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US Navy Reserve in WW2

Name - Samuel Marsh, Jr., Pilot
Service - Enlisted 1st July 1942 United States Naval Reserve and assigned as an aviation cadet on 28th November 1942. Pilot training at U.S. Navy Air Navigation School, Hollywood, FL and promoted to Ensign A-1, USNR on 1st October 1943. Assigned to active service 17th December 1943 and posted to Fleet Air, Almeda Naval Air Station, Almeda CA.

Unit – Utility Squadron VJ-2 from September 1944 based at Pitylu Island off the coast of New Guinea

Plane – B26C-30-MO originally assigned to the USAAF but then had a AT-23B conversion to a JM-1 target tow, transferred to the US Navy, assigned bureau number 66617, painted bright orange and flown to Pitylu Airfield. The exact manufacturer serial number is not known but is believed to be in the range 41-35543 to 41-35547.

I would like the to add the rather sad story of a relative of mine who flew an unusual adaptation of the B26. Although Samuel Marsh, Junior was American having been born in Huntingdon, WV his father, also called Samuel Marsh had been born in what is now the city of Stoke-on-Trent, England before emigrating to the USA in 1913. His father’s eldest brother is my grandfather and rather confusingly he was born in the USA in Ohio. Apparently their parents emigrated from Stoke-on-Trent in the early 1880’s and had 2 children in Ohio, one of whom was my grandfather, before returning back to Stoke where they had 2 more children including Samuel Marsh. As I said he emigrated to the USA in 1913 and settled in Huntingdon, WV and got married in 1917 and had 3 children, his eldest son being Samuel Marsh, Junior who was born in 1920. By 1930 the family had moved to East Liverpool, OH which was the centre of the ceramics industry in the USA as Samuel had trained as a pottery moulder back in his native Stoke which is the largest city in the world where ceramics is its main industry.

On the 29th December 1944 Ensign Samuel Marsh, Jnr was a co-pilot in a JM-1 Marauder on a routine target towing mission along with another JM-1 and some Grumann Avenger torpedo bombers who were undergoing gun training. They had flown about 50 miles NNE of their base and had been airborne about an hour when at around 0900 Marsh’s plane developed engine failure in one engine and they decided to turn back to base. They got within 7 miles of the base when the plane descended rapidly (possible second engine failure) and ditched into the Pacific Ocean breaking up into two pieces on impact. The forward section containing 4 crew including Marsh sank after around 45 seconds but the aft section stayed afloat longer allowing the tail gunner to escape and release a dye marker and float lights. After about 7 minutes the other JM-1 accompanied by a PBVY-5A Catalina and a J2F-6 Duck from Pitylu Airfield had arrived and rescued the tail gunner but no sign of the other 4 crew members could be found. A destroyer, a minesweeper and 3 crash boats searched the area for 3 hours but only found some debris. Initially Marsh and his 3 crew members were declared missing but later that day were declared dead. No bodies have ever been recovered. None of those killed received the Purple Heart as the mission was declared to be non-combat. Those killed are commemorated on the tablets of the missing at the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines and Marsh himself is commemorated on the Veteran’s Memorial at Riverview Cemetery, East Liverpool, OH.

Marsh’s widow was subsequently told from a discussion with the surviving members of his squadron that the likely cause of the crash was fuel contamination. Due to the tropical conditions it was believed that water vapour in the fuel tanks had condensed and had mixed with the fuel.

Marsh was survived by his widow Edith and no children. Edith Marsh nee Sonnenschein had herself a remarkable story. She was Jewish and along with her parents and brother lived in Vienna, Austria. Following the Anschluss in 1938 they faced Nazi persecution and left Vienna in March 1939 and sailed aboard the RMS Queen Mary from Cherbourg to New York and settled in Minneapolis, MN. She was doing some voluntary work for the USO when she went to a bond fund-raising event in Minneapolis where she met Marsh who had been sent there by the Navy to fly-the-flag at the event. They subsequently got married on the 1st September 1943 in Pensacola, FL on the same day he got his promotion to Ensign.


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