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Mystery Of Missing Plane Crew Solved After 25 Years
August 20, 1970
From a contemporary press report:

A pair of dog tags and an Army Corps ring unlocked a 25-year-old mystery for the Army. On Independence Day, 1945, a B-24 set out on a bombing mission. The plane and its ten-man crew were never heard from again.

The bomber left Morotai, Netherlands East Indies, to bomb Mandai Airdrome in the Celebes. A quarter of a century later the wreckage of the plane was discovered in an uncharted area of the Celebes by two natives.

An Army recovery team left Makassar, the nearest town to the area of the downed plane. The team followed ancient trails, where there were any, and hacked their way through dense undergrowth where the trails ended. The search party reached the crash site seven days later.

Identification of the airplane was impossible. The crash itself, plus 25 years of exposure to the elements had removed all identifiable marks.

The plane had slammed into a 7,000-foot, level peak called Mount Lalimodjong, Indonesia. The only clues to the identity of the plane and its fated crew were the pair of dog tags and ring, both found by the recovery team.

The ring identified the pilot of the plane, Colonel Isaac J. Haviland. The records of 25 years ago identify the rest of the crew aboard the B-24.

The nine other soldiers who perished in the crash were identified as: Staff Sergeant Frank Beanland, assistant engineer, Captain Philip Y. Bombenek, bombadier, First Lieutenant Dennet S. Gurman, co-pilot, Staff Sergeant Francis H. Herbert, assistant radio operator, Technical Sergeant James J. Browe, radio operator, First Lieutenant Ernest B. Polonio, navigator, Technical Sergeant Ira R. Rote, engineer, and Sergeant Edward S. Olszewski and Staff Sergeant Edwin M. Pond, Jr., both gunners.

The remains of the crew were brought home to be put to rest with thousands of other soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Funeral services will be held at the Fort Myer Chapel at 10 a.m. tomorrow (August 21, 1971), followed by internment in Arlington National Cemetery.

Several thousand miles and a quarter of a century later a World War II unit has come home. They will be remembered today.


Photo by Michael Robert Patterson

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