Staff Sgt. Jimmie Doyle climbed into the gun turret of his B-24 Liberator nicknamed “Babes in Arms” on Sept. 1, 1944, to prepare for another World War II bombing mission. The 25-year-old McKinney, Texas native, along with the 10 members of his flight crew from the 424th Bombardment Squadron, would be attacking heavily-defended enemy positions that day in the Republic of Palau.
Jimmie, wearing his wife’s wedding ring on a gold chain around his neck, settled in for the long flight from Wadke Airfield on south Pacific island of Papua to their targets 700 miles north. The first part of the flight went according to plan. No surprises.
Their world changed quickly, however, as they started their bombing run. Coming immediately under intense enemy anti-aircraft fire, the B-24’s left wing was hit setting the engine on fire. The wing folded and broke off throwing the plane into an uncontrollable spin as it plummeted to the sea.
Jimmie, an assistant flight engineer, was not able to get out of the plane and perished in the crash. His body was never recovered.
The discovery was made by Project Recover (formerly the BentProp Project), a collaborative effort using the latest science and technology to find and repatriate American servicemembers missing in action (MIA) since World War II.
The non-profit organization’s founders and president gathered on the USS Midway Museum for an engaging presentation and panel discussion for Midway members on the importance of their mission.
“Sharing the work of Project Recover on the USS Midway Museum was extra special,” said Derek Abbey, Project Recover’s president and CEO. “We feel that our work is a way of bringing the community together to learn about the contributions made by our nation’s military and keeping these memories and stories alive across generations. That is exactly what the Midway represents and does every single day. Being able to work together on this mission is exceptional.”
“We started Project Recover, and its predecessor The BentProp Project, to help locate and return home American MIAs to honor their loss and to bring a sense of closure to these MIA families,” said Pat Scannon, one of the project’s co-founders.
Nearly 100 Midway members and their guests attended the panel discussion. They were enthralled by the Project Recover presentation.
“I found it rather exciting and informative,” said Mercadez Butcher, a Midway member. “The panel had lots of information to give us. I am all about learning something new and being able to tell others. I can’t wait for more events like this and to stand behind such a strong cause.”
“Midway members were engaged from the beginning and asked thoughtful questions,” said Pat. “I found the evening very exciting.”
Over the last 30 years, Project Recover has located more than 50 downed World War II aircraft associated with more than 185 American MIAs. However, when the project began, the focus wasn’t necessarily on the servicemembers who were lost in combat.
“When I first started, I really only thought about the aircraft, and didn’t think about the aircrews and their families,” said Pat. “But I realized there were these terrible consequences of war. We can look at a statistic and it doesn’t have much impact on us, but when it’s your family member, it doesn’t matter what the statistics are, what matters is the loss that you’ve had and how that affects you and your whole life from then on.”
The highlight of the panel discussion was a summary of a new documentary, “To What Remains.” The film not only tells the story of Project Recover and but chronicles several of its search and recovery missions for missing servicemembers lost in the Pacific during World War II.
“It was very sad and heartbreaking, but also a rush of happiness when they were able to reunite MIA’s with their family,” said Mercadez. “I couldn’t imagine how that felt to the families. After watching the film and going on their website, I was able to learn a bit more about their recover program and donated to them.”
“Unlike families of service members who have been declared killed in action (KIA) and returned home, families of service members who are missing in action have to live their lives across generations with the unknowns of the loss, as well as an empty home grave site and all the associated emotions,” said Pat. “We have witnessed that returning home these Americans has a profound effect on not just these families but also on their communities and the nation at large.”
The documentary was commissioned in 2014 by Imperative Entertainment. Following Project Recover for six years, the film crew not only recorded their detective work in the Pacific Ocean, but interviewed members of the team as well as the surviving family of those aviators who died during the war.
Pat was grateful for the amount of time the film crew dedicated to the making of the documentary as there was never any assurances that remains would be found at an aircraft wreckage site and, even when remains were discovered, positive identifications are not always made.
“They could have just documented the search,” said Pat. “But they chose to put the documentary on hold until recoveries occurred at some of the sites.”
The Project Recover team is continuing to research potential wreckage sites in 20 countries, and has built its data base to more than 500 lost aircraft that are associated with more than 3,000 MIAs from World War II through Operation Desert Storm.
Unlike the documentary, Project Recover’s mission doesn’t end with the film’s credits.
“It is vital that when we make a promise to our nation’s military members and their families that we work together as a community to keep it,” said Derek. “Project Recover is the community arm that is doing what it can to accomplish every American’s mission. Together we will do all that we can to bring our fallen home to their families.”
“Our work isn’t done,” said Pat. “Our work continues and it’s important to keep the momentum going. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Midway Museum Is Forever Home for Midway Veterans
“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” – General Douglas MacArthur
There are events that are so significant that they change the course of history. For the U.S. Navy, milestone anniversaries of two of these monumental events were commemorated this year – the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first aircraft carrier and the 80th anniversary of its tide-turning victory at Battle of Midway during World War II.
The aircraft carrier would ultimately transformed how the Navy evolved the structure and deployment of its fleets, while the triumph at Midway helped resurrect the strength of freedom and democracy during one of the world’s darkest hours.
To mark their significance, the U.S. Navy hosted a tribute on board the USS Midway Museum.
Attending the commemoration were two veterans and heroes of the Battle of Midway – Ervin Wendt and Charles Monroe, both from the famed Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8).
“It was an opportunity to succeed,” said 106-year-old Ervin, who retired from the Navy as a senior chief aviation ordnanceman in 1967 after 30 years of service. “There was an expectation of casualties because it was war. The risk of losing lives was on the table. I lost a lot of my friends.”
At 99 years old, Charles still remembers how he felt about the Navy’s chances of winning at Midway.
“I was still very confident that U.S. naval forces would be successful,” said Charles, who rose to the rank of aviation radioman 1st class. “I always said I had an angel taking care of me because I got out of it alive.”
The Battle of Midway is seen by many military historians as turning the tide in the Pacific during the early days of World War II.
“For the U.S. Navy, the victory at Midway marked not only the turning point of the war in the Pacific, but it also marked the arrival of carrier-based air power as the centerpiece of our nation’s maritime strategy,” said Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the U.S. naval air force. “At Midway, America laid aside the shield and picked up the sword, never again yielding the offensive.”
Converted from a naval coal supply ship, the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier was commissioned a century ago. While it was impossible to predict at the time, the carrier’s emergence would, in short order, have a dramatic impact on the future of the naval strategy and tactics.
“The Navy is celebrating the centennial of the aircraft carriers by honoring their history while driving forward into the future,” said the admiral. “On March 20, 1922, the former collier ship USS Jupiter was recommissioned as USS Langley, the first aircraft carrier. Just 20 years later, carriers proved their combat capability and strategic significance at Midway.”
USS Midway Museum volunteers are the reason behind the museum’s continued success. From docents to safety, restoration to outreach, and all the other departments in between, the collective contributions of our volunteers make the guests experience on Midway second to none.
“The Midway volunteer crew makes this ship a fun place to work,” said Laurie Switzer, Midway’s director of volunteer programs. “So many incredible personal stories and outstanding citizens. We appreciate each and every volunteer on our active roster – nearly 800 strong.”
With much joy, we bring you Midway’s Volunteers of the Month for the second quarter of 2022.
Harlan Lippincott, Ship’s Restoration – April 2022
The Midway may be a museum, but in many ways, she’s still as much a functioning Navy ship as she was when steaming the oceans of the world.
Although the ship is now permanently welded to the pier, so to speak, many of her systems have to operate properly if the museum is to open its doors to the public.
No one knows that better the Harlan Lippincott, a ship’s restoration volunteer since 2014.
Harlan, who has nearly 2,000 volunteer hours, can normally be found in the bowels of Midway keeping the carrier living and breathing. He most recently, along with other members of the ship’s restoration team, worked tirelessly to restore hundreds of feet of the low-pressure air system that supports all three of the ship’s 175,000-pound aircraft elevators. He also prepared a 100-page low-pressure air technical document with diagrams spanning the ship.
“Harlan is a quiet but dedicated volunteer warrior for Midway,” said Len Santiago, the museum’s chief engineer. “His meticulous technical skills coupled with persistent patience and a smiling face warms my heart every time I see him. He represents the best of our dedicated volunteer force that keeps Midway running every day.”
Harlan, a Navy veteran and former gun fire control technician, also contributes to Midway’s outreach and curatorial programs.
Fun fact – Harlan’s son is the executive officer of Helicopter Maritime Squadron 73 (HSM-73). Now that’s keeping the Navy “all in the family.”
Siew Chinsee, Safety – May 2022
Always with a smile. Siew Chinsee brightens every space she enters with her positive energy and can-do demeanor. And it’s the real deal.
A retired special education teacher from the Sweetwater Union High School District, Siew has become a critical member of Midway’s safety team since she began volunteering in 2019.
In just three short years, she has amassed more than 3,200 volunteer hours and is involved in a variety of important safety department functions. On any given Monday or Friday, you can find her “lighting off” the ship at 6 a.m. and closing the museum down when the last guests have departed. She also assists with a number of key safety department administrative duties including guest pass distribution and watch bill updates, as well as conducting monthly inspections as a member of the fire-bottle team.
“Siew is a dedicated safety and security volunteer who really takes pride in her work,” said Dominick Boccia, Midway’s director of safety and security. “She strives to learn all aspects of her duties. She asks great questions and is proud of her accomplishments. Siew always has a smile on her face and greets guests with enthusiasm.”
Siew is also a great help to the guest services team using her multi-lingual skills to assist with Midway visitors from Asia.
Chris Day, Docent and Speakers Bureau – June 2022
Midway communicates with its members and the general public through a diverse advertising program, consumer and social media efforts and direct marketing. However, the hidden gem of the museum’s community outreach is its speakers bureau.
In the first half of 2022, the speakers bureau team has presented to more than 2,000 members of the San Diego community at nearly 60 venues around the county.
A rising star for the bureau is Chris Day.
Chris began volunteering as a docent for Midway in 2014 and has tallied nearly 1,500 hours. He became interested in the museum because of a contract his former employer had with the museum. Chris was a senior vice president of Swinerton Builders when the company was constructing the Battle of Midway Theater.
He was so impressed with Midway, its staff and volunteers, that he decided to join the team.
Along with his docent duties, he’s stepped up to the plate in a major way to assist the speakers bureau.
“Chris stepped forward and jumped right in when we needed help,” said Dick Walker, Midway’s speakers bureau coordinator. “He didn’t hesitate to do multiple speeches all over San Diego County.
Chris, a former Navy lieutenant, was one of the first speakers to give the new presentation on the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
For many a pastry aficionado, a donut in both hands is nothing more than a well-balanced diet. But what do they say about more than three dozen donuts?!
Early June saw Midway’s flight deck transformed into a makeshift bakery as it hosted the Salvation Army’s National Donut Day 4th Annual World Donut Eating Championship.
“The Midway was the perfect location for the event due to strong Southern California military ties,” said Jake Minger, communications manager for the Salvation Army’s San Diego regional office. “It was wonderful for us to be able to say thank you to veterans who have proudly served America.”
The Salvation Army established National Donut Day in 1938 to honor it’s “Doughnut Lassies” volunteers who risked their lives to raise spirits of thousands of U.S. soldiers serving on the front lines in Europe during World War I.
In 1917, these patriotic Salvation Army volunteers traveled to France delivering donuts and other sweet treats to servicemembers fighting in the war. The donut was then, and continues to be, a taste of home and a symbol of comfort for members of the American armed forces.
“The donut actually commemorates the start of the Salvation Army’s veteran’s services more than 100 years ago,” said Lt. Col. Lee Lescano, divisional secretary for the San Diego regional office. “In World War I, the Salvation Army’s lassies brought a little comfort, a little of home to soldiers which included donuts that they made in their helmets.”
“Our Donut Day was a big success! The event raised close to $20,000 for veterans.”
To celebrate National Donut Day and honor military veterans, the Salvation Army returned to Midway for its fund-raising donut-eating contest.
“The fundraiser supported veterans assisted through many of the services provided by The Salvation Army including employment, homelessness, and drug and alcohol programs,” said Jake. “All of the money raised stays in Southern California.”
The donut-eating contest, while fun, was not a casual affair. It was series business. The contestants included the number-one-ranked female competitive eater in the world, Miki Sudo. The challenge was simple, whoever ate the most donuts in eight minutes, would be crowned victorious.
When the horn sounded, Miki left her fellow competitors in the powdered-sugar dust, devouring 39 ½ donuts.
“I’m the fifth ranked competitive eater, men and women combined,” said Miki, won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest for the eighth time in 2022. “I was just a girl having a great time on the USS Midway. It was such an honor to be here and to win.”
For most, it’s difficult to have a bad day when surrounded by oodles of donuts. The National Donut Day celebration on the museum’s flight deck was more than just bake-shop merriment, the funds raised will allow the Salvation Army to continue its support of veterans in need.
“Our Donut Day was a big success,” said Jake. “The event raised close to $20,000 for veterans. We hope to do it again next year on Midway.”
It was a star-spangled 4th of July night on and above the USS Midway Museum as the annual Big Bay Boom fireworks show lit up the sky over San Diego Bay. Nearly 3,000 guests watched the massive pyrotechnic display from the museum’s flight deck celebrating the nation’s 246th birthday in grand style.
The Midway’s popular fireworks viewing party is one of the most sought-after tickets in Southern California.
“This was our first time,” said Michelle Winslow, from Valley Center who attended the viewing party with her husband Brandon. “We used to watch the fireworks from Navy Pier before COVID but decided the next time we’d come to the Midway and hopefully make it a tradition.”
The 17-minute fireworks show was launched from four barges floating in San Diego Bay and choreographed to a selection of patriotic music broadcast on both local television and radio.
Midway’s front-row seats on the bay made the Independence Day spectacle and an awesome experience.
“It was fabulous,” said Nina Brown of San Diego who was joined by family and friends for the party. “This is our fourth time coming to Midway for the fireworks. We brought the kids, and they were so excited after COVID to be back in the thick of things.”
The energetic songs of The Sully Band, the San Diego Music Award winner in 2020 for best live local band, kept all those in attendance in high spirits.
“It’s fantastic to play here, it was a real honor,” said Robert “Sully” Sullivan, the band’s lead singer. “This was an excellent crowd and we really enjoyed it.”
Midway was not only the best place in San Diego to take in the fireworks but, as America’s Living Symbol of Freedom, brought special meaning to those commemorating the 4th of July on the flight deck.
“God bless America and our 56 signers for giving us freedom,” said Brandon Winslow. “The National Day of Independence 1776. What a day and place to celebrate on top of the bow of the USS Midway.”