Mementos of the Fallen – WWII

Short snorters were popular souvenirs in WWII. A short snorter is a banknote that was signed by a group of people usually to mark an event. They started before the war as souvenirs for passengers on trans-oceanic flights. Air crews continued the practice dung the war and it was picked up by the other branches.As service members traveled from country to country their short snorters would grow by taping notes from the different countries together. The short snorter is a remembrance of those a service member came in contact with and of those who would not return.

This particular short snorter consists of five notes and has 150 different signatures. Interestingly, there is tape on both of the end notes indicating it was originally larger. Using military records on http://www.fold3.com, 126 of the names on the notes are positively identified. They are all members of Army Air Force flight crews and one Navy pilot that flew in the Pacific. Of these identified signatures, 49 are those of men who did not survive the war.

On June 10, 1944, Lt. Irvin G Booth of the 371st Bomb Squadron and his crew took off in their B-24 from Mokerang airfield in the Admiralty Islands. Their primary target was Truk Atoll. Seeing no shipping in the area of Truk, Lt. Booth headed for the secondary target, the Japanese naval base at Doblon. There they encountered light anti-aircraft fire and dropped their entire payload without serious incident.

An hour out of Mokerang on the return flight the number 1 engine sputtered and died. Then the number 4 engine quit. The aircraft was running out of fuel. Lt. Booth directed that all non-essential equipment be removed to lighten the aircraft. Rapidly losing altitude, the crew prepared for a water landing. Fifteen minutes after numbers 1 and 4 quit, engines 2 and 3 stopped also and the plane hit the water. Three crewmen survived the landing but the other seven perished.

The dead included: Pilot Lt. Irvin G Booth, Co-Pilot Lt. Bernard T. Kelly, Navigator Lt. Ernest D. Brink, Bombardier Lt. George E. Muhs, Assistant Engineer SSgt. Andres S. Barela, Radar Operator SSgt. Leslie R. Mossman, Radio Operator TSgt Perry R. Thorington. The survivors were Engineer SSgt. Colvin H Palmer, Gunner Sgt. Robert E. Black and Gunner SSgt. Max Solomon. The signatures of all of these men except Kelly and Parmer appear on the short snorter.

1LT Don A. Anthony also of the 371st Bomb Squadron and his crew departed Mokerang on August 10, 1944 headed for Yap Island. Shortly after reaching the target Lt. Anthony radioed that everything was OK. It was the last that he and the crew would be heard from. When the aircraft did not return as search was undertaken of the last reported location but to no avail.

The crew consisted of: Pilot Lt. Don A. Anthony, Co-Pilot Lt. Robert D. Baker, Navigator Lt. William C. Galton, Bombardier Lt. James H. Cuddy, Engineer TSgt. Donald E. Carlson, Assistant Engineer SSgt. Ernest R. Mayo, Radar Operator TSgt. Richard J. O’Brien, Assistant Radar Operator SSgt. Norman C. Echols, Gunner SSgt Reynold B. Mooney, Gunner SSgt. Henry J. Hartman and Photographer Sgt. Hilary Gilbert Jr.

A post-war review of Japanese records indicate SSgt. Mooney and Sgt. Gilbert were taken prisoner by the Japanese after the plane landed upside down near Yap. The Japanese records indicate they were put on a ship bound for Manila but there is no record that they arrived there.

The signatures of Lt. Baker, Lt. Galton, Lt. Cuddy, TSgt. Carlson, TSgt. O’Brien and SSgt. Hartman are on the back of the US $1.00 note.

Lt. Donald Dyer and his original crew.
Back: Lt. Dyer, Lt. George M. Jones, Lt. J. E. Kosky, Lt. Charles L. Frank
Front: SSgt. William M. Grenz, Sgt. L. W. McCall, SSgt. Walter Martin, SSgt. William Mikesell, SSgt. Bernard A. Malinowski, SSgtMelvin Ott. Kosky and Martin were not on the final flight.

Lt. Donald W. Dyer and his crew were assigned to the 868th Bomb Squadron. The 868th did not belong to a Bomb Group but worked independently for the 13th Air Force. The 868th specialized in low-level anti-ship operations.

On June 11, 1944, Lt. Dyer and his crew took off with the squadron for Truk Atoll. An eyewitness account of the mission indicated that just prior to reaching the target his aircraft caught fire and quickly lost altitude. It went into a spin, flattened out and then broke apart as it struck land. The aircraft was still burning when the squadron made their return flight to Mokerang.

None of the crew survived. The crew on this final flight consisted of: Pilot Lt. Donald W. Dyer, Co-Pilot Lt. George M. Jones, Navigator Lt. John E. Malley, Bombardier Lt. Charles L. Frank, Engineer SSgt. William M. Grenz, Assistant Engineer Bernard A. Malinowski, Radio Operator SSgt. Walter Martin, Radar Operator Seymour J. Stoller, Gunner SSgt. William Mikesell, and Gunner SSgtMelvin Ott.

The signatures of all of Lt. Dyer’s final crew appear on the short snorter.

Lt. Alexis C. Bachand was the Co-Pilot and SSgt. Harold J. Olson was the Assistant Engineer on a B-24 flown by Lt. Arthur J. Belair of the 31st Bomb Squadron. On May 21, 1944 the crew took off from Momote Airfield in the Admiralty Islands for Truk Atoll. Shortly after releasing its bombs the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire forcing it out of formation. Three Japanese fighters descended upon it going in for the kill. Three chutes were observed coming out of the aircraft. Despite an extensive search, neither the wreck nor the crew were found.

Lt. Orlo J. Hoyt of the 72nd Bomb Squadron had the misfortune of being in two separate crashes. The first was on May 12, 1944 over Biak Island. The aircraft was hit by ground fire. Fuel was leaking from the bomb bay and three of the engines quit. All crew members parachuted out before the plane exploded upon impact with the water. The Bombardier, Lt. Ted C. Shaw, did not survive but all the other crew did. Their signatures along with Gunner Sgt. Milton C. Bye appear on the short snorter.

On August 9, 1944, Lt Hoyt was on board a B-24 that attacked Yap Island. While approaching the airfield at Los Negros on the return, number 1 and 2 engines cut out due to lack of fuel. The pilot ordered the crew to crash positions but the aircraft hit the water before they were in place. Lt. Hoyt was killed along with eight of the crew.

On April 28, 1944, 2Lt. Edmund J. Donai piloted his B-24 during an attack on Woleai Island. During the attack number 3 engine ceased operating and number 4 engine suffered a loss of oil pressure. Number 4 eventually failed and since it could not be feathered the aircraft began losing altitude quickly. A water landing was made and the aircraft remained intact. Five of the eleven crew members perished including Lt. Donai, Co-Pilot Lt. Richard J. Hollinger, Bombardier Lt. Lonnie D. Johnston, Radio Operator TSgt William D. Gand, and Photo gunner Robert T. Atsatt. Hollinger and Johnsron are on the short snorter along with survivors Navigator Lt. Kenneth F. Hayes, Engineer SSgt. Bernard A. Swartz, and Assistant Radio Operator Sgt. Howard J. Shaw.

On October 3, 1944, the 370th and 371st Bomb Squadrons attacked Balikpapan on the Island of Borneo. As the formation was peeling away from the target a B-24 piloted by 1Lt. Harold W. Wright lost its number 2 engine and began to lose altitude at a rate of about a 1000 feet per minute. The aircraft veered from the formation and was last seen heading toward Borneo. Neither the aircraft nor crew were ever seen again.

The crew consisted of: Pilot Lt. Wright, Co-Pilot Lt. Arthur B. Nielsen, Navigator Lt. Warham H. Franklin, Bombardier Lt. Joseph F. Stevenson, Engineer TSgt. Harvey H. Carter, Assistant Engineer SSgt. Bascome E. Long, Radio Operator TSgt. John F. Morris, Assistant Radio Operator SSgt. Chester H. Wuertley, Gunner SSgt. Joseph E. Charles, Gunner SSgt. Hugh D. Fox and Photo Gunner Sgt. William R. Stapleton. All but Wuertley, Fox and Stapleton appear on the short snorter.

On November 16, 1944, six B-24s took off from Morotai Island headed for Brunei Bay on Borneo to attack Japanese naval vessels and merchant ships that were known to be in the harbor. The lead plane was piloted by Maj. James A. Saalfield. Withering anti-aircraft fire was encountered from the Japanese fleet. Maj. Saalfield’s aircraft was struck before the formation was on the target. The shell burst just below the nose and the shrapnel damaged number 2 and number 3 engines. Maj. Saalfield took the plane out of the formation and was never seen again.

Interviews with natives on Borneo after the war indicated that an American bomber crash landed on this same date. The natives in the region of the crash, the Muruts, were the last tribe on Borneo to renounce the practice of collecting the heads of their enemies. Three of the crew probably died in the crash as the Japanese discovered three severed heads with the aircraft. Five crew members were taken in by locals but eventually betrayed and ambushed on a bridge killing three of the Americans who were subsequently beheaded. The other two fled into the jungle. The only remains located were the three skulls at the crash site and the three that were ambushed on the bridge.

The crew consisted of: Pilot Maj. James A. Saalfield, Co-Pilot Lt. Richard M. Van Galder, Navigator Lt. Robert W. Wickhorst, Bombardier Lt. John D. Scoggin, Engineer TSgt. Everett E. Moore, Assistant Engineer TSgt. Russell E. Cross, Radio Operator TSgt. David E. Beck, Radar Operator Charlie H. Deaver, Gunner SSgt. Elvin L. Barkhuff, Gunner SSgt. Ahti J. Wuori , and Aircraft Observer Lt. WIlliam F. Mc Clelland.

The signatures of Van Galder, Wickhorst, Beck and Barkhuff are on the short snorter.

One final recognition for a signer of this short snorter. Ludwig A. Havlak of San Angelo, TX served with the 868th Bomb Squadron. As of today he is 97 years old.

2 thoughts on “Mementos of the Fallen – WWII

  1. What a great blog on Memorial Day, a day to honor fallen military personnel. You did a lot of research on these men who lost their lives. Holding one of these Short Snorters is really holding a piece of history in your hands.

    Like

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