Monday, August 30, 2010

Vilas D. Parker

Merrill's Marauders insignia
Staff Sergeant Vilas D. Parker served in the Headquarters detachment(1) of the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), also known as Merrill's Marauders during World War II. Merrill's Marauders was the forerunner of the US Army Rangers of modern times.

Vilas was a passenger on a C-47 transport plane that went down in Burma in May 22, 1944, but the wreckage was not found during the war. He was declared missing in action and following the war, his name was recorded on the Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Philippines. According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, Vilas received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service in World War II. In a coincidence that is hard to believe, the plane went down on May 22 which was also his birthday in 1917.

In September 1987, Burmese rebel troops in the Kachin Independence Organisation discovered wreckage of the aircraft. His remains were recovered from the wreckage along with six other soldiers. At the time, his two remaining living siblings suggested they might inter his remains at Rienzi Cemetery, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin with his mother and father. More research is needed to see if that happened. A marker was placed at the cemetery near his parents, but it doesn't appear that his remains were interred there. His name is not on record with the cemetery. The marker also displays the date he was officially declared killed in action, rather than the date of the aircraft accident with took his life.

Vilas married his girlfriend of three years, Evelyn, on a whim in Massachusetts, April 8, 1942. He shipped out for overseas duty the next day. She never saw Vilas again, though they corresponded frequently while he was away.

Vilas D. Parker, born May 22, 1917, in Wautoma, Waushara County, Wisconsin, was the third child of Clyde Adelbert Parker and Verna Catherine (Pugh) Parker. Clyde was the son of Valois Denemore Parker. Clyde and Valois are pictured in an earlier photo posting. Vilas was my first cousin, twice removed.

Passengers included:
  • Pilot: 2nd Lt. Earnest R. (Ray) Wilson from Monticello, Mississippi
  • Co-pilot: F/O Andrew Malligo from Beaumont, Texas
  • Radio Operator: Sgt. Allen W. Beeler from Roselawn, Indiana
  • Drop crew member: S/SGT Vilas D. Parker
  • Drop crew member: PFC Howard K. Moss from Maryville, TN
  • Drop crew member: PFC Benjamin J. Jones from Travelers Rest, SC
  • Drop crew member: PFC Walter B. Owensby from Asheville, NC

Accident report
MACR: 4882
Date: May 22, 1944 (440522)
A/C type:C-47
Squadron:2d Troop Carrier Squadron (2TCS)
Group:443d Troop Carrier Group (443TCG)
AF:10th Air Force (10)
Action:Missing In Service
Pilot:Wilson, Earnest R
County:China-Burma-India Theater of Operations
Location: N26°06' E096°46'
C-47 s/n 41-38709 (c/n 6168) to USAAF Dec 23, 1942 - 10th AF, India Feb 19, 1943 - 14th AF, Chungking. Lost with 443rd TCG May 22, 1944. MACR 4882

Potential sources:
  • Veterans Day parade to salute Miss. family, November 11, 1987, The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
  • Saluting the C-47 heroes of Burma, October 24, 1987, The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
  • MIA's saga ends 43 years after crash, November 12, 1987, The Wisconsin State Journal

Updated to add photo of marker. Updated to repair image.