|AC||Capt. Henry G. Dillingham|
|P||2nd Lt. James D. McGlynn|
|N||1st Lt. Willis S. Orner|
|B||1st Lt. Theodore W. Reekstin|
|RDOM||1st Lt. Edward R. Morrow Jr.|
|FE||S/Sgt. Charles J. Bordino|
|ROM||S/Sgt. Harvey J. Dempsey|
|LG||S/Sgt. John P. Cary|
|RG||Sgt. Joseph T. H. Leblanc|
|TG||Sgt. John. F. Greene|
The 502nd Bomb Group of the 315th Bomb Wing, had only one combat loss in World War II. Unfortunately, that loss cost me my father, S/Ssgt. Harvey J. "Pat" Dempsey, Jr., and nine more of his crew members on a B-29B bomber. Pat was the Radio Operator on the bomber. The other crew members were: Aircraft Commander, Capt. Henry Gaylord "Gay" Dillingham I; Copilot, 2nd Lt. James D. McGlynn; Navigator, Lt. Willis S. Orner; Bombardier, Lt. Theodore W. Reekstin; Radar Operator, Lt. Edward R. Morrow; Flight Engineer, S/Sgt. Charles J. Bordino; Right Gunner, S/Sgt John P. Cary; Left Gunner, Sgt. Joseph T. H. LeBlanc and Tail Gunner, Sgt. John F. Greene. The crew members of the other 84 bombers on the mission that night saw what happened and never forgot what they saw. I have been told that they have spoken about that mission at every reunion that the 315th Bomb Wing has held.
It all began sometime in 1944 at Grand Island, Nebraska, when all of these men were assigned to a B-29B bomber they eventually named the "Manuiwa." Manuiwa is the Hawaiian word for a Frigate Bird. The nickname of this bird is "Man of War." The crew was eventually called "The Dillingham Crew." They trained for their long missions in the tropical climate of Guam in Puerto Rico. Army records state that the Dillingham Crew arrived on Guam, June 23, 1945.
On the night of July 25/26, 1945, the Dillingham Crew took off on their third bombing mission of the war, 315th Bomb Wing Mission 10. Along with 84 other B-29B bombers, they were ordered to bomb the Mitsubishi Oil Company and the Hayama Petroleum Center located in the Tokyo/Kawasaki area of Japan. They had also been ordered by General Curtis LeMay to come in over those targets at between 8-16,000 feet (depending on who is telling the story), well below the 30,000-35,000 feet in altitude that the B-29B had been built to efficiently bomb the enemy. The weather report before they left for Japan stated that there would be a 100% cloud cover over the target area. However, when they arrived, the skies were clear of clouds and a full moon greeted them as well. They were now extremely visible to the Japanese Imperial Army and their anti-aircraft guns and lights.
Lt. Willis S. Orner armed the 500 pound bombs they were to drop sometime in the hour before they reached the target. The Dillingham Crew was the fourth bomber to come in over the initial point, and they were immediately coned in the lights. The Manuiwa and the Dillingham crew were subjected to very accurate and intense anti-aircraft fire, and they were hit almost immediately in the "Number Two" engine. They stayed on course for a very short time before the bomber blew up in flames, banked to the left and went down. Pieces of the plane reportedly flew upward as it descended. The other crews never knew what happened to the Dillingham Crew after it was shot down. In fact, until the other crews returned to Guam, they didn't even know which crew had been lost. Because of General LeMay, the loss of this crew was definitely unnecessary and completely avoidable.
All of this happened so quickly that the Dillingham Crew had not been able to drop even one of the armed bombs before they were hit. When the plane crashed into the Nippon Casting Company factory at Kawasaki, Japan, the fuel from the bomber and the force of the crash caused the the bombs and the ammunition to explode. The Japanese Fire Crews could not go near the blaze because the ammunition was flying in every direction. The fire was allowed to burn out.
The following day, the Japanese Military Police came to the crash site and prepared an area on the Nippon Casting Company property in which the men were eventually buried. A sign was erected in Japanese that stated, "American Fliers Graves, July 25, 1945." It was signed by a man named Tojima.
The first atomic bomb was dropped less than two weeks later, and the war ended shortly afterward. The burial site was not found until January of 1946. It was found by the brother of Sgt. Joseph T. H. LeBlanc. He must have been with the United States Forces doing recovery efforts in Japan after the war ended. The Army records that I have do not state why he was there or why he was the one to find them. The United States Army did not return to recover the remains until a little over a year after the crash, July 29, 1946. A part of the fuselage with the letters "WA" on it, a piece of metal from the plane with the words, "the world's best com crews," and an engine from the Manuiwa still bearing its serial number positively identified the burial site. Eight men were found and removed to the American Cemetery Yokohama #1. Autopsies were done, and Capt. Dillingham was tentatively identified by a laundry tag on a piece of trousers traced back to him. Pat was identified when his dog tags were found under a body.
In August of 1946 the crew status was changed from MIA to KIA. This was done because 13 months had passed and they were still considered Missing in Action. The Army did not know for sure what had happened to them, and this was just a bureaucratic procedure to change their status and declare them dead.
Two men were still missing, and the Army returned to the site in August of 1947, more than two years after the crash. The site was reopened, and more bones and pieces of identification were found and brought to the American Cemetery Yokohama #1. All of the bodies were reprocessed, and five men were given identifications at that time. The identification given to Capt. Dillingham was changed to one of those men. The Army felt that someone else had been wearing a pair of his trousers. They were all moved to the mausoleum at the American Cemetery Yokohama #2.
Capt. Dillingham had been born and raised on the island of Oahu, HI. His family wanted him brought there, but they were told that unless all of the men were brought to the National Cemetery of the Pacific, all of them would have to remain in Japan. The final burials of the men at the National Cemetery of the Pacific was accomplished by requests to the Army by all of the crew member families.
In preparation for their burial at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, the men were reprocessed for a final time. It was on this final processing that two more men were identified, and the identification that had been given to my dad, S/Sgt. Harvey J. "Pat" Dempsey, Jr., was given to another man. Also given unidentified status were 2nd Lt. James D. McGlynn and S/Sgt. John P. Carey. These three men rest in what is known as a "group grave" even though there are three caskets and three grave sites. Only the middle grave holds their group marker. On July 19, 1949, the Dillingham Crew were the first burials in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in which families were allowed to attend.
The Dillingham Crew rests together on the South Mall Drive in front of the Memorial. The trees that were saplings at the time of their burial have grown tall and provide the grave site with beauty and shade. The 10 white crosses were eventually replaced with 8 markers. A rainbow graces the graves on most days. On other days, the sound of taps and 21-gun salutes still echo on the walls of the extinct volcano in which they rest, now known colloquially as "Punchbowl."
The family of Sgt T. H. LeBlanc established a diorama of the "Manuiwa" that is on display at the U.S.S. Massachusetts at Battle Ship Cove. Two bricks honoring my dad and the 315th Bomb Wing were placed at the World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA in May of 2012.
In order to get my dad and the other two men markers of their own, I requested that my dad be identified. I was told by the Army that this could be done, but it would be necessary to disinter all 10 crew members for Mitochondrial DNA testing to be done on all of them. It is apparent from this statement that they do not know for sure who is in any of the graves, so my quest for three markers continues. At this time, the VA has only agreed to correct my dad's name on the marker. It lacks the designation "Junior" which is a legal part of his name.
"It is a tragedy that these men were lost, but war itself is a tragedy." Henry Gaylord Dillingham II, nephew of Captain Henry Gaylord Dillingham.
Always in their memory,
Penny Dempsey Yazzie
Proud Daughter of Ssgt. Harvey J. "Pat" Dempsey, Jr.
KIA July 25, 1945 Kawasaki Japan
(Some editing by Larry Miller)