1st Lt. Grover Cleveland Hodge, Jr.
440th Squadron of the 319th Bomb Group
By Steve Waterman: Saglek Saga (May 15): Within a few yards of the 5,000-foot airstrip built to serve the U.S. Air Force Air Defense Command's Saglek AS, Labrador radar and communications site, a few twisted and jagged pieces of metal glitter among the rocks and lichen in the clear, cold air of Northern Labrador. EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series. Part two will be posted Tuesday. The diary quoted herein was reprinted in the Labrador periodical "Up Here." The diary has not been edited; the spellings of names might not always agree with the flight roster. A B-26, much like the one that crashed at Saglek. These few pieces of metal are all that remain of a once proud military aircraft, the "Snuffy Smith Time's A 'Wastin'," and a valiant crew of seven airmen who perished after crash landing onto rough Arctic terrain near the base of an 1,800-foot hill which was to later become Saglek AS, the site of Pole Vault and White Alice microwave and tropospheric communications relay stations and the 924th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron. The ill-fated B-26 Martin Marauder, serial number B-26-2-MA#41-17862, assigned to the 440th Squadron of the 319th Bomb Group, was the lead aircraft in a mixed flight flying from the U.S. airfield at Narsarsuaq (called Bluie West 1), Greenland to Goose Air Base, Labrador. Aboard the doomed aircraft that December in 1942 were the pilot, 1st Lt. Grover Cleveland Hodge, Jr., co-pilot 2nd Lt. Paul Jansen, navigator/bombardier 2nd Lt. Emmanuel J. Josephson, radio operator, TSgt. Charles F. Nolan and gunners Sgt. Russell (NMI) Reyrauch, Cpl. James J. Mangini and Cpl. Frank J. Golm Four of the crew members, including the pilot, Hodge, who kept a diary of the mission, perished at the crash site between the date of the crash and sometime in February 1943.
On December 23, three of the crew, Josephson, Jansen and Nolan, started south in a boat that was a part of the B-26's emergency equipment. They were never seen again. The remains of the four crewmen who stayed with their downed plane, Hodge, Mangini, Reyrauch and Golm, were found by Eskimos from the Hebron village in March 1943. On a trip to Labrador in 1998, our boat had occasion to stop by the Saglek Radar Site located at Saglek Fiord. As I walked toward the road which runs seven miles up to the radar site, I could see across the paved airstrip and observe what remained of a once-new B-26 bomber. At a turn in the road near the base of the hill is a concrete monument to which is attached a replica of the original plaque placed there by a retired Air Force Officer, Major Rex Harris. The memorial shows a drawing of the aircraft with an inscription reading "Dedicated to the Ill-Fated Crew of the B-26 Which Crashed Near This Spot in December 1942. A Tribute to Their Heroic Effort to Survive. Personnel of the 924th AC & W Squadron." Here is a diary of the mission kept by 1st Lt. Grover Cleveland Hodge, Jr.: Nov. 12, 1942: We're still sitting here with 16 minutes of daylight each day. We've less than six hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset now. Had about two inches of snow last night and everything was really pretty. Spent most of the morning sweeping it off the plane. They said that there's a chance of leaving tomorrow but this place seems so much like home that it doesn't seem like we should leave. Nov. 16, 1942: This place is full of changes. Yesterday afternoon Jansen and I walked down to the river. There was a solid sheet of ice resting on the rocks, and it was covered with almost two inches of snow. Every once in a while, we would break through up to our knees, but there was nothing under the ice. Last night we had rain with a warm wind with gusts up to better than 60 miles per hour. So this morning there was only isolated patches of ice left. Today was the first time in two weeks that we have been able to walk on bare ground. We've had all kinds of weather, most of the days were fairly warm. But one day it was six degrees. We've seen days when not a breath of air stirred. The original plaque is now mounted on a wall up at the radar site. It had been stolen some years ago by a helicopter pilot. When he died, his wife found it in his belongings and returned it to Saglek. In the meantime, a replica was made and placed on the monument. It remains there today. (Photo by Steve Waterman) Nov. 26, 1942: I still say this is screwy weather. We were alerted this morning at 0330. There was a solid overcast. We killed time until 0600 then we got briefed. It was still overcast and seemed to be getting worse. The A-10s and the B-25s started kicking off, but about then, it started to rain and the ceiling looked like it was very low. About 10 minutes later it stopped raining and an A-20 came over at 600 feet with room to spare. By 0830, the sun was shining and everything looked as nice as we could ask for, but it was too late to take off. Dec. 10, 1942: Took off at last for Goose Bay. About 1315, we ran into some clouds and I turned around and called for the formation to turn around also. One plane dropped out. I think I saw the two P-40s later. I lost the others while letting down below the clouds, we saw an opening to the south at about 2,000 feet and after flying in that direction we broke out. We finally had to go back up to 13,000 feet, but it was clear sailing, so we kept on. Lt. Josephson gave me a new heading to get back on course, but we know now it was too much of a correction. About half-way I picked up Goose beam, but the set went dead after a few minutes. It was too late to turn back then, so we tried to get it on the compass, but couldn't. We finally hit the coast. We decided we were south of Goose Bay, so we turned north until we finally realized we were north. We were almost out of gas, so I started looking for a place to land, I wanted to get back to where there were trees but the engines started missing, so we came back down. The crew never batted an eye when they were told that we were going to have to make a crash landing. Even if I do say so myself, it was a good landing and Lt. Josephson did a good job of cutting the switch, we hit a rock that tore the bomb bay open and one prop tip went through the fuselage behind me, outside of that the ship was intact. It swung around almost 90 degrees without stopping, but made a good wind break that way; it was almost dark so after eating a cold ration we went to bed inside the ship; we had 17 blankets, a comforter and bedroll, but we slept very well. Lt. Josephson took a star shot and decided we were 300 minutes from Goose. Dec. 11, 1942: Lt. Josephson walked to the fjord to the west and Golm the one to the east. We spent most of the day clearing up the ship and pooling rations in the afternoon. I climbed the mountain in front of us, but didn't learn much. Nolan worked on the put-put all day without results. We cranked the dingy radio. It was pretty windy so we spent the night in the ship. Dec. 12, 1942: Made three big improvements in our situation. Lt. Jansen & Golm discovered a lake close to our ship and saw a fox. Waywrench and I saw 50 seals; we know that there is food there. We made a lean-to out of tarps under the wing and slept there. It was much better. Dec. 13, 1942: When the star shots were figured out it showed us to be close to the town of Hebron. Worked on the put-put all day with no success, so we tried to work the liaison set on the batteries but they were too weak. We pooled our covers and slept together. Dec. 14, 1942: Wind blew all day with increasing velocity and snow. Our lake went dry so we are back to melting snow. We went to bed early. Dec. 15, 1942: Had to eat a cold breakfast because the wind blew too much snow in our fire. Nolan changed the voltage regulators and got 25 volts, long enough for me to get a couple of stations on the liaison receiver. The put-put stopped, but we hope we know what is wrong with it. So we hope to get a message out soon. Dec. 17, 1942: The put-put went out, but we did try the batteries. They, too, were dead. Dec. 19, 1942: More snow last night. Nolan and Mangins tried to work on the put-put but it was too cold. We built a fire in the lean-to and thawed out. Dec. 20, 1942: It was so windy we stayed in bed all day. Dec. 21, 1942: Everything was really snowed in so we spent the day eating and thawing out blankets and planning a trip south. Lt. Josephson, Lt. Jansen and Sgt. Nolan plan to head south in the boat the first clear day. Dec. 22, 1942: Had a perfect day, the first clear day in over a week. We worked on the boat and cleaned snow away from the lean-to all day. We ate a pretty big meal with the three boat men eating a little extra. Dec. 23, 1942: Got up at 0715, got the boat ready and started carrying it. The wind was pretty strong and the boat was heavy, so we had a pretty hard time of it. We didn't get to the water until noon, and then it took quite a while to find a place to put it in the water. We intended to put them off shore, but they appeared to be making slow headway to the south. That was the last time we saw them. We had a hard time coming back across the snow. We had some peanuts and caramels and went to bed. Dec. 24, 1942: Christmas Eve and we've been here two weeks today. It was lonesome with just the four of us, but we got up pretty early and dug out the gas strainer so we could make a fire. It was so windy we couldn't work outside so we dried out the blankets. Golm got blistered pretty bad and swollen hands which have to be doctored. We stretched out our eating to cover most of the day. We had a sardine-sized can of herring with crackers, a spoon full of peanuts apiece, a black cough drop, and a caramel, a cup of grape drink, and plenty of coffee, using the same grounds over and over. It's really a surprise how much one can get from a small thing like a caramel, but we looked forward to it with anticipation each day. Lobsterman and writer Steve Waterman lives in South Thomaston. Columnists' opinions . http://www.b26.com/marauderman/grover_cleveland_hodge.jr.htm
2011 Barbi Ennis Connolly 319th BG Historian in the 57th Bomb Wing PRINCESSBARBI_B25@msn.com