WWII EOD Warriors LTJG Hutchins & ACOM Meadville to be Honored During Memorial Weekend

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    Lieutenant Junior Grade Gardner Treible Hutchins was born 28 August 1920 in Severna Park, Maryland.  He graduated from the Navy’s Bomb Disposal School, class #18, 23 February 1943.  He was then assigned to Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit Four.  Hutchins mustered aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) on 24 January 1945, from Alameda, California.

    At dawn on 11 May 1945, USS Bunker Hill was operating about 90 miles East of Okinawa.  The ship had been shadowed most of the previous night.  Enemy planes were known to be attacking ships supporting the Okinawa invasion under the Japanese codename Kikusui.  On 11 May, 240 Imperial Japanese Navy and Army planes participated in the sixth Kikusui attack.  About 1000 hours, the Bunker Hill was hit by two suicide kamikaze aircraft without any previous warning. Both planes dove out of low clouds at a steep angle.  A Mitsubishi A6M Zeke “Zero” fighter plane emerging from low cloud cover, dove toward the flight deck and dropped a 550-pound bomb that penetrated the flight deck and exited from the side of the ship at gallery deck level before exploding in the ocean.  The Zero then crashed onto the carrier’s flight deck, destroying parked warplanes full of aviation fuel and ammunition, causing a large fire.  The remains of the Zero went over the deck and dropped into the sea.  Then, a short 30 seconds later, a second Zero, piloted by Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa, plunged into its suicide dive.  The Zero went through the antiaircraft fire, dropped a 550-pound bomb, and then crashed into the flight deck near the carrier’s “island”, as kamikazes were trained to aim for the island superstructure.  The bomb penetrated the flight deck and exploded.  The resulting gasoline fires and several explosions severely damaged the carrier.  As result, LTJG Hutchins, along with 346 other sailors were killed-in-action. 

    LTJG Hutchins was buried at sea and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal.  He was memorialized  on the tablets of the Missing at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl National Cemetery), Honolulu, Hawaii.

 

    Chief Aviation Ordnanceman William C. Meadville was born 21 January 1918 in Bellwood, Pennsylvania.  He enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on 5 September 1942 in Birmingham, AL.  He then attended Navy Mine Disposal School at American University Campus, Washington, D.C. Upon graduation from Mine Disposal School Class #12 on 28 November 1942,  ACOM Meadville was assigned to Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit ONE, Navy 134, Freemantle, Australia.  

    Commander Service Force, SEVENTH Fleet, assigned ACOM Meadville temporary additional duty to the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Observer in preparation for landing on Leyte Island, Philippines.  Beginning on 23 October 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle of World War II.  A battle between American and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy, U.S. troops invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from critical natural resources, originating from Southwest Asia, that sustained its war-making capabilities.  ACOM Meadville’s orders were to report to G-2, SIXTH Army, Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea with final assignment to G-2, U.S. X Corps at Finschhafen, Territory of New Guinea.

    ACOM Meadville boarded a U.S. troop carrier plane at Cyclops Airdrome, near Hollandia, on a flight bound for Finschhafen Airfield, Papua New Guinea. The aircraft departed  at 0547, went missing and was never located. ACOM Meadville was declared killed-in-action on the day of the mission – 1 October 1944 – and was memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery. 

 

 

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