Wyman LaRose was born in Queensbury, New York on July 27, 1921. He was the son of Celia LaRose of Lake George Road. Wyman graduated from Glens Falls High School in 1938. He entered into the Army in 1942 and completed Air Corp Training at Columbia Air Base and at Walterboro, S.C.
Corporal LaRose served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He was a member of the 345th Bombardier Squadron stationed in New Guinea. Cpl. LaRose served on board a B-25 “Mitchell.”
Wyman wrote a number of letters to his mother Celia while stationed overseas. His letter of 23 August 1944 was most interesting as it contained five photographs taken while serving in the South Pacific. The captions under each photo are quoted from this letter.
“Picture one was taken during presentation of decorations by Lt. General. Several boys from my squadron received decorations. They ranged from the Silver Star to the Air Medal.” – Wyman LaRose letter – 23 Aug 1944
“Picture two was taken in a low level attack by our planes on an airstrip in the Wewak area [Papua, New Guinea]. You can see by the wrecked planes and smoke that we did some good.” – Wyman LaRose letter – 23 Aug. 1944
“Picture number three was taken on a run over a Jap convoy. The boat is a Jap corvette. The bomb you see in the picture is one that sank the boat. The Mitchell in the picture didn’t drop the bomb though. You can see the Nips running for protection from our machine gun bullets. It didn’t do them any good though. They were all swimming a few minutes after that picture was taken.” – Wyman LaRose letter – 23 Aug. 1944
“Picture number four was taken as our planes were circling back over Wake Island after a bombing run. Smoke covered the target area so that you can’t observe damage. The white band around the middle of the plane is our official insignia. The horse’s head on the tail is the design chosen to go with the name Rough Raiders, and the name and picture on the nose is the pilot’s choice, therefore each is different.” – Wyman LaRose letter – 23 Aug. 1944
“Picture number five is our homemade laundry at our first overseas camp.” – Wyman LaRose letter 23 Aug. 1944.
Wyman closes the letter of 23 August 1944 to his Mom saying, “I’ll send more pictures later. I still have a whole flock of them. I may just send them and tell you about them when I get home.”
Approximately three weeks later, Celia LaRose received a letter at her home on Lake George Road in Queensbury from Max H. Mortensen, Captain, Air Corps, Commanding:
“It is with the deepest regret that I offer you the heartfelt sympathy of this command in informing you that your son, Wyman, is missing in action in the Southwest Pacific area since 2 September 1944. Wyman was riding as Engineer Gunner in an airplane which left on a mission on that date and as yet has failed to return.”
A month later, another letter with more information arrived from E.A. Bradunas, Major, A.G.D., Chief, Notification Branch, Personal Affairs Division, Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Personnel:
“Further information dated September 4 has just been received which indicates that Corporal LaRose was a crew member of a B-25 (Mitchell) bomber which participated in a bombardment and strafing mission to the Lambeh Strait off the Celebes Island on September 2. Full details are not available, the report indicating that during this mission your son’s plane sustained damage from enemy antiaircraft fire and made a successful landing in the water, at about 11:35 a.m., four and one-half miles northeast of Lambeh Strait. Accompanying planes circled the area and observed one man in the water, two men on the wing and another man helping the fifth one out of the hatch over the pilot’s seat. The report further indicates that a short while later a life raft was seen and that the occupants waved. An extensive search was instituted but no further information has been received relative to the whereabouts of your son.”
An interim letter in 1945 from the War Department indicated that Cpl. Wyman LaRose was still considered missing in action.
A final letter dated 18 March 1946 from the War Department was sent to Wyman’s mother from Edward F. Witsell, Major General, The Adjutant General of the Army:
“All available records and reports concerning the absence of your son have been carefully investigated and are deemed to warrant a subsequent review of his case. Information in the hands of the War Department indicates that your son was a crew member of a B-25 (Mitchell) bomber which departed from Mokmer Airdrome, New Guinea, on a bombing and strafing mission to Lambeh Straits of the northeast coast of Celebes Island. After leaving the target, your son’s plane was seen flying at “deck level” and trailing smoke. At approximately 11:35 a.m., the plane successfully landed on the water four and one-half miles northeast of Lambeh Strait. Five members of the crew were seen alive in the water with their “mae wests” inflated. A Japanese fighter plane began strafing the plane, but was fired upon by accompanying planes until gas shortage forced them to return to their base. Searches of the area were conducted, but no trace of the crew members was found.”
“Since no information has been received which would support a presumption of his continued survival the War Department must now terminate your son’s absence by a presumptive finding of death.”
“In the case of your son this date has been set as 18 March 1946.”
“I regret the necessity for this message but trust that the ending of a long period of uncertainty may at least give some small measure of consolation. An appraisal of the sacrifice made by your son in the service of his country compels in us feelings of humility and respect. May Providence grant a measure of relief from the anguish and anxiety you have experienced during these many months.”
edited by Tom Lynch, Collections Manager
contact: [email protected]
Source: Patricia Brayton Collection # 33, Warren County NY Historical Society.