The crew

Aboard the Liberator which crashed on 16 October 1944 there were nine American airmen, the youngest of whom was only 18 years old. The oldest was 29. Sadly, none of them survived the accident. Here’s their list [1]:

Jerome L. Solomon
1st Lt
Travis R. Venters
2nd Lt
Solomon Weisser
2nd Lt
John H. Brascher
2nd Lt
Warren Sies
Robert D. Geroux
radio operator
William W. Goldie
waist gunner
Thomas V. Marino
waist gunner
Chester L. Gearty
tail gunner

On the following morning, on the site of the disaster there was a first reconnaissance by the Slovene partisans of the 4th Battalion, 17th Simon Gregorčič Brigade, also called Resia Battalion, which could not do anything but note the death of all the members of the crew [2].

The poor remains of the nine young men were collected and transported downstream by the inhabitants of the Resia Valley villages. On 21 October the funerals were celebrated in the church of the small village of Coritis [3], with the participation of the villagers and of the men of the ‘Resia’ Battalion [4]. The bodies were buried in the near cemetery of Oseacco [5], [6], [7].

Rumors about the accident spread across the area. Several weeks later, New Zealander Pvt. Frank Gardner, an escaped Prisoner Of War (POW) who found himself accidentally joint to COOLANT mission and who was operating quite independently as a saboteur in the Gemona area, decided to verify if there was any surviving airman, maybe hidden somewhere in the mountains [8]; he clearly had had no news about the recovery of the bodies. He then informed Maj. Macpherson and, in a several days trip, he climbed up to the spot of the accident. All he could find was the burnt wreck, almost beyond recognition and covered with light snow.

When the war was over, in 1949 the nine bodies were exhumed and temporarily buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery of San Martino in the town of Mirandola, near Modena. From then on, the unfortunate airmen followed several fates [9].

The Mirandola cemetery, of which no trace remains today, had been set up by the Americans on 23 April 1945, day of the liberation of Modena. It housed the bodies of about 7,000 soldiers between Americans and Germans, dead during World War II.

B24J 461BG_Pagina_1

Picture of Lt. Frank D. Rugg and his crew from the 460th Bombardment Group, taken on 9 August 1944. Standing, from left to right: 2nd Lt. Guido J. Lancia, bombardier; 2nd Lt. Frank D. Rugg, pilot; 2nd Lt. Travis R. Venters, copilot; 2nd Lt. Solomon Weisser, navigator. Kneeling, from left to right: Cpl. Thomas V. Marino, radio operator; Cpl. Warren Sies, engineer; Cpl. Robert D. Geroux, radio operator; Cpl. Chester L. Gearty, gunner; Cpl. Leland M. Brown, gunner; Cpl. William W. Goldie, engineer. Except for Brown, all the other crew members were transferred to the 885th Bombardment Squadron on 11 September 1944. Venters, Weisser, Marino, Sies, Geroux, Gearty and Goldie were assigned to the crew of the B-24 42-51778 W under the command of 1st Lt. Solomon; Rugg and Lancia, instead, were joined to the crew of Lt. Desjardins on B-24G 42-78243 “Dallas Lady” and perished in an accident on 12 September 1944 near the Pointe de la Corne de Bouc, on the Maritime Alps [10].

The bodies of the American airmen, as soon as they were required by their families, were placed in coffins and transported to Leghorn, from where they were shipped to the United States within the World War II Repatriation Program [11]. Some of them remained in Italy and were moved to other cemeteries.

The remains of Lieutenants Jerome L. Solomon, Solomon Weisser and John H. Brascher and of Sergeant Thomas V. Marino were taken from the cemetery of Mirandola and repatriated; from 25 January 1950 they rest together in the Beverly National Cemetery, Burlington County, New Jersey [12].

Lieutenant Travis R. Venters rests in the Palmerville Cemetery in Stanly County, North Carolina.

Sergeant Warren Sies rests in the Baptist Cemetery in Lorraine, Ellsworth County, Kansas.

Sergeant Robert D. Geroux rests today in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Plattsburgh, Clinton County, New York [13].

The remains of Sergeant Chester L. Gearty were repatriated in November 1949 and were interred in the military sector of the Wildwood Cemetery in Wilmington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts [14].

Sergeant William W. Goldie is the only crew member who remained in Italy and rests in the American Cemetery and Memorial of Florence.

[1] Hanson (1944), USAAF Missing Air Crew Report No. 9679.
[2] Lah (1998).
[3] The obsequies were probably officiated by don Arturo Blasutto, the parish priest of Oseacco at the time.
[4] Ibidem.
[5] The Lowell Sun, 23 Nov 1949, p. 3.
[6] Lah (1988).
[7] Zuzzi (2003), p. 10.
[8] Private Frank Marwood Gardner, No. 37422 NZEF. Millar (1993), p. 105.
[9] Rosters of World War II Dead (all services), Quartermaster General’s Office, United States Army.
[10] Photograph courtesy of Steve Kirsch, USA, grand-nephew of Sgt. Marino.
[11] Cemetery Interment Forms, Quartermaster General, Beverly National Cemetery, New Jersey, 1950.
[12] Ibidem.
[13] Rosters of World War II Dead (all services), Quartermaster General’s Office, United States Army.
[14] The Lowell Sun, 23 Nov 1949, p. 3.

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