Staff Sgt. vincent Rogers and the girls

March Field Air Museum

Staff Sgt. Vincent J. Rogers, Jr. lives on in his World War II letters

April 03, 2019 - 11:07 am

ALBANY, N.Y. — The remains of a New York airman whose trove of 200-plus wartime letters inspired a California museum’s popular World War II exhibit have been identified 75 years after he died in a crash off a Pacific island.

The Pentagon's Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced on its website that the remains of Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Vincent J. Rogers Jr. were accounted for on March 21. He was from Snyder, a hamlet outside Buffalo.

Rogers was a 21-year-old radio operator aboard a B-24 bomber that crashed shortly after taking off from an airfield on the Tarawa atoll in the Gilbert Islands, now the Republic of Kiribati, on Jan. 21, 1944, the agency said.

Rogers' plane, nicknamed "Miss Bee Haven," had just taken off on a nighttime bombing mission against a Japanese-held island when it crashed into the atoll's lagoon and burst into flames. Seven of the 10 crewmembers were killed, including Rogers and another Buffalo-area airman, Staff Sgt. Jack Busch, of Kenmore.

Crash
Army.mil

The remains of the seven were initially buried in a Tarawa cemetery containing the bodies of some of the hundreds of Marines killed during the amphibious assault on the atoll in November 1943. The remains of Busch and two other crewmembers were later exhumed and sent home for burial.

Rogers's remains and those of the other three crewmembers were lost on Tarawa. Officially listed as MIA, their remains weren't discovered until 2017, when members of History Flight, a private WWII research group, found them along with those of several Marines in graves under a house built after the war.

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.