Obituary of Staff Sergeant Carl M. Shaffer
Seventy-four years after his bomber crashed in a Pacific lagoon, the remains of a Pottstown airman who died serving his country have been identified.
U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Carl M. Shaffer, 22, was accounted for on Dec. 20, 2018.
According to a release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Shaffer's B-24J bomber, often called a "Liberator," crashed in Tarawa lagoon shortly after takeoff on Jan. 21, 1944.
Shaffer, the radio operator, and the nine other servicemen aboard the aircraft, nicknamed the "Galloping Gus," were killed when the plane crashed, exploded and sank in 24 feet of water.
The crew were members of the 38th Bombardment Squadron, 30th Bombardment Group, stationed at Hawkins Field, Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.
According to the website Pacific Wrecks, Shaffer's plane was part of a bombing mission against Japanese forces located on a series of islands in the Kwajalein Atoll. Shaffer's plane took off 17 minutes after B-24J "Miss Bee Haven" which also crashed after take off, although some of those crew members survived.
Water in the fuel is believed to be the cause of both crashes.
The mission's target, was a one-square-mile island known as Roi-Namur, located on the northern portion of the Kwajalein Atoll, which is located in the Marshall Islands.
The Japanese target hosted two airfields, a submarine base, communications and weather stations.
On Feb. 2, 1944, 12 days after Shaffer's mission, American forces landed at Roi and Namur islands after heavy Naval bombardment and secured the islands in eight hours as part of "Operation Flintlock," according to "Pacific Wrecks."
The capture of Kwajalein Atoll during Operation Flintlock, which cost 332 American lives, provided American forces with a base of operations that assured the recapture of the Philippines.
Shaffer was born on Feb. 21, 1921, in Pottstown to Herbert Donald Shaffer and Katherine K. Shaffer
He is believed to be a 1940 graduate of Pottstown High School.
According to a Feb. 4, 1943 notice in The Mercury announcing his graduation from radio school, Shaffer's parents lived at 328 N. Charlotte St.
An April 15, 1943 announcement in The Mercury indicated that Shaffer, then at Fort Dix, had secured a marriage license with Helen E. Fox of 769 N. Charlotte St.
A Mercury notice published Monday, Oct. 11, 1943, announced his promotion to sergeant, listed his address as 769 N. Charlotte St., and indicated he was now married to Helen E. Shaffer. The notice also indicated Shaffer had previously served on anti-submarine patrols on the East Coast.
Two days after "Operation Flintlock" and 14 days after his plane crashed, Shaffer's death was announced on the front page of the Feb. 4, 1944 edition of The Mercury, along with the U.S. attack on the Marshall Islands targets which Shaffer and his crew had been ordered to bomb.
The Feb. 4, 1944 edition of The Mercury announced not only the death of Carl M. Shaffer, but the attack on the Marshall Islands base he and his crew had been ordered to attack.
A close-up of an article in the Friday, Feb. 4, 1944 edition of The Mercury announcing the death of Carl M. Shaffer.
The article indicated he had worked at Bethlehem Steel and had joined the army on Aug. 2, 1942.
It also indicated that on Jan. 31, ten days after Shaffer died, she received three letters from him, dated Jan. 15, 16 and 17,
After the Jan. 21 crash, rescue crews recovered the remains of five individuals.
Three identified sets of remains and two unidentified sets were reportedly interred in a cemetery on Betio Island, one of several cemeteries established on the island after the U.S. seized the island from the Japanese in November 1943, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Following the war, the U.S. Army’s 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company began recovering remains from scattered cemeteries between 1946 and 1947, consolidating them into a single cemetery called Lone Palm Cemetery.
The remains of the B-24J crew were believed to be among those moved, however Shaffer’s remains were not identified and he was declared non-recoverable.
In 2017, History Flight Inc., a non-profit organization, through a partnership with DPAA, uncovered a series of coffin burials from the smaller cemetery on Betio Island. They were subsequently sent to the DPAA laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu for analysis.
Scientists from DPAA used dental, anthropological and DNA analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence to identify Shaffer's remains.
Shaffer’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, along with others missing from WWII.
A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
A graveside service will take place on Saturday, May 25, 2019, at 11:00 a.m. at Highland Memorial Park, 701 Farmington Ave., Pottstown, PA 19464. Houck & Gofus Funeral Home, Inc., 955 N. Charlotte St., Pottstown, PA 19464 will be handling the arrangements. Online condolneces may be made to the family at www.houckgofusfuneralhome.com.