Last Known Activity|
TBM-1C Avenger, Navy Bu. No. 45946 of VMTB-134, reported lost in combat north of Peleliu on 10 November 1944 in the vicinity of Ngeregong Island. Although all crewmen was listed as killed in action (KIA), two crew members remain missing from that aircraft: Major Harry V. Scullin and Sgt. Bertrand L. Smith. Also their Avenger must have been found since one crew member's remains, those of Cpl. Matt L. Muller were recovered from that site on 12 November 1944, the precise location of that crash site has not been documented. On 12 November 2001, the BentProp Project Team, with the help of Palauans living on Ngeregong, located the remnants of a TBM-1C Avenger in a location consistent with the VMF-134 after action report which describes the crash location of Avenger 45946. The after action report from that mission and verified from my interviews with a surviving wingman states that Major Scullin's aircraft impacted along the southern end of the island Ngeregong. This island is approximately 6 miles NNE of Peleliu, with a barrier coral reef extending from Ngerogong to the south for several miles. Based on this report, I traveled with Jennifer Krasny-Power (director/photographer) and Joe Maldangesang (master guide) to the southwest end of Ngeregong on 12 November 2001 and anchored within walking distance to the shore. Joe and I found a fisherman on shore and Joe queried him about his knowledge of any airplane crash sites in vicinity to this island. The Palauan fisherman, speaking in Palauan, immediately pointed in a southeastern direction out on the coral reef and gave Joe directions. Because of low tide, the three of us were able to spread out in a row over about a 200-yard total breadth and started walking in the shallows from Ngerogong in a southerly direction. In less than 30 minutes, Joe signaled that he had found something along the eastern edge of the reef, near the breakwater. Upon arrival at the site, I found what appears to be the retracted left main landing gear assembly still attached within the remnants of an inner left wing assembly; the outer, folding portion of the wing is missing. We spread our small search team out in different directions using this assembly as the center of a circle. We found two other distinct debris fields (one piece tentatively identified as part of the right wing, appearing symmetric with the left wing assembly, only without the landing gear, and a second unidentified piece.
On 10 November 1944, TBM-1C crashed on a combat mission south of Ngerogong Island with loss of the lives of all three crewmen. On 12 November 2001, exactly 57 years after American forces located Avenger, Bu. No. 45946, and removed the remains of Cpl. Matt Muller, we documented the location of a series of debris fields consistent a) with parts that would belong to a TBM-1C Avenger and b) with the area identified as the crash site in the after action report involving this Avenger. As there are no other Avengers known to have crashed in this immediate area, I conclude that this debris field represents what is left of TBM-1C Avenger, Bu. No.45946, and that this area also is the final resting place for Major Harry V. Scullin, CO of VMTB-134 and his radio operator, Sgt. Bertrand L. Smith.