Monday, May 25, 2020

Laurel Hill headstone memorializes local WWII airman who went missing in action over Japan

Columbia History - Did you know?

Did you know that a headstone at Laurel Hill Cemetery bears the name of a World War II airman who went missing in action over Japan? It's true.

Second Lieutenant Paul R. "Gat" Garrison, Jr.

Second Lieutenant Paul R. "Gat" Garrison, Jr., whose name appears on his family's headstone at Laurel Hill, was the navigator on a B-29 Superfortress known as "Waddy's Wagon." Garrison, from Lancaster, PA, had enlisted in the US Army Air Forces and eventually became a crew member on the plane, which was part of the 869th Bomber Squadron, 497th Bomber Group.  Waddy's Wagon was named for the commander, Captain Walter R."Waddy" Young, an All-American football player on Oklahoma’s 1938 Orange Bowl Team, who had played two years in the NFL.

Detail of the Garrison family headstone bearing Paul R. Garrison (Jr)'s name and the inscription "Missing in action over Japan" at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Columbia, PA

B-29 raids on Tokyo began on November 24, 1944, with the first raid targeting an aircraft engine factory at Musashino. Of the 111 B-29s sent, Waddy's Wagon was the fifth to take off for the 6-hour, 3,000-mile trip from Saipan to Tokyo and the first to return afterwards. All but two of the aircraft returned. The XXI Bomber Command's subsequent raids on Tokyo and other cities were mostly unsuccessful due to adverse weather and mechanical problems, and tactics were changed when Major General Curtis LeMay took over the Command in January 1945.

On January 9, 1945, Waddy's Wagon was among 72 B-29s dispatched from Saipan to bomb the Nakajima Aircraft Engine Factory in Musashino. Along the way, high winds scattered the 8-plane formations so that only 18 of the planes were able to bomb the primary target, Waddy's Wagon being one of them. Kamikaze fighters attacked the bombers as they reached their target, and a B-29 to Waddy's Wagon's right was rammed by an enemy plane. Captain Young turned back to help protect the damaged plane and escort it out, and to signal its location if it ditched. In the process, Waddy's Wagon also sustained hits from Japanese fighters, forcing Young and the other plane to ditch into the Pacific Ocean near the island of Hachijo Shima. Waddy's Wagon was last sighted 10 miles east of Choshi Point off mainland Japan at 27,000 feet and descending into clouds, according to one report. During a search the next day and for the next two weeks, no traces of either aircraft or their crews were found. Waddy's Wagon was one of six B-29s lost on the mission. Both crews were declared dead on January 10, 1946.

Paul R. Garrison, Jr.

Garrison received the following medals, most of them posthumously:

★ Purple Heart
★ World War II Victory Medal
★ American Campaign Medal
★ Army Presidential Unit Citation
★ Army Good Conduct Medal
★ Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

Garrison is also memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Garrison's name appears on one of the "Tablets of the Missing" at the Honolulu Memorial.

Waddy’s Wagon Crew:
Capt. Walter R. “Waddy” Young – Command Pilot (KIA) O-382584 Ponca City, Oklahoma
2nd Lt. Robert M. Phillips – Pilot (KIA) O-806902 Knoxville, Tennessee
2nd Lt. Paul R. “Gat” Garrison, Jr. – Navigator (KIA) O-698695 Lancaster, Pennsylvania
2nd Lt. John F. Ellis – Bombardier (KIA) O-685457 Moberly, Missouri
2nd Lt. Bernard S. “Bunny” Black – Flight Engineer (KIA) O-866285 Woodhaven, New York
Sgt. George E. “Sparks” Avon – Radio Operator (KIA) 32936470 Syracuse, New York
S/Sgt. Kenneth M. “Windy” Mansir – Radar Operator (KIA) 11097819 Randolph, Missouri
Sgt. Lawrence L. “Lucky” Lee – Central Fire Control (KIA) 37252164 Max, North Dakota
Sgt. Wilbur J. “Sleepy” Chapman – Right Gunner (KIA) 38606304 Panhandle, Texas
Sgt. Corbett L. Carnegie – Left Gunner (KIA) 12214591 Grindstone Island, New York
S/Sgt. Joseph J. Gatto – Tail Gunner (KIA) 12024315 Falconer, New York

The crew of Waddy's Wagon
Boeing-Wichita B-29-40-BW Superfortress
Serial number 42-24598
869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force
2nd Lieutenant Paul R. Garrison, Jr. is in the first row, far left.

Document listing the names of the missing crew members

Waddy's Wagon is seen very briefly in this video, at about 13:21 and 14:19.


Honolulu Memorial

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great job Joe. Always nice to hear stories about our true American war heros