheel of what looked like the P-38 nose wheel for a sort of make shift wheel barrow he and his friends used to give each others rides in when he was a boy. In the early 1950's when this witness was about nine years old, he noticed a skull in the mud near the wreckage. He immediately became frightened and ran to his uncle's nearby farm home to tell him about this discovery. The uncle just told him not to play anymore in the wreckage site.

We visited the crash site which is now developed from a swamp into a fish farm and salt farm complex. During our visit, workers advised they are afraid to work in the swamp crash site area because of the many shells in the mud. From discussion with villagers it appeared the plane was traveling extremely fast when it hit.

We of course were very hopeful this is the site of Lt. Stier's P-38 crash, but even if it were not, we believe the eye witness report about the skull in the mud near the wreckage site necessitates that this site be further investigated. . Initial assessments indicate that the tubular frame our witness provided may well be the internal engine mount of a P-38 aircraft. We are presently waiting for full confirmation of this fact.

Publicity & CILHI
While we were in the Philippines, we were fortunate enough to get some publicity via the auspices of the VFP and this has led to contact with two other sources who claim to have knowledge of at least five other airplane crash sites and the burial site of one pilot. We currently have documentary and historical reporting/evidence as well as annotated maps and still and video photography of our activities in Mindoro. According to a CILHI briefing we attended at last Fall's American War Orphans Network conference in San Diego CILHI will act if there is enough evidence to merit their participation.

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