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Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725Seventy five years after their plane crashed on San Miguel Island, 12 members of a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber squadron will be honored for the first time.
The event, “Salute to San Miguel Island’s Lost Liberator,” will be held at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on July 5th, 2018, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. The event is sponsored by the Santa Cruz Island Foundation, Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, and the museum.
Their heavy bomber, a B-24 Liberator, was lost on July 5, 1943, after being dispatched from Salinas Army Air Base to search for the “Eddie Rickenbacker,” a B-24 bomber that had gone missing a day earlier from a nighttime training mission off the coast of Santa Barbara.
Believed to be flying in foggy conditions at a 500 foot altitude the search plane crashed into Green Mountain, a gently sloping 817-foot peak on San Miguel Island. The remains of the 12 airmen and the wreckage of the plane, which was scattered over an acre area, were not found until eight months later.
The wreckage of the “Eddie Rickenbacker” was found inland, ten miles north of Santa Barbara, having crashed due to fuel shortage. The Rickenbacker crew parachuted prior to the crash, with eight members surviving.
"Windy and exposed San Miguel Island, the westernmost of four northern Channel Islands, is often called the "Graveyard of Ships," said Marla Daily, President of the Santa Cruz Island Foundation. “But on July 5, 1943 it also became the graveyard of twelve men who gave their lives in service to our country, who until now, had never been recognized. It is an honor to bring their stories to life 75 years later."
Flight crew of the 2nd Air Force, 34th Bomb Group, 7th Bomb Squadron being honored include Pilot Vernon C. Stevens, Command Pilot Douglas Thornburg, Copilot Floyd P. Hart, Bombardier Instructor Justin M. Marshall, Navigator Bose Gorman, Bombardier Noah H. Yost, Engineer Bernard Littman, Asst. Engineer Ralph S. Masterson, Radioman Lyle L. Frost, Gunner Walter O. Eisenbarth, Gunner Lee E. Salver, and Asst. Radioman Henry L. Bair.
"It’s important to remember these 12 men who perished in 1943 are part of the history of the Channel Islands,”said John W . Blankenship, Co-Founding Director of the Pierre Clayssens Veterans Foundation. “The mission of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation is to honor all those who served so they are never forgotten."
Executive Director Greg Gorga said, “The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is honored to be a part of this project and to host this monument, honoring the brave men who lost their lives in defense of our country.”
Active and retired military personnel and community members are invited to attend the memorial tribute and the unveiling of a new monument commissioned by the Santa Cruz Island Foundation. Bagpipe music will preview the ceremony starting at 3:30 pm.
The Santa Cruz Island Foundation, a nonprofit public benefit corporation established in 1985, collects, maintains, and catalogs items of real and personal property or interests regarding the history of Santa Cruz Island and the other California Channel Islands. The Foundation displays and promotes these items in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, and others. In addition, the Santa Cruz Island Foundation organizes and sponsors public exhibits and educational trips.
The Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation was founded by John W. Blankenship in 2003. With his wife, Hazel, he is involved with several projects which honor all veterans of all wars. An extensive collection of artwork, memorabilia, and personal histories are collected and ready for exhibit. The Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation hosts many events throughout the year to support and honor Veterans and Active Duty Military.
Since 2000, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum has featured many artifacts and stories to share the history of the Santa Barbara Channel with more than 30,000 visitors annually, providing experiential maritime history and marine science education for local youth. Featuring the impressive First-Order Fresnel Lighthouse Lens from Point Conception, current exhibits explore Geology of Oil in Santa Barbara Channel & Chumash Use of Asphaltum, the Honda Disaster, and Wives and Daughters: Keepers of the Light.
Channel Islands National Park, America’s 40th national park, was established by Congress on March 5, 1980. The park is made up of five islands — Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara — and the waters within one nautical mile of each island. The park bridges two major biogeographical provinces within 250,000 acres of land and sea, protecting a rich array of natural and cultural resources. The park offers the public unparalleled opportunities for solitude, wildlife viewing, outdoor recreation, and education.