The more I research, the more stories I find, the more incredible it is. Really, if this were in a movie, critics would call it highly improbable.
For example, my latest find occurred at 3:00 a.m., when I couldn’t sleep. I found a tidbit of an article in the Ogden Standard Examiner about the death of 2nd Lt. Richard E. Pingree. I was puzzled because he isn’t on the Weber County list of casualties.
When I finally discovered his story (which was totally by accident in the middle of the night), I quoted Mr. Spock, “Fascinating!”
2nd Lt. Richard Earl Pingree is part of the story of Major Floyd Pell. Major Pell was one of my first posts way back when I started the project. His parents lived on 20th, where the America First Credit Union stands now. Major Pell was the 2nd casualty of Weber County, after Ensign Howard Deal who was on the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, or so I thought!
Major Pell was a hero in the Japanese attack on Darwin Australia, on February 19, 1942. The fact that his squadron was there at all was incredible.
According to the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs: “Darwin would have been without any air defense except that ten Kittyhawks of the US 33rd Pursuit Squadron en route to Java had turned back to Darwin.”
Five had landed and five were still in the air. Major Pell had just landed and immediately took off again. He was a few hundred feet above ground when he was strafed, damaging his Mustang. He bailed, his parachute opened, but he was killed on impact. The airfield was later renamed for him. In addition, his fiancé, Juanita Redmond was serving in the Philippines as a nurse. Her story was later the basis of a movie, So Proudly We Hail, starring Claudette Colbert. What can beat that?
Well, we are about to add to the story. Richard Earl Pingree was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Pingree who lived at 3298 Adams Avenue. He had graduated from Ogden High and had two years of college at Weber when he enlisted in the brand new Army air corp on November 25, 1940. He was another Ogden boy and no doubt, knew Floyd Pell.
He was with the 33rd Pursuit Squadron in February. As far as I can piece together, when the rest of the squadron were ordered to report back to Java, 2nd Lt. Pingree was ordered to Port Pirie (about 1500 miles from Darwin) for repairs. He crashed before reaching the airport.
When I first learned of this I wondered what he must have thought with the rest of his squadron involved in the Battle of Darwin, while he was not there. But he was killed the same day as Major Pell. Neither one knew about the other and I have no way of knowing who died first. So, the 2nd and 3rd Weber County casualties occurred on February 19, 1942. One was KIA (killed in action) the other DNB (died non-battle).
2nd Lt. Pingree is buried in Hawaii, where his body was shipped after his death in Australia.
(Thanks to Jeff Hall on find-a-grave for the headstone photo).