RM2C Vernon Failer, U.S. Navy
PBY Part of Asiatic Pat Wing 101, 8-man crew, on patrol
KIA 24 Feb 1942, Makassar Harbor, Philippines
Memorialized on the Wall of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery

My father, Vernon Failer, Second Class Radioman (RM2), was born in Sedalia, MO. 1906 or 1908, to Clara May (Bunker). Her parents were (George and Evelyn A. Smith). In Clara's first marriage, to John Milo Crout, Dad was named Vernon Lester Crout, one of several children. When he and his sister Dorothy were adopted by a farm family (William and Mary Failer) in Sedalia, MO., Lester was dropped. He became Vernon Failer.

He joined the Army at 16. Mary signed for him, after a short time he separated from the Army and joined the Navy.

The Navy brought him to the West coast, where Virginia Cockan introduced him to my mother, Marion Sommerville in Agnew Washington in 1936. He liked it here so much he talked his sister Dorothy (Crout, Failer) Zimmershied into bringing her family to Port Angeles. We all lived in the row of auto court cabins at Lairds Corner.

Dad reenlisted into the Navy as a radioman c 2 and was sent to California, flying in Catalinas. They were built in California and not the fastest planes. Mom, Marion Joan (Sommerville 1918) Failer & Me Evelyn Joan, born 1937 in Port Angeles, WA, tagged along. Mom said the dust was so deep we had to wear galoshes all summer.

Dad, was stationed in Hawaii, then to the Pacific. The PBY CATALINA was an 8-man float plane; the island people called it a boat plane. He wrote it was so hot they took their bedding onto the wings to sleep. At some time the rice fields were flooded so they could fly in and out.

We came to Grandma Sommerville's house in Agnew. Verna Jean was born in 1940, Port Angeles, WA. Dad never did see her. We all slept in one bed, Mom and Jean at the head, me at the foot. There was an outhouse, wood pile, no electricity, a hand pump at the kitchen sink with a bucket of water close by for priming. Grandma made bread in the top of the flour sack. I made butter in a gallon churn. The cooler was an apple box nailed to the north side of the kitchen. There was a big yellow plum tree to keep the area cool. On occasion a visitor would bring ice cream, the pillows kept it frozen until after dinner.

Dad sent home two of the native carved keepsake chests, and little pearl inlaid opening heart necklace for his little Pal.

On 24, Feb 1942 their PBY as part of the ASIATIC PAT WING, 101 was on patrol. His plane was no. 2, took off from Soerabaja, climbed northward over Makassar and picked up three transports and a submarine lying in the strait.

The crew consisted of Pilot Lieut. J.M. ROBERTSON, J. F. LONG,  Z.S. LEWALL, V.L.SHELTON, HANS H. POULSON, J.F. SIMPSON, VERNON FAILER, & W.S. WILSON. Robertson held their position; there were no Army Flying Fortresses available. They were too busy with the Japanese swarming down on Ball. It was dangerous for Roberts to use his radio in reply to orders because that would give away his position to the omnipresent Japanese zeros. For two hours and ten minutes nothing was heard. Then came the signal. “I am being attacked by fighters,” Pat wing officers always knew no one  was coming to their rescue for as far as PBYs were concerned, fighters were nonexistent, but to let Peterson in Soerabaja and Wagner in Bandoeng know what had happened. Twenty-five minutes later, Robertson was still alive. Robertson reported "one sub on surface, one destroyer eight merchant vessels." Robertson let go two bombs. One hit a merchantman, one missed.

The Japanese commander called for a general sweep to wipe out this single PBY scout betraying his invasion plans. Robertson's last signal, though short was eloquent, "Attacked by enemy planes and a fleet to north." (This information provided by George Weller reporter for the Chicago Daily News, now out of business.) Robertson's family sent a copy of the article to each family after time had passed. Three days after the "no planes" log entry, Campbell found a Japanese fleet 100 miles north of Soerabaja. There were 59 enemy ships. Mom was told not to talk about when, where, why, or if Dad was anywhere, and she did not. There was definitely a wall of silence in our house.

Mom married Fred Gillespie and we moved to Spath Road Carlsborg in 1947. They had a boy. Fred Eli died at 6 months of leukemia. Verna Jean married Robert Gratton, three children. Only son Robert served 4 years in Germany in the Army, retired as a Sergeant. I married Stephen Arthur Ritchie, six children. Two of our sons joined the military. Matthew P. put in 28 years, retired as Senior Chief Aviation Machinist Mate from the Coast Guard. Walter A. Ritchie served in the Navy, with 34 years of total service, and retired as Master Chief Fire Control man. He was stationed on the USS New JERSEY (BB-62) AND MISSOURI (BB-63) when they were decommissioned.

– Our Girls all had children –
Joan Failer Ritchie, Daughter of Vernon Failer, RMC2, Philippines