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Lieut, Charles E. Gaskell - MIA Bataan 1942, POW, KIA

Posted by VeniVidiDejaVu 
Lieut, Charles E. Gaskell - MIA Bataan 1942, POW, KIA
July 12, 2016 05:36PM
Pictures [s1020.photobucket.com]

This is kinda long, but I wanted to tell the whole story. During World War Two my father (Robert W. McClain aka Mac or Woody) cut out two newspaper items regarding a friend of his, Charles E. Gaskell, who was missing in action. Dad went to high school at Dallas High School, Dallas, TX, with Charlie , and kept the newspaper clippings for the rest of his life. Once, upon finding the clippings in a box of family photos, I asked dad whatever happened to Lieut. Gaskell, and he said “We never found out.” Pop passed away in 2001 never knowing what happened to his friend, and the clippings came into my possession. Recently I began researching Lt. Gaskell and his Army Air Forces unit on the Internet; I thought I probably wouldn't find anything, but one search led to another, and a story happened.

Army Air Forces Pursuit Pilot Lieut. Charles E. Gaskell attended Texas A&M. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940, had flight training and commission in Stockton, CA. According to the book Every Day a Nightmare: American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942, Page 19, by William H. Bartsch, “In the wooden officers' barracks of the 35th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field, California. 2nd Lt. Bryan Brown was meeting with six of his 41-E flying school classmates in early October, 1941. All but one were fellow Texans assigned from Stockton Field, California, in July 1941 following their graduation. They were going to cut cards to determine which two among them would gain overseas assignments to a location code-named PLUM with their 34th Pursuit Squadron to depart on November 1 on the USAT President Coolidge. All seven were keen on the change, for it offered excitement in the future. None of them knew where PLUM was but suspected it was the Philippines.”

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/12/2016 05:53PM by VeniVidiDejaVu.
Re: Lieut, Charles E. Gaskell - MIA Bataan 1942
July 12, 2016 05:37PM
“Brown drew a low card, as did Wade Holman, George Hynes. Ray Thompson. and Bill Stauter. Charlie Gaskell and Jim Henry held the two high cards. Brown and the other four were disappointed to miss the Nov 1 sailing but had been told by Squadron Commander Sam Marett that the Coolidge could carry only half of the 34th Squadron because of space limitations, and that they would be going out on a second transport with the rest of the squadron later in November.” The others appear to have shipped to Australia instead of the Philippines.

Winning the card cut would have far-reaching repercussions for Charlie and his mate, Jim Henry. Gaskell was sent to Nichols Field, Manilla, in Nov, 1941, 10 days before WWII started, and saw duty in the Manila Bay and Bataan area. He served in the parent group V Interceptor Command, assigned unit 24th Pursuit Group, subordinate unit 34th Pursuit Squadron. According to the Roster of Platoons (February 26, 1942), Gaskell was in the Third Platoon.

Evidently they were flying the Seversky P-35a. The P-35 was the first single-seat fighter in U.S. Army Air Corps to feature all-metal construction, retractable landing gear and an enclosed cockpit. The P-35's performance was poor even by contemporary standards and, although USAAC aviators appreciated the aircraft's ruggedness, it was already obsolete by the time deliveries were finished in 1938.

According to Wikipedia: “The 34th Pursuit Squadron.….was wiped out in the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42). The survivors fought as infantry during Battle of Bataan and after their surrender, were subjected to the Bataan Death March, although some did escape to Australia. The unit was never remanned or equipped. It was carried as an active unit until 2 April 1946. “

Charlie Gaskell's status according to a Dallas, TX, newspaper of the period: Reported missing in action (MIA) in summer of 1942; reported as a prisoner of war (POW) of the Japanese by Jan 7, 1943 (date noted by my father on newspaper clipping). NARA, the U.S. National Archives, lists his status as “Executed, Died in Ship's Sinking or result of Ship Sinking, Shot While Attempting to Escape”.
Re: Lieut, Charles E. Gaskell - MIA Bataan 1942
July 12, 2016 05:39PM
“USAAFDATA American Air Forces lives lost during WWII” lists Lieut. Gaskell as: Day: 24 Month: 10 Year: 1944 Details: 34th Pursuit Squadron 24th Pursuit Group Casualty of the 'Arisan Maru'. His friend and fellow high-card winner Jim Henry died in the same ship. (http://www.usaafdata.com/?q=node/162636).

From [www.wrecksite.eu] : “Greatest Maritime US Loss in Maritime History. On 24th October 1944 Arisan Maru carrying 1782 US POW was hit by 3 torpedoes from American submarine USS Snook in the South China Sea, 200 miles N.W. of Luzon Island, Philippines. She was carrying 1.782 US prisoners and 100 civilians from Manila to Japan. 1777 people died. This makes her the greatest loss of American life in maritime history.”

From [www.west-point.org]: “Arisan Maru -- On October 11, 1944 the Arisan Maru left Manila with about 1,800 POWs in the cargo holds.  That ship turned south to Palawan Island and anchored off Palawan until October 20th when it returned to Manila to join Convoy MATA-30 which sailed on October 21, 1944.  On October 23rd when the convoy was about 200 miles northwest of Luzon, two packs of U.S. submarines (total of nine submarines) began their attacks on this convoy.  About 5:30 p.m. on October 24, 1944 the USS Shark sent three torpedoes into the Arisan Maru.  The ship broke in two pieces which floated for a while; however, the net result was death for all except nine of the POWs.  This was the largest loss of American lives in a single disaster at sea (see Death on the Hellships by Gregory F. Michno, p. 258).”

Thus, winning the high card led to air action in the Battle of the Philipines, combat as a ground soldier in the Battle of Bataan, the Bataan Death March, the horror of Japanese POW camps, 13 torturous days on a Japanese Hell Ship, a submarine attack and torpedoing, and finally death in the waters of the South China Sea.
Lieutenant Charles E. Gaskell
Service #: O-421072
Purple Heart
Date of Death: October 24, 1944
Memorialized in the Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines
According to Robert E Johnson, Lt. Charles E. Gaskell earned the Bronze Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal (OLC), POW Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, among others.


I hope you enjoyed this story; and please forgive my verbosity. ~ Mike

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/12/2016 06:25PM by VeniVidiDejaVu.
Re: Lieut, Charles E. Gaskell - MIA Bataan 1942
July 12, 2016 06:26PM
I did attempt to find a living member of the Gaskell family to see if they would like to have the clippings, but was unsuccessful. ~ Mike

Native Dallasite, Hillcrest High '65, Texas A&M '71
Re: Lieut, Charles E. Gaskell - MIA Bataan 1942, POW, KIA
July 13, 2016 10:34AM
Wow! Almost certainly the single largest casualty list from "friendly fire," though of course, the ship was an enemy ship. Almost certainly the single largest casualty list from a single incident for American war prisoners, too.

"War is hell."

Dave McNeely
Re: Lieut, Charles E. Gaskell - MIA Bataan 1942, POW, KIA
July 13, 2016 10:49AM
Google-Mapped 1026 Grandview, and apparently his parents' house is still there. You can do a streetview to see the front of the house, and the door where "the telegram" confirming their worst fears was delivered.

Native Dallasite, Hillcrest High '65, Texas A&M '71
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