Staff Sergeant Richard D. Arbogast

Aerial Combat Photographer
Killed in Aircraft Accident, 28 May 1944

Close up Sergeant Arbogast squatted with .50 cal ammunition boxes next to nose wheel of B-25 Mitchell.
(click photo for larger image)

Richard Dille Arbogast, from Weston, West Virginia and was 21 years old when he enlisted. He graduated from Weston High School, and had attended the University. Prior to enlisting he was employed as a photographer at the Morgantown Ordnance Works.

He attended training at Lowry Field, Aurora, Colorado prior to volunteering to be a Combat Photographer. He was the sent to the F.M.P.U. at Culver City, California for Combat Photographer Training. He became a cadre member of the 16th CCU soon after its activation in May, and departed for overseas on 30 July 1943, arriving at Kunming, China on 25 Sep.

Dick Arbogast completed many photographic assignments during the next eight months. Some were performed on the ground, most were aboard combat aircraft. Dick had acquired about 200 combat flying hours before his last assignment.

Technical Sergeant Harold Geer and Staff Sergeant Richard Arbogast were placed on temporary duty orders, assigning them to accompany 308th Bomb Group B-24 Liberators performing low level sweeps of the China Sea, hunting targets of opportunity, Japanese maritime and naval vessels.

On the 27th, B-24 43-73309, piloted by 1Lt. Kenneth Starcher, was one of two Liberators of the 373rd Bombardment Squadron assigned to a sea sweep mission for enemy shipping. Dick Arbogast, an additional crew member, was aboard to photo document the mission. The planes took off from Kweilin, China and due to bad weather were unable to make contact. In stead of a paired sweep, as planned, each flew the mission independently. Although they had to plow through occasional rain squals on the wat, the weather over the South China Sea was clear with unlimited visibility. After flying their assigned route over the enemy's shipping lanes without sighting any acceptable targets, Lt. Starcher returned to Kweilin. Although the other plane had been able to get through the worsening weather, Starcher was directed to proceed to the airfield at Lingling. He did and safely landed at 1455 hours.

The following day, 28 May, the weather was still poor, but believed good enough for Lt. Starcher and his crew to return to Kweilin. From the 308th Bomb Group's Weekly Report; "Ship no. 42-73309 crashed at approximately 17:00 hours, 60 miles N.E. of Kweilin on the railroad. Airplane completely destroyed. All crew members killed... ...Airplane crashed ten minutes after take off on return flight to Kweilin on 28 May, 1944. Cause of crash unknown."

The Group history also states. ""the bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the burned plane and sent back to Kunming for interment."

Dick Arbogast was initially laid to rest on 2 June in the Kunming Military Cemetary, with full military honors. An honor guard of 16th CCU personnel formed about the casket as it was carried to its resting place. A distinct vacany was in everyone's heart as the Chaplain read the prayers.

In July 1944, four members of the 16th CCU, including Arbogast, were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Dick's medals were awarded postumously and the citations sent to his parents.

At the request of his parents, his remains were returned to a cemetary near his home after the cessation of hostilities.