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By Don R. Marsh


May, 2006

On 24 February 1945 reports listed him as Missing In Action when he didn't return from a mission in which he volunteered as a gunner. Harold E. Harsin, 0-855860, was a 45-year-old First Lieutenant, but his age didn't stop him. Even more of an oddity was the fact that he was the squadron gunnery officer and volunteered to go on a bombing mission with his unit, the 575th Bomb Squadron of the 391st Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. He was neither a rated pilot, bombardier, nor navigator, just a guy born in 1900 in Iowa at the turn of the century who wanted to see some action before the war passed him by. By flying with a B-26 Marauder, he joined the ranks of many men who made that plane receive the non-glamorous infamous and true to its name, "the widowmaker."

The following information was obtained on the B-26 web site on the Internet .The crew of his plane that day with AAF Serial Number, B-26 C Marauder USAAF# 42-107576 code name 08-V: Lead Pilot, Captain Burton C. Hanish, 026260 (West Point); Co-Pilot 2LT Lew F. Littlejohn, 0778171; Bombardier 2LT Arthur F. Rauschenberger; 0741368; Bombardier 2LT John C. Vurgaropulos, 0765759; Flight Engineer TSgt. Ernest H. Pennington, 34728009; Right Gunner SSgt Valentino P. Rivoli, 12168196; Left Gunner Sgt Paul Broffman, 32342444. Place of departure: A 73 Roye/Amy, France. The plane was hit by anti-aircraft flak and crashed at Engers, Germany on 02/24/45. Brigadier General Leon W. Johnson wrote his family that other crews saw the left wing break away and only one parachute was seen. Only Sergeant Ravioli survived.

Harsin's body was recovered by the Germans and buried in a temporary cemetery plot in Engers, Germany. When the war ended less than three months later, his remains were re-interred and transported to an American Military cemetery 10 miles west of Aachen, Germany, in Margraten, The Netherlands, and buried as "Unknown X-2387" in Plot ZZ, Row 12, Grave 293. On 2 February 1949 his remains were identified as that of 1Lt. Harold E. Harsin and his daughter notified. He was no longer Missing In Action.

The people in the area of Margraten had created a foundation to adopt an American soldier's grave. There are 8,302 American soldiers buried there, plus two Tablets of the Missing with the names of 1,723 who rest in unknown graves. On Memorial Day, and other days in the year, they pay tribute with flowers to the graves of the fallen Americans who sacrificed their lives to liberate them from Nazi domination and suppression. School children learn of these American heroes from an early age and continue the custom from generation to generation. A nearby school is named in honor of Major General Maurice Rose, who commanded the 3rd Armored Division and is also buried in the Margraten Cemetery.

A Mrs. Nicole Sproncken of nearby Voerendaal adopted the grave of Lt. Harsin and began a search for Harsin's family here in the States. Her long search of military files and records brought her to a standstill when she learned that Lt. Harsin had named his only child (his married daughter) as his sole beneficiary with the last known address the Army Quartermaster General's Office had for her in 1945. This was in Los Angeles County, California, where they sent two cartons of Harsin's personal effects to his daughter, Mrs. Bessie L. Drake, residing at 2350 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, California. This is all I have to work with from that point in time.

Previously Nicole Sproncken had contacted Vic Damon, the 3rd Armored Division webmaster at, to help another Dutch family locate the family of a PFC Francis A. Solomon, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, whose grave the parents had adopted in 1945. Now their son wished to carry on the family tradition, but Solomon's remains had been repatriated to the USA in 1949. The task of finding Solomon's grave and family was given to me. I quickly located his grave and relatives in Pennsylvania. For my "reward" - my friend Vic and Nicole have asked me to locate Harsin's daughter, Mrs. Bessie L. Drake. Another cold case file sixty-one years old. From the Glendale, California, 1930 census records: the daughter, Bessie L. Harsin was born in California in 1923 residing with her father Harold, then 29 , and her mother Elizabeth, age 29, who was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Sometime between the 1930 Census and 1945, apparently, the first Mrs. Harsin either divorced or passed away. Harold Harsin's 1945 military records indicate he had second marriage with a lady by the name of Gladys.

Today, in 2006, his daughter Bessie would be 83 years old, if alive - possibly still married, divorced or remarried with a different name. Bessie (Harsin) Drake is not listed in the Social Security Death Registry, so that would indicate that she is still here - someplace. And, like her father had been - she is presumed "missing in action".

I am requesting your assistance in locating Mrs. Bessie L. (Harsin) Drake for Mrs. Nicole Sproncken, who has adopted Lt. Harsin's grave.

This is where you, the reader, come in! I need your help. Anybody seen Bessie?

Publication or reproduction, in part or whole, is prohibited without written permission from the author, Don R. Marsh. All rights remain the sole property of The Marsh Family Trust.

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