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You are here: Home | 2008 Search Trip | VB-2 USS Hornet Helldiver
SB2C-1C Helldiver found from VB-2 from the USS Hornet that crashed on July 27, 1944
During our 2005 and 2006 search trips I asked the Yapese for information about the VB-2 SB2C-1C Helldiver from the USS Hornet that crashed on July 27, 1944 when attacking the Japanese lighthouse on Yap. The plane dove into the ground and killed two crew members after experiencing aileron failure or getting hit by AA fire. The Japanese had AA guns near the lighthouse therefore it's likely the plane was hit before crashing into the jungle while on a dive bombing glide.
The Yapese had told me stories a few years back (multiple sources from different villages) that the two crew members were pulled from the wreckage by the Japanese and their bodies were beaten with sticks. This story is so wide spread that it seems to have merit. We'll never know the exact story but the Yapese have provided accurate information to us in the past that always seemed to have a line of truth even after 65 years of passing the oral history.
We were led to the crash site by Tom from the Yap Visitors Bureau. He was able to make contact with a Yapese landowner after reviewing my research and maps located at the national archives last winter. The land owner had never previously admitted that he knew about the crash site and its location. When we arrived at his home we found one of the propellers of the plane in his yard. It is common on Yap to find Japanese and American props as yard decorations. The problem is trying to track them back to individual crash sites. The Yapese landowner led us deep into the jungle through taro fields and clear deep jungle streams that we had to jump. When we located the crash site it was clear that the site had been untouched for years (perhaps since the years after the war when the grave registration team visited the site in 1948).
Upon reviewing the site we were able to right away identify it has an American Helldiver aircraft from the US Navy. The red dive brakes and many of the markings on the plane were still visible after 65 years. The rounded wing tips and 20 mm cannon ports provided overwhelming evidence that we had located the SB2C-1C Helldiver from the USS Hornet that crashed on July 27, 1944. The crash took the lives of Ens. George M. Armbruster Jr. and Arm3c. Harold Billings.
We came in contact with the Yapese poison tree at this crash site. Cherie and I received a real bad case of poison tree (like poison ivy in the states) after returning from Yap on October 15, 2008. The day after we returned from Yap the poison tree hit hard on my legs and one arm and on both of Cherie's ankles. We held out from going to a doctor until the rash and itching was driving us absolutely nuts. We tried every solution we could find on the internet to find relieve. The following pictures from the Helldiver crash site we discover on the last day of our 2008 trip was the cause of our poison tree troubles. Feel free to look through the pictures and try and find the poison tree that has made our legs a mess! More information about this loss including the mission reports, crew information and pictures can be located at the following link:
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