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
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 www.3AD.com, 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.
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