NC man among WWII Airmen to be honored today

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Sandra Johnson-Leu

SARASOTA, Fla. — Six World War II Army Air Corp airmen, who died in a B-26 Marauder training crash on Nov. 16, 1942, will be recognized today.

Nearly 74 years after the tragic event unfolded off the coast of Florida, the six men will be recognized this Memorial Day for their service with Military Honors in Ft. Meyers Beach, Fla.

Here are the airmen that will be honored today, the latter four of which were never found and identified:
Lt. Fred Dees, Jr., co-pilot from Burgaw, N.C.Lt. Donald Vail, pilot from Macomb, Ill.S. Sgt. William G. Kittiko, top turret gunner from McKeesport, Pa.Lt. Louis Mikes, bombardier from Queens, N.Y.S. Sgt. Milton Newton, crewman from Davidson, Nashville, Tenn.S. Sgt. Richard Treat, crewman from Marblehead, Essex, Mass.Eternal Reefs, Reef Innovations and the Reef Ball Foundation have partnered with Underwater Historical Explorations Ltd. and VFW Post 10097 to honor these men. The crash site was discovered by a UHE dive team in 2008 a bit over 42 miles offshore from Ft. Myers.

The six men were aboard the first of eight B-26 planes to go missing from the 480th Bomb Squadron, 336th Bomb Group, during training accidents between Nov. 16, 1942 and Nov. 15, 1943.

In total, 47 airmen lost their lives due to these accidents.

A UHE dive team will place inscribed plaques for a memorial on the ocean floor crash site at a later date. In total, seven memorials will be placed at the site to recognize the sacrifice of the airmen. One, weighing 1,300 pounds and measuring 3-feet-by-4-feet will commemorate the entire crew. Six separate memorials, weighing about 700 pounds each and measuring 2-feet-by-3-feet, will honor each airman individually.