Achilles took part in the Leyte landings in October and November 1944. On November 12, 1944 a Japanese air attack swept in
upon the invading American fleet. Intense antiaircraft fire downed two enemy planes almost instantly, two more crashed into
repair ships - Egeria (ARL-8) and Achilles (ARL-41). On November 12, 1949, 11 sailors from the USS Achilles were buried
at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery Section E199-202.
|Beauchamp, John David
|Burton, Norman Tucker
|Dickes, Ralph Joseph
|Henry, Edwin Ernest
|Inda, George Thomas
|Keller, Charles William
|Kendall, Karl Bruce
|Martenson, Edward Allen
|Zinn, Francis James
USS Achilles (ARL-41)
USS Achilles (ARL-41)
was one of 39 Achelous-class landing craft repair ships built for the United States
Navy during World War II. Named after the Greek hero Achilles, she was the only U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name. She was laid down
as the unnamed LST-455 on 3 August 1942 at Vancouver, Washington by Kaiser Company; launched on 17 October 1942; and commissioned on 30 January 1943 with Lieutenant Clarence Cisin in command.
World War II
Amphibious assaults on Japanese-held islands in the South and Southwest Pacific Theater had involved virtually hundreds of landing craft of all types and sizes, ranging from
small craft to infantry landing craft and tank landing craft (LCIs and LCTs, respectively). Since these specialized assault craft, of comparatively light construction,
could not be repaired with the few facilities and men available to them alone, orders went out that several tank landing ships
would be converted to special landing craft repair ships (later classified as ARL). However, modifying existing LSTs in stateside yards required time (a critical commodity in the fairly steady pace of the
amphibious island-hopping campaigns) that the forces fighting at the front did not have. At this point, LST-455, then in Australian waters, came under the gaze of these amphibious planners. Experienced personnel, trained
in ship repair work, were assigned to the ship and almost doubled the size of her complement. Ready for service by the latter
part of May 1943, the former tank landing ship departed Australian waters, bound for New Guinea, and arrived at Milne Bay on 2 June 1943. She immediately commenced the work for which she had been converted,
repairing LCIs under the guidance of the repair officer of Rigel.
On 4 September
1943, Vice Admiral Daniel E. Barbey's 7th Fleet Amphibious Forces put Australian troops ashore on the Huon Peninsula, near Lae, New Guinea. LST-455 moved up to support these operations from Morobe Bay and lay anchored there among the Allied ships, presenting a tempting target by virtue of the nest of LCIs alongside. Nine Japanese
dive bombers, escorted by nine "Zero" fighters, attacked the shipping in Morobe Bay and singled out LST-455 for attention,
scoring a direct hit aft. A large bomb hit the stern, passed through the galley, and exploded in the crew's quarters, aft,
starting fires and trapping men in the after steering room. Determined sailors battled the blaze and cut through bulkheads
to rescue the trapped men. The damage control measures were directed by the ship's commanding officer, Lieutenant E. A. Peterson, USNR (who had relieved Lieutenant Cisin in August) and won him a Navy Cross for personal heroism. Although she had been heavily hit, LST-455 shot down two of the
attackers. By nightfall, her men had extinguished the blaze and commenced initial repairs. She had suffered the loss of 18
men killed; 11 were wounded; and six men were missing. Sonoma then towed LST-455 to Milne Bay where the repair ship was berthed alongside Rigel. However,
the need for LST-455's services was so urgent that she was soon back to work repairing LCI's even though her own severe damage
had not yet been fully corrected. On 21 August 1944, the ship was named Achilles and reclassified officially as a landing
craft repair ship, ARL-41. Soon thereafter, she proceeded north to participate in the reconquest of the Philippine Islands. As the invasion proceeded, all Service Force ships were shifted to anchorages off Samar, in San Pedro Bay. There Achilles saw daily evidence of a new weapon unveiled by the Japanese in their
relentless attempt to disrupt the American offensive: the kamikaze ("Divine Wind"), planes flown by Japanese pilots on one-way missions of destruction.
During the first four days of November, the weather provided a respite from the kamikaze, although it came in the
form of a typhoon which buffeted the ship. When the clouds finally cleared, the kamikaze returned. Lookouts
soon pinpointed three "Zekes" (Mitsubishi A6M5 "Zero" fighters) heading on a course that would take them across Achilles` bow.
As the landing craft repair ship's forward guns commenced firing, one plane passed ahead; the second, however, turned tightly
and commenced a dive straight at Achilles as she and the four LCIs moored to her lay immobile. The repair ship's gunners scored
hits on the diving aircraft, but could not stop it. The aircraft crashed into the ship forward, its motor tearing through
the main deck. The aircraft itself hit the forward deckhouse in the carpenter shop, where number one repair party had gathered
at its battle station. After the deafening explosion that wiped out the repair party, orange-red flames (caused by gasoline
from the burning aircraft) swept across the weather deck, while parts of the "Zeke" tumbled through the air, some landing
250 yards (230 m) astern. Fires immediately spread, their progress unchecked due to the disruption of the forward fire
mains upon impact of the aircraft. The kamikaze crash had killed 19 men and wounded an additional 28; 14 men were unaccounted
In the latter half of February 1945 and early March, Achilles returned via Biak to Leyte, but quickly proceeded
to Subic Bay and Mindoro, spending a week in each place, tending LSMs and carrying out her vital support work. During the latter part of April, Achilles moved
down to Morotai, in the Netherlands East
Indies, for further tender duty, readying landing craft for the impending invasion of Borneo. Participating in the initial landings at Brunei Bay, Borneo, Achilles again came under
air attack, when a "Dinah" loosed two bombs that landed 50 yards (46 m) off her starboard beam. This attack,
on 10 June 1945, caused no damage to the ship, although shrapnel wounded two men in Achilles` crew. The repair ship remained
at Borneo until she returned to the Philippine Islands late in July to join the forces marshalling there for the projected
invasion of the Japanese homeland. However, the capitulation of
Japan in mid-August obviated "Operation Olympic" (the assault against the home islands of Japan) but did not end operations for Achilles.
She repaired landing craft into the fall of 1945, relieved on station by Proserpine. Proceeding to Hawaii, Achilles, in company with Remus, reached Pearl Harbor on the last day of October. Decommissioned on 19 July 1946, Achilles
was struck from the Navy List on 28 August 1946.
The ship received three battle stars for her World War II service: one as LST-455 and two as Achilles.
This C47, 42-100801, “Picadilly Filly,” and crew were assigned to
the 83rd Squadron of the 437th Troop Carrier Group. On September 17, 1944 the C-47 was towing a glider
during Operation Market Garden enroute to Eindhoven. Near Bladel, Holland the number 2 engine was hit by flak. The glider
was released and the C-47 crashed out of control killing the four crewmembers (MACR 9903). On December 22, 1948, three crewmembers
were buried at Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery Section E13-14.
Charles W Pilot
Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
William F Radio Operator Zachary
Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Robert V Copilot Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Engineer Netherlands American Cemetery
This C47, 42-108884, and crew were assigned to the 86th Squadron of
the 437th Troop Carrier Group. On December 22, 1948, two members were buried at Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Lt Col Ralph Leer Commander
Captain Philip Uhlenbrock
Edward J Jr Copilot Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Sgt Rice, James B
Radio Operator Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
Benko Engineer Survived
fully packed Douglas Skytrains took off from the British airfield Ramsbury, towing Gliders behind them. They set course for
the rendezvous with other squadrons to fly to the landing- and dropping zones in The Netherlands. The Skytrain (serial No
42-100801) under command of Pilot Charles Gilmore, flew as No12 in the formation. It had been designated to the 437th TCG
(Troop Carrier Group) in Squadron 83. The rest of the crew consisted of the 2nd Pilot Thomas Robert, Flight Engineer Guy Difalco
and radio operator William Golden.
The flight to the landing zone went without any problems worth mentioning until passing the Dutch coastline
when we encountered heavy Flak. Some planes in the formation sustained hits with only minor damage. But when eventually the
target came in view, Pilot Gilmore's plane was heavily hit by Flak.
Lieutenant John Sneed, who flew directly behind Lt.
Gilmore, told what happened:
His plane sustained a direct hit by a Flak grenade in the right engine and the right hand
side of the cockpit. The plane continued on course for a few seconds then started to slowly climb, turned to the right and
released the glider. This all happened about seven minutes prior to reaching our target. The plane then made a ¼ turn dropping
with the wing pointing down and dived straight into the ground. I lost sight of it then.
It was a great tragedy, the
plane crashed with great speed into the ground near Bladel and Netersel. The crew never had a chance to get out. The '801'
called 'Piccadilly Filly' changed instantly into a heap of mangled aluminum trapping the bodies of the crew, who were subsequently
buried in a mass grave.
A second Skytrain also crashed near the '801'.
It was the 42-108884, also from 437th TCG, but the 86th squadron. Lt. Colonel Ralph Leer the pilot of this plane was to take
a glider to the landing-zone. The rest of the crew were, Captain Philip Uhlenbrock, Lt. Edward Peterson, Sergt Bela Benko
and Sergt. James Rice. Sergt. Benko was the only survivor.
Above enemy territory, our plane was hit several times by canon fire in the right wing, perhaps ten to twenty
times. About ten minutes later, I stood with my back turned to the cockpit when there was a terrific explosion. I believe
we were hit by a Flak grenade on the right side of the plane. I immediately went to the cockpit and radio hut, but when I
opened the door, I was met by a sea of flames. Behind me, someone sang out "Let's go!" Our radio operator Rice jumped out
of his seat and raced for the door that separated the radio hut from the cockpit. I tried to pull him back but he was fighting
desperately to open the door. The heat was unbearable and I had to retreat, but I saw Rice entering the cockpit. I looked
for my parachute shouldered it and went for the load door, where I buckled up in the parachute. That moment I felt that the
plane went out of control and increased in speed. It was then I saw Rice again who brought along Lt. Peterson, Both of them
were severely burnt and barely recognizable with their burnt clothes and faces. I helped them to get into their parachutes
and we went to the tail end of the plane. Meanwhile the fuselage had filled with a foul-smelling smoke and flames. Finishing
off fastening my parachute, I noticed a body lying on the floor with his head about ½m from the load-door. I thought it was
Capt. Uhlenbrock whose hair was completely burned off. Suddenly he moved and yelled for me to get out. I went to the door
kneeled down and bending my head forward let go.
A few seconds later, my parachute opened. I saw our plane diving straight down and in the midst of flames crashed
into the ground. I don't think Lt. Col. Leer managed to get out of the cockpit.
I repeat that I only saw three men after the plane was hit. Despite a partially fastened parachute I landed
safely although rather heavily. The last I saw of the plane was a mass of flames. The remains of the bodies were buried in
the mass grave in Bladel.
Another plane above Bladel got into trouble, this
time from the 436th TCG, 82nd Squadron, serial No 42-1006762. Painted on the nose in large lettering 'Skytrain' followed by
the word 'Dakota'. This plane did not tow a Glider but carried 18 Para-troopers of the 101st Airborne Division. The pilot
was 1st Lieutenant Guide Brassesco, rest of the crew were, Joseph Andrews, Barry Tinkom and Joseph Curreri. This plane also
sustained a hit from the Flak killing 6 Para-troopers; Thomas Seibel, Joseph Findley, Ralph Dominic, Joseph Cervo, Harvey
White and Forrest Snelling. The rest of the troopers and the crew managed to leave the plane and reached the ground unhurt.
They observed how the, out of control, plane with the bodies of the killed Para's crashed into the ground not far from the
burning wrecks of the '801' and the '884'.
The remains of the bodies of the unfortunate Para-troopers were located in the wreck and buried in the mass
grave. Two of the bodies who could not be identified were also found, one of whom wore a ring by which he could be identified
as Jo Cervo. It can be reasonably assumed the other body was of John Burke. He was 2nd Pilot of Skytrain 43-15302 which had
as commander William Williams. John Burke jumped out of the plane with no chance of survival, as it was already too close
to the ground. He crashed to the ground and was maimed beyond recognition. The '302' crashed burning to the ground, with three
of the crew still aboard, just north from Eerssel. Witnesses say they the remains of the plane kept glowing up to four days
later. The three crewmembers are still listed as missing and are assumed to have been buried somewhere, unknown.
Harvey Tappe was a crewmember of a glider, which came to grief in the area of the crashed Skytrain. He was later
also buried in the mass grave to come to rest with the rest of the fallen crewmembers. Short after the Battle of Arnhem a
simple monument was placed in Bladel a small Township in Brabant, in memory of the Allied airmen.
This B25. 44-31207, and crew were assigned to the 500th
Squadron of the 345th Bomb Group. On July 30, 1945, on a mission to destroy a Japanese naval radar tower, the plane
was hit by flak and crashed into a mountain near Saiki City,
Oita Prefecture. There were no survivors. The five crew members were buried in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery on Site
E12 on January 20, 1949.
2/Lt Green, Robert Lee
2/Lt Hendricks, Wayne Navigator
S/Sgt Kingsbury, Walter E,
2/Lt Middleton, Curtiss O Copilot
Sgt Shaker, Sammy M
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
500TH BOMB SQUADRON (M)
The 500th Bomb Squadron ("Rough Raiders") -- one of four squadrons of the 345th Bomb Group (M) -- was activated at
Columbia Army Air Base, South Carolina on 11 November, 1942. After training in the United States and Australia, combat
operations of the 500th Bomb Squadron began in New Guinea in June 1943. Shortly after flying a few combat missions against
the Japanese at medium altitudes, the squadron's B-25 "Mitchell" bombers were converted to strafers and, for the remainder
of its existence, the squadron flew low-level strafer-bombing missions. From New Guinea, the squadron continued its
combat operations "island hopping" northward, winding up against the Japanese homeland itself in early August 1945.
Kneeling left to right - James N. Green, S/Sgt., Right Waist Gunner; Fred A. Doninger, T/Sgt., Radio
Operator; Thomas F. Murray III, S/Sgt., Left Waist Gunner; Vernon C. DeLeon, S/Sgt., Nose Gunner; Albert J. Whitus, S/Sgt.,
Standing left to right - Matthew J. K. House, Lt., Bombardier; Frank T. Gengler, Lt., Pilot; John P. Cowger,
Lt., Co-Pilot; John E. McKenzie, Jr., Lt., Navigator; James F. McKee, T/Sgt., Engineer/Top Turret Gunner.
This B24 Liberator, 42-95171, “Diana-Mite,” and crew were assigned to the 734th
Squadron of the 453rd Bomb Group. The plane was lost on July 21, 1944 in a mid-air collision with another B24,
41-29259, “Our Baby” over the target in Munich and crashed near Damsheim, Germany about 12 miles SW of Stuttgart
(MACR 7253). They had passed through heavy flak and one of the planes may have been hit. The B24, 41-29259, was assigned to
the same squadron and bomb group. Six crew members were killed and three others were captured. On August 23, 1949, Lt House
and Lt McKenzie were buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery Site E127.
Lt Frank T. Gengler Pilot
2/Lt Mathew J.K. House
Bombardier Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
2/Lt John P. Cowger Copilot
2/Lt John E. McKenzie
Navigator Zachary Taylor
T/Sgt James F. McKee
Engineer/Gunner Lorraine American Cemetery
S/Sgt James N. Green
T/Sgt Fred A. Doninger
Radio Operator Lorraine American Cemetery
S/Sgt Thomas F. Murray III
S/Sgt Vernon C. DeLeon
S/Sgt Albert J. Whitus
Lt Wayne Cowgill Pilot
captured near Darmsheim
Lt James R. Martin captured near Darmsheim
Sgt Dale Holker captured near Aidlingen
James W. Wheeler KIA* Lorraine American Cemetery
Ernest G. Stathes KIA*
Lorraine American Cemetery
Ellis Pfeiffer KIA*
Thomas J O'Kane KIA*
Dean R. Smith KIA**
Donald W. Sang KIA**
Lorraine American Cemetery
*Buried at Darmsheim Cemetery, Boblingen District on 22 July 44
**Buried at Doffingen
Cemetery, Boblingen District on 22 July 44
Three 453rd Pilots witnessed the collision that broke up both planes. No chutes were seen. The copilot
of Diana-Mite, 2/Lt. John P. Cowger, said the planes exploded when they collided at 23,000 feet and he was blown out of the
plane. He credits his survival to the fact that he never wore his seatbelt while flying! He was severely injured, but was
taken as a POW. He was released in a prisoner exchange in early 1945.