Born October 6,
Missing in Action in the Southwest Pacific September 14, 1942
Of the 155 Emmitsburg area men to serve in
World War II, Wilbur Roland Long was the first to lose his life in action.
Wilbur Roland Long grew up in Emmitsburg,
living during the 1930's with his mother, Mrs.
Carrie Fuss Long and his grandmother at 115 East
Main Street. He was the first man from the
Emmitsburg area to lose his life in World War
II. It happened 60 years ago.
He was in the December 7, 1941 attack on the
US military in Hawaii. Very little was known
about his service from then until he was Missing
in Action nine months later. His mother only
knew that his aircraft had been lost in the
John M. Fuss was the first cousin of
Wilbur Roland Long. He had in his possession
newspaper clippings, correspondence and other
information from Carrie who died in 1981. Last
year, he became interested in the fate of his
cousin. He researched the unit history and
located veterans who had serve with S/Sgt. Long.
His complete report was shared with his family
and relatives. Now he has made a condensed
version available to this newspaper.
Wilbur Roland Long was born October 6, 1918
on a farm south of Thurmont and near
Creagerstown, Frederick County, Maryland. His
parents were Wilbur Long and Carrie Mable Fuss
Long who had been married on February 20, 1917.
The marriage was dissolved by divorce.
Carrie, Roland (as he was generally known around
Emmitsburg) and his Grandmother Fuss lived at
115 East Main Street, Emmitsburg from 1929 until
he entered the military service.
Roland graduated from Emmitsburg High School
in 1936. He played the clarinet in the High
School Orchestra and was a member of the Future
Farmers of America Chapter. My cousin Hazel
Valentine Liller was a classmate of Roland. She
remembered him as being a rather quiet person.
After High School
For a time Roland worked on farms and other
general laboring work. There was high
unemployment in the area due to the Great
Depression. So some time later Roland departed
Emmitsburg. I do not know where all he was but
it is known that he worked for a time on the
construction of the Grand Coulee Dam on the
Columbia River near Spokane, Washington. He also
went to California where he lived and worked for
a time with his Uncle Robert.
Sometime about the beginning of 1939, Roland
returned to Emmitsburg. He worked at various odd
jobs, mostly for relatives and other farmers.
Enlisted In Army Air Corps
I do not know all the reasons why, but Roland
enlisted in the Army Air Corps during the summer
of 1939 for training in Hawaii. It very likely
was due to the lack of employment opportunities
He was in San Francisco to depart by ship
when, on September 1, 1939, the Second World War
began with Germany invading Poland. The ship's
departure was delayed for about a week.
Roland did train at Hickam Field, an Army Air
Corps base on Oahu in the Territory of Hawaii
and adjacent to the big Naval Base at Pearl
Harbor. His unit was the 26th Bombardment
Squadron. He never did return to the United
I know about his time at Hawaii only by the
items that were in Carrie's papers when she gave
them over to me when she went to the nursing
home in 1973. There were a few letters. He had
completed a course in Aircraft Mechanics and
trained as an Aerial Combat Photographer. He
received a Sharp Shooter rating. In his extra
time he was taking college courses. He evidently
sent money home from his pay every month.
Carrie had at least three photographs of
Roland taken in Hawaii. One has his rank as
Staff Sergeant, so evidently this was taken in
Roland's life would change significantly on
December 7, 1941.
Note: As far as I know, Carrie had little
information from Roland from this point until
his death. He was in a combat unit continually
in a war zone with no military movement
information released by the government until
long after the happening and individuals were
not allowed to communicate to their relatives.
Roland's experiences, as I have been able to
obtain recently from many different agencies and
from veterans of his unit, are in the last
section of this report.
After Roland Death
On September 22, 1942, his mother was sent a
telegram from the War Department in Washington,
DC stating that Wilbur Roland Long has been
reported Missing In Action since September 14,
1942, in the Southwest Pacific Area.
The Frederick Post article said that the last
word received directly from Sgt. Long was a
three year accumulation of personal effects
shipped to his mother from Hawaii and received
in early August. (Evidently this was shipped as
the 26th Bombardment Squadron was moved from
Hawaii to the New Hebrides). The article said
that at that time his messages made no
announcement of his changed station. Of course,
in wartime all such movements would be secretive
and censors would have deleted any such
The newspaper noted that his three-year
enlistment had just been terminated and that he
was scheduled to come home to visit. Of course,
everything changed with December 7, 1941. It
also noted that James Lenhart of Frederick and
Roland had enlisted on practically the same day
and both had been at Hickam Field. Lenhart just
two months before had been transferred to
California for aviation school. Carrie related
that Roland barely missed going. All of this
indicates that Carrie had been receiving letters
from Roland prior to deployment to the Southwest
The newspaper also said that 155 men from
Emmitsburg were then in the military service and
that S/Sgt. Long was the first to die, if his
death is confirmed.
His mother received two letters from an
officer of Roland's Squadron regarding the
disposition of his personal items. Otherwise,
time went on with his mother knowing nothing
about her son's fate.
A year after he was Missing In Action, the
War Department wrote to Carrie on September 20,
1943 to declare that he was now presumed to be
dead as of September 14, 1942. The letter stated
that he was aboard an airplane that failed to
return from a combat mission. This letter
authorized the termination of pay and
allowances, payment of a death benefit and
enabled Carrie to settle his Estate, etc. Also,
a letter dated October 1, 1943 from Henry L.
Stimson, Secretary of War, stated that the
Purple Heart had been awarded posthumously by
the direction of the President to Staff Sergeant
Wilbur R. Long.
Letters of condolence were also received from
General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, and
General Hap Arnold, head of the Army Air Corps.
Even at this point, I don't believe Carrie
knew any of the details of the airplane's
location or mission.
Thomas J. Frailey was a Washington Attorney
living in Chevy Chase Maryland before the Second
World War. He grew up in Emmitsburg and
maintained a home in Emmitsburg, I believe, all
his life. Carrie had worked for the Frailey
family, especially his parents, as a domestic.
Soon after the war began, he was working for the
Army as a Lt. Colonel. He helped Carrie to
settle Roland's Estate and obtain a small
I suppose Carrie must have wondered how
Roland met his death. I do not know how or when
she wrote or what she did. Finally, in 1946, a
year after the war was over, a letter was
received from the War Department dated 15
November 1946 giving sympathy in her desire for
further details regarding the status of her son.
It stated that "Sergeant Long was one of nine
crew members of a B-17 type aircraft which left
its base in the New Hebrides on the late
afternoon of 14 September 1942, in search of
Japanese naval shipping reported to be north of
those islands. The plane was unable to find its
objective and became lost on the return trip.
The craft radioed that it was making a landing
on the water and although searches were
conducted for a number of days, no trace was
found of the plane or its crew". The letter
included a list of the names and addresses of
the next of kin of the other crew members.
Another letter on 5 April 1948 from the War
Department elaborated on the situation. It said
that Roland's airplane was searching for an
enemy task force. The return trip was in the
dark. They were unable to pick up the base radio
beam and had to make the water landing.
From what I learned later on, the above
reports were certainly inaccurate and
Carrie paid for a memorial window to honor
Roland at Toms Creek Methodist Church where both
were members. It was dedicated on November 10,
1946. Color guards and members were present from
both the American Legion and the Veterans of
Foreign Wars. Carrie was very proud to be a
member of the Gold Star Mothers group of the
Auxiliary of one of the local veterans group.
Roland's Service - Peral Harbor Attack
until Missing in Action
Note Regarding Sources
Until September 2000, I knew very little
about Roland's role in the war. I knew that he
was at Hickam Field when the Japanese attacked
on December 7, 1941. I had the War Department
letters about his being lost on September14,
1942. From it, I assumed that he had been in a
crew flying across the Southwest Pacific,
perhaps from Hawaii to Australia, when they were
lost. Little did I realize that he was in the
Battle of Midway and the first and critical
stages of the very important Guadalcanal
Campaign and that he was on a significant combat
mission when he was lost.
I did know that his unit was the 26th
Bombardment Squadron, one of 4 squadrons in the
11th Bombardment Group. I soon learned that
these units fought in the crucial Battle of
Midway and the Guadalcanal Campaign. I soon
realized that Roland was lost while flying on a
combat mission against Japanese naval forces.
The 11th Bombardment Group has a Reunion
Group composed of veterans. In the course of
time, I spoke to several past and present
historians for the group. Dale Henderson of
Tootle, Washington sent me his book with the
accounts of the veterans about the December 7
attack. Also he gave the addresses of the ones
from the 26th Squadron who wrote accounts for
his book. Subsequently, I spoke with five of
these veterans who were with Roland the entire
time. Finally, I spoke to the pilot of another
B-17 that was on the same mission on September
14, 1942 and who the next day searched the ocean
for Roland's missing aircraft.
My search also lead me to inquiries at six
different present military sites for more
official information. The most significant event
was my all day visit to the Air Force History
Institute at Bolling Field, Washington, DC on
February 20, 2001. There I saw and then obtained
photocopies of the 26th Squadron's daily records
which listed the status and missions of Roland's
airplane each day. The end result is a story of
a relative who was heavily involved in the
combat of World War II and died in the service
of our country.
Start of War
The Second World War started in Europe on
September 1, 1939. The United States had stayed
out of that conflict but aided Great Britain and
Russia by supplying them with war material for
their fight against Germany and Italy. In the
last half of 1941, our government was very much
concerned about our situation with Japan in the
Pacific. Despite continued diplomatic
negotiations between the two countries, the
Japanese Navy launched a sneak attack against
the U.S. forces in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.
Wilbur Long was assigned to the 26th
Bombardment Squadron. Together with the 42nd and
50th Squadrons, they made up the 11th
Bombardment Group. They with another Group
comprised the heavy bombers of the 18th Wing of
the Hawaiian Air Force. They were based with
other aircraft at Hickam Field near Honolulu and
adjacent to the principal United States naval
base in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor. Hickam
Field and Clark Field in the Philippines were
our biggest air bases outside the continental
The emblem of the 11th Group was a shield
with three gray geese, crested by a flying
goose, hence the nickname "Grey Geese". (Note
that they used the old English spelling of
"Grey" rather than "Gray").
The 26th Squadron was a historic unit. It had
been organized in France during The First World
War. One of its historians claimed it was the
very first Army Air Corps squadron. In the
1930's, it had been converted to a heavy bomber
unit. It received the Boeing B-17 bomber, better
known as the Flying Fortress, and used these
airplanes during the early part of the war.
The 11th Bombardment Group veterans organized
a Reunion Association in 1961. They have met
annually since that year at various places.
Their 31st reunion was on December 7, 1991 at
Hickam Field. This was the 50th Anniversary of
the Japanese attack. For that occasion, a book
had been compiled and edited by Dale Henderson
of Tootle, Washington, who served in the 26th
Squadron later in the war. The book is entitled
"Lest We Forget The Gray Grey Geese Remember".
It gives the first-person accounts of 41
veterans, including 8 from the 26th squadron,
regarding the attack by the Japanese. From these
accounts, I have summarized what Wilbur Roland
Long would have experienced on the first day of
The enlisted men of the 26th Squadron lived
on the second floor of Section A of the Hale
Makai (Inn by the Sea). It was a three story,
3,200 man dormitory and was considered the
world's largest single barracks.
It is well known that the military in Hawaii
was not expecting the Japanese to attack when
they did. Some key information had not been
passed on from Washington to the commanders in
Hawaii. The army commander was fearful of
sabotage by enemy agents, rather than an aerial
assault. So instead of having the airplanes in
the protected revetments, they were parked
closely together in lines along the runways.
The Japanese launched 360 planes from six
aircraft carriers about 200 miles from Oahu. It
was a Sunday morning. Both the U.S. Navy and Air
Corps had been involved in maneuvers for the two
weeks before December 7. Passes had been issued
and many service men had been away from their
ships and bases the night before. Everyone was
expecting a peaceful Sunday.
The first wave of Japanese airplanes came
over Pearl Harbor and adjacent Hickam Field at
7:55 A.M. The first reaction by most of the
veterans was that the airplanes were naval
pilots on some practice runs. But that soon
changed as the bombs were falling. The men all
ran from the barracks. The building was
virtually destroyed by the time the raid was
Although totally unprepared, the men soon
were firing machine guns and every other kind of
weapon at the Japanese fighter planes strafing
the buildings and airplanes on the ground. There
were several in the squadron decorated for the
part they played in the day's battle.
I found no direct information regarding
Roland's involvement. Lloyd Fuss remembers an
account from another Emmitsburg serviceman who
met with Roland in Hawaii at a later time. He
reported that Roland had been helping with a gun
and went for more ammunition. When he returned,
there was only a hole in the ground where the
gun and its crew had been. I told this story to
several men who were there and they said that
was the way it happened.
The veterans in their written accounts in
Dale Henderson's book told about the confusion
that existed and the anger against the sneak
attack. Some men of the 26th Squadron were
killed and others were wounded. Many were in a
daze afterwards. They all expected the Japanese
to invade that night, so they spent the night
along the beach to repel the invaders.
The 26th Squadron was very fortunate to lose
only one of it seven airplanes even though the
Japanese destroyed over 170 US airplanes and 18
ships. There were 3,700 casualties, principally
naval personnel. They lived on their ships and
thus they were on the target. The airmen lived
separately from their airplanes and hangers.
Three of the bombers were able to take off
after the raid was over. The mission was to try
to find the Japanese fleet. This continued for
several days but with no success. One pilot
wrote that they were sent south to look, but
actually the Japanese fleet had approached from
Due to the destruction at Hickam, the 26th
was moved a few days later to Wheeler Field.
They received nine new B-17's soon thereafter.
They flew search missions continuously, because
there was great fear that the Japanese fleet
would return with an invasion force. Bombing
raids were made against Wake Island which had
been captured by the Japanese in December. These
were long range attacks and the bombers had to
refuel at Midway Island.
The 26th Bombardment Squadron flew the Boeing
B-17 Flying Fortress. These at the time were the
best long-range bombers in the world. They had
four engines and a range of about 2400 miles
round trip. The fuel capacity was 2490 gallons.
The maximum speed was 318 miles per hour at
25,000 feet with normal cruising speed of 224
miles per hour. The wing span was 104 feet and
the airplane was 73 feet long. The empty weight
was 32,350 pounds. They carried a bomb load of
up to 8,000 pounds. This varied from 26
100-pound bombs up to four 2000-pound bombs with
other variations in between, depending upon the
type of target expected.
A crew of nine manned them. For defense, they
were equipped with 50-caliber machine guns in
the nose, top, each side (waist gunners),
underneath, (ball turret gunner), and rear (tail
The crew consisted of the following:
- Engineer - top turret gunner
- Assistant engineer Waist gunner
- Radio operator Waist gunner
- Assistant radio operator Ball turret
- Gunner Tail gunner
Roland was the flight engineer on his bomber.
This means he was responsible for the operations
of the engines and equipment while the airplane
was in the air. His position in flight was in
the front cabin immediately behind and between
the pilot and co-pilot. The flight engineer
assisted with certain operations of flying, such
as retracting the landing gear on takeoff. He
also manned the top turret machine guns when
enemy fighters attacked.
The aircraft he was on when Missing in Action
was a B-17E, Serial No. 41-9145. It is known
that he was with Lt. Hugh Owens from before the
Battle of Midway, and we can assume that they
probably had the same airplane for the entire
Battle of Midway
After the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese
conquered the Philippines, much of Southeast
Asia, and the islands of the Western Pacific.
The United States Navy had been so reduced by
the Pearl Harbor attack and other losses that it
was questionable if they would ever be able to
stop their continued advance. By the middle of
May 1942, the large and confident Japanese fleet
advanced toward the island of Midway, 1,300
miles west of Hawaii and our last line of
defense. Because our code breakers were able to
read the Japanese messages, our greatly out
numbered ships and planes won a decisive battle.
Four of the six Japanese aircraft carriers
were sunk and the Japanese were forced to
retreat. It was the turning point in the war in
The US Navy gets the credit for winning the
Battle of Midway in the period June 4-6, 1942.
But Army Air Corps men were also involved. Most
of the 26th Squadron was moved from Hawaii to
Midway on May 30, because the enemy fleet was
expected. They spent several days looking for
the Japanese ships, but none were sighted.
Roland was not involved in this deployment.
Then on June 5 Roland's crew with others were
sent to Midway again. Their planes were each
loaded with four 1,000-pound bombs. They
attacked the Japanese warships, especially after
they were out of range of the carrier planes.
The 26th Squadron was participating along with
three other squadrons of the 11th Bombardment
It was not possible to know just what hits
were made by each airplane. As per the unit
history by Richard H. Mansfield, "It is
sufficient credit to the 26th Squadron to have
participated in this battle, and particularly so
since our outfit was the first ordered out to
meet the enemy and the last one to return from
Midway back to Oahu". The veterans I spoke to
all said they regarded their participation in
this battle as their most significant action of
the entire war. It lasted only one week but it
was a decisive action, the turning point in the
war in the Pacific.
Move to Southwest Pacific
NOTE- I was able to write in general what
follows from the unit history and information
that I received from the veterans. On February
20, I was able to see for myself on microfilm
the actual daily report of the 26th Bombardment
Squadron. (The originals are at Maxwell Air
Force Base in Alabama). These reports are hand
written on a 1942 desk calendar sheet with a
page for each day, like you would have on your
desk. When I asked the historian at Bolling
Field for the Official Report, she said this was
it. She said that in this stage of the war, the
Air Corps did not have a single typewriter west
of Hawaii. They were forced to use what they
Midway and Hawaii had been saved but the
Japanese advance was now getting close to
cutting off Australia. The United States
commanders decided to slow the enemy's advance
by landing Marines on Guadalcanal, an island in
the Solomon Islands Group. The landing was
planned for early August.
The 11th Bombardment Group was deployed to
help in this offensive by moving from Hawaii to
the New Caledonia Islands. This is evidently
when Roland shipped the large box of his
personal items back to his mother.
The nine B-17's of the 26th Squadron left
Hawaii on July 19, 1942. They stopped at
Christmas Island for that night, on to Canton
Island on the 20th, and to Viti Levu in the Fiji
Islands on the 21st.. Then they moved to the New
Hebrides group where they landed at Efate on
July 25. Their new home was an airstrip cut out
of the jungle. A few days later, the aircraft of
the 42nd, 98th, and 431st Squadrons arrived,
bringing the total number of planes on the
island to 35. This would be the home base for
the entire 11th Bombardment Group until the end
of the Guadalcanal Campaign.
An advance base had been selected at Espiritu
Santo that was about half way between Efate and
Guadalcanal. Most of the flights for the next
two months would be from this base at Santo. The
26th Squadron was the first to use this base.
The military commanders had little knowledge of
the Japanese activity in the Solomons. The 26th
began photographic missions over Guadalcanal and
the surrounding area immediately.
Conditions were primitive at best. Only 9
maintenance men, one for each airplane, flew
along to the New Hebrides. The rest of the
ground crew, about 150 officers and men, came by
slow ship with the maintenance equipment and did
not arrive for almost 3 weeks. In the meantime,
the flight crews had to do most of the work of
servicing the aircraft. The crews slept in the
planes or under the wings. There was no kitchen
or other facilities. They did not even have
their personal items until their footlockers
arrived on August 5.
Supplying the aircraft was a Herculean task.
The advanced fuel supply was soon exhausted.
Gasoline for the airplanes was delivered by a
ship in 50-gallon drums. These were lashed
together and floated to the shore. Then they
were hand-rolled up under the trees. The planes
were fueled by using buckets. On the day before
the invasion of Guadalcanal, every available
man, including a general and colonel, worked for
20 hours to put 25,000 gallons of gasoline
aboard the bombers. The bombs, weighing up to
1,000 pounds each, were physically lifted by the
crew members into the bomb bays of the B-17's.
Operational control was very difficult. There
were no field telephones or motor transport.
They had no buildings or equipment. I noted that
the report for the day of Roland's last flight
was handwritten on what looked like a small
calendar pad. The archivist told me that in 1942
there were no typewriters in the Southwest
Pacific. One of the veterans told me he could
not write home because there was no paper.
These islands are near the Equator and have a
very wet and humid climate. So living conditions
for these men were horrendous.
Invasion of Guadalcanal
Despite these limitations and problems, these
airmen performed admirably. The 26th flew
photographic missions daily over Guadalcanal as
soon as they arrived at Efate. On July 30, they
made the first bombing raid on the island with
the airplanes each having 20 100 pound bombs.
Roland's plane was in this mission. The bombs
were dropped mostly on and around the airfield
that the Japanese were constructing on
Guadalcanal. Daily raids with all available
strength were continued prior to the invasion.
But the lack of ground support and supplies
greatly hampered the operations. Living
conditions were extremely unfavorable.
The Marines landed on Guadalcanal on August
7, 1942. This was a complete surprise to the
Japanese, but they reacted quickly. A large
naval fleet forced the US Navy to withdraw. So
the Marines were isolated for a while. The
Japanese moved in large naval, air and land
forces to hold Guadalcanal. It took over six
months to drive the Japanese from Guadalcanal
and causalities were high. But it was the first
step in our drive to stop the Japanese and win
The crews of the 26th Squadron were in
constant combat. They flew out from their bases
more than 1,000 miles to look for the Japanese
naval forces. They bombed the enemy ships,
bases, airfields and troops. One attack was made
against two enemy aircraft carriers. They shot
down many enemy fighter planes call Zeros.
During late July and August, the B-17's were
based at Efate, with a forward base at Espiritu
Santo. Joe Brooke, now living in Vero Beach, FL,
remembers Roland. He said our cousin was well
liked by both officers and men. He was the kind
of fellow you wanted to be with. Joe was in
Maintenance, but was one of the nine who flew
with the planes from Hawaii to the New Hebrides.
When the rest of the ground personnel arrived,
Joe was in charge of a crew of 40 mechanics to
repair the B-17's. He told how the coral rock
and mud from the runway caused a great deal of
damage to the engines. Every day another
aircraft was brought back to Efate. His crew
worked all day and into the night to replace or
repair the engines, so the aircraft could go
back to combat the next morning.
One B-17 was lost on August 4 in a collision
with a Zero and all crew members were lost. On
August 24, another crashed on landing and 5
crewmen were killed.
The Navy was in overall command of the
Guadalcanal Campaign. They used the Air Corps
bombers in every possible way because the
situation was so desperate. The operations
were so different from later in the war when
plenty of aircraft and supplies were available. The General in charge of the
11th Bombardment Group complained and even sent
a report back to Washington stating that the
bombers were not being used effectively. It is
very hard to hit a moving ship from high
altitude. This is best done by dive bombers or
torpedo planes that could go in close to the
target ship. B-17's were best used when a number
of aircraft flew in formation and dropped bombs
in patterns that could destroy a wide area. At
this stage of the war, the Navy only had two
aircraft carriers in the entire Pacific and our
forces had to use what was available.
Two other veterans of the 26th Squadron
remember Roland. His best friend, per Sam Moses
of Huntingdon Valley, PA, was a man by the name
of Bert. They were together in the annual
photographs of the Squadron in peacetime. Bert
survived the war but never came to any of the
Roland and the crew under Lt. Hugh Owens were
in the midst of this crucial campaign in the
Pacific war and helped to turn the tide. None of
his relatives or mother had any idea of what was
happening in the faraway Pacific.
The official record of the 26th Squadron
relates that on August 30, Lt. Owens escorted a
squadron of Navy dive bombers to the airfield on
Guadalcanal (Henderson Field) and they landed
there. As far as I could find from the records,
this airplane with Roland made the very first
landing by a B-17 at that primitive airfield.
On September 3, Lt. Owens (Roland was on this
plane) bombed Gizo Harbor and was returning to
base when he observed several barges unloading
troops on Guadalcanal. Descending to water
level, he made several passes while his crew
strafed, leaving behind only burning wreckage
and this one B-17 broke up this attempt by the
Japanese to land reinforcements. This extra
effort used too much fuel, so they had to land
at Guadalcanal rather than to return to Santo.
After refueling, they returned to their normal
base the next day. It must have been a harrowing
night, because Japanese airplanes came over
Henderson Field every night.
I have read a number of accounts about the
Marines during those desperate days on
Guadalcanal. I remember mention of the big
B-17's sometimes landed there. Little did I
realize that my cousin was on the first bomber
to land there.
The 26th Squadron was in almost constant
combat. Missions would last 10 or more hours.
Normally a crew would fly one day and be on
standby the next. As near as I can determine,
Roland was on at least 17 combat missions to
bomb enemy Japanese warships or installations.
He also was on even more search missions when
the crew would be flying to look for the
Japanese fleet. These flights would be over the
ocean for 10-12 hours. Other days he would be
just on "Striking Force Alert". According to the
veterans, this meant the crew would be in a
loaded and armed B-17, on the runaway, ready to
start the engines and take off as soon as a
report came of a target to be hit.
The record showed that from September 6-10,
the Squadron was given time off. The airplanes
badly needed maintenance and the crews need a
rest. It appears that this was the first break
that they had enjoyed since they left Hawaii.
The veterans told me that the Japanese fleet had
retreated for a short time. Each of the 4
squadrons of the 11th Bombardment Group had a
few days off about this time. It was noted on
September 8 that the 26th Squadron's softball
team defeated a team of Navy carrier pilots.
Roland's Crew Members
The complete crew on the September 14, 1942
- Pilot 1st Lt. Hugh W. Owens Eutaw, AL
- Co-pilot 1st Lt. George W. Chandler
- Navigator 2nd Lt. Emory L Hall Erie, PA
- Bombardier M/Sgt. Thomas L. Daly Honolulu,
- Engineer S/Sgt. Wilbur R. Long Emmitsburg,
- Radio Operator Sgt. Harry Bolles, Jr. San
- Asst. Engineer Sgt. Nickolas P.
Novogrodsky Woodridge, NY
- Asst. Radio Oper. Cpl. John G. Jones
- Gunner Sgt. Edgar L. Stone Lexington. MO
Of the above men, it appears that only Owens
and Daly were married. Navogrodsky was a very
good friend of Sam Moses of Huntingdon Valley,
PA. Sam was quite emotional when I called and we
talked about his recollection of this incident.
Normally, 1st Lt. John C. Nissen was the
Co-Pilot on this aircraft. However, Lt. Chandler
substituted on September 14. Sam Moses and James
Lancaster told me that normally the same men
flew together as a crew. However, substitutions
were made from another crew if someone could not
fly on a certain day, due to sickness, etc.
Several of the veterans told me that they
knew for certain that Roland had been on this
aircraft with Lt. Owens from before Midway and
there after. From the list of crews that
deployed to the Southwest Pacific provided by
Joe Brooke from Florida, these men were all
together since that time, except for Lt.
Chandler who was not listed as a flying crew
member in July. Perhaps he was normally a ground
Mission on September 14, 1942
As mentioned previously, the War Department
letters to Carrie did not given much information
about the action in which her son was lost. From
what I have found, his bomber and six others of
the 11th Bombardment Group on September 14
attacked a big Japanese task force of 3
battleships, 4 heavy cruisers, many destroyers
and smaller craft about 250 miles north of the
Santa Cruz Islands.
The Archives of the Air Force at Bolling Air
Force Base at Washington has the daily
operational reports of the 26th Squadron for the
Guadalcanal period. As previously noted, it is
hand written on a small calendar pad sheet and
is headed Santo where the advanced headquarters
were located. It reports that two of their
airplanes left from Guadalcanal at 0545. One was
on a 2,450 mile search mission but, due to a
fight with 3 Japanese fighter planes, had to
return to Santo. The other returned to Santo to
have a wheel fixed.
Lt. Lancaster and Lt. Owens (Roland on this
B-17) were on Strike Force Alert at 0515 at
Santo. This means that the aircraft was loaded
with bombs and the crew inside, ready to Take
Off as soon as orders are received. They
actually departed at 1230. Lt. Lancaster's plane
was attached to two aircraft of the 98th
Squadron. Three hours later they bombed three
Japanese battleships from 12,000 and scored a
probable hit. The airplane was damaged by enemy
fire but returned alone to Santo.
Then the sheet says "Continued on 5A". The
archivist said that this means that page would
tell about Lt. Owens airplane and its action.
She said that they evidently flew with other
airplanes from another squadron against the same
enemy ships. The archivist said that page was
missing. She said that it probably was lost when
sent back to the States.
I spent most of a day at Bolling Field. I
looked through the entire roll of microfilm and
near the end of the roll, I found Page 5A. It
states that Roland's plane "bombed with the
second flight and then broke off and set off for
home alone (as did the other planes of the
flight). It had a damaged number 4 motor. Lt.
Owens hit bad weather, became lost, and failed
From another source, I learned more about the
fate of Roland's plane. Phil Gudenschwager of
Scottsdale AZ lost a brother on a B-17 later in
the Guadalcanal Campaign. Over the past 10 years
he has researched the 11th Bombardment Group
extensively. (I believe that he found the
additional information from the Air Force
History Section at Maxwell AFB in Alabama. Very
likely his additional information came from
reports from another squadron.)
Mr. Gudenschwager reports in addition to the
above, "It appears that Lt. Owen's ship was
witnessed to have received some battle damage.
Not surprising, since it is likely they were
over a major Jap Naval Force and their gunners
were known to be very good. There may be some
speculation about weather, becoming lost, etc.
It is equally likely that battle damage resulted
in the loss of other engines, loss of fuel, etc.
resulting in an early crash landing in the
water. Truth is no one knows."
Mr. Gudenschwager has been in contact with a
Japanese Naval historian. They acknowledge B-17
attacks against a major naval force on Sept. 14.
A heavy cruiser, Myoko, received battle damage
with some of the crew killed and wounded. He
noted that it was not uncommon for our bomber
crews to mistakenly identify Jap ship types from
James Lancaster is a retired Air Force
Colonel living in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Before retirement he for many years was in
charge of Flight Training at the Air Force
Academy. He was a pilot with the 26th Squadron
before December 7, 1941. His letter to me said
he was "Slugger" Owens best friend. They called
Lt. Owens (Roland's Pilot) "Slugger" because he
was the best hitter on the Squadron's softball
team before the war. Two other veterans
mentioned Lt. Owens as "Slugger". Lancaster also
was Owens best friend and was the best man at
Owens's wedding in early 1942.
Col. Lancaster said he well remembered
September 14, 1942. His B-17 and Lt. Owens's had
departed about the same time. They both were
involved in the attack on the large Japanese
fleet approaching Guadalcanal, but in different
attacks. He explained that, during that stage of
the war, there were no navigational aids in that
area of the South Pacific. You had to fly by the
compass. The runway had only a few flame pots
along the side. The natives all went to bed at
dark and there were no lights on the islands. It
was very easy to fly right over an island and
not see it.
Lancaster normally would not have flown his
B-17 the next day. Because Lt. Owens was his
best friend, the Squadron commander gave
permission to him and his crew to take another
B-17 out the next day and look for any
survivors. They found nothing.
Lt. Edwin Lowery was also a good friend of
Roland's pilot. Lowery retired as a general.
Later in the war, he was the pilot of the
"pathfinder" or lead B-29 bomber on the first heavy bomber raid on Japan, from bases in
China. Lowery told me how that night of
September 14, he and Colonel Saunders, the 11th
Group commander, sat in the dark on a log on the
edge of the runaway waiting for the B-17's to
return from the mission. Lt. Owens and Roland
did not make it back.
The Squadron Afterwards
The 26th Squadron continued in battle until
Guadalcanal was secured. Later they flew from
Henderson Field on Guadalcanal and New Guinea.
On February 23, 1943, the squadron was relieved
of all duty in the Southwest Pacific.
The 11th Bombardment Group, of which the 26th
Squadron was a part, received a Presidential
Unit Citation for its outstanding performance of
duty in action during the period July 31 to
November 30, 1942. It reads in part "Opposing
the full force of numerically superior Japanese
with all available aircraft, the 11th
Bombardment Group (H) participated continually
in attacking the enemy in his effort to obtain a
stronger foothold on strategic territories." The
citation continues with more about their heroic
The 26th Squadron has credit for
participating in the following campaigns: Hickam
Field, Midway, Solomons, and Rabaul. They alone
were credited with destroying 67 enemy planes, 1
enemy aircraft carrier destroyed, 16 other ships
destroyed, 2 flying boats destroyed plus many
enemy ships and airplanes probable or damaged.
The squadron members had received 211 awards.
The B-17's were turned over to the Fifth
Bombardment Group and the entire squadron went
by ship back to Hawaii arriving on April 12,
1943. The men were given the opportunity for
thirty days of furlough and most readily took
it. A few of the ground crew stayed on.
A new group of airman now manned the 26th
Squadron. They used a newer bomber, the B-25
Liberator. They fought all the way across the
Pacific, being based at various times at Hawaii,
Canton, Tawara, Kwajelon, Eniwetok, and Guam.
In the meantime the veterans from Midway and
the Solomons Campaign completed their leaves.
Then they were trained with the brand new B-29
Super Fortress bomber. They were transferred to
India and made the first bombing raids on Japan
The 11th Bombardment Group, including the
26th Squadron, is still based at Bolling Field.
The Grey Geese emblem is on the big sign at the
entrance gate. It has no aircraft. The unit
designation has been retained due to it very
long history and outstanding record since the
beginning of the Army Air Corps and now Air
Force. It personnel work in the Pentagon and
have various specialized branches and units
throughout the world. It appears that Air Force
officers and enlisted personnel are very proud
to be assigned to this famous unit.*
Summary and Conclusions
We had an Emmitsburgian, Wilbur Roland Long,
who died in combat fighting for our country. I
regret that I did not get interested in this
matter 30 years ago. Then I could have shared
this information with his mother.
you know of an individual who helped shape Emmitsburg?
If so, send their story to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Historical Society Note: Many of our articles are truly historical in nature - meaning they have been written years ago, as such, sometimes the information in them is no longer current. In cases like this, we depend upon the good will of those interesting in the article's subject to update us.
With that in mind, we would like to thank Col. Guy H. Morley, USAF, Former Commander of the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron, who provided us with the following updated the 26th Bomb Squadron...
Very solid rundown of details regarding Roland and the 26th Bomb Squadron on. The only error the ending reference that, "The 11th Bombardment Group, including the 26th Squadron, is still based at Bolling Field." While true that the 11th Wing is at Bolling, its no longer a Bombardment Group or
Wing, nor does it include the 26th. Its essentially a staff wing. While the other squadrons of the former WWII Grey Geese are deactivated, the 98th and 26th are still active squadrons stationed in Colorado Springs.
The 98th Flying Training Squadron belongs to the Air Force Academy as the Jump School for cadets.
The 26th Space Aggressor Squadron is stationed at Schriever AFB under Air Combat Command and trains warfighters to deal with threats to satellite systems (SATCOM, GPS, etc.) by training them to work against a realistic replication
of such threats.
Of interesting trivia note, 11th Wing is at Bolling AFB, a based named in honor of Raynal Bolling, who was the first high ranking American officer killed in WWI. Raynal Bolling was the individual who created and was the first commander of the 26th, which was first named the 1st Aero Squadron, which became the
1st Reserve Aero Squadron which, upon arriving in France in WWI, became the 26th Aero Squadron.
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