SSGT Harvey J. Dempsey, Jr.
315th BW, 502nd BG, 402 BS
United States Army Air Corps
KIA 25/26 July 1945, Kawasaki, Japan
Buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, HI
The Father of Penelope Patricia Dempsey Yazzie
-- Penny Dempsey Yazzie --
Harvey J. Dempsey, Jr. was born on St. Patrick's Day 1911 in South Bend, Indiana and his nickname became "Pat" from that day forward. How perfect is that? An Irishman born on St. Patty's day! He was
the first son of Harvey J. Dempsey, Sr. and Marion Schlindwein. He had a younger brother, Everett, and a younger sister, Pauline.
Before joining the Army Air Corps in 1942, Pat worked for the John Deere Corporation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a supervisor of their billing department. He married Helene F. Klopotek on St. Patrick's
Day 1934 in Shorewood, Wisconsin. On January 12, 1945, I became the only child they would ever have. They named me Penelope Patricia, but called me Penny. Mother told me it was because after all those
years of waiting for me, I was their "Lucky Penny." I was one of the more fortunate Gold Star Children because he was able to make two visits home to meet me. Mother said that as she watched him leave
on the last day of the second visit, he became shrouded in a fog that wasn't there and disappeared. She said that she knew then that he would not be coming back to us.
Dad enlisted in the Army Air Corps in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June of 1942. In his own words he stated, "I want to be part of the action and I want to fly." He was inducted into the Army Air Corps at
Ft. Sheridan, Illinois where he also completed his basic training. He then spent several months at the Medical Induction Center in Milwaukee before leaving for the training center at Kessler Field in
Mississippi. He was then sent to Air Base School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Later, at Wendover Field in Utah, he graduated from their Aerial Gunnery School. His next base was in Ardmore, Oklahoma
where he learned to operate the radio on a B29. His distinction was ROM or Radio Operator Mechanic. He not only needed to know how operate the radio, but it was extremely necessary for him to know how
to repair it in flight. He was then assigned to the 315th Bomb Wing and became a member of a B29B bomber crew at what was to be his last stateside base, Grand Island, Nebraska. Before shipping out to
Guam, the crew trained for their long missions in Puerto Rico.
The crew arrived on Guam on June 23, 1945. They left Guam for their third mission on the night of July 25, 1945. Eighty-five B29 bombers were sent to destroy the Hayama Petroleum Center and the
Mitsubishi Oil Company at Tokyo, Japan. The weather report stated that there would be 100% cloud cover over the target area that night, but when they got there, the sky was clear and they were greeted
by a full moon as well. They had been ordered by General Curtis (Iron Ass) LeMay to come in over the target at 16,000 feet even though the bomber had been built to bomb at more than twice that height.
They were now, extremely obvious and in a very precarious situation. The ten tons of incendiary bombs they carried had been armed in midair about an hour before they reached the initial point.
Their bomber was the fourth one to come in over the target area. It was immediately coned in the search lights, subjected to intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire and was hit in the #2 engine. It
banked to the left, went up in flames and went down. It happened so quickly, they had not been able to drop even one bomb. It crashed into the Nippon Casting Company factory in Kawasaki, Japan. The
fuel from the plane ignited the bombs and ammunition. With ammunition flying in every direction, the Japanese fire crews could not get near the intense inferno to put out the flames. The fire was
allowed to burn out. The following day, the Japanese Military Police buried the men at the crash site along with an engine from the bomber, still bearing it's serial number. A sign was erected in
Japanese stating, "American fliers graves. July 25, 1945." It was signed by a man named "Tojima." The grave site was found in January 1946 by the brother of one of the crew members.
After the recovery of the bodies, the men were buried in Japan at the American Cemetery Yokohama #1. A year and a half after they were first found, the Army returned to the crash site and exhumed
more body parts and identifications. The men were reprocessed and placed in a mausoleum at Yokohama #2. The father of the captain of the plane wanted his son buried in Hawaii, but was told that
unless all of the men were buried there, all of them would have to remain in Japan. In July, 1949, they were exhumed for the final time. Their bodies were reprocessed again and the identification
initially given to my father, was given to another man. He was declared "unidentified." Even though there are three caskets and three graves, he shares a headstone with two other men. In order to get
each man his own headstone, I made a request to the army that my dad be identified. I was told that they would do this, but it would be necessary to exhume all ten members of the bomber crew so that
testing could be done on all of them. I was also told that some of the men might be returned to "missing" status. I do not want this done, but my fight for the headstones continues.
The entire crew was brought to the National Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as "Punchbowl." They were the first burials in the cemetery in which families were allowed to attend. They rest along
the South Mall Drive and are in front of the memorial. The trees that were saplings at the time of the burial are now fully grown and provide shade and beauty. A rainbow graces the graves on most days.
Amid the calm and silence, the sounds of twenty-one gun salutes and "Taps" are often still heard there.
"A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." G. K. Chesterton