Plane Down

Well, a Find a Grave memorial has done it again. They have just enough information about a military service member to prompt me to find more. This time, it is a second cousin twice removed on my Thompson line, Second Lieutenant Gene Marion Ashmore.

Thanks to the picture on Find a Grave, I was able to locate the obituary in the 17 Jan 1950 issue of the Greely Daily Tribune on Newspapers.com.

VFW Here Will Have Charge of Ashmore Service

Committal services for Second Lt. Gene M. Ashmore will be held at Linn Grove Saturday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock. Veterans of Foreign Wars will be in charge of military honors and Macys is making arrangements. The body will arrive Saturday.

Survivors are his parents, Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Ashmore of 1230 Twelfth street; three sisters, Miss Jessie and Miss Bernice Ashmore both of Greeley, and Mrs. Doris Anderson of Denver.

Born April 23, 1925, at Hastings, Nebr., the Lieutenant was graduated from Greeley high school and attended CSCE. He was killed Sept. 14, 1945, on Mindanso, Philippine Islands.

Ashmore was reported missing in flight over Luzon Island in late September, 1945. He served as a navigator on a R-24 and began his overseas duty in July, 1945. In August 1945, he was stationed on the island of Ie Shima.

Lt. Ashmore entered the service when he was 18. He was an aviation student at Wofford college, Spartanburg, S.C., where he took a five months course prior to his appointment as an aviation cadet in the army air forces flying training command.

He was classified a navigator at the completion of his course and assigned to the Nashville army air center in Tennessee for determination of branch of air crew service. He took his pre-flight training at Maxwell field, Ala., and received his second lieutenant wings as an aerial navigator at San Marcos, Tex.

The plane went down when its crew was ferrying prisoners of war out of Japan to the Philippine Islands.

“VFW Here Will Have Charge of Ashmore Service,” Greeley Daily Tribune (Greeley, Colorado), 17 January 1950, page 1; digital image, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 19 November 2021).

A search of Fold3 for Gene M Ashmore turned up two men of that name in the records for World War II. One is obviously the incorrect Gene Ashmore since he served in the Medical Administrative Corps. Fortunately, the second Gene Ashmore appears in records that help confirm the information in the obituary. One of these results leads to a “Missing Air Crew Report”

Confidential
War Department
Headquarters Army Air Forces
Washington

Missing Air Crew Report
Important: This report will be compiled in triplicate by each Army Air Forces organization within 48 hours of the time an aircraft is officially reported missing.

IE Shima Ryukyus

Organization: Location Retto Japan; Command or Air Force V Air Force
Group 43rd Bomb Group; Squadron 65th Bomb Sq.; Detachment _____

Specify: Point of Departure Moro[xxd]; Course Unknown; Intended Destination Clark Field Luzon; Type of Mission Routine

Weather Condition and Visibility at Time of crash or When Last Reported _______

Give: (a) Date 14 Sep 45; Time Unknown; and Location Moratai of last known whereabouts of missing aircraft.

Aircraft was lost or is believed to have been lost, as a result of ( ) Enemy Aircraft; ( ) Enemy Anti-Aircraft; (x) Other circumstances as follows Unknown

Aircraft: Type, Model and Series B 24 M; A.A.F. Serial Number 1562

The person listed below were reported as (a) Battle Casualty ______ or (b) Non-Battle Casualty __X___

Number of Persons Aboard Aircraft: Crew –5– ; Passengers — 0 — ; Total — 5 —

Crew position — Name in Full — Rank — Serial Number
Pilot Pickens, William E Jr Capt. 01165546
Co Pilot Furman, Clarence J. 2nd Lt 083825[3]
Nav. Ashmore, gene M. 2nd Lt 02081367
Eng. Biergel, William [M] Sgt 31348888
Radio Op. Ryan, William W. Sgt 11067496

Identify below those persons who are believed to have last knowledge of aircraft, and check appropriate column to indicate basis for same:
Unknown

If personnel are believed to have survived, answer yes to one of the following statements: (a) Parachutes were used _____; (b) Persons were seen walking away from scene of crash ______; or (c) Any other reason (Specify) Unknown

Attach aerial photograph, map, chart, or sketch, showing approximate location where aircraft was last seen, UNKNOWN

Attach eyewitness descriptions of crash, forced landing, or other circumstances pertaining to missing aircraft. UNKNOWN

Attach a description of the extent of search, if any, and give name, rank and serial number of officer in charge here UNKOWN

Date of Report: Unknown

Bernie W. White Jr (Signature of Preparing Officer)
Bernie W. White Jr
1st Lt. Air Corps
Commanding

Confidential

—————————————–

Sixty Fifth Bombardment Squadron (H)
Forty Third Bombardment Group (H)
APO 245

30 September 1945

Subject: Casualty Report

To: Commanding General, Far Est Air Force, APO 925

S.W. Pacific
5th A.F. (handwritten)

In compliance with FEAF Regulation 35-45, dated 1 May 1945, the following report is submitted

Cut – Missing

Non-Battle Casualty
Pickens, William E. Jr., Capt., 01165546, White
65th Bomb Sq, 43rd Bomb Op (H)
Pilot – 1092
Missing in flight between Morotai Island and Clark Field, Luzon. Plane took off from Morotai and is unreported at Clark Field
14 September 1945
Body was not recovered
Unknown
Line of Duty – Yes
Not own misconduct
On Flying Status, Yes. Pilot
Award Pay – None
Mrs. Lady Lytle Pickens, wife, 716 N. Church St., Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Presbyterian

Non-Battle Casualty
Furman, Clarence J., 2d Lt., 0838253, white
65th Bomb Sq, 43rd Bomb Op (H)
Pilot – 1051
Missing in flight between Morotai Island and Clark Field, Luzon. Plane took off from Morotai and is unreported at Clark Field
14 September 1945
Body was not recovered
Unknown
Line of Duty – Yes
Not own misconduct
On Flying Status, Yes. Pilot
Award Pay – None
Mrs. Anna Mary Murman, wife, RFD#1, Punsxutawney, Penna
Methodist

Non-Battle Casualty
Ashmore, Gene M., 2d Lt., 02081367, White
65th Bomb Sq, 43rd Bomb Op (H)
Navigator – 1034
Missing in flight between Morotai Island and Clark Field, Luzon. Plane took off from Morotai and is unreported at Clark Field
14 September 1945
Body was not recovered
Unknown
Line of Duty – Yes
Not own misconduct
On Flying Status, Yes. Navigator
Award Pay – None
Mrs. Louis J. Ashmore, Mother, 1230 Twelfth St., Greeley, Colorado
Methodist

Non-Battle Casualty
Biergel, William A., Sgt., 31348888, White
65th Bomb Sq, 43rd Bomb Op (H)
Aerial Engineer – 748
Missing in flight between Morotai Island and Clark Field, Luzon. Plane took off from Morotai and is unreported at Clark Field
14 September 1945
Body was not recovered
Unknown
Line of Duty – Yes
Not own misconduct
On Flying Status, Yes. Aerial Engineer
Award Pay – None
Mrs. Mary Biergel, Mother, Northwest St., Feeding Hills, Mass
Catholic

Non-Battle Casualty
Ryan, William W., Sgt., 11067496, White
65th Bomb Sq, 43rd Bomb Op (H)
Radio Operator – 757
Missing in flight between Morotai Island and Clark Field, Luzon. Plane took off from Morotai and is unreported at Clark Field
14 September 1945
Body was not recovered
Unknown
Line of Duty – Yes
Not own misconduct
On Flying Status, Yes. Radio Operator
Award Pay – None
Mrs. Mary A. Ryan, Mother, 11 Westchester St., Lowell, Mass
Catholic

Report delayed because of lack of information concerning the flight at this Headquarters.

Max W. Williams
Max W. Williams
Capt., Air Corps
Commanding

Even though the “Missing Air Crew Report” indicates there were no passengers on the plan, a letter in the same file names three other people on the plane.

AFPPA-8/FK/d1b/72490
Rm 5E 185 26 September 1946

AFPPA-8
AAF 201 – (14993) Pickens, William E., jr.
0-1165546

30 September 1946

Mrs. Lounora B. Pickens
Box 124
Lewisburg, Tennessee

Dear Mrs. Pickens:

Reference is made to your letter of 8 June 1946, addressed to The Adjutant General and referred to this office for further reply concerning your son, Captain William E. Pickens, Jr.

According to information received in this Headquarters, the following are the names of the passengers who were aboard your son’s aircraft when it crashed in the Pacific area. The names and addresses of their emergency addresses are also furnished.

Private First Class Paul W Fors Killed — Mrs. Anna C. Fors (Mother) Ewen, Michigan
Private First Class Pasquale Castigliola Killed– Mrs. Mary Castigliola (Mother) 414 Columbus Street, Brooklyn, NY
Private First Class Leonard W. Jennings Killed — Mrs. Ella M. Jennings (Mother) Route 1 Morrill, Nebraska

It is noted from a review of the War Department reports regarding your son that all of the known details concerning your son’s death have been conveyed to you in correspondence from this Headquarters and The Adjutant General.

Again, my deepest sympathy is extended to you in your great loss.

Sincerely yours,

Leon W. Johnson
Brigadier General, J. S. Army
Deputy. AC/AS-1

Little additional information about the Gene Ashmore has been found. However, some news articles about the pilot and others on the plane has been found.

Capt. Pickens, B-24 Pilot, Is Reported Missing Off Luzon

Capt. William E. Pickens, Jr., husband of the former Miss Lady Houston of Murfreesboro, is reported missing off Luzon since September 14, a message received from the War department yesterday by Mrs. Pickens brought word.

Pilot of a B-24, Captain Pickens went overseas the past June.

Messages from the War department stated that Mrs. Pickens would be notified if any further word was obtained regarding her husband. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. F. Houston, she and Captain Pickens were married in June, 1944. He is a native of Lewisburg.

The Daily News-Journal (Murfreesboro, TN), 14 Oct 1945, page 1 on Newspapers.com

Confirm Death of Captain Pickens, Missing Off Luzon

Word of the death of Capt. William E. Pickens, Jr., 28 husband of the former Miss Lady Houston of Murfreesboro, in a plane crash off Luzon last September, has been received from the War department.

Captain Pickens had been reported missing since last September 14, when a four-plane flight of B-24 Liberators, en route from Morotai to Manila, encountered a typhoon. Three of the planes reached Manila safely, but Captain Pickens’ plane, which he was piloting, was lost in the storm.

Captain Pickens had been overseas since June of last year, and had participated in many raids on Tokyo. He was stationed at Ie Shima, and witnessed the arrival there of the Jap surrender plane, bearing envoys to meet MacArthur’s representative in Manila.

A native of Lewisburg, where he was graduated from the high school, Captain Pickens was the son of W. E. Pickens, Sr., Marshall county circuit court clerk, and Mrs. Lounora Pickens. He was in charge of the city electric department there prior to entering service. His marriage to Miss Houston occurred in June, 1944.

The Daily News-Journal (Murfreesboro, TN), 30 Jan 1946, page 1 on Newspapers.com

A page dedicated to Sergeant William A. Biergel on the QuestMaster.us site contains more information about the plane and the crash.

  • Newly delivered B-24M-30-FO “Liberator” Bomber Serial Number 44-51562
  • Attached to 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group
  • Flight occurred 14 Sept 1945
  • Aircraft crashed in Pacific Ocean for unknown reasons
  • Remains of St. Biergel were eventually recovered to a U.S.A.A.F. cemetery on Leyte and later repatriated to Massachusetts.

2 thoughts on “Plane Down

  1. I wonder how they happened to recover one of the bodies? It also seemed odd to me that the letter to Mrs. Pickens included the names and emergency contacts of the passengers. Why would they do that? And not that same info for the other crew members.

    1. mcphilbrick

      Good questions! I felt like there were a lot of mysteries around this crash. I found newspapers articles for one of the planes crashing into a mountain – bodies recovered and other articles for one that went down at sea. The article for the plane that went down at sea indicated it had more prisoners aboard with the crew and some of the prisoners parachuting out.

Comments are closed.